Transportation

Because being there is what's most important, WPC's Center for Transportation researches and analyzes the best practices for relieving traffic congestion by recapturing a vision of a system based on freedom of movement.

What's New

News Roundup With Ross Reynolds: If This Van Pool's Rockin' (radio)

March 10, 2010 in In the News
KUOW 94.9 (NPR)
Source: 
KUOW 94.9 (NPR)
Date: 
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

State and local bus ridership continues decline

March 9, 2010 in Blog

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has just released their 2009 fourth quarter ridership report for all public transit agencies across the country. Nationally, bus ridership is down about 5.15% from 2008. You might remember that for most transit agencies, ridership spiked to all time highs in 2008.

Likewise, in Washington State, most agencies saw bus ridership fall between 1%-15% between 2008 and 2009. Sound Transit and Spokane Transit actually posted modest gains in bus ridership over the same time period, a remarkable feat given a deepening recession. The following table shows bus ridership (as measured in passenger trips) between 2007 and 2009. (numbers reported in 000's)

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While most agencies experienced falling demand in 2009, all but one were able to retain some of the gains from the record highs in 2008. As the economy stabilizes further, however, bus ridership will probably return to its average growth rates.

The number of passenger trips taken on buses is extremely low when compared to total passenger trips in the region. On average, there are about 14 million passenger trips per day in the Puget Sound region. According to the APTA, regional buses serve only about 420,000 passenger trips per weekday. This means buses only carry about 3 percent of all daily trips in the Puget Sound r!
egion.

Is hazardous substance tax on shaky legal footing?

March 4, 2010 in Blog

The latest volley in the fight to prevent a tax increase on hazardous substance has been played by opponents to the tax.

According to Washington State Wire, the Western States Petroleum Association sought the legal opinion of Phil Talmadge, a well respected former state Supreme Court Justice and lawmaker.

In his opinion regarding the legal standing of the hazardous substance tax Talmadge writes:

“Recently the Legislature has been talking about dramatically increasing it and using the money for the state general fund. Some of the early proposals talked about a near-tripling of the tax. But it is clear that this tax violates the 18th Amendment, and it has probably been a violation since 1989.”

And Talmadge is not alone in his opinion.  Washington State Wire previously reported that long-time chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Mary Margaret Haugen, has been waiting for such a challenge.  She told the Wire:

“I'm sure that if it passes there will be a challenge, no question about that. It is in essence a three-cent gas tax increase, and I think that if we were going to raise the gas tax I think would be appropriate for it to come to the transportation committee.”

So regardless of what lawmakers do at this point, it appears that the ground work is being laid for a full blown legal challenge, and it looks like who ever brings that challenge will be serving for match point.

Tolling I-405 bill DOES convert general purpose lanes

March 2, 2010 in Blog

During the public hearing on SHB 2941, which would toll I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood, the first person to speak on the bill was Rep. Judy Clibborn, chair of the House Transportation Committee.

As the prime sponsor, she obviously spoke in favor of the bill. In a preemptive strike against those (including WPC) who argue the bill would circumvent the I-405 Master Plan adopted in 2002, Rep. Clibborn explicitly claimed the bill would NOT convert General Purpose lanes to toll lanes. Rep. Clibborn went on to admit that if this were true, this bill would have trouble passing.

WSDOT representative Craig Stone tried to substantiate Clibborn’s claim by stating the Master Plan did include language directing WSDOT to continue looking at managed lanes. He simply read the following sentence from the Master Plan’s record of decision and did not add anything further:

“The proposed I-405 free!
way design includes a buffer separating the general purpose lanes and the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane to provide safer and more reliable HOV and transit operations within the corridor. This design allows for further consideration of expanded managed lanes operations on I-405, which could include managing up to two lanes in each direction. “

The I-405 Master Plan was adopted in 2002 and plans for up to two additional lanes in each direction along the entire I-405 corridor. Some of the projects, including the new lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood, were funded with the Nickel and TPA gas tax increases in 2005 and 2007. In fact, the WSDOT has already built a portion of the lanes just north of Bellevue to fix the infamous “Kirkland Crawl.” This mile-and-half section is open and being used by general purpose traffic. The WSDOT is also currently extending the lanes further north.

SHB 2941 would convert these existing lanes and the remainder of t!
he yet-to-be-built gas tax lanes to HOT lanes.

The claim!
that SHB 2941 does not convert GP lanes to tollways is just wrong.To repeat:

  • The new lanes are already paid for with the Nickel and TPA gas tax projects approved in 2005 and 2007 and the gas tax projects on I-405 were always intended to be general purpose.
  • WSDOT has already built a portion of the new lanes and they are being used by general purpose traffic.
  • All of the numbers and assumptions in the I-405 Master Plan call for the new lanes to be general purpose.
  • If SHB 2941 fails, WSDOT would continue building the new lanes and they would be general purpose. 

So it just seems kind of silly to me when policymakers and WSDOT officials claim they are not taking GP lanes. There is no doubt this bill converts general purpose lanes.

Tolling I-405 bill passes Senate Committee with fatal amendment

March 2, 2010 in Blog

Yesterday, the Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on SHB 2941, which would toll I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood. The bill did pass committee with an amendment to allow HOV 2+ to use the lanes without paying the toll.

This amendment defies the WSDOT tolling study, which estimates the new HOT lanes could not accommodate the additional volume if HOV2+ were allowed. In fact, the very same amendment was rejected by the House.

I’m not sure if the two chambers will be able to work out the difference. Based on testimony against the bill, this may be more of a gesture to move the bill forward, while killing it at the same time.

Tolls could be added to I-405

February 27, 2010 in In the News
The Herald (Everett)
Source: 
The Herald (Everett)
Date: 
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Highway Trust Fund to Shut Down Monday; U.S. DOT to Furlough Workers Tuesday

February 26, 2010 in Blog

Highway Trust Fund to Shut Down Monday; U.S. DOT to Furlough Workers Tuesday 

The
federal Highway Trust Fund will shut down first thing Monday,
suspending all payments to state transportation departments, and four
U.S. Department of Transportation agencies are expected to furlough
employees beginning Tuesday after Congress was unable to reach an
agreement this week on legislation to extend surface transportation
authorization past its Sunday expiration date.

Larry Ehl, Washington State DOT's own federal liaison has more here and here.

House passes bill to toll I-405

February 26, 2010 in Blog

The state House just passed SHB 2941, which would toll I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood. The WSDOT estimates the average toll would be about $4 each way.

WPC completed an analysis on the bill: Tolling I-405 Needs a Closer Look
Here are the key findings:

• Defers some major policy decisions to the Executive Branch
• Fails to adequately compare tolled alternative to a no-build option or to the adopted
Master Plan for I-405
• Underestimates performance of general purpose lanes
• Likely increases traffic congestion in the non-tolled lanes
• Appears to allow toll revenue collected from drivers to be used for public transit
• Overestimates toll revenue bec!
ause of the state law to reduce how much people drive
• Jeopardizes the state’s ability to bond against toll revenue because of state law to reduce
how much people drive

There were three amendments proposed and all three were rejected. The amendments would have:

1. Allowed HOV 2+ to use the toll lanes without having to pay the toll. Currently the bill only allows HOV3+ to use the proposed toll lanes without paying the toll
2. Protected toll revenue to be used subject to the 18th Amendment
3. Prevented the conversion of general purpose lanes to toll lanes

The vote was largely along party lines (56 to 40), with four democrats crossing over to oppose it.

House passes bill OK’ing HOT lanes on I-405 between Lynnwood and Bellevue

February 26, 2010 in In the News
Bellingham Herald
Source: 
Bellingham Herald
Date: 
Friday, February 26, 2010