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

Sound Transit's light rail cost is a whopping $8.56....per boarding

March 24, 2010 in Blog

Sound Transit officials have always claimed that light rail would be more efficient than buses. And if their ridership and cost projections were even close to being accurate, they might be right.

In previous financial plans, Sound Transit calculated light rail would cost just over a dollar per boarding by 2009. 

In reality, during Central Link's first six months of operation, light rail's cost per boarding was a whopping $8.56. Sound Transit's buses cost $6.58 per boarding and its Sounder Commuter Rail cost $13.71 per boarding.

To put this in perspective, the average operating cost for the six light rail agencies on the W!
est Coast (excluding ST) is about $2.62 per boarding. And their average operating cost for buses is about $2.34 per boarding.

Despite what the agency promised voters, Sound Transit operates one of the most expensive and inefficient transit systems in the country. This is probably why the State Auditor's Office will audit Sound Transit's ridership projections.

Should Sound Transit switch to vanpools?

March 17, 2010 in Blog

As you know, when it comes to moving the most people for the least cost, I am a vanpool junkie. So I have to ask, should Sound Transit switch to vanpools?

There are generally three types of transit that can compare directly with vanpools: express buses, light rail and commuter rail. And Sound Transit happens to provide all three.

You see, vanpools are a form of intercity transit that connects users between cities over long distances. This means you can't compare vanpools to buses in dense urban areas, like downtown Seattle. To make a fair judgment, vanpools should only be compared to other types of intercity transit.

In our comprehensive study, we found that vanpools perform much better than anything Sound Transit currently has to offer. So much so th!
at I'm now wondering whether Sound Transit should consider a vanpool program.

Just look at the data:

Per mile Loses

 






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Now consider thi!
s:
Sound Transit estimates its $22.8 billion light rail expansion will carry only 163,000 daily trips by 2030.  Based on a WSDOT study, vanpools in the Puget Sound region have the potential to serve 20 percent more riders for $20 billion less than Sound Transit’s light rail expansion plan.

Or this: King County's vanpool program alone, carries more people than Sound Transit's entire Sounder Commuter Rail system, and they have done it for 700 percent less money!

Or this: The PSRC estimates that if the Destination 2030 plan (which relies on light rail) were fully implemented it would reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) by about 4.1 percent for a cost of $40-$45 billion. If vanpools were expanded to reach their market potential, they could reduce VMT by up to 9.3 percent for a fraction of the cost.

Seattle is the Most Congested City in America

March 17, 2010 in Publications

Puget Sound Business Journal published this op-ed on March 5, 2010.

In a recent study released by a national company that uses travel and speed data from its GPS customers to measure traffic, Seattle ranks number one as the most congested city in America.

Legislature: In WA, congestion relief is still not a goal

March 15, 2010 in Blog

Once again, the Washington State Legislature chose not to make relieving traffic congestion a priority. Washington currently has five policy goals:

Preservation: To maintain, preserve, and extend the life and utility of prior investments in transportation systems and services.

Safety: To provide for and improve the safety and security of transportation customers and the transportation system.

Mobility: To improve the predictable movement of goods and people throughout Washington State.

Ten most expensive transit projects of the decade: Sound Transit is #2

March 12, 2010 in Blog

The Infrastructurist just released a report showing the ten most expensive transit projects in the last ten years. Our very own Sound Transit is number two. As other (more expensive) segments come on line, I expect Sound Transit will be on this list for the next three decades.

(h/t Larry Ehl, WSDOT Blog)

If This Van Pool's Rockin'

March 11, 2010 in Blog

If This Van Pool's Rockin'
You don't hear that much about van pools as a transportation option,
but researcher Michael Ennis from the Washington Policy Center says
we're overlooking a commuter method that's cheaper to operate than
light rail, buses or commuter rail...KUOW audio (about two-thirds of the way through)

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.