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

Can light rail avoid Bellevue Way?

January 26, 2010 in Blog

Yes. And according to Bellevue City Councilman Kevin Wallace, his Vision Line proposal also costs less:

This proposal, dubbed the "Vision Line," accomplishes Sound Transit
goals by providing quality light rail at a cost substantially less than
the tunnel routes under consideration. Sound Transit is currently
studying the Vision Line and three other new alignments in downtown
Bellevue. In the coming months it will decide whether to adopt this
option as its new preferred alternative.

The Vision Line uses the BNSF railroad right of way through South
Bellevue, travels elevated along the west side of Interstate 405 at the
edge of downtown to Northeast Sixth Street where it crosses I-405 and
reconnects with the BNSF right of way to the north.

This alignment is safer, faster and more reliable than other
alternatives because it is entirely grade separated from roadways,
meaning it can run at full speed without concern for traffic.

Debating light rail? Think long term

January 24, 2010 in In the News
The Columbian (Vancouver)
Source: 
The Columbian (Vancouver)
Date: 
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Only 67 passengers ride new Amtrak train between Seattle and Vancouver

January 19, 2010 in Blog

Last August, Amtrak opened a second train between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. The line is meant to be a pilot project ahead of the Winter Olympic games due to begin in February. Both the WSDOT and the Canadian government are waiting to see how high passenger demand is before deciding whether to make the second train permanent.

The new train makes one additional round trip between Seattle and Vancouver, everyday. According to the WSDOT, the average number of passengers on each leg is about 67.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation presented a re!
port to Congress
in October 2009 that estimated the second line would lose about $1 million in operating costs (paid by taxpayers) and it would serve about 60,000 trips per year. The 60,000 trips per year translates to about 82 people per leg between Seattle and Vancouver.

Olympic service begins on February 12, 2009 and as Jared Paben points out on his Bellingham Traffic Blog, officials plan to make a decision on whether to make the second train permanent within the month. I'm still trying to find out how many passengers are required to justify permanent service (I've seen numbers between 60-100). But the current 67 passengers-per-leg is data collected between August 19 and December 31. I found that State and Amtrak officials offered a 25 percent discount on all fares to and from Vancouver over the same time period!
. Lowering prices during a time in which you're measuring !
demand (in the hopes of justifying permanent service) doesn't seem very objective to me but that's exactly what happened.

Either way, spending a million dollars per year in public taxes to move 67 people per day between Seattle and Vancouver is laughable. Supporters say instead of measuring mobility, we should look at the economic benefits of adding a second train. They point to a WSDOT study that shows Amtrak passengers spend about $13-$26 million a year in the Vancouver area

Are you kidding? Its reasonable to expect passengers to spend a couple of hundred dollars in the Vancouver area. But if the WSDOT finding is correct, then those 67 passengers would have to spend between $36,000 to $71,000 everyday they crossed into Vancouver. That is simply unrealistic.

The study also mistakenly assumes this economic activity would not !
occur otherwise. People who choose to visit Vancouver would do so with or without a second Amtrak train. They would just find a different way to get there.

Adding a second train between Seattle and Vancouver makes sense during the Winter Olympics. But continuing permanent service beyond March stretches the support of even the most liberal of economic interpretations.

Second northbound Amtrak train is a waste of money

January 17, 2010 in Publications

The Bellingham Herald published this op-ed on January 26, 2010. 

The second Amtrak train that connects Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., carries very few people, costs taxpayers millions of dollars and hurts local Washington companies.

Sound Transit: $10,000 for art on plywood construction wall

January 14, 2010 in Blog

CALL TO ARTISTS
PROJECT BUDGET: $10,000

ART OPPORTUNITY SUMMARY:
Act as the lead artist in scoping and overseeing projects that will be created by a variety of artists for the plywood Construction Wall surrounding the site where the Capitol Hill light rail station is being built on Broadway between John and Denny streets in Seattle.

PROJECT GOAL:
Make the fence surrounding a block of the Broadway neighborhood active, interesting and relevant during the multi-year construction period with art that engages the residents and visitors of the dense urban neighborhood.

Read the full request.

Federal transit funding criteria now to circumvent performance

January 14, 2010 in Blog

Dr. Sam Staley, a transportation policy expert at Reason Foundation, reports on USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood's address to the TRB conference happening this week in Washington D.C. Staley's observation is worth noting here:

In what can only be considered a bizarre turn in a presidential
administration committed to so-called "evidence based" public policy,
the U.S. Department of
Transportation has announced
it will approve public transit investments
based on political popularity and reduce the importance of cost-effectiveness
and performance in its approval criteria.

Sound crazy? Here is a excerpt from the official, formal
remarks U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

delivered at the keynote luncheon address at the 89th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, perhaps the
world's largest conference of transportation professionals:

"We’re going to free our flagship transit capital program from
long-standing requirements that have allowed us only to green-light projects
that meet very narrow cost and performance criteria.

"Instead, as we evaluate major transit projects going forward, we’ll
consider ALL the factors that help communities reduce their carbon footprint,
spur economic activity, and relieve congestion.

"To put it simply: We WILL take livability into account.

"This new approach will help us do a MUCH better job aligning our
priorities and values with our investments in transit projects that truly
strengthen communities.

"We’ll finally be able to make the case for investing in popular
streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want – and that our
old ways of doing business didn’t value enough."

The emphasis is in the original remarks.

Did his real remarks reflect the formal remarks? Yes. I was there.

Light rail misses 2009 ridership target by wide margin

January 13, 2010 in Blog

According to Sound Transit’s ridership figures from its
first six months of operation, the initial light rail segment between downtown
Seattle and the airport carried an average of 14,806 trips per weekday.

The following table summarizes the average number of weekday
trips by month since the line opened in July.

Average trips per  weekday, 2009

Month

July

13,769

Aug

14,931

Sept

14,905

Oct

16,192

Nov

14,399

Dec

14,639

Six Month Average

14,806

 

But Sound Transit has projected ridership would be much
higher.
With the opening of the airport segment in December, Sound Transit
officials promised light rail would carry an average of 21,000 riders per
weekday.  Yet average ridership by the
end of the year (December) was only 14,639 trips per weekday. That is 31.3 percent less
than what Sound Transit officials said it would be.

Even if you only count the average weekday ridership since
the airport segment opened on December 19th (eight days) it still
only carried 16,809 trips per weekday, which is 20 percent less than what
Sound Transit officials promised.

Either way, Sound
Transit officials failed to deliver their promised ridership projections for 2009, and not by just a
little but by a wide margin (20-30%). Officials will probably point to the
economy as the reason for chewing into their higher estimate. But the region
has been in a recession for about two years and as you can see from this press
release in July
, Sound Transit still promised 21,000 trips as recently as five
months ago!

Here is the full ridership report obtained by the Seattle Times.