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

Want a Transportation System That Works? Vanpools.

April 17, 2010 in Publications

Crosscut published this op-ed on April 20, 2010.

Across the Puget Sound region, traffic congestion is predicted to double, reaching the levels of present day Los Angeles by 2030. Yet, so-called regional transportation solutions will do very little to help and will actually make traffic worse. A more cost-effective solution is staring us right in the face: vanpools.

NHTS: more people walk to work than use public transit

April 15, 2010 in Blog

The Federal Highway Administration has released its 2009 National Household Travel Survey. There is a lot of data here and the format is challenging to navigate.

I spent some time looking at person trips by mode and purpose. Specifically, mode share to work. 

Mode share

88.3% of all commute trips take place with a car or truck, while only 3.7% use transit. In fact, there are more people who walk to work than take transit. The Puget Sound region has about the same mode split, which is madness when you consider:

It is no wonder Seattle is the most congested city in America.  

Federal survey: Vast majority of trips done by driving, not transit

April 15, 2010 in In the News
Bellingham Herald
Bellingham Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not so fast on Fed plan to treat bicycles the same as auto use

April 14, 2010 in Blog

From the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood,
a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his
helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling - and walking,
too - the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and
the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican
congressman quietly announced the "sea change" in transportation policy
last month.

"This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized," he wrote in his government blog.

Not so fast, say some conservatives and industries dependent on
trucking. A manufacturers' blog called the policy "nonsensical." One
congressman suggested LaHood was on drugs.

Light rail on 520 means more traffic for Seattle, which is already the most congested city in America

April 12, 2010 in Blog

The preferred alternative to replace the 520 bridge contains a total of six lanes and adds a new HOV lane in each direction. According to the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) on 520, there will be about 20,000 cars per day in the new HOV lanes.

Recently, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has been making a lot of noise about replacing the new HOV lanes with light rail. In a press release, McGinn adds:

"We only have one chance to get this right," said McGinn. "If we continue on with the state's current plan, then we will miss that chance. And that would be too bad—because this report shows that it is possible. We can design 520 from the outset to include light rail.  The question i!
s whether or not the leadership exists to make that vision a reality."

What McGinn fails to tell us is that replacing the HOV lanes with light rail will dump about 20,000 additional cars into the four general purpose lanes, which will bring the total traffic volume to about 131,000 cars per day. According to the SDEIS, this is about the same amount of cars (135,000) that would be in the four existing lanes in 2030 under a no build option, which the WSDOT estimates will result in a 10-16 percent increase in traffic congestion.

Traffic in downtown already makes Seattle the most congested city in America but Seattle falls to ninth worst wit!
h traffic on its surrounding highways. McGinn's light rail!
plan on 520 will certainly move Seattle in the direction of also having the most congested highways in America. But maybe that is his intention.

520 traffic congestion would grow 10-16% under McGinn's plan

April 9, 2010 in Blog

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has proposed to replace the HOV lanes planned for the new 520 bridge with a transit-only configuration, like light rail. The Mayor even commissioned a study to see what it would take to make the new bridge light rail compatible.

Missing from this debate is the negative impact eliminating the HOV lanes would have on traffic. The City's study generally concludes that traffic efficiency would be degraded, but doesn't really say by how much.

The current structure only has four lanes, which according to WSDOT accommodates about 115,000 cars per day. The Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) on 520 shows the preferred six lane option, which would add two HOV lanes (one in each direction)!
would carry about 131,000 cars by 2030. 20,100 of these cars would be HOVs.

By eliminating the HOV lanes, traffic volumes would increase in the remaining four lanes by 18 percent, for a total of about 131,000 cars per day.

This is about the same number of cars (135,000) that would be in the same four lanes under the no-build option found in the SDEIS. Under this scenario, the SDEIS estimates the following will happen:

Daily traffic demand across Lake Washington would increase by 17 percent on SR 520, 34 percent on I-90, and 29 percent on SR 522.

On SR 520, morning peak period demand would increase 10 percent and afternoon peak period demand would increase 16 percen!
t compared to today. Peak period congestion would be worse tha!
n today.

By the year 2030, I-405 congestion will back up onto SR 520 and have substantial effects on travel times between I-5 and SR 202.

How much traffic would light rail-only lanes displace on 520?

April 9, 2010 in In the News
Friday, April 9, 2010

King County Ferry Service Not as Efficient as Private Operator

April 6, 2010 in Publications

Since 1997, King County has successfully contracted with Argosy Cruises, a private ferry company based in Seattle, to operate the West Seattle Water Taxi. In 2009, Argosy operated the route from April through October and carried a record 200,000 passenger trips, a 21 percent increase over the previous year. Under the public/private partnership with Argosy Cruises, the total cost for seven months of operations was $808,000 in 2009, or about $115,000 per month.

Chinese rail system forces airline to stop flights

March 30, 2010 in Blog

In previous research, I've highlighted how high speed rail systems compete with the passenger airline industry. In this Puget Sound Business Journal editorial, I said:

Shifting demand from airlines to a HSR network ultimately harms the
economy by creating competitive disadvantages. In this region, that
shift in demand would harm major economic engines like Boeing and
Alaska Airlines.

And in this Bellingham Herald article

Public intercity rail programs like Amtrak compete with private
companies that provide the same type of intercity travel; Washington
companies like Alaska Airlines, Argosy Cruises or the locally owned and
operated Bellair Charters based in Bellingham.

public taxes to artificially shift demand from an efficient sector of
the economy to one that loses money is a waste of resources and places
these hometown businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Now Reuters reports a Chinese airline has shut down some of its flights because passengers are instead flocking to the new rail line: China express train forces airlines to stop flights

This is not a big deal when the government owns both the airline and the train company....chalk it up to efficiency. But in the United States, spending billions in public money to prop up a passenger rail system that loses an average of $37 per rider, will only waste public money and no doubt hurt private companies.

SDOT: More transit to reduce congestion

March 26, 2010 in Blog

At a Seattle Chamber meeting last week, I asked SDOT Director Peter Hahn about Seattle's ranking as the most congested city in America. His answer was we need "more transit."

Arguing for more transit did not play well with a business-oriented audience because they happen to understand (and appreciate) fact-based performance measures.

The region produces about 14-15 million trips per day and only about 3 percent of these trips are taken on public transit. In fact, Sound Transit estimates that by the time its light rail line is complete by 2030, it will carry about 360,000 trips. This is less than 2.5 percent of all trips!

In economics, supply is a function of demand. This means a willingness to use a service must exist before a supply of that service is created. Boeing executives do not make 300 airplanes knowing they will only sell 100. Likewise, governments should not spend a disproportionate amount of taxes in low demand sectors, where th!
e willingness to use the service does not justify the spending.

It is a simple truth that businesses understand: Using the economic principles of supply and demand shows that building excess transit capacity before there is an equal amount of willingness to use it leads to an underperforming system. Replacing roadway with bike-only or transit-only lanes has an obvious impact, greater traffic congestion, and spending public money on projects that ignore or make congestion
means businesses will experience higher costs.

Seattle's attack on the automobile continues and its ranking as the most congested city in America does not appear to be in jeopardy.