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.

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Avoiding Seattle's Congested Future

April 17, 2009 in Publications

This op ed appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal on April 24

Residents of the Puget Sound region hate traffic congestion. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue urbanized area ranks among the nation’s most congested places, a result of strong growth, geography and a failure to keep its transportation network on par with the needs of the region’s rising wealth.

National Transportation Planning Expert to Speak in Bellevue on Saturday

in Press releases

Seattle – On Saturday, April 18,  transportation and urban policy expert Dr. Samuel Staley will be speaking at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue at 7pm. Dr. Staley is keynoting Washington Policy Center’s 2009 Transportation Dinner.

Dr. Staley is a nationally-recognized economic development consultant, academic researcher and urban policy analyst, and co-author of two books, Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century, and The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think and What We Can Do about It.

Traffic relief, mobility, market demand, freight & public/private partnerships

April 14, 2009 in Blog

Five Principles of Responsible Transportation Policy

Policy Center encourages five principles of responsible transportation
policy to help guide policymakers in returning to a system that
provides people’s freedom of

• Tie spending to performance measures, like
traffic relief and economic development

• Respect people’s freedom of mobility

• Deploy resources based
on market demand

• Improve freight mobility

• Use Public/Private Partnerships

Read the 5 Principles of Responsible Transportation Policy legislative memo here.

You can also view or download the Five Principles brochure here.

Does switching from driving to transit really make sense?

April 10, 2009 in Blog

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has a new study that shows how much money a household could save by switching to public transit. For example, the APTA study estimates that if a Seattle household traded in one car and used transit they would save about $10,447 per year.

The study conveniently explains the methodology used to estimate their figures:

APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost
of driving.  The cost of driving is calculated using the 2009 AAA
average cost of driving formula.  AAA cost of driving formula is based
on variable costs and fixed costs.  The variable costs include the cost
of gas, maintenance and tires.  The fixed costs include insurance,
license registration, depreciation and finance charges.  The comparison
also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.4 miles per
gallon and the price for self-serve regular unleaded as recorded by AAA
on April 8 at $2.047 per gallon.  The analysis also assumes that a
person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year.  The savings
assume a household gives up one car.

There is one variable however, the study failed to account for: the value of time. One of the most significant tradeoffs with switching from driving to using public transit is the extra time involved. For example, commuting door-to-door from south King County to downtown Seattle takes about 1 hour in a motor vehcile. (obviously, this estimate can change drastically depending on where you live. Switching to public transit would take 2 hours to make the same trip, door-to-door.

Everyone has their own opinion on how much an hour is worth to them. If I valuled my time at $35 per hour, and added two extra hours of commute time, the cost of moving to public transit would be about $19,600 per year. This means it would cost me about $9,123 per year to switch from driving to public transit.  

The following table shows how much two extra hours of commute time per day (annualized) would mean to you, depeding o!
n your personal value of time:

of 1 hour
Extra cost per day
from using Transit
Annual cost, based on
260 work days per year 
$15         $30         $7,800
$20         $40         $10,400
$35         $70         $19,600
$50         $100         $28,000
$100         $200         $56,000

Assuming your commute time would increase two hours per day, you would have to value your time at less than $20 per hour to make the switch from driving to transit make sense.

5 Principles of Responsible Transportation Policy (2009)

April 2, 2009 in Publications

Washington Policy Center encourages five principles of responsible transportation policy to help guide policymakers in returning to a system that provides for people’s freedom of movement.

Private Legislative Session Update Reception with WPC Research Center Directors

March 26, 2009 in Events
Thursday, March 26th, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Bellevue, WA

Washington Policy Center held a private reception with WPC board members and other key supporters on Thursday, March 26th in Bellevue. WPC’s research center directors discussed the issues being debated in Olympia as we entered the homestretch of our state’s Legislative Session. Topics included the state budget shortfall, transportation, small business issues, education and the environment.

Watch the videos:

Introduction by WPC President Dann Mead Smith

Container traffic woes

March 6, 2009 in Blog

Port of Seattle Exports Dive

Loaded container traffic at the Port of Seattle plunged 17.1 percent in January on a dramatic decline in exports form the Pacific Northwest port. Outbound loaded containers, measured in TEUs, dropped 25.7 percent as a sharp drop in exports that hit Seattle last year extended into 2009. Inbound TEUs fell 11.1 percent as saw 16,208 fewer overall loaded TEUs compared to the same month a year ago.

Retail Container Traffic Sinks

Retail container traffic at the nation's ports sank 14.6 percent in January, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released March 6 by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight. Port Tracker forecasts the first half of 2009 will see volumes well below last year's levels. Even as ports gear up after the traditional low-point of February, the estimate for !
March is up only slightly.

State transportation projects WILL NOT improve unemployment

March 5, 2009 in Blog

In this article from today's Seattle Times on the legislature approving $341 million in federal stimulus money to fund a specific project list, the chair of the House Transportation Committee said this: "A vote today is a vote for jobs."

Currently, the legislature is being told that every $1 million spent will translate into 10 jobs (see the criteria listed at the top of the state project list.) This means in theory, the state will produce over 3,400 jobs with the new spending.

There is one gigantic problem with this claim....there is no analysis to show this spending will actually create/retain jobs.

Consider this:

Over half the mon!
ey ($180) million is going toward 5 Nickel and TPA projects that are already funded with the two gas tax increases approved in 2003 and 2005.

  1. I-405/NE 8th St to SR 520 Braided Ramps     Nickel/TPA Funding $30.00 million
  2. I-405/NE 195th to SR 527 (design build)         Nickel/TPA Funding $40.00 million
  3. I-5/Tacoma HOV                                          Nickel/TPA Funding $70.00 million
  4. I-82/Valley Mall Blvd - Rebuild Interchange     Nickel/TPA Funding $30.80 million
  5. SR 501/Ridgefield Interchange                      Nickel/TPA Funding $10.00 million

One could argue the legislature has yet to allocate money to the Tacoma HOV project on I-5. But as the supplemental transportation budget approved last legislative session shows, each of the other four are already fully funded. So the jobs created by these projects are already there.

The remaining 30 on the state list are small repaving, rumble strips and guard rail projects that will either be completed with existing labor or with new employees. Those projects completed with existing labor do not count toward improving the job market in Washington. The others may result in a net increase of jobs but there won't be very many, they will be temporary and those new employees will again be unemployed by the end of summer.

While Washington does have a massive transportation infrastructure deficit, its unproven and likely wrong that the new spending will have any positive impact on the State's unemployment rate. In fact, it might worsen the situation.!
When the repaving projects are completed, the new employees would be laid off, thus making them eligible for unemployment benefits from the state.

Questions about the WA Fed Trans StimPac?

February 27, 2009 in Blog

Confused about Washington's federal stimulus money for highways and transit?

Here is a breakdown of federal money (Highways and Transit) allocated to Washington State and who decides how its spent.

Highways & Bridges  
Washington will receive about $493 million in  federal money for highways and bridges.

  • And 3% (15 million) will be used for enhancements (not sure what this is)

Washington will receive about $179 million in federal money for transit projects.

Bellingham $1,655,804
Bremerton $2,861,382
Kennewick--Richland $2,659,484
Lewiston (see also ID) $318,847
Longview (see also OR) $1,129,826
Marysville $1,852,474
Mount Vernon $841,295
Olympia--Lacey $2,334,961
Wenatchee $1,019,843
Yakima $2,151,005
  • $14 million goes toward Rural Programs
  • $7 million goes toward fixed guideway modernization

Poll: Traffic relief is still important to two-thirds of voters

February 26, 2009 in Blog

Washington Policy Center has released the results of a recent statewide poll that asked voters about the importance of traffic relief across Washington State.

This updated survey builds upon Washington Policy Center’s first poll conducted in December 2007. In both cases, voters continue to show strong support for making traffic relief a high priority. Two-thirds of respondents still feel the state’s role in reliving traffic congestion is important, but also believe the state is performing poorly at actually doing anything about it.

This information builds on Washington Policy Center’s Five Principles of Responsible Transportation Policy:

• Tie spending to congestion relief
• Respect people’s freedom of mobility
• Deploy resources based on market demand
• Improve freight mobility
• Utilize public/private partnerships

These principles place congestion relief as the cornerstone in any successful transportation plan.