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

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)

Transit
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.

New poll finds traffic relief is still important to two-thirds of voters

in Press releases

Seattle – Washington Policy Center has released the results of a recent statewide poll that asked voters 5 questions 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.

Maintaining the commitment to the gas tax projects?

February 24, 2009 in Blog

Here is a list of transportation projects recommended (from members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees) to receive federal stimulus funding.

Notice the first five projects are gas tax projects that should be funded from the Nickel and TPA gas tax increases that were imposed in 2003 and 2005.

Doesn't anyone listen to the WSDOT Secretary anymore?

February 10, 2009 in Blog

The theme of the legislative session in Olympia this year is climate change. This includes the state's goal of limiting how much people drive.

But what seems lost on everyone, except maybe Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond, is the negative impact on state fuel tax revenues. During the House Transportation Committee (about 1 hr 13 min) hearing yesterday, Rep. Brad Klippert asked this question:

I would just like to share my confusion. We keep talking about these Vehicle Miles Traveled.  I went to a transportation breakfast on Friday morning, and I heard the transportation secretary s!
ay when we shut down Snoqualmie Pass on I-5 due to the weather we lost a lot of state revenue from the gas tax and quote, I heard her say "it would have been nice if people got in their vehicles and drove around in circles so we would have got the money from that gas tax." What do I tell my constituents in Eastern Washington, reduce you vehicle miles traveled or keep driving so we get money from the gas tax?

To which Secretary Hammond responded this way:

And that’s the dilemma we are in right now. What we want to do is we need the revenue from the gas tax in order to pay for our transportation costs both in terms of safety, preservation, maintenance and everything else. In addition to that, in terms of our responsibility, in terms of road congestion, and emissions and all of these other components, the more people drive, I mean, we want people to drive less. So it is clearly a message, a mixed mess!
age that we deal with every day. And we need to find the balan!
ce.

In other words, the state policy to limit VMT doesn't make any sense. Our research shows that if the state is able to achieve its first target of reducing VMT, state gas tax collections will fall 10.2% ($1.5 billion) by 2020. And this is on top of the most recent Transportation Revenue Forecast that shows state fuel taxes are already over committed by $1.5 billion through 2023.

Most think that tolling will eventually replace the gas tax. But a policy of reducing VMT for drivers, while simultaneously adopting a primary revenue stream that relies on driving, guarantees the state will fail at one or the other.

2009 Statewide Transportation Poll Results

February 7, 2009 in Publications

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

Port Merger Worth a Look

February 7, 2009 in Publications

There has been a lot of discussion over the years to merge the Port of Everett, the Port of Tacoma and the Port of Seattle into a single Puget Sound Port Authority. This year, Representative Glenn Anderson has proposed House Bill 1421, which would direct the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to study the feasibility of combining, over a five year period, operations of the three ports.

Replacing the Viaduct with Chicago-style politics

February 5, 2009 in Blog

About two weeks ago I wrote about how King County's 1% MVET increase to pay for the tunnel didn't have anything to do with replacing the Viaduct. It was simply to pay for expanding mass transit in King County.

Now the Seattle Times finally reported on the story, which includes comments from the governor distancing the tunnel proposal from King County's car tab hike.

Now the question is how the legislature will react to this news. King County needs legislative approval to raise car tabs, in this case, about $75 per car, per year. I would suspect this is unlikely given the voter approved initiative to limit car tabs to $30 and the subsequent state legislati!
on also limiting car tabs to $30.

As of today, I have not seen a bill that would grant King County this authority.

So how will this impact the preferred option of replacing the Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel? It should have no impact at all. The MVET increase in King County was to pay for transit service. In fact, one could argue that it unnecessarily increased the price tag of the Viaduct. A cynic could also argue it was a political bone to buy support from Ron Sims and some of the special interest groups on the stakeholders committee.

This is yet another example of how transportation spending is based on political agendas, rather than performance. This concept is covered in more detail in this report:  Reforming State Transportation Policy: Washington State’s Efforts to Implement
Performance-Based Policies