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

Forcing you to work and live where the government wants

April 28, 2009 in Blog

Here is an excellent study from Dr. Ron Utt, a senior fellow at Heritage Foundation, called President Obama's New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel. You might remember that Dr. Utt was our featured speaker at last years transportation event, where he spoke about performance-based transportation policy and traffic congestion relief.

President Barack Obama's early
comments on his opposition to suburban sprawl and his intention to
alter the way Americans live and travel took a step closer to reality
when he created an interdepartmental initiative on housing and
transportation costs. A March press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
announced a new interagency partnership to create "affordable,
sustainable communities." Included among its many goals are projects to:

  • Develop
    a new cost index that combines housing and transportation costs into a
    single measure to better illuminate the true costs by "redefining
    affordability and making it transparent,"
  • Encourage "transportation choice," and
  • Require
    even more planning by the many federally funded regional planning
    entities that are already attempting to guide Americans toward a
    suppos­edly better life.

Rich in the sort of progressive
euphemisms used to mask real intentions, the press release heralds a
process that could likely lead to an unprecedented federal effort to
force Americans into an antiquated lifestyle that was common to the
early years of the previous century. More specifically, these
initiatives reflect an escalation in what is shaping up as Presi­dent
Obama's apparent intent to re-energize and lead the Left's longstanding
war against America's suburbs.

Full study: President Obama's New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel
To learn more about the current trends in transportation policy and congestion relief, visit

Viaduct: I have altered the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further!

April 24, 2009 in Blog

Did you know the deep bore tunnel reduces capacity from the current six lane configuration to just four lanes? This is not a "replacement" of the viaduct, but rather a reduction in service.

And in classic government fashion, taxpayers will have to pay more for it. Just like Vader's deal to Lando Calrissian, the deal given to taxpayers just keeps getting worse.

Tolling the Viaduct

April 24, 2009 in Blog

The legislature's vote to partially replace the Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel allocates $2.4 billion in state money, with a provision that allows for an additional $400 million collected from tolling.

The bill includes this language:

The state route number 99 Alaskan Way viaduct replacement
project finance plan must include state funding not to exceed two
billion four hundred million dollars and must also include at least
four hundred million dollars in toll revenue. These funds must be used
solely to build a replacement tunnel, as described in subsection (1) of
this section, and to remove the existing state route number 99 Alaskan
Way viaduct.

This is significant for two reasons. First, tolling would end once the debt inte!
rest on the additional $400 million is paid off. And second, the tolling revenue can only be used for construction (and demolition) purposes, not transit.

Both of these stipulations are consistent with WPC's tolling policy and consistent with how the state has used tolling in the past. With the exception of the HOT lane pilot project on HWY 167, policymakers still seem hesitant to manage demand through roadway pricing. And state policymakers also seem to resist the idea of using toll revenue for transit purposes.

WA stimulus spending: what about reducing traffic?

April 21, 2009 in Blog

If you care about reducing traffic, then you may question how Washington policymakers propose to spend our portion of the $5 billion in stimulus funding.

In order for the various state and local agencies to receive funds, the governor must "certify" the project. In the process, the governor says each project "has received the full review and vetting required by law and that [she] accept[s] responsibility that such investment is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars."

The governor has certified 212 transportation projects for about $622 million in federal stimulus spending.

We could argue all day long about the appropriateness of some of these projects. But ever since the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation identified about $150 bill!
ion in unmet transportation infrastructure needs, some of these certified projects may raise your eyebrows.

Island Co Bicycle Touring Enhancement
Produce a map identifying bicycle touring routes on both
Whidbey and Camano Islands. Improve shoulders along
approximately 1400' of Crescent Harbor Road in front of
Crescent Harbor Elementary School. Sign the route from
Deception Pass Bridge to the City of Oak Harbor as a "Bike
Route".  $53,329

Lummi Nation Pedestrian Path
Construct approximately 9000 LF of a shared bicycle pedestrian
trail between Kwina road and Slater road east of
Haxton way. $250,000

West Dayton Street Beautification
This enhancement project will add vegetation and an
irrigation system to the West entrance into the City of
Dayton along US 12.  $149,000!

Beards Hollow Overlook
Design an!
d construct beach/ocean overlook at Beards
Hollow on SR Loop 100.  $100,000

LINK Transit
Upgrade shop lighting Upgrade shop lighting.  $50,000

In fact, I went through the list and found about $9.8 million dedicated to sidewalks, $4.7 million for trails, and whopping $77.7 million earmarked for vehicle replacement. Funding is the single largest obstacle in building/maintaining transportation projects, especially at the local level. With population projections expected to reach an additional 1.2 million people and traffic congestion expected to double over the next twenty years, could we not have found more important projects?

USDOT letter to governors

April 20, 2009 in Blog

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent a letter to all fifty governors today, reminding them that any federal stimulus money that is saved from lower than expected costs can remain in the state, but must continue to be spent on other eligible transportation projects.

Across the country, bids are 10-20 percent less than the engineer's estimates....Any Federal dollars that are not used for that particular project must be used for other projects consistent with the Recovery Act appropriation.

LaHood goes on to say:

          Money saved from Recovery Act-funded highway projects, for example, may be used for transit and rail.

Here is the letter.

2009 Transportation Dinner

April 18, 2009 in Events
Saturday, April 18th, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The Hyatt Bellevue
Bellevue, WA

Mike Ennis at the 2009 Center for Transportation dinnerWPC’s Transportation dinner was a huge success. We heard from Dr. Samuel Staley, Urban Policy Director for Reason Foundation. Dr. Staley gave an enlightening presentation on how traffic relief can increase opportunity circles and improve business productivity, which is especially important in a globally competitive market. Dr. Staley also provided three broad solutions for Washington policymakers to fix traffic: manage the system more efficiently, build more capacity and redesign the transportation network.

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.