Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

South Kirkland Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Project Advancing; But Fate Still Uncertain

by Andrew Hart January 18th, 2011

SUMMARY: The cities of Kirkland and Bellevue have approved an agreement outlining principles to guide the development of the South Kirkland Park and Ride into a regional transit, commercial and housing hub intended to boost transit usage and model the benefits of transit-oriented development. Following upcoming public hearings and final amendments to the development plan, a $6.25 million federal grant could be released and would help cover some of the costs of adding 250 new parking spaces to the current 600 spaces which are at capacity now. 200 housing multifamily housing units are also planned, and 12,500 square feet of commercial space. If private and perhaps non-profit investors can partner on the housing, then the expanded parking component of the development plan can be fully funded; otherwise, not. Demand for commuter parking at the transit hub is likely to increase as tolling begins this spring on the nearby State Route 520 bridge, and then reconstruction of the bridge follows.

Expert Review Panel To WA State: Aggressive Finance Plan Needed For 1-405/State Route 167 Mega-Project

by Matt Rosenberg January 17th, 2011

SUMMARY: The 40-mile-plus Interstate 405/State Route 167 is already badly congested and will get worse as population grows over the next 20 years unless a planned $1.95 billion tolling and demand management mega-project is funded and completed. Even under tolling of the full corridor, there will be a funding gap of $685 million to $1.2 billion which policymakers must address. New taxes and/or borrowing or private investment would be needed as well.

The project would add electronic-only express toll lanes and manage peak-hour traffic demand. Aggressive tolling strategies are needed to help the project succeed – including few or limited toll exemptions for private vehicles unless they are carrying three or more passengers.

A new more pervasive approach to tolling technology is recommended, with photo enforcement to deter payment evasion and a requirement that all in-region drivers have “Good To Go” electronic tolling accounts and dashboard-mounted “transponders” which are read by overhead highway panels.

6,000 New Homes Mean Six New Schools In Black Diamond

by Matt Rosenberg January 4th, 2011

SUMMARY: The Black Diamond City Council is poised to approve an agenda bill Jan. 6 granting final authorization to the mayor to sign a comprehensive school mitigation agreement between the city, the Enumclaw School District, and the developer of two new master planned communities which will result in 6,000 new dwelling units and require construction of six new schools, three elementary, two middle, and one high school. The developer will provide land for the schools in exchange for mitigation fee credits, but taxpayers will have to approve the issuance of public debt to pay for construction.

BACKGROUND: Following legally-required environmental analysis and public hearing, the Black Diamond City Council City in September 2010 approved two master planned developments which will result in construction of 6,000 new residential units, The Villages and Lawson Hills. Public schools in Black Diamond, a city in southeastern King County, are operated by the Enumclaw School District, which covers several municipalities in a large suburban-rural area. Under a Comprehensive School Mitigation Agreement approved by the city of Black Diamond and the Enumclaw School District, the developer, Yarrow Bay, will ensure properties are secured within the new communities for new schools that will be required to serve the new population. Yarrow Bay is ready to sign the agreement following final revisions.

KEY LINK: Agenda Bill Authorizing Mayor To Sign Comprehensive School Mitigation Agreement with Enumclaw School District and Yarrow Bay developers; Black Diamond City Council, 1/6/11.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The two new master planned developments called The Villages and Lawson Hills will generate a substantial new population of school-age children who cannot be served at existing schools in the Black Diamond area.
  • Based on formulas predicting the number of students in various age groups who will reside in the 3,430 single-family homes and 920 apartments/town homes, there will need to be built: three new elementary schools with 450 students each; two middle schools with 550 students each; and one high school with 1,200 students.
  • To serve the new students, neighborhood schools are preferred so they can walk or bike to school and reduce transportation service needs and associated environmental impacts. Initial locations have been identified for the new schools, but may shift somewhat depending on various factors.
  • The developer Yarrow Bay will convey properties to the Enumclaw School District for construction of the needed new schools in exchange for credits against the so-called “mitigation fees” which are typically assessed in monetary form by cities on developers to compensate for the local government fiscal impacts resulting from new residential communities or units.
  • Paying for construction of the new schools will fall to taxpayers, who will be asked to support passage of school construction bond issues (the issuance of public debt to individual and institutional lenders). The city, school district and developer will “support and encourage” passage of necessary construction bond issues in the near and long-term. (Public entities cannot advocate a “yes” or “no’ vote on any ballot measure, but may provide objective information for the public, and public officials when they are “off the clock” may campaign directly).

Idaho Nat’l Lab: “Transforming The Energy Infrastructure”

by Andrew Hart November 15th, 2010

SUMMARY: In a July, 2010 report the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory advanced a five point strategy for the country to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals in a way that best serves U.S. economic and security objectives. Key recommendations include: reduce energy consumption fractionally each year; cut gasoline and diesel consumption 70 percent from 2009 levels by 2050; continue to replace coal-fired electric power with that produced from renewable energy sources; increase use of nuclear power to produce electricity; and if technically feasible, deploy carbon-capture and sequestration technology for “clean coal”-derived electricity. The cost of the comprehensive plan detailed in the INL report would be about $3.85 trillion over forty years and would entail a 54 percent increase in the cost of energy by 2050. However, the INL report posits that the costs are justifiable because the strategy would comprise a self-sufficient, predictable and secure approach to meeting our nation’s future energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction needs, versus the current unsustainable approach.

Figure E-2, Emissions Reductions Required To Meet Objectives

WSDOT: Southeast King County Commuter Rail Study

by Matt Rosenberg October 19th, 2010

SUMMARY: A proposed east-west spur commuter rail line in Southeast King County – connecting with the main north-south commuter rail line operated by Sound Transit, and with Amtrak Cascades service – would run every 33 minutes, and carry 1,140 daily passengers by 2030. It would cost $169 million to $190 million to build, and $4 million to $4.7 million to operate and maintain annually. Passenger fares would cover 16 percent of annual operating and maintenance costs, or as much as 30 percent if cost-sharing occured with Sound Transit. Due to relatively low ridership and high per-mile costs, the project would compete poorly for federal grants. No existing transit or rail agency would likely sponsor the project but a transportation benefit district could, particularly if state law were amended to clarify its role as a transit operator. A public vote would be required to grant taxing authority to such a body.

Transportation And Community Well Being

by Matt Rosenberg August 5th, 2010

There’s a growing inclination to assess the state of community well-being. Indices include educational opportunities and quality, volunteerism, local agricultural abundance, water and air quality, Internet access and online communities, and of course, ease of transportation. Or lack thereof. The Puget Sound region loves its transportation dialog. Major bridge, tunnel and highway projects are painfully slow to launch, and finish. Telecommuting and transit are key parts of our regional transportation conversation and our unfortunately piecemeal action plan. Transit advocates take some encouragement from two votes to build (and then build more) light rail, and other initiatives to add express buses with features of so-called “bus rapid transit” in Snohomish and King Counties.

Progress is slow but now perhaps steady on replacing the earthquake-prone Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 through downtown Seattle with a controversial deep-bore tunnel. However, as reported yesterday in the Seattle Times, money lined up is far short of what’s needed for a crucial safety replacement of the SR 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington between Seattle and jobs-rich Eastside suburbs such as Bellevue and Redmond. I seem to recall this very matter having arisen in some detail last September. Into this whole decision matrix are factored fascinating and important conversations on regional highway corridor tolling (electronically, with price breaks for high-occupancy and perhaps even low carbon-emitting vehicles), plus market penetration of electric vehicles, and more frequent telecommuting – which can only happen if employers learn better to…trust, and verify. We won’t attempt to resolve all this here, just say more and better leadership is crucial. My aim now is to highlight a piece of the transit puzzle that richly connects with our regional heritage on the waters of Puget Sound, and perhaps our future, as well.

Microsoft Seeks To Unite Top Washington Companies On Public Policy Agenda

by Matt Rosenberg June 11th, 2010

Seattle PI.com blogger Nick Eaton has a noteworthy report on Microsoft coming out of the closet, politically. A turning point of sorts was a high-profile campaign by the company earlier this year urging lawmakers to keep moving ahead on the politically thorny planned replacement of the State Route 520 floating bridge. The push included a full-page ad in the Seattle Times.

For the global software giant headquartered in Redmond on Seattle’s booming Eastside, there’s just too much at stake to not try to take the lead in collaborating with other major businesses headquartered in Washington to improve the economy and business climate on the home turf. But they’re not singing the usual song about business regulation. Instead, the priorities are things that affect their bottom line but also matter to us all: transportation, infrastructure, education, and growth and opportunity in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Eaton reports that according to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs:

To remain a good place for businesses..and to become a more attractive place for corporations, Washington needs to focus and invest in three major areas: innovation, transportation infrastructure and education. Moreover, as Asia becomes the world’s biggest economic power, as Microsoft expects, the Seattle area – with its large Asian community, proximity to Asia and history of trade with Asia – has a golden opportunity to become those Asian companies’ landing point for expansion into the United States.

Microsoft wants to take a leadership role in getting Washington businesses to get the state to where it needs to be. Of course it’s selfish, Smith said, but it should also help the state economy as a whole. “We’re very committed to collaborative efforts,” he said. “We can be counted on to do our share, or even a little more than our share, but we also can be counted on to be collaborative.”

Eaton notes that other corporate heavyweights headquartered in Washington state include Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, Paccar, Weyerhauser and Expeditors International.

The question that remains is exactly what sorts of broader policies would Microsoft and its collaborators advance to improve transportation, for instance, and education? Widespread electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound, keyed to real-time congestion levels? More incentives for telecommuting? Charter schools, which have been shot down time and again in the state? Greater per-pupil funding, enabled by the proposed new state income tax that’s being championed by Bill Gates Sr.? What really works, and what doesn’t?

Moving from the general to the specific is tricky. Not to mention fraught with political peril. The zeitgeist is a piquant stew right now. A few ingredients to keep in mind. Government budget deficits. Tax fatigue. User fees. Public-private partnerships. Empowered consumers.

So Microsoft sharing the weight is good strategy. There are already numerous business advocacy groups in the state and Central Puget Sound. But somehow, none of them have been able to generate enough momentum on the big issues Smith identifies. The success of any business coalition such as that envisioned by Smith will depend in part on its ability to motivate its employees to participate, as well. Microsoft has already shown it can do that. It will be interesting to see how the specifics of the policy agenda develop.

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