Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Sound Transit Would Reject Key Reforms in State Audit

by June 27th, 2013

In a draft status update to be presented this morning at its audit committee meeting, the three-county Seattle region transit agency Sound Transit pointedly rejects a score of key ethics reforms recommended for its Citizens Oversight Panel in a bristling state performance audit released last fall. If the responses are affirmed by the full ST board as is likely, there will be no COP meetings at night so citizens can more easily attend; no outside screening of COP appointees for potential conflicts of interest; no mandated geographic diversity; no restrictions on public advocacy of transit-related measures by COP members; no mandated separate annual fiscal report by the COP; and no use of outside experts by the watchdog panel. There will be some improvements to the COP’s Web page.

Bio-regional tourism greener, argues WWU enviro dean

by June 18th, 2013

Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.

Cab car cost bump to grow Sound Transit’s queasy debt load

by June 10th, 2013

The taxpayer-funded regional transit agency serving the three-county Greater Seattle region, Sound Transit, says its looming purchase of nine new cab cars for expanded service on its South Sounder commuter rail line between Seattle and Tacoma-Lakewood will cost $21 million more than expected, and its Pierce County regional subdivision or “sub-area” will have to issue debt to pay for the difference. According to a staff memo distributed to members of the ST Operations Committee last Thursday, that would pose at least three troublesome effects.

Pols urge “system-wide” tolling study; I-90 EIS looms

by May 22nd, 2013

Proposed electronic tolling of I-90 just east of Seattle – to fill a $1.4 billion gap in building the western approach of a new bridge on SR 520 – is getting more complicated. There will now be a full Environmental Impact Statement, not just an Environmental Assessment. Regional pols are also pushing for a “system-wide” study of tolling in greater Seattle which they say should include looking at using vehicle tolling revenues to fund transit. And in the end it could be that instead of relying on I-90 user fees, tolling on a broader swath of SR 520 itself will help pay for the new bridge’s western approach.

Citizen Panel: Sound Transit Needs To Tighten It Up

by March 1st, 2013

In its year-end 2012 Performance Report, presented Thursday at the monthly Sound Transit board meeting in Seattle, ST’s Citizen Oversight Panel took the regional transit agency to task for poor operating cost controls and questionable resource allocation choices, while revenues are 30 percent lower than expected. The COP says in its report that with the Great Recession having smacked down projected ST 2 revenues by nearly a third, Sound Transit needs to clamp down on growth in day-to-day costs such as a planned 9 percent bump in transit operations spending in 2013, and what has been an ongoing five percent average growth rate for agency operating costs. That includes overhead and a particular sore point, security.

Mercer Island Council Outlines Battle Plan Against I-90 Tolls

by February 24th, 2013

Admitting local state legislators have already warned their colleagues will likely approve electronic tolling on Interstate 90, Mercer Island City officials are still poised Monday night to approve a work plan to battle the move.

Council bill 4809 would OK an initial appropriation of $150,000 from the city’s $2.34 million general contingency fund to hire experts on the economic and traffic impacts to the well-off city of planned state tolling on I-90, plus federal and state lobbyists and a communications and government affairs consultant to fight the plan. Mercer Island has already engaged the high-powered Seattle law firm of K&L Gates, which recently completed a letter to the the Washington State Department of Transportation outlining what should be examined, and how, in the planned Environmental Assessment, or EA, on I-90 tolling.

Most Bridge Toll Violators Ignore Penalty Notices

by February 22nd, 2013

On the State Route 520 bridge and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge most drivers who ignore initial tolling fee bills sent through a process using mounted cameras and mailed notices are not moved to compliance after they receive a so-called Notice of Civil Penalty sent to them by the Washington State Department of Transportation. A report recently presented to the state legislature by WSDOT shows that from April though September of 2012, 170,800 or 76.8 percent of 222,300 NOCPs mailed to drivers on the two bridges were ignored. Additional data provided by the department at Public Data Ferret’s request show that 73,140 or 82.9 percent of 88,169 NOCPs issued from October through December were ignored.

The 243,940 ignored civil penalty notices tabulated for April through December of 2012 would represent almost $10 million, at $40 apiece, although processing fees can add to the cost for those who do comply. WSDOT emphasizes in its report to lawmakers that a stepped-up enforcement program for photo-toll fee scofflaws is scheduled to be fully implemented by the middle of 2013. It will include collection agency outreach, supplementing efforts already launched to deny annual vehicle license renewals for those who continue to leave their toll bills and penalty fees unpaid.

New report: State $1.4 billion shy for SR 167 extension

by February 18th, 2013

A new report to the legislature says Washington state is currently $1.43 billion short of what it would take to complete a crucial six-lane, six-mile partially-tolled extension of State Route 167 from Meridian Avenue in Puyallup across Interstate 5 to Port of Tacoma Road and State Route 509. According to the report just issued by the Washington State Department of Transportation, another $1.5 billion is needed for right-of-way purchases, securing permits and building the project, but only $65 million could be raised over 30 years through current plans to electronically toll one lane in each direction. Combined with a long laundry list of other road and transit needs statewide, the findings add to already considerable pressure for lawmakers to approve some sort of transportation funding package in Olympia this session.