Friday, October 24, 2014

Could An Obese Crash Test Dummy Save Your Life?

Should dummy's waistlines increase because ours do?
Are obese dummies the key to reducing deaths on the road? Studies show that overweight people are
78% more likely to die in a vehicle crash. Why? Because cars are made for people who are in the "suggested" weight range. That means a car "fits" an obese person differently, and doesn't necessarily protect an overweight person the way it's built to protect a regular size person.

The answer? An obese crash test dummy, according to the company that makes the majority of dummies.

Rail System Input Needed

The Washington State Department of Transportation will seek the insights of farmers, rail-industry experts, regular citizens and anyone in between at planning workshops this fall on state-owned rail lines in an effort  to improve the movement of goods produced on Northwest farms

WSDOT planning staff will consider infrastructural and operational challenges as they develop the Palouse River and Coulee City (PCC) Rail System Strategic Plan for the system. The strategic plan will be developed in partnership with the PCC Rail Authority. The 297-mile PCC rail line consists of three branch lines that carry freight through four eastern Washington counties. Shippers in Spokane, Lincoln, Grant and Whitman counties distribute commodities across the rail system to and from the hubs of cross-country railroads. Last year, the PCC rail system carried 20 percent of state-grown wheat, while reducing 37,000 truckloads from Washington state roadways.

The Spokane workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 13 here at SRTC- 221 W. 1st St., Suite 310 from 2:30 4 p.m. so if you have thoughts, come share them.


Journal of Business Checks Out SRTC's Transportation Improvement Program

The Spokane Journal of Business is interested in transportation and it's impact on the region. The Journal published an article on our Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) this week, after talking to our Transportation Planner Anna about it. Here's their article on it.

Local Road Construction Update

SPOKANE VALLEY
4th Avenue between Blake and McDonald- Closed through Wednesday, November 26 for utility work. Signs redirect traffic via 5th Avenue.
Appleway Boulevard from Dora to Park- Brief lane closures for landscaping and stormwater drainage improvements. 

Farr Road from just south of 4th to Appleway- Closed through October 31 for sidewalk upgrades.  Use University or Dishman-Mica as alternatives.


Fox Road from Sprague to 1st - Closed through October 31 for sidewalk upgrades. 


Perrine between Sprague and Main- Closed through October 31 for sidewalk upgrades.

Sprague Avenue between University and Vista- Reduced to two lanes through October for resurfacing, stormwater drainage improvements and sidewalk work.
Sullivan Rd Bridge Project area:
·         Sullivan northbound curb lane closed between I-90 and Flora Pit Road. One northbound lane will remain open at all times on the bridge. 
·         Northbound turns from Indiana onto Sullivan will be reduced to one lane.
·         The Centennial Trail below the Sullivan Bridges is closed from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31 for construction of protective Trail covering. Signs will redirect Trail users along Indiana Avenue.


Sundown Drive between Bowdish and Hollow Court- Closed through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29 for sewer work.  

SPOKANE COUNTY

Bruce Road Bridge- Bridge Replacement, Road Work /Barrier/Approach Slab/Guardrail. The bridge will reopen Saturday with flaggers directing traffic. Expect delays.

Wandermere Pathway- Dartford south to “Children of the Sun” trail, Under construction Pathway/Shoulder work/Guardrail.
           
Hayford Road between Westbow and Richland- Road closed until further notice.

WSDOT
US 195 and SR 27 Congestion- On Saturday, October 25, expect congestion on US 195 and SR 27 between Spokane and Pullman, plus SR 26 between Vantage and Colfax, as fans travel to and from the WSU Cougar football game. 

I-90/Freya St. to Pines Road- Possible eastbound or westbound left lane restrictions, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays to clean drains in the median.

SPOKANE CITY
Washington Street Sidewalk Closures- The sidewalk at 9 S. Washington will be closed from October 24-28 to fill in a grate.

Washington Street Closure- Two-thirds of Washington will be closed near Boy Scout Way for fiber optic service installation, October 24 – 31.

12th Avenue Closure- 12th Avenue between Grand Boulevard and Cowley Street will be closed  on October 27 for Rhodes Crane to set up a crane for hoisting.

High Drive Construction- Pathway grading, paving, shoulder work, curb ramps, and hydroseeding will continue into next week. Paving on the main roadway is scheduled to be completed next week. The 29th Ave. intersection will be closed Oct. 27-31. This project includes pavement reconstruction, storm, sewer, swales, and water main replacement from 29th Avenue to Bernard Street. Phase One construction is expected to last until late October. Phase Two of this project, Bernard Street to Hatch Road, will begin in the spring of 2015.

Residential Grind and Overlay Project- Crews performed Asphalt paving on the Arthur Street portion. The project called for completion of grind and overlay repair on the following streets:


o   Pittsburg Street from Heroy Avenue to Wellesley Avenue and Heroy Avenue from Helena Street to Pittsburg Street. Work is substantially complete.
o   Arthur Street from 13th Avenue to Newark Avenue (excluding 9th Avenue west to 9th Avenue east)
o   Excell Avenue from G Street to the beginning of the cul-de-sac east of Audubon Drive. Removal work has begun.

Greene Street Bridge Watermain- Greene Street from Marshall Avenue to Carlisle Avenue is reduced to one lane each direction. Carlisle at Greene is also closed and a detour has been put in place. This project is for work on the existing 30” steel water main that is suspended under the Greene Street Bridge.  This project will pull a 24” pipe through the existing 30” steel main. The new pipe will not add weight to the bridge due to the smaller amount of water that will be flowing through the new pipe.


Drywell Installations- This project will provide drywell installations in nine intersections: 33rd Avenue and High Drive, Jefferson Street and Regent Court, Jefferson Street and Saxon Court, Lincoln Drive and Saxon Court, Lincoln Drive and Croydon Court, 36th Avenue and Bernard Street, 37th Avenue and East Gate Court, 37th Avenue and High Drive and Bernard Street and High Drive.

Traffic Calming ProjectsThis project will construct crosswalks, sidewalks, curb ramps, and place signage around the city.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Advisory Committee Needs New Members

If you're one of those people who say, "If it was up to me... " about transportation in our area, then you may want to join our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC is a citizen advisory committee focused on providing transparency and a community perspective. The TAC is responsible for advising the SRTC Board on plans, programs and activities to determine consistency with current policies; making recommendations on regional transportation policies; and other activities as directed by the SRTC Board.

We strive for a diverse makeup of TAC members. TAC Members represent the general public and groups including, but not limited to, people with disabilities, senior citizens, youth, the business and freight moving communities, traditional automobile users and advocates for non-motorized transportation or public transit. Freight and youth representatives are particularly needed at this time.

The TAC meets once a month, the fourth Monday of every month at 3 p.m. in SRTC's downtown Spokane office. For more information, or for an application to be a TAC member, here's where to go:
http://www.srtc.org/tac_page.html

Corridor Capacity Report Measures Congestion Across the State

How congested are our state roads really? The Washington State Department of Transportation's 2014 Corridor Capacity Report (CCR) has just been released and it looks at key commute corridors.The report was created to help inform WSDOT policy makers, planners and engineers as they examine the multimodal capacity opportunities for state highways.

The CCR looks at Interstate 90 through the Spokane area and it does show what others have been saying recently- that with the economy finally bouncing back, and people going back to work, people are starting to drive a little more again. It also shows that we're spending more time delayed in traffic, but the report says that annual emissions have dropped. This is most likely due to more efficient vehicles.

The report also shows some changes in travel times between 2011 and 2013, transit system use and park and ride capacity. It's interesting reading. And if you really want to get into it, compare our I-90 analysis with some of the information from the west side.

Here's where to find the Corridor Capacity Report.

New Report Says $7B In Transportation Improvements Would Improve State Economy

A state business group says completing the North Spokane Corridor would provide a major economic boost to Washington state. A new study released by the Washington Roundtable looks at finishing the NSC and five other "mega projects" that have been a part of every failed tax package considered by the Legislature in recent years.

The Legislature has been unable to reach an agreement on any plan despite both parties agreeing that major transportation improvements are needed.

The report suggests spending levels for these projects, and comes in lower than some estimates for the NSC. Here's more on that report from the Spokesman-Review.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Next Week

The Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting for October is next Wednesday, Oct. 22.
The agenda and meeting packet are here. There are some really interesting discussions that take place at the TTC meetings, so if you are interested in the technical aspects of transportation planning, or have a question or concern, feel free to attend. The meetings are at 1 p.m. in the SRTC office at 221 W. 1st, Suite 310 in downtown Spokane.

Breast Cancer License Plates Coming Soon

Whether you're a breast cancer survivor or just want to show support, and help raise money to fight the disease. Breast Cancer license plates will go on sale starting in January. Money raised from them will pay for breast cancer screenings and follow-up tests for women with limited or no insurance through the state Department of Health’s Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program.

If you're really wanting to show your support, you have a chance to bid on the first batch of breast cancer license plates before everyone else can get them through an auction today.

More information on the plates, and the auction, is here.

Lagos Declares "Horn Free" Day For Drivers

You wouldn't think this would be necessary but the state of Lagos, in Nigeria, has declared every
October 15 to be horn-free day.

On this day drivers are expected to comply with traffic rules without honking the horns of their vehicles.

At the same time, other road users, including commuters and pedestrians, are to adhere to road signs without waiting for the prompting of vehicles horns.

Apparently there is a major issue with noise pollution caused by transportation there and a huge amount of congestion, as you can see from the picture. Plus many traffic laws go unheeded in the rush to get ahead in the daily commute.

A lot of people think going horn free isn't the way to address these issues, and apparently a lot of OTHER traffic issues they have there. Here's why.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

White Cane Day Teaches Us What Visually Impaired People Deal With Everyday

I walk or ride the bus all over downtown Spokane and like to think I've seen every nook and cranny of the area. But today I saw it from a different perspective. I took part in National White Cane Day, celebrated each year on October 15, to highlight the significance of the white cane and its role in helping people who are blind achieve independence. 

Each year, The Lighthouse for the Blind, a company based in Seattle with a manufacturing plant in Spokane, holds an event to mark the date. The Lighthouse for the Blind is a private, not-for-profit enterprise providing employment, support, and training opportunities for people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities. 

This year they did a guided walk through downtown for officials and planners from the City of Spokane and SRTC. It wasn't just an everyday walk though. We wore vision loss simulators for part of it to experience what it's like trying to navigate without the benefit of sight and we stopped at several locations in the downtown area to talk about challenges the infrastructure presents to people with vision loss or even those with other disabilities and the elderly. 

We also talked about some of the pedestrian safety improvements the City of Spokane has implemented in recent years. So here's some of my thoughts after completing this exercise and more info on White Cane Day.

This crosswalk is attractive and innovative but notice how there's no curb and no delineation between where the sidewalk stops and the road starts? That causes a problem for visually impaired people. There is no change in "texture" between the sidewalk and the road to alert them that they may be walking into a roadway.

Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder caught up to our group as he was heading to City Hall and stayed long enough to find out what we were doing. He had another appointment so couldn't take part but put on a "White Cane Day" button before leaving.


Planters and pronounced edges like the one to the left are good for visually impaired and blind people. This gentleman could feel with his cane that he would go off the edge if he took a step to the right as the surface was no longer rigid.

These audible crossing signals are replacing the old style ones at select intersections around the City of Spokane as money is available. They not only verbally tell you when to cross the road and emit a sound to let people know where the crossing is, but there is a raised arrow on the button you push to alert it that you want to walk that points which direction the street crossing is.


Trees are great. Everyone on the tour today agreed with that. But see that metal brace around this one? That's a tripping hazard for a blind person. Many trees have grates over the dirt surrounding them, which visually impaired people appreciate because they can discern the difference in texture with their canes and know an obstruction is ahead.


Uh oh. Trouble ahead! This is post street. It's awesome that we have a pedestrian plaza but vehicles, especially buses, still come through here. Once again, there is no delineation between the area to walk and where vehicles drive. Also, there are posts and planters in the walkway that were hard for me personally to navigate around when wearing a vision loss simulator.

This is our Transportation Planner Ryan wearing a vision loss simulator. That's an actual vision impaired person named Steve guiding him. Literally the blind leading the blind, right?

This is me to the right, also wearing a vision loss simulator. That's Shawn guiding me. He's on our Transportation Advisory Committee and set this whole thing up. I serve as a sighted guide for Shawn often when he comes to our office. He did a lot better job guiding me today, even while being blind, than I ever do for him, even though I can see.

This is Kathleen, a planner for the City of Spokane and to the right is Spokane City Councilmember Mike Fagan.






One thing that was demonstrated to us sighted folks over and over is that texture makes a huge difference in helping a visually impaired person find their way. These raised bumps at a crosswalk ramp let people know they are approaching an intersection.




 This is Shawn again. He demonstrated how, to figure out what zone he's at to catch his bus at the Plaza, he has to walk very close to the road as the curb is the only really good ledge available to guide him. Because buses come close to the curb and the end goes over the sidewalk when pulling out sometimes, this is an extremely unsafe practice. Some kind of wayfinding measures are needed at the STA Plaza.

And my final takeaway from White Cane Day? That these visually impaired and blind folks we worked with today are a lot stronger and braver than me. I would be picked off the first time I tried to cross the street.

Gas Prices Drop Below $3 A Gallon

I wasn't sure I'd ever see it again, but gas prices across the country are dropping below $3 a gallon!

AAA says the average gas prices has dropped 20 cents a gallon in the last month, below $3 in ten states already. And they're expecting that trend to spread to other states.

Here's the story from KXLY News. 

District 3 Candidates Share Their Thoughts For The Future

You're going to be voting soon on who should represent you as County Commissioner in District 3, southwest and west Spokane County and portions of the city of Spokane, including parts of the South Hill and North Side. The Spokane Valley Herald interviewed both candidates, incumbent Al French and challenger Mary Lou Johnson recently on their goals if they get elected, the issues they're hearing from voters and why each should be elected over the other.

Here is both interviews.

Celebrating White Cane Day By Walking A Mile (or less probably) In Their Shoes

Today is National White Cane Day, celebrated each year on October 15th, to highlight the significance of the white cane and its role in helping people who are blind achieve independence. 

Each year, The Lighthouse for the Blind, a company based in Seattle with a manufacturing plant in Spokane, holds an event to mark the date. The Lighthouse for the Blind is a private, not-for-profit enterprise providing employment, support, and training opportunities for people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities. 
This year for White Can Day they are doing a guided walk through downtown for officials and planners from the City of Spokane and one of SRTC's transportation planners. Not just any walk though- participants will wear vision loss simulators and have to negotiate the many challenges they'll encounter trying to get from point A to point B without the aid of vision.

Throughout the walk there will be stops to experience several accomplishments that the City of Spokane has made in promoting pedestrian safety.  At the conclusion of the walk, participants will discuss their experience. 

At SRTC we were honored to be invited to take part in this because we feel it will make us better able to plan for the future and the needs of people with disabilities when developing projects. There will be a follow up blog post after the walk with pictures so check back. Should be interesting. 

In the meantime, here's more info on White Cane Day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If We Put A Crazy Cover On A Report Would You Read It?

Click the picture to see it full size.
As the person charged with engaging the public for SRTC, I constantly struggle with ways to bring attention to our activities, using very little money. Our Metropolitan Transportation Plans (MTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), among others, are very important documents because they determine how YOUR tax dollars are spent.

But how many people actually read them? My guess is very few. Why? Admittedly, the content can be a little dry. I always suggest that people skim the "meat" of the report as I call it, the tables that show what projects will be funded or what areas funding will go to, but it's still a tough sell sometimes.

Apparently many government agencies have the same issue. Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is fighting it though with their recent 1,316-page report on the High Desert Corridor, a proposed 63-mile freeway and rail link between the Antelope Valley and a fast-growing area of northwest San Bernardino County in California.

What's different about this report? The cover. It's kinda trippy. Have you seen the episode of the Simpsons where Homer eats the really hot pepper and wanders out in the desert where he hallucinates all night? This cover kind of reminds me of that. It's got raptors on bicycles, a tortoise with the name "Brad" on its shell and squirrels.

So if we were going to do something like that with one of our document covers, what would suit spokane? A flying garbage goat? A bus full of marmots? A pink clocktower?

While you think about it, here's more on the report, some pretty funny reaction to the cover, and where the name Brad came from for the turtle.

Group Asks Supreme Court To Approve Confederate License Plates

Confederate flag license plates- free speech or should the south just get over it already? A southern veterans group thinks you should be able to buy the specialty plates to put on your car but a Texas court disagreed. In response, the veterans group is trying to take their fight all the way to the top- the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas' Attorney General says the Department of Motor Vehicles has the power to regulate controversial messages on government-issued property but the veterans group's lawyer says you can't ban something just because some people might find it offense.

Here's more on this story from the Dallas News.

Monday, October 13, 2014

North Spokane Corridor Also Has Tunnel For Wildlife

You knew that the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) is smooth to drive on and saves time if you're headed north, but did you know it's also saving wildlife from being hit by cars on the freeway?

The NSC has a wildlife tunnel passing beneath it on Peone Creek. A wildlife camera has taken pictures of moose, deer, coyotes and other animals using it.

The new passage is part of growing momentum for large-scale preservation of wildlife habitat and the corridors that connect them. Here's more on this from the Spokesman-Review.

Making Transportation More Accessible to Those With Special Needs

Most of us don't usually put much thought into how we're going to get where we're going each day. It's not so easy though for those who are elderly, disabled, too young to drive or just choose not to drive. There are many challenges they face, including:

  • Lack of public transit services in rural areas
  • Lack of transportation services to medical services
  • Broken or missing sections of sidewalk
  • Snowy and Icy sidewalks
  • Lack of transportation options outside of Spokane Transit's service area
  • Limited service hours for Spokane Transit buses
  • Many others

Every couple years SRTC updates the Spokane County Coordinated Public Transit – Human Services Transportation Plan (HSTP), a plan to improve transportation services for people with disabilities, youth, older adults, and individuals with lower incomes. The plan provides guidance to aid communities, agencies and service providers in coordinating transportation resources provided through federal and state programs.

The HSTP includes an inventory of services that provide transportation, common origins and destinations for persons with special transportation needs, an assessment of transportation issues and “gaps” in the system, and implementation strategies for addressing those gaps.

Now what's needed is input on the HSTP. Did we accurately assess all the issues and challenges "vulnerable" folks are coming up against in regards to transportation? Are the strategies to address these issues realistic and appropriate to the situation? Are there possible solutions we overlooked?

We would appreciate it if you could attend a public open house and let us know on Tuesday, Oct. 14 from 4-6 p.m. You can stop by anytime between those hours and stay as long or as short as you'd like. The open house will be in the SRTC office at 221 W. 1st Ave. Suite 310.

If you'd like to check out the Spokane County Coordinated Public Transit- Human Services Transportation Plan 2014 Update in advance, use this link.

Transportation Advisory Committee Members Needed

Do you have opinions on how our transportation system should grow in the future? Or maybe you're just interested in how transportation planning happens. You may be able to help us. SRTC is looking for new members for our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). We have four openings for terms from 2015 to 2018.

The TAC is a citizen advisory committee focused on providing transparency and a community perspective. The TAC is responsible for advising the SRTC Board regarding plans, programs and activities to determine consistency with current policies of SRTC; making recommendations on regional transportation policies; and other activities as directed by the SRTC Board.

The TAC also serves as a conduit for information between the Board and the public. Members serve as liaisons between the public and the Board, relaying informayion between the two groups.

A diverse makeup of TAC members is desired. TAC Members represent the general public and groups including, but not limited to, people with disabilities, senior citizens, youth, the business and freight moving communities, traditional automobile users and advocates for non-motorized transportation or public transit. Freight and youth representatives are particularly needed at this time.

The TAC meets once a month, the fourth Monday of every month at 3 p.m. in SRTC's downtown Spokane office. For more information, or for an application to be a TAC member, here's where to go:
http://www.srtc.org/tac_page.html

Havana Street Improvements Scheduled for 2015

The City of Spokane is giving a preview of one of next year's major street projects. The
improvements are part of a larger project to install a water main within Havana Street.

The project, starting in spring of 2015, will improve Havana Street from 37th Avenue to Glenrose Road. Here's more information on the project.

About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.