Monday, April 20, 2015

Commute of the Century Changing A Little This Year

The City of Spokane's "Commute of the Century" event is changing a little this year for Bike Month. The 2014 Commute of the Century was focused on riding Spokane's bicycle infrastructure and gathering public feedback on it.

The 2015 event will still include group rides during Bike to Work Week and will offer a full 100-mile “century” route, but the focus will be on neighborhood connections. The group rides will range from five to seven miles and will showcase potential “greenways” – neighborhood streets that prioritize walking and biking for all ages and abilities.

Here's more on the changes and this year's goals.

Spokane's Earth Day 2015 Event A Great Day

The weather was beautiful this weekend and people were outside like crazy. SRTC teamed up with the Commute Trip Reduction Program, the Spokane Clean Air Agency and Spokane Transit for a booth at Saturday's Earth Day event. We talked to tons of people about alternatives to driving and signed probably hundreds up for "Undriving Licenses." What was surprising to me was the huge age range of people interested in getting their Undriving License. Even a couple dogs pledged to find a way to get around other than driving. That's two less dogs we'll see behind the wheel folks.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oil Transportation Safety Act passes Washington State House

The Oil Transportation Safety Act passed the state House this week. Senate Bill 5057 requires oil transporters to give advance notices to local emergency responders so they can better prepare for the possibility of oil spills, tanker derailment, or fire.

To fund the increased regulations, a 1.5% fee will be imposed on railroad revenue from intrastate operations.

Not everyone is happy about the bill and the fee though, including farmers. The Columbia Basin Herald explains why.

Local Road Construction Update

2015 Spokane Regional
Road Construction Map
For more information on all the projects below, and to see them in relation to each other on a map, check out SRTC's 2015 Spokane Regional Construction Map here. The map is updated as new projects start and existing ones wrap up.

US 2/Spokane Airport Vicinity Signage Upgrade- Be alert for equipment and workers on the shoulders with possible shoulder restrictions or lane restrictions as crews replace old signs.  All ramps will be open.  

NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment; Ped/Bike Trail Extension- Today, Thursday, Apr. 16 from until as late as 1 p.m., Freya Street will be closed at the NSC ramp roundabouts for crews to place girders. Drivers will be able to access businesses and residences on Freya from Francis Avenue on the south end or Market Street on the north end.  The NSC will remain open. Southbound drivers should be alert for flaggers directing traffic at the Freya Street roundabout.  Southbound NSC vehicles will be routed through the roundabout in the opposite direction to accommodate the girder work. Northbound NSC traffic from Francis to the NSC will not be affected.

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Work at the I-90/US 195 Interchange will require the following on/off ramp closures:
·  Thursday, Apr. 16, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to eastbound I-90.
·   Friday, Apr. 17, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Eastbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.

In general, Monday evenings through Saturday mornings, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the US 195 Interchange and the Thor/Freya Interchange. Crews are replacing and adjusting guardrail. 

4th Avenue between McDonald and Blake - Closed through Monday, April 20 at 5 p.m. for pavement patching. Signs will redirect traffic via Sprague.
Intersection of 4th and Blake - Closed from Monday, April 20 through Wednesday, April 22 at 5 p.m. for pavement patching. Signs will redirect traffic via Sprague.
10400 block of 28th- Reduced to one lane from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 20. 

Dishman-Mica at 29th- Reduced to one lane northbound from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, April 20. 

Bowdish Road south of Sprague Avenue- Temporary lane restrictions through 5 p.m. on Friday, April 24 for median work.

12th Avenue (between Houk and Vercler)- Closed daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Wednesday, April 22 for utility work. 

Residential Street Sweeping- Street sweeping vehicles in residential areas throughout the city Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May.

Sullivan Road Bridge Replacement Project Area-
  • Northbound and southbound Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane between Indiana Avenue and the Sullivan Park traffic signal.
  • Northbound turns from Indiana Avenue to Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane.

University at Appleway Intersection- University at Appleway will be reduced to one lane each direction through Friday, April 24 at 5 p.m. for work on the Appleway Trail. Appleway at University will be reduced to two lanes for median work.

Central Avenue Closure- The Water Department will close two blocks of Central Avenue between Kalispell and Atlantic from April 17 – May 1.  A detour route will be in place.

Bernard Street Closure- 
Bernard will be closed from Spokane Falls Blvd. to Main Street from April 19-30 for a water main project. All lanes on Spokane Falls Blvd. at Bernard Street will be closing as well, Sunday,  April 19, 8 p.m. through Monday, April 20.  Traffic will be diverted on Spokane Falls through the Convention center pull out. 

Government Way Lane Closure- The curb and sidewalk along the southeast corner of Government Way and Fort George Wright is being replaced until April 30. The right hand turn lane from Government Way onto Fort George Wright is closed and the southern east bound lane on Fort George Wright.

Cleveland Avenue Closure- Cleveland is closed between Belt and Hemlock until April 20 for a new sewer connection.

Mallon Avenue Closure- Mallon is closed between Post and Lincoln until April 17 for an asphalt patch.

Rebecca Street from Pratt Avenue to 7th Avenue and from Pratt to Hartson- Utility crews are working to lower and/or relocate utilities.  Access along Rebecca from Pratt to 8th is very limited during work hours.  Local access across Rebecca at intersections within the project site is open.

33rd Avenue/High Drive/Bernard Street Drywellk 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.

37th is closed between Lincoln Drive and High Drive.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Driver's License Suspensions and the Cycle of Debt That Follows

Having your drivers license suspended for DUI, unpaid tickets, unpaid legal fees or any number of
other reasons is definitely an inconvenience. But for many who rely on driving to get to jobs they can't access otherwise, a license suspension is the start of cycle of debt and, often, poverty.

Many people who cannot afford to pay the fines to get their licenses back drive anyway, in order to make a living. Every time they're caught and face more repercussions, new fines are added on top of old and, as repeat offenders, these people are sometimes jailed, causing them to lose the jobs they were driving for in the first place.

Washington has apparently seen the impact and stopped suspending licenses for failure to pay nonmoving violations like expired registrations. The result?

Find out in this New York Times Article.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Article Calls Out Washington Policy Center

An article in today's Spokesman-Review calls out the Washington Policy Center for putting out information opposing the Spokane Transit ballot measure but claiming their not taking a position on Prop 1.

Columnist Shawn Vestal says the center has made presentations, issued news releases and blogged regularly, and produced a piece of “independent research” questioning the cost and efficiency of an electric trolley through the center of the city, yet says it's standard practice for the center to not take a position on ballot measures.

On their end, Washington Policy Center officials say their group has only been "informing the public" about the measure. So which is it? Read the article here and decide for yourself.

Bill Would Make 4th DUI Conviction a Felony

Senator Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are proposing a bill that would make a fourth DUI conviction within 10 year a felony, according to KHQ News.

Senate Bill 5105 would make a fourth DUI-related offense in 10 years a class C felony, meaning offenders would face time in prison rather than county jail.

According to Ferguson, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says impaired drivers cause 50 percent of fatal traffic crashes in Washington. In 2013 alone, Ferguson says 220 people died in crashes involving an impaired driver.

Currently Washington requires five convictions within a 10-year period to be considered as a felony. By comparison, Oregon and Idaho require only three.

Car Buyers Want Their AM/FM Radios Still

From the "priorities" file- apparently ipods, Pandora and other radio apps, and other kinds of in-vehicle entertainment aren't enough- people still want an AM/FM radio in their cars.

Despite the technological advances that are making the car a digital hub on wheels, the consumer’s love affair with AM/FM radio remains and the number of radio listeners are staggering. More Americans listen to AM/FM radio each week than use Facebook. Nearly 60% of the population listens to the radio on a daily basis and nearly 85% of the American people report listening to the radio at least once a week.

Why so many radio listeners when there are so many other options? Forbes looks at the reasons.

Cruise Control For Pedestrians?

This is just weird to me. It's kind of cool but also kind of creepy; cruise control for pedestrians. It;s actually called "Actuated navigation" and uses GPS and electrical stimulation of the muscles to literally "drive" your body around unfamiliar locations, without having to consult a map.

Actuated navigation would combine GPS navigation with a new, direct method of delivering that information to the human locomotion system using weak electrical signals delivered to the muscles, using non-invasive electrodes on the skin. The signal interacts with motor nerves, which contracts the relevant fibers and forces you to change direction. Yeah, that's why I'm not so sure about it. You can learn more about it and decide for yourself though here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Local Road Construction Update

To see all of these projects on a map with more information, check out SRTC's interactive 2015 Spokane Regional Construction Map.

Monroe Street Closure- Monroe Street will be closed from 9-10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 12 from Spokane Falls Boulevard to Broadway for the Negative Split Marathon. From 10:30 a.m. until about 1 p.m., south bound Monroe Street bridge traffic will be restricted to one lane. The west curb lane witll be closed between Main and College. Lincoln will be closed from 8 a.m. to about 12 p.m. between Spokane Falls to Bridge.  Riverside will be closed from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. between Hemlock to Government Way. Government Way north bound will be restricted to one lane from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. between Sunset and Riverside with runners using the east curb lane.
Magnolia Closure- Magnolia will be closed between 24th and Pinecrest until April 14 for a sewer line repair.

37th Avenue Closure- 37th Avenue is closed between Lee St. and Altamont St. for work on the Garden Park Booster Station. The detour route for this project is Crestline to Thurston to Regal. This work is for installation of a new transmission main and connection to the new Booster Station. 
Barker Road Closure- Barker Road will be closed between Chapman Road and 15th Avenue from Monday, April 13 until Monday, April 19 to install a sewer.
Bowdish Road south of Sprague Avenue- Temporary lane restrictions from 7 a.m. on Monday, April 6 through 5 p.m. on Friday, April 24 for median work.
University at Appleway Intersection:
University at Appleway will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 7 a.m. Monday, April 6 through Friday, April 24 at 5 p.m. for work on the Appleway Trail. Appleway at University will be reduced to two lanes for median work. 
Government Way lane closure-
 The right hand turn lane from Government Way onto Fort George Wright and the southern east bound lane on Fort George Wright will be closed until April 30 to replace the curb and sidewalk. 
3rd Avenue Closure- CenturyLink will be working on 3
rd from Cowley to Sherman until April 13 to splice fiber optic cable. The left lane on east bound 3rd will be closed.

Elm Closure- Elm is closed between Riverside and 1st until April 13 for a sewer repair. 

Division Gateway Construction Continues- This project is for beautification improvements to five highly visible locations at the I90 and Division Street gateway entrances to the City.  Work is from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will include the closure of one westbound lane on the off ramp and the West lane under I90.
South Perry Grind and Overlay Work- Work continues on a grind and overlay project on South Perry Street from 43rd to 49th Avenue.  

Residential Street Sweeping: Street sweeping vehicles in residential areas throughout the city Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May.

Crews are replacing deteriorated freeway signage.

North Spokane Corridor/Francis Avenue Bridge and Intersection Improvements- Traffic across the bridge will be restricted to one lane at times, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.  
NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment & Ped/Bike Trail Extension-On Thursday, April 16 from about 10 a.m. until as late as noon, the southbound North Spokane Corridor lanes will be intermittently closed as the contractor sets each of the three bridge girders for the pedestrian overpass near Freya Street.  Drivers may be delayed for 30 minutes or more during the placement process for each girder.  

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Work at the I-90/US 195 Interchange will require the following on/off ramp closures:
I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades-  Monday evenings through Saturday mornings, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the US 195 Interchange and the Thor/Freya Interchange. Drivers may also see narrow lanes and/or lane restrictions on the on/off ramps, bridges, and adjacent streets. Crews are replacing guardrail sections in some segments of Interstate 90 in the Spokane metro area.

US 2/Spokane Airport Vicinity Signage Upgrade- Equipment and workers on the shoulders with possible shoulder restrictions or lane restrictions.  All ramps will be open.  No delays expected.
  • Friday, Apr. 10 and Monday April 13, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning-Westbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.
  • Tuesday, April 14, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to westbound I-90.
  • Wednesday, Apr 15 and Thursday, Apr. 16, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to eastbound I-90.
  • Friday, Apr. 17, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Eastbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.

You Could Be Driving 75 MPH on I90 Soon

A proposal to allow the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to raise highway speed limits to 75 mph will be decided by Gov. Jay Inslee, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, would allow the WSDOT to  raise speed limits 5 miles per hour over the current limit, but only on stretches of highway the department considers safe. The bill passed the state Senate yesterday by a vote of 41 to 7. Last month it passed the House.

Washing Your Car Could Possibly Save Your Life

They also have those places
you can drive through
if you're this short on time.
It's not the car maker's fault, it's the... salt used to deice roadways? That's what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says caused rusting brake fluid pipes in about 5 million Chevy, Cadillac and GMC vehicles. The NHTSA's five-year investigation into the pipe rust determined that it was not the result of a manufacturing or design defect and the answer is to simply wash the underside of your car if you live in climates that use road salt, according to NBC News.

The agency urged people in 20 states with cold weather and Washington, D.C., to get their vehicle undercarriages washed several times during and after the winter, and to get their brake lines inspected for rust to ensure brakes are in proper working order.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Does This Mean We Can All Work From Home?

This reminds me very much of
a plane ride I took recently.
You know those days when you're in a bad mood just because you have to go to work? Well it may not be the actual work part that's bringing you down. Your commute could be putting you in a bad mood. lists the many ways your commute can be (physically) bad for you, including causing weight gain, neck pain, stress and more. Check it out here. 

It's Not Just Public Transit That's Subsidized...

Good for Spokesman-Review columnist Gary Crooks! In his "Smart Bombs" column this week, he responds to a comment posted on the S-R website asking why Spokane Transit can't pay their own way because people who drive their own cars do. He points out that driving is actually subsidized. Do drivers pay for the streets they take to work? To a certain degree through their taxes, yes. But the people who ride public transit also pay for them. And what about parking? Before you buy a car, do you save up enough money to pay for your own parking lot? Of course not.

He also talks about the economic hit caused by vehicle crashes, as well as the impact to quality of life. The most interesting thing that he says to me though? How his teenage children find it wasteful to take a Sunday drive. I wonder if a Sunday bus ride is acceptable...

Very interesting. Check out the entire column here.

What's Spokane's Livability Score?

How livable is Spokane? According to, it's extremely livable. This website analyzes a city's amenities, graduation rates, cost of living and housing market, plus many other factors, to give it a livability score. It also breaks down data into easily-digestible information nuggets such as that the cost of living index is 7% lower than the entire state of Washington, median household income is $42, 274 (28% lower than the state overall) and the median rental rate for a home is $718. One piece of data it lists that I take issue with is that our average summer temperature is 66 degrees. I wouldn't live here if that was true!

Anyway, the site has a lot of useful information so check it out here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Vanpooling the New Answer to All Kinds of Transportation Issues?

It's basically vanpooling on a real-time basis. Transportation wonks say that "Bridj" will be the new Uber. Bridj has 13-person vans that, for $3 to $5, will take people directly from point A to point B, while sharing the ride with other people.

The trips will be a little slower than taking your own car, faster than taking the bus and cheaper than driving yourself and paying for parking. Bridj CEO Matt George says “We don’t have routes or schedules. The routing is dynamic. People tell us where they need to go. We direct them to a pop-up mass transit stop. The vehicle expresses them to a drop-off point within a five- to ten-minute walk of their destination.”

Cool idea huh? So where will Bridge start up? And will the private company threaten local public transit systems?

Bacon's Rebellion asked the company CEO these questions and more.

Microsoft to Use Data To Predict Traffic Jams

Microsoft could soon be using it's technology to predict traffic jams before they even happen. Microsoft is teaming up with the Federal University of Minas Gerais, on the Traffic Prediction Project to crunch all traffic data, including historical numbers where available, from transport departments, road cameras, Microsoft’s Bing traffic maps, and even drivers’ social networks, to see if established patterns can help foresee traffic jams from 15-60 minutes before they happen.

VentureBeat tells us how it could work, using big data.

BNSF to Use Drones to Inspect Railroad Infrastructure and Operations

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. has a new tool for inspecting railroad infrastructure and operations- drones. BNSF recently received approval to use the remotely controlled flying drones to maximize safety in railroad operations, but hasn't said specifically how and where they'll be used.

BNSF did say it will use the drones, equipped with cameras, to inspect track and monitor trains.

Here's more, from the Sioux City Journal.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Volunteers Needed for "Walking School Bus"

One week after spring break wraps up, the new "Walking School Bus" will launch at Holmes Elementary in northwest Spokane on April 20th. Adult volunteers are needed to join this active transportation program and walk with kids one mile to school rain or shine (appropriate weather gear provided).  

Commitment is one morning per week, but more is preferred, from 7:30-8:30 a.m.  The Walking School Bus continues until the last day of school on June 17th.  Seth Woodard Elementary's program will launch on May 11th and continue until June 12th.  

Please contact Annie Szotkowski, Walking School Bus Organizer for the Spokane Regional Health District (509) 324.1452 if you are interested in this volunteer opportunity.

Changes Being Made To 4th and Maple Traffic Signals

The intersection of 4th & Maple
City of Spokane crews start work tomorrow (Tuesday) morning to revise signal operations at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Maple Street. Changing the eastbound and westbound signal phases to operate independently is expected to resolve some congestion issues at that intersection.

Currently, the eastbound and westbound signal phases operate simultaneously. During peak evening hours, this can cause some traffic backup due to a large amount of eastbound right turns and westbound left turns. Sometimes, this results in traffic on the westbound off ramp at Maple and Walnut backing up onto Interstate 90. From now on, the signal phases will be operated independently at all times to address this issue.

Starting Tuesday, crews will place the signal in flash while they change out the existing overhead three-section signal heads to four-section signal heads. During a ‘green phase,’ a green ball and green arrow will be illuminated so motorists know they no longer have to yield to oncoming traffic when turning.  The City will also post ‘Signal Revision Ahead’ signs for 30 days. 

Work is expected to be completed during the day Tuesday. 

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.