Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blogging Hiatus and Who Doesn't Like A Bargain?

Hey everyone- the grey skies are getting to me so I'm getting out of here for a little while. The boss actually signed my vacation slip so there will be a blogging hiatus until Monday, February 15. Don't worry, I'm leaving you with something to keep you busy. We're moving to a new office in a little over a month and need to clean out about 30 years of office supplies. So in my absence, spend a little time perusing these items we have for sale on Craigslist and I'll be back before you know it.

Video Scan Converter (yeah, I don't know what that is either)

Cassette Transcriber

The mother of all calculators (or a regular calculator for all of us over 30 years old)

Vintage metal toolbox

Projector Screen

Vintage electric stapler

SRTC Board Meeting February 11

The February SRTC Board meeting is next Thursday, February 11 at 1 p.m. here at SRTC. The agenda is here.

I would say the major item on it is the FTA/FHA Federal Certification Review. We go through these reviews every four years to make sure we are in compliance with state and federal regulations and that we're doing the duties required of a Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Planning Organization (SRTC is an MPO at the federal level and RTPO at the state level).

Four years ago when we went through this process, we didn't do so hot. We had 12 "corrective actions." The results from our 2015 review? Not a single corrective action. Some representatives from the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highways Administration will be at the Board meeting to discuss the review so feel free to attend if interested. SRTC Board meetings are always open to members of the public.

1980 Bike Map Pulled From the SRTC Files

We are moving to a new office sometime in March. So in the meantime we are cleaning out a lot of files and getting rid of many years of "stuff." Turns out we had a lot of file cabinets around here filled with a lot of old stuff.

Amongst all the junk, we made a cool find yesterday- the first (as far as we can tell) bike map for the area. While there weren't bike lanes at the time, this circa 1980 bike map lists "easy through streets," "non-arterial bicycle connectors," "difficult intersections," and more.

It also lists area bicycle repair shops. That part was surprising to me. I turns out there were a lot of bike shops back in 1980. And some are still around today, such as Midway Cyclery, Garland Cycle, Spoke 'n Sport and Wheel Sport!

My favorite part about the map- it looks like it was all done on a typewriter. Which had to take someone a LOT of time.

Forgot A Book? No Worries- You Can Now Watch Movies at Airports

A rendering of what PDX's movie theater is expected to
look like.
What do you do while killing time at the airport? Read, check email, chase the kids around, sit in the bar? Watch the kids run around from the bar? Soon, you will be able to spend your layover watching movies. Portland International Airport will soon be the latest airport to include a movie theater in it's list of amenities.

The theater will have  vintage theme and will start by airing short films made by local filmmakers.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International and Miami International also have theaters. Conversely, Asian airports have had movie theaters for years. Singapore's Changi Airport even has two 24-hour tehaters that show new movies for free. And Hong Kong's airport even has an IMAX screen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Driverless Bus On the Road in the Netherlands

Forget driverless cars- the Netherlands (as usual) is way ahead of us. Last week, an electric,
driverless bus called a WEpod was launched there on a trial basis on the campus of Wageningen University, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The bus doesn't even have a steering wheel or pedals that would allow a human driver to take control, unlike driverless cars in the U.S. The WEpods, which only travel at a top speed of 25 miles per hour,  only carry six people but will be used as regular public transit eventually. In April, driverlesss semi-trucks are supposed to be rolled out in the Netherlands as well. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spokane Valley Pothole Hotline

This winter's freeze and thaw cycle has brought potholes to Spokane Valley. Pothole repair crews are already at work fixing potholes around the city, but they need your help: The Spokane Valley Public Works Department wants you to report any potholes that you may come across throughout the city.

To report potholes, call 921-1000 or go online to and select the "Report a Pothole" link. 

Be sure to provide the following information to help locate the pothole to be repaired:
·         Location of the pothole: a street address closest to the pothole, or a description that includes the name of the street, nearest cross streets, side of the street (north, south, east, west) and the lane in which the pothole can be found (northbound, southbound, eastbound, westbound, curbside, turn lane, etc.).
·         Pothole description: the size or severity of the pothole.
·         Additional information: any supplementary details that may help us fix it.
·         Contact information: if you wish to be contacted about your report, please provide your name and an email address or daytime telephone number where you can be reached.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Seasonal Weight Restrictions Announced for Spokane County Roads

Spokane County’s Engineering and Roads Department announced today they are putting seasonal weight restrictions are in effect on county roads until further notice.  Roadway surfaces and the structures beneath have been weakened by the winter’s cycle of freezing temperatures, followed by warmer temperatures and precipitation.  As a result, roads are vulnerable to damage.

Weight restrictions now will reduce the need for road maintenance and vehicle repairs later this year.  These conditions vary from year-to-year, which means that different roads may, or may not, be restricted and the time frame for implementing the restrictions.

Vehicle speed limits on seasonal restricted roads is at the discretion of the County Engineer.  Seasonal road restrictions usually go into effect in late February or early March and last for approximately 6 weeks.  However, seasonal weather conditions dictate the extent of the restrictions and when they go into effect.  No exemptions or permits are given on emergency restricted roads.

Impacted roads in Spokane County are posted with signs indicating maximum allowable weights.  Typically, these restrictions do not apply to the average car or pickup truck.  However, commercial and construction vehicles may need to lighten their loads in order to comply with the restrictions.  Spokane County commercial vehicle enforcement officers will be on patrol and violators will be fined!  Fines may vary according to the nature of the infraction.

Local Speed Emphasis Patrol Feb. 5

Here's your warning- on Feb. 5th, the Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, EWU Police Department, Airway Heights Police Department, and the Washington State Patrol will be participating in extra emphasis patrols focusing on speeding drivers.

Speeding drivers are involved in a crash every 30 minutes in Washington State, according to annual data. Speeding is the third-most common factor contributing to fatal and serious injury collisions. It is often combined with other dangerous behaviors such as aggressive driving, impairment by drugs or alcohol, and not wearing a seat belt.

The extra speed patrols bring public awareness to the issue. They will take place across the area so the best way to avoid a ticket is just to slow down. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Data Shows Decrease in Driver's License Numbers

If Superbad was shot today, McLovin would be having
his adventures on the bus
We've been saying for the past few years that fewer people are driving (although the overall miles
driven has actually increased) and that young people are deciding not to drive in record numbers. How do we know that? Drivers license data.

According to the Human Transit blog, University of Michigan researchers recently released an update on the percentage of people with driver’s licenses in the United States. In 2011, data showed that the percentage of young people with driver’s licenses decreased noticeably between 1983 and 2008.
The percentages for 20- to 24-year-olds fell from 91.8% in 1983 to 82% according to the 2011 research. The updated numbers show that those percentages fell again, to 76.7% in 2014.

So how are these young people getting around if not driving? Uber and Lyft show promising numbers but their data doesn't show that's the main way millennials are getting from point A to point B. According to statistics from transit agencies, it's by public transit. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Input Wanted On Proposed Millwood Trail

Apparently, a lot of people are interested in a potential new trail for the area, because a public meeting at Millwood City Hall for the Millwood Trail last night had an impressive turnout of enthusiastic people, at least while I was there.

When complete, the trail will traverse three area jurisdictions on former railroad right-of-way- Spokane Valley, Millwood and the City of Spokane. The portion that will cross through Millwood (the agency that hosted the meeting last night, along with a consultant hired to manage Millwood's portion of the trail) starts at Vista Road, continues across Argonne Road and past the city park and Avista substation to the Trent Avenue overpass.
When connected with sections in other jurisdicitons, the trail will connect Spokane Community College at Green St and continue east of to approximately Woodruff Road and Trent in Spokane Valley.

At the meeting last night, a team working on the project asked people what amenities they would like to see on the trail. Some of the most popular items were lighting, trash cans, restrooms, landscaping and vegetation, and educational signage.

If you have thoughts on this project but didn't make the meeting, you can still submit comments or talk to project staff. More information on the Millwood Trail and contact information is here.

Planning and design of the trail is underway right now and is expected to continue through June of 2016. Currently construction of the trail is planned for 2017 and 2018 although the phase of the project has no dedicated funding source at this time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scope Changes Will Improve Projects for Citizens

Something kind of cool happened in the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting today. One of the items on the agenda was "Scope Change Requests." Staff from the City of Spokane and Spokane Valley were requesting to change the description of planned projects that are being paid for with federal funds provided through SRTC. To be in compliance, requested changes have to be run through SRTC for approval if they wish to change the scope significantly.

Two projects really stood out because they would provide significant improvements over what is currently planned. The first project was the Downtown Spokane Bicycle Network. It had two phases and was essentially finished in 2015. However, in looking back at the first phase, City staff was concerned that they had pretty much done the minimum on that project, basically just painting some bike lanes and calling it good. Their scope change request was to go back and improve upon that by adding sharrows or other markings to the roadway and signs as well. These improvements won't cost any additional money than is already dedicated to the project as the project came in under budget.

The second project, in Spokane Valley, is for Mission Avenue near the intersection with Long Road. The original plan was to make the section in question three lanes, with one lane each direction and a center turn lane. It would also have sidewalks and bike lanes. After meeting with people who live in the neighborhood several times, Valley staff decided to change the project description after realizing that's not what residents want. Instead, they are seeking to eliminate the third lane and just make the roadway two lanes. The extra space from the third lane will instead (if approved by the SRTC Board) be used for the bike lanes on each side and separated sidewalks. Plus they requested a roundabout at the intersection with Long Road in order to slow traffic down. This change also will not require any additional funding.

What is exciting about this is that it shows how public involvement is working and that staff at area jurisdictions really do care. The City could have walked away from their bike network project realizing it wasn't as good as it could be and said "good enough." But they didn't. And Spokane Valley staff could have politely thanked citizens for their input and carried on with the project as planned. But they didn't.

So here is the next step: members of the TTC voted today to recommend to SRTC's Board that they accept these scope changes. The Board will vote in February on whether to move ahead with them.

Forget a Real Pony, A Pony Cycle Could Be More Fun

Bikes are fun and a good workout and all but why ride a boring old bike when you can ride a pony? Ponycycle, that is. New Zealand has a new transportation option with Ponycycles, a ride-on mechanical gizmos for both children and adults.

The "toys" have a wheel at the end of each leg and moved forward through human power by pumping your legs, kind of like swinging. Right now a company is only renting them out in New Zealand but they plan to sell them for home use soon. They are also available in South Africa.

The best part- these ponies don't need food, water or grooming.

Why Go to the Gas Station When You Can Have the Fuel Delivered to Your Car?

Are you so busy that you don't even have time to put gas in your car yourself? A new app could help. Or it could make us the laziest people on the planet. According to The Verge, WeFuel is basically like ordering anything else you need- parts for the refrigerator, clothes, you can even have groceries delivered these days.

To use it, you download the app, type in the location of your car and request a fuel delivery. Within about 30 minutes, a hazmat-certified driver arrives in a truck and fills your vehicle with gas. If your gas tank door doesn't require a key, you don't even have to be there.

The cost per gallon for the gas is calculated daily based on specific zip codes but where the company makes it's money is from the $7.49 fill up fee. There are plans later to start a monthly scubscription service for unlimited fills at $19.99 per month per car, plus the price of the gas.

While WeFuel is only operating in the Silicon Valley currently, there are several other gas delivery apps that have sprung up lately, including Filld, GasNinjas, FuelMe and Yoshi. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2015 Record Year For Vehicle Miles Traveled

A couple years ago, everyone in transportation was reporting that driving was down. People were finding other ways to get around- riding their bikes, the bus, whatever. Then we heard that people were getting back behind the wheel. And today there is news from the U.S. Department of Transportation, on their Fast Lane blog, that 2015 was a record year for vehicle miles traveled. 

According to USDOT numbers, U.S. drivers ran up almost three trillion (yes with a 't') vehicle miles traveled last year. Each of the first 11 months of 2015 showed an increase of between 2.5 and 4.9 percent from the same month in 2014. Data isn't in from December yet. Even so, those numbers make 2015 the most heavily traveled year in history.

That doesn't necessarily mean that individuals are driving more miles. The population has grown, meaning more people are driving, and truck shipments have increased, putting more large trucks on the road.

This isn't a record that those of us in the transportation industry are celebrating. Each of those miles means a lot of wear and tear on our roadways, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and increases traffic congestion.

DOE Hosting Workshops on Oil Train Shipments

If you are interested in shaping laws related to oil shipments through Washington State, the Department of Ecology is holding a couple workshops for the public at its' Spokane office.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the first workshop will focus on contingency planning for oil-by-rail shipments. It is from 8:30-11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27.

The second workshop, also tomorrow from 1:30-4:30 p.m., will address notification requirements of oil shipments by rail and pipeline, including how much information to release to the public.

The Department of Ecology’s Spokane office is at 4601 North Monroe Street.You can find more information at

Monday, January 25, 2016

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting This Week

The first Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting of 2016 is this Wednesday, Jan. 27. The meeting agenda can be found here.  TTC meetings are always open to the public so if something on the agenda catches your interest, feel free to attend. They start at 1:30 p.m. in the SRTC conference room at the Intermodal Center, 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310. 

All-Community Central City Line Workshop Scheduled

CCL Vehicle Type
Mark your calendars- Spokane Transit is hosting an All-Community Central City Line Workshop to update citizens on the project and gather input on a variety its elements including:
  •  Alignment (which roads through Downtown it will travel on)
  • Stop locations
  • Station design and amenities
  • Potential land use policies and economic development incentives to complement the project’s transit function

The workshop is Tuesday, February 2 in the lobby of the Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Science (PBS) Building at WSU Spokane from 4-6 p.m.

Area Centennial Trail Priorities Set for 2016

The Friends of the Centennial Trail Board each January sets priorirites for the year for the trail. Here are the priorities they recently determined for 2016:
  • Finalize a gap completion plan for Argonne Road.
  • Find a solution for the Trail gap from Boone to Pettet Drive that provides Class 1 roadway separation.
  • Invest in way finding signs, markers and mile posts when it is expedient to do so.
  • Support Spokane City Parks plan to renovate the Don Kardong Bridge.
  • Encourage Trail use counting technology in the Spokane Valley and Riverside State Park.
  • Advocate for all recreational trails in the region.
  • Support completion of six major Trail maintenance projects in 2016.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Amendment Proposed to Transportation Improvement Program

An amendment to the 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) proposes adding a Spokane Valley project to the program and increasing the total cost of a Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) project.
The TIP is a document that identifies projects programmed to be undertaken or constructed during the upcoming four years. It includes project names and descriptions, the jurisdiction sponsoring them, funding attached to each project, and where the funding came from (local, state or federal funds). The TIP is updated regularly throughout the year as SRTC’s member jurisdictions have projects to add, change or remove from the program.

The amendment under consideration would:

·     Add a Spokane Valley project to the program that will reconstruct the asphalt pavement of the Sullivan/Euclid intersection and approaches with cement concrete, rehabilitate and/or replace stormwater facilities and upgrade curb ramps to ADA standards. It will also improve the geometrics of the west leg of the intersection.
·     Increase the cost of a project already in the 2016-2019 TIP from $400,000 to $550,000. This WSDOT project would install fiber optic communications and Closed Circuit TV cameras on US 2 from Spotted Road to I-90.

Details on the proposed amendment are below. Do you think the amendment is a responsible way to spend tax payer dollars? A public comment period for the amendment starts Wednesday, January 20, 2016. Members of the public are encouraged to provide input. All comments must be received by 4 p.m. on Friday, January 29, 2016. Comments can be submitted by emailing to, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

Construction Starts on Phase 2 of MLK Way In May

Construction on phase 2 of Martin Luther King Jr. Way starts in May, according to the Spokesman-Review. The project will stretch from Sherman Avenue (where the University District bicycle and pedestrian bridge will eventually be located) to Erie Street, near Brown Building Materials. The project is expected to cost $2 million.

The first phase of the project, basically an extension of Riverside Avenue, opened in 2012 and cost $3.8 million. When complete, the entire street will run from Division to a roundabout at the intersection of Trent and Perry. So far, there is no firm date for completion.

, but city officials said there is not yet a firm completion date. When this year’s phase is complete, it will add a new connection between downtown Spokane and the East Central neighborhood, passing through the heart of the University District.

In anticipation of the extension, the city spent $410,000 last year to pave Erie Street from First Avenue to the future MLK Way.

Aside from the anticipated construction of the bike-pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks, the city will pave and extend the Ben Burr Trail that connects Liberty and Underhill parks. The $1.2 million project will begin in April. The multiuse path will start at the south side of Underhill Park, go underneath Interstate 90 and Sprague Avenue, and follow Erie to the river’s edge, where it will run west to meet with the Centennial Trail.

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.