Friday, February 29, 2008

Tim Eyman is Back in Action

Tim Eyman has another new iniative, this one involving where money would go that is generated by Spokane's newly-approved photo-red cameras. See what Tim is up to this time here then give us your opinion. Should money beyond that which covers operating costs go to the state or stay local?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Slow Appleway Traffic or Speed It Up?

Spokesman-Review Letters to the editor
Slow traffic inefficient

As reported in the "Best of the Voices" section in the Feb. 25 newspaper, according to Troy Russ, a transportation consultant from Orlando, Fla., "Another means of improving Appleway Boulevard's efficiency would be to cut speeds to 30 mph and reduce the space between vehicles." That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. Improve efficiency by slowing the traffic down? Let's take this foolishness to the limit. If we "cut" the speeds to 5 mph the cars can be even closer, thus vastly improving efficiency over racetrack speeds like 35 mph. Better yet, at 0 mph the efficiency would be maximized! It seems as if Mr. Russ' objective is to cover as much of the pavement with cars as possible. That's actually the definition of a parking lot, not a roadway.

I always thought that an efficient road would be one that got a driver from point A to point B quickly and safely. Maybe Mr. Russ is accustomed to dealing with roads loaded with Florida retirees. Who hires these people?

Tom Cameron
Spokane Valley

Do you agree with Mr. Cameron or is there something to Mr. Russ' idea of slowing traffic down? I didn't read the original article quoting Mr. Russ, so I don't know if he mentioned that many communities are slowing traffic, but with the intent of making areas with lots of businesses more pedestrian friendly, more attractive, and easier for customers to access businesses. In other words, less like a city with a ground-level freeway running through the middle of it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

North/South Corridor savings may require $100 million local investment

This issue is a bit complicated, so you'll need a little history to put it into perspective. Last year the state legislature dusted off and re-wrote some old legislation that gives local jurisdictions the authority to form Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD), which are local or regional taxing districts designed to address local transportation needs.

The revived legislation comes at a time when the Legislature is also telling local jurisdiction that they need to begin generating much more of their transportation revenues at the local/regional level. TBDs are granted several different tax and fee authorities ranging from sales taxes to parking taxes.

The old legislation had been on the books for awhile, and very few jurisdictions had taken advantage of the option. That prompted lawmakers to amend the legislation to allow the "councilamanic authority" to impose a $20 license tab fee. Councilmanic authority is essentially the authority to impose a fee or tax without voter approval. A $20 car tab fee collected in Spokane County would generate slightly more than $8 million annually.

This new authority did get several cities, the county and many civic leaders discussing the possiblity of forming a TBD in Spokane, but some are still apprehensive. For one thing, the old legislation also limited the amount of time the TBD could collect any new revenues to a maximum of 10 years. This is typically refered to as a "sunset clause." The sunset clause limits the TBD's ability to use that money to bond any significant projects in the region.

So, the legislature went back to the drawing board this year and tweaked the legislation again. This time they removed the 10-year sunset clause -- but only on the TBD's authority to impose a 2/10 of a cent sales and use tax, which still requires a vote. (See, I told you it was complicated).

And for good measure, the new language would also require the state to rebate all of the sales tax spent on materials to build Mega-Projects like the North/South Corridor. The rebate money would go back into the construction accounts for those projects. In the case of the N/S corridor, that would generate roughly $250 million for the project. But -- and this is a BIG BUT -- the TBD would have to generate $100 million of local revenue toward the project to be eligible for that rebate.

Here is the less than four bills were introduced to deal with the sunset clause and the sales tax rebate issue, two of which were introduced by a handful of our local lawmakers. None of the local bills included the $100 million requirement, which was introduced by Westside lawmakers.

Considering that a $20 car tab fee would only generate $8 million annually, is it reasonable to expect the local taxpayers to generate $100 million toward the North/South Corridor to qualify for the $250 million rebate?

Related Spokesman Review story here.

County Looking For Bids to Fix Bridge

Spokane and Idaho bridges have seen better days.
Read the Spokesman-Review story here and let us know if there is a particular bridge that scares you.

Shout Out To The Valley

Spokesman-Review Letters to the editor
Valley knows pothole repair

You want to talk about pothole repair? Well, I'll tell you about my experience with the city of Spokane Valley. On Feb. 14 I called and asked the operator who took care of pothole repair. She said that would be her. I told her about two potholes on David Road just north of Fourth Avenue on the southbound lane. Now this road is not traveled very heavily, so I figured it would be a case of when we get around to it. I called about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. When I came home at 3:30 or so, those potholes were filled. Kudos to the city of Spokane Valley for their pothole repair.

Ed Weilep
Spokane Valley

Anyone else have pothole props? I reported one to a City employee a few weeks ago who was in our office at the time. The next day, the pothole was gone! That's quick work.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

GSI engages region with Ideation Campaign

Here is something interesting. If you haven't heard about it already, Greater Spokane Incorporated (the regional chamber of commerce) is soliciting your ideas on how to make Spokane a better place to live, work and play. To accomplish that, GSI has launched an Ideation Campaign to gather input on its web site.

One of the hottest topics on the site is transportation. Ideas range from creating a pedestrian friendly downtown to establishing a transit-oriented hot air balloon service between Coeur d'Alene and Spokane. Read all of the transportation suggestions here. You can even suggest your own idea here.

GSI intends to narrow the suggestions down to a manageable number of doable projects. You can listen to CEO Rich Hadley explain the process during a two-part KGA radio interview here and here.

What exactly is driving transportation to become one of the top issues in the Spokane Region over the past couple of years?

House proposes $14 million for Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad

According to a story in the Spokesman Review this morning, the Washington State House of Representatives wants to appropriate more than $14 million to finish buying – and start repairing – the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad.

In the house budget, $2 million was allocated to complete the purchase of the line from a private owner, and $3.6 million would pay for rehabilitation work on the rail line. The bulk of the cash, about $8.6 million, would pay for rehabilitation work, but only after a local public entity takes over operation of the state-owned rail system. The House is expected to approve the budget proposal Friday, and the Senate will release its plan after that.

Now that the state has rescued the PCC line from extinction, how do you think the line should be opperated?

Letter to the Spokesman-Review Editor Re: Potholes

Letters to the editor- Feb. 21
Europeans prevent potholes

Potholes! Am I surprised to see so many potholes? No. Do we make road builders guarantee their work? No again. Why can't we learn from England and Europe? In England, according to Reader's Digest, a 40-year life cycle cost analysis is required for all pavement designs. Europeans don't have to worry about potholes like we do. They use the best materials scientific research dictates. The French mix their asphalt with quality additives such as rubber, carbon, polyethylene and a product called Novophalt.

Why are we living in the Dark Ages? You get what you pay for, and we keep paying for the same old potholes. Next year we can pay for them again. Why can't we demand that they use the very best materials? For new construction, the federal government seems to require we use the lowest bid, but not on maintenance. We have driven over 3,500 miles in Europe and not one pothole.

Wilma Stork

So what do you think? I've never been to Europe or researched their roads, is Wilma right?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Commute Trip Reduction taken to the extreme...

Ok, so water biking probably won't amount to a significant amount of CTR, because of the limited water ways. Still, we found this innovative commuting video on the Seattle Times website today and thought we would share it. Sorry they didn't mention the name of the manufacturer, but I bet a Google search of "Water Bikes" would turn up some possibilities.

According to the guy in the video, the manufacturer doesn't recommended this bike for commuting in the Puget Sound, but I know a few diehard Spokane bicyclists who would likely embrace this idea. Hey, maybe we could encourage all of our Idaho commuters to ride in on the Spokane River. What do you think?

Urban vs. Rural = Infill vs. Sprawl?

A partisan spat erupted in the Senate yesterday over a bill introduced by 6th District Senator Chris Marr, according to this morning's Spokesman Review and the newspaper's Eye on Olympia blog. (see story here )

Marr's bill is designed to create incentives for city or county jurisdictions to plan for denser developments linked to mass transit as way to reduce traffic in our state. The new program would provide grants to those cities and counties that participate.

Republican’s, on the other hand, said the bill goes too far in prescribing what landowners can do with their land. And while the original proposal is entirely voluntary, some of the opponents feel the legislation could be amended later to make it mandatory.

What do you think of Senator Marr’s proposal? Does it go too far, or is this incentive package address a real need in our region?

Dead transportation funding bills still haunting some in cyberspace

Spokesman Review's Eye on Olympia blogger, Rich Roesler, reports that two controversial transportation funding bills were essentially killed in committee last week, but some people in blogosphere are still fighting them: here

While it is not likely these two bills will be resurected, it is clear -- at some point, soon -- the legislature will have to address transportation funding needs statewide.

How would you propose to fund transportation needs in our state? Do you favor a tax on emmissions? What about a fee based on the amount of vehicle miles traveled in a year? A fee based on gas milage? Tolls?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reserve Funds To Go To Pothole Repair

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner plans to ask the City Council to transfer $500,000 from the City's contingent reserve account to the Street Department's 2008 budget to pay for street repairs such as potholes.

Do you support this move? Read the news release and let us know.

Plowing Costs High For Citizens Too

It's not just area government agencies who are feeling the strain from paying for extra plowing this winter, ordinary citizens have paid dearly too; one up to $100 just to have his driveway plowed! Read the Spokesman-Review story and let us know if you've paid an exorbitant price for snow removal this winter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Some Leaders Questioning Need for NSC

Some local leaders say we shouldn’t spend money to build the North Spokane Corridor because it’s not needed, will contribute to pollution, and cause area tax increases. Supporters of the freeway counter that it will divert truck traffic off local roads, provide right of way for a light rail system in the future, and bring new jobs and industries to the area. Click the link below to read the Feb. 7 Spokesman-Review article about the freeway and give us your opinion. Does Spokane need the North Spokane Corridor or is it time to give up the dream?

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.