Friday, April 30, 2010

I stomped on your fire, you choked on a biscuit

I have learned that one of my weaknesses is the 'Best Of' section on Craigslist. Once I start reading, I can't stop. It's a complete time waster and nothing I can apply to real life. Until I came across this. Not only is it hilarious but it contains a lesson I think we can all learn from.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'The Man' Caught Up With Me Today

I guess I have as much of the 'I want it now' mentality as anyone. I had to drive instead of riding the bus today so parked at a meter while at the complete streets policy workshop (see below). I was seven minutes late getting to my car after the meter expired and had a ticket. I tend to forget things if I put them off so I headed directly to the Court House to pay my ticket.

When I got there, they told me the ticket wouldn't be in the computer until 5:00 because I had just gotten it today. Therefore I couldn't pay it! What??? It doesn't magically enter itself in the computer? For once I tried to do the right thing and they don't want my money!

So my second attempt to get rid of the ticket was to talk to my (alleged) good buddy Mark Serbousek who is head of the City's Street Department. Good news for you tax-paying citizens but bad news for me; he refused to 'make it go away,' as I phrased it. He did however offer to take my money and pay the ticket tomorrow for me. Nice try Mark.

Complete Streets Workshop Has Large Attendance

I spent the majority of today in a Complete Streets Policy Development Workshop hosted by the Spokane Regional Health District that was aimed at helping the City of Spokane develop a complete streets policy.

A complete street is one designed to enable safe and convenient access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit vehicles and people of all ages and abilities. A complete streets policy would direct planners and engineers to consistently design roadways with all users in mind. More information on complete streets can be found here.

While the workshop centered around the City of Spokane, staff and elected officials from all area jurisdictions were welcome. And a lot of them were interested too, because the workshop had over 50 participants!

Two national complete streets experts, Roger Henderson AICP, PE, PTOE and John LaPlante PE, PTOE facilitated discussions ranging from how our community could benefit from a complete streets policy (safer for kids to walk to school, the community would be healthier overall, we would be eligible to receive more grants, etc.), to how to get the public involved from early on (host charrettes, involve ALL groups that might be interested, approach neighborhood groups instead of waiting for them to approach you), and area streets that could use a 'road diet' (reducing the number of lanes and using that space for sidewalks, parking, buffer strips or bike lanes instead).

My group was made up of a planner from the City of Spokane Valley, a representative of the Neighborhood Alliance, two City of Spokane engineers and a planner from STA. We decided that Driscoll Boulevard would be a good candidate for a road diet, because, as one planner put it, it's got 'fat' lanes. The joke after that became that if we put it on a diet and added bike lanes and other amenities, we'd have a 'phat' road that people would want to use instead of a 'fat' one. Just a little planning humor for you. You know us crazy government folks.

After 2:30, only City of Spokane staff stayed to work on crafting policy language so I'm not sure what they came up with but I'll fill you in as soon as I hear.

Wide Loads Beware

If you drive a wide vehicle (we mean really wide) you're going to have to find another route besides I-90 to get through the state line.

Starting Tuesday, May 4 through June 25th, from Milepost 299.82 (Washington/Idaho border)in both directions, loads exceeding 13 feet wide are prohibited 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week due to freeway construction in Idaho.

The City Of Spokane Sure Is Busy

- Some Spokane City streets will be closed on Sunday to accommodate the annual Bloomsday race. The start area downtown on Riverside Ave. between Lincoln and Post streets will close at 5 a.m. Streets surrounding the close at 7 a.m., and the rest of the course closes at 8:15 a.m. Additionally, the Monroe St. Bridge will close at 5:30 a.m. and Washington couplet closes at 7 a.m. The streets in the downtown core will reopen around 11:30 a.m. and the remaining streets will reopen around 2 p.m.

- Drivers will encounter closures while crews work on a County Sewer Project. Second Ave. from Florida to Rebecca streets will be closed from today to May 15. Traffic will be detoured north to Pacific Ave. along Florida St., then back to Second Ave.

- City of Spokane Street Department crews will be repairing Nevada St. from Hawthorne Rd. to Francis Ave. One lane will be closed to traffic while crews are working.

- There will be obstructions on Fairview Ave. from Market to Ralph streets from May 3 to 5 while crews repair the railroad crossing.

- Blvd. from Perry St. to 17th Ave. will be striped on Monday, May 3. The street will have lane closures.

- Saturday, May 1, is the Market St. Grand Reopening. City streets will be closed to accommodate the day’s activities which start at 10:30 a.m. with a ribbon cutting at Queen Ave. & Market St. Other activities include a parade, car and motorcycle show, Northeast Youth Center Grand Opening with ribbon cutting, and street dancing.

Market and Haven streets from Wellesley to Francis avenues will be closed from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Once the parade is over, Market St. from Wellesley to Rowan avenues will remain closed for the street fair and car show until about 6 p.m.

- A project to install stormwater treatment planters and pervious pavement on Broadway Avenue from Elm to Oak streets starts Monday, May 3. The street will be closed. The $422,000 project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Stimulus and the City of Spokane Wasetwater Department.

- The project to replace existing pipes in Aubrey L. White Pkwy. from Rifle Club Rd. to the Bowl and Pitcher entrance to Riverside State Park is set to be complete by Wednesday, May 5- two weeks ahead of schedule. Until then, the road remains closed to all traffic, including bikes and pedestrians.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cars On Bloomsday Course Being Towed

The City of Spokane wants to remind you that vehicles are being towed along portions of the Bloomsday route this week as the City works to clean and repair the streets in advance of the road race.

No parking signs are in place on Riverside Avenue from Monroe to Hemlock streets and on Broadway Avenue from Monroe to Lindeke streets. If your vehicle was towed, you can call 625-4100 for information on getting it back.

Additionally, no parking is allowed along the race course on Sunday, May 1. Residents should move their cars to avoid towing.

Airlines Warned Not To Leave Passengers On Tarmac

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is putting the smackdown on airlines that keep passengers stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours.

LaHood's new rule limiting to three hours the amount of time airlines can keep passengers waiting in planes goes into effect on Thursday. After three hours, planes must return to a gate unless its unsafe to do so.

Here are the details on the new rule from the Olympian newspaper.

Snoqualmie Is Improving, But May Be Slow In The Meantime

With spring (allegedly) here, a lot or you will probably start taking weekend trips to the west side of the state. I myself am headed to Olympia next weekend. Things are going to look a little different on the pass though. Crews are expected to be done with a safety improvement project on the pass in June, but until then you'll see a lot of traffic cones.

Here's what crews will be doing, from the WSDOT blog.

New Driver License Design Starts In June

Here's your heads up that the Washington Department of Licensing is changing driver licenses to help protect against identity theft.

The department says it will expand the used of facial recognition technology already used in the Enhanced Driver License program. A new design will be phased in as drivers renew licenses, starting in June.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bike Lanes Really Pay Off In New York

When does a bike lane become an economic stimulus? When it's part of an alternative transportation system that puts $19 billion into New York City's economy each year.

Thanks to Paul for sending me this item from CEOs for Cities that talks about a new report that aggregates the economic value of walking, biking and transit to the New York City economy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

West Plains Study Public Meeting

Do you live or work in the West Plains area? Or even just travel through? Then we want to hear from you about your transportation concerns for the area.

SRTC is working with stakeholders on a West Plains-Spokane International Airport (WP-SIA) study in response to continued development of the airport business park, land use changes at the airport, and the effect those changes will have on the Geiger interchange and surrounding roadway network. A map of the study area is below. Click on it to view it larger.

We will host a public open house on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 to give an overview of the study to the public and gather feedback. The open house is from 4-7 p.m. in the Pend Orielle Pavilion at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino at 100 N. Hayford Road in Airway Heights. Here's a flyer for the open house. And here is more information on the WP-SIA transportation study.

Market Street Opening Celebration Saturday

I know, it's only Monday, but I'm always thinking of the weekend so here's something to do next Saturday if you don't have plans: The Market Street Rehabilitation Ribbon Cutting & Street Fair takes place Saturday, May 1, starting at 10:30 a.m.

The fun happens at the intersection of Market St. & Queen Ave. Mayor Mary Verner will be there to celebrate the completion of construction on Market Street! $8 million of work rehabilitated Market St. from Garland to Francis avenues and replaced the existing curbs and sidewalks. Additionally, pedestrian lighting, bike racks, and trees were installed from Heroy to Columbia avenues, Queen Ave. was repaired from Market to Haven streets; various water and sewer services were upgraded; water mains were replaced; and additional fire hydrants were installed.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the day’s celebration activities after the Market Street ribbon cutting. Some of the day’s activities include:

10:30 a.m.- Market St. ribbon cutting with Mayor Verner
11 a.m. - Community parade
Noon - Barbeque, face painting
1 p.m. - Northeast Youth Center ribbon cutting
3 p.m. – Jazz band performance
5:30 p.m. – Street dance

NSC Latest

We get asked all the time what the state of the North Spokane Corridor is. Here's a Spokesman-Review article that has all the latest.

Ride The Bus To Bloomsday

Running or walking Bloomsday this year? So is almost everyone else for miles around, so make it easy on yourself and plan ahead to take the bus downtown instead of driving.

If you don't want to worry about carrying money for bus fare, pick up a Spokane Transit Bloomsday Shuttle sticker for just a dollar and a quarter. You just stick it on your race number and show it to the driver as you board the bus. The sticker is good for shuttle routes and fixed routes all day May 2. You can buy your sticker when you register for Bloomsday online and pick it up at the STA booth at the Bloomsday Trade Show.

STA has also expanded its express shuttle pick- up and return times to shorten your wait time at the starting line due to staggered race start times. Here's everything you need to know about taking the bus to Bloomsday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Government Reporting Site Gets Mixed Marks

There's a somewhat new service out there that allows anyone to report and track non-emergency issues anywhere in the world via the internet. The website 'SeeClickFix' claims it empowers citizens, community groups, media organizations and governments to take care of and improve their neighborhoods.

Well one local blogger tried it- with some interesting results. Here's his story.

And here's his follow up post after he checked into the situation a little more closely.

If you want to giveSeeClickFix a try yourself, click here. Let me know if you submit something and what kind of response you get.

April SRTC Newsletter Now Available

For those of you who just can't get enough of what's going on here at SRTC, our April newsletter is now available. Click here to read it.

WSDOT Update

- There could be possible evening and overnight lane closures and daytime shoulder closures of US 2 through Airway Heights as crews construct new crosswalk islands and overhead warning signals. This is a City of Airway Heights project, in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

- Lane and shoulder restrictions may be in place next week on US 2 at Elk-Chattaroy Road. The northbound right turn lane is being realigned to improve sight distance.

- Work starts on Monday, April 26 on construction of a new Stateline Port of Entry.
Starting Monday night, material will be hauled to the site, with trucks running from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. A westbound shoulder closure will be set up and trucks will be exiting and entering the work site. Westbound drivers need to be alert for slow truck traffic. During the day, electrical work will be done on the eastbound side, using a shoulder closure.

- Northbound US 195 will be reduced to one through lane in work areas between Hatch and I-90 next week. Lane restrictions may be in place 24 hours per day at some locations for replacement concrete panel curing. Crews are placing reinforcing “dowel bars” at concrete panel joints and replacing broken concrete panels.

Weekly Update From The City Of Spokane

- The project to replace the existing pipes in Aubrey L. White Pkwy. from Rifle Club Rd. to the Bowl and Pitcher entrance to Riverside State Park, is set to be complete by April 30. The road remains closed to all traffic, including bikes and pedestrians. Consider taking Nine Mile Rd. as an alternate route. Riverside State Park and the Bowl and Pitcher are open and can be accessed by Downriver Dr. just past the “Road Closed” sign.

- The intersection of Wellesley Ave. and Assembly St. will have minor traffic back-ups on Saturday, April 24, from 9-11:30 a.m. while drivers go to and from the America’s Kids Run.

- Crews will be repairing Southeast Blvd. from Perry St. to 17th Ave. on Tuesday, April 27. The street will be closed to drivers with a detour in place.

- It's time for the annual maintenance of the Bloomsday route. Crews next week will be sweeping and repairing potholes along the route; Riverside Ave. from Monroe to Hemlock streets and Broadway Ave. from Monroe to Lindeke streets. “No Parking” signs will be posted along areas of the route from Tuesday to Thursday. Vehicles parked on the street may be towed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Warm Up Your Public Comment Skills- We're Going To Need You

Using my crystal ball, I'm going to look into the future and tell you what our transportation system will look like in 30-50 years. I joke about it, but that's what we're attempting to do with the 'Community Visioning Process' SRTC is conducting. Only we're not using a crystal ball, but input from people like yourself.

The goal of the Visioning process is to come up with a product, and an implementation plan,that describes the desired attributes of a multimodal transportation system to be developed over the next 30-50 years.

The process will look at all modes of transportation-transit, bicycling, walking, personal vehicles, freight, etc.- within Spokane County, as well as how they contribute and interact with each other and economic development.

Today we held the first meeting of the 'Visioning Process Team,' a group made up of elected officials, civic and business leaders, a couple SRTC Board members, bike and pedestrian advocates, etc. This meeting was facinating but left me with my head spinning.

There is so much that goes into planning such a huge project and so little time (the goal is to have the process wrapped up around the end of the year). Today's meeting brought up many topics including, but not limited, to:

- Identifying gaps in the transportation system
- Making sure there is connectivity between all the different modes of transportation
- Changing the negative attitude toward bicyclists from drivers and vice versa
- Promoting transit-oriented developments
- The need to consider not only Kootenai County, but also Suncrest and all the way up to Trail, B.C. and over to parts of Montana in our planning process
- How to measure if the process, and the plan that results from it, is a success
- The fact that congestion isn't always bad but there is a fine balance between congestion and building too many roads
- The question of how to best engage the public in this process as infrastructure/transportation isn't considered 'sexy'

And there was lots more. Two hours worth. It will all come together but right now it's a lot to grasp. A HUGE part of the process is going to be hearing what you want to see. So let me know here what you would like to see in the future of transportation for Spokane. If you are interested in being involved, please also send me your email address, so I can keep you updated as this process evolves.

In the meantime, here's more info on the Visioning Process.

Where Are Other Charging Stations Located?

I had a pretty heavy-duty meeting this morning, so wasn't able to attend, but Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Dave Holmes of Avista Utilities this morning unveiled a new electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot just north of Spokane City Hall.

The charging station is one of three installed this week in Spokane. Other stations are located at the Steam Plant Grill and Avista’s headquarters on East Mission.

As the cost of fuel and pressure to lessen dependence on oil increases, consumers are adopting more alternative modes of transportation. Electric/gas hybrid vehicles are now available to the public, and later this year the first mass produced electric vehicles will be available.

With widespread adoption of alternative transportation will come demand for energy to power these vehicles. While charging will be completed at home, the availability of public stations will help eliminate the “range anxiety” of electric transportation.

Blogger Mandy said in an earlier post that she had noticed the one at the Steam Plant Grill but was disapointed to see that the car parked in front of it was not electric. She also asked how many charging stations are in Spokane. So far I know of the three mentioned above, one at STCU in Liberty Lake, and allegedly at all area Panda Express locations (I need to check on those). Do you know of any others?

'Green Highway' In The Works

Happy Earth Day. Are you doing anything to mark the date? I'm going to a 'Visioning Process' meeting to celebrate. More on that later, after I actually get through the meeting.

In the meantime though, Here's something earth-related for Earth Day: there’s a new initiative under way called the 'West Coast Green Highway.' It involves Washington, California, Oregon and British Columbia working together to promote the use of alternative fuels. Here's more information about this from the Washington State Department of Transportation Blog.

This One's A Hall Of Famer

This one's a 'talker,' as we used to call them in the news business. A British man lost his license after getting busted driving drunk- in a pink Barbie car with a top speed of 4 miles per hour. And the worst part is that police confiscated the car! The best part of the story though? The offender admits to being a 'complete twit.'

Here's the whole story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Unveiling

Nothing to do tomorrow morning? Join Spokane City Mayor Mary Verner and Avista representatives at an unveiling ceremony for a new electric vehicle charging station. The ceremony is at 11 a.m. in the parking lot just to the north of Spokane City Hall at 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

They're Even Watching Your Speed From Space

The people who complain about the red light cameras are really going to be mad about this- a new type of speed camera is being tested in Britain which can use satellites to measure average speed over long distances.

The cameras combine license plate-reading technology with a global positioning satellite receiver. So now you can even get busted from space. Here's more on this new technology.

Transportation Advisory Committee Meets Monday

The next week is going to be nothing but meetings here at SRTC. We've got the TTC meeting today, the Visioning Team meeting tomorrow, a public meeting coming up the first week in May, and Monday is the first 'official' meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee' (TAC). The TAC is a new group formed to promote transparency and provide an opportunity for the public to be involved in SRTC's programs.

For the next couple months, the TAC will meet monthly, to get them up to speed on everything we're working on, but after that we plan to go to a bi-monthly schedule, then eventually to quarterly. Here's more information on the TAC and the agenda for Monday's meeting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Letter In Defense Of Complete Streets

Spokesman-Review Letter To The Editors
Roads lead to future

In his guest column on April 10, Dallas Hawkins suggested that building city streets to complete streets standards is not “practical” because of increased costs.
But the opposite is true. What is not practical is to build or rebuild streets to lower standards of operation than are possible if streets at appropriate locations incorporate safety and multimodal capabilities.

Greater operational safety of streets for cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians and bicyclists represents significant decreased future costs to the community and the city.

Built-in provisions for transit service, pedestrian walkways and bike lanes significantly increase streets’ capacity to move people and goods.
What we invest in today permanently impacts the community’s future, and we should be building service facilities like streets for their best achievable utility over their long lifetime.

So what future will our streets be built to accommodate? What future service requirements should our investments pay for? If they are seen as the same as the past, as does Hawkins, then we are left with streets that are not rebuilt to incorporate less expensive modes of travel, such as transit and bicycles, or to increase vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle safety. This is not the “practical” investment choice for Spokane’s streets.

Paul Kropp

Some Good Roadside Finds

In my neighborhood, we do a cleanup day each year where we divide up area roads and pick up trash along them. Our annual clean up day was this past Saturday and I had some pretty good finds, besides the usual beer cans and bottles, cigarette butts, and whipped cream canisters.

I compete with a couple of the other ladies to see who can find the most interesting discarded items. I think I won this year with that pair of Calvin Kleins, although for the life of me I can't figure out how you could lose your underwear along the side of the road. I also found a pair of 'Ferrari' brand fold-up sunglasses in a case and an Eagles CD.

The good news is that there was less trash than past years so maybe people are getting better about throwing out their junk.

Julie blogged that the weirdest thing she's found was this 'positive thinking' tape- and she still had it at home and sent me this picture.So what's the weirdest thing you've found on the side of the road?

TTC Meeting Tomorrow

SRTC's monthly Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting is tomorrow, April 21. Looks like there's a busy agenda too. Here's a look at it. If anything catches your interest, feel free to attend, the public is welcome at all our meetings.

We're located in the Intermodal Station (Amtrak and Greyhound station) at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310. Just a note- use the elevator to get to the third floor. Neither the stairs or the escalator go to the third floor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

County Gets CTR Award

Congratulations to Spokane County! The County last week was awarded the “Commute Smart Community Champion Award.” The award highlights the contributions the County and its' partners make to improve community livability.

Among its' achievements, the County established a growth and transportation efficiency center (GTEC) and, since 1994, Spokane County has led commute trip reduction (CTR) services in Eastern Washington.

CTR helped the City of Spokane’s Growth and Transportation Efficiency Center (GTEC) attain an 11% percent reduction in drive alone trips and over 8% reduction in vehicle miles traveled in only 10-months while encouraging over 1,000 individuals to start using a commute alternative.

Here's SRTC's Secret Weapon For Bike To Work Week

I got the email below from a friend who I thought was trying to become more physically fit- until I saw the picture accompanying it.

Don't you think it's time we all became more physically active? Beginning May 1, a few friends & I will be riding 5 miles every day.

If any of you would like to join our Bike Club, please let me know and we can make arrangements.

I think it would be appropriate to ride somewhere between 4:00 and 7:00 PM. We can call it happy hour, and pick you up on the way. Let me know if this works for you.

I have attached a photo of my bike.

Celebrate the New Traffic Signal

Work is complete on installation of a traffic signal at 44th and Regal and now it's time to celebrate. Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder will host a celebration on Tuesday, April 20, to recognize the installation of the new traffic signal.

The party is at 5:30 p.m. in the Ace Hardware parking lot, 4416 S. Regal St. The signal is expected to help improve traffic flow and increase safety.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some Items From The City Of Spokane

- This Sunday, April 18, is the annual Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure run. City streets will be closed to accommodate the race. The start and finish area downtown on Spokane Falls Blvd. at Bernard St. as well as the Washington couplet will be closed at 8:30 a.m., with the remaining streets closing at 8:45 a.m.

The race begins at 9 a.m. and the streets should reopen around 10:30 a.m. The start area will begin in front of FedEx-Kinkos, located on Spokane Falls Blvd. and Bernard St. The course will head down Spokane Falls Blvd. and onto Riverside Ave. Then onto Cannon St. and around to Pacific Ave. onto Chestnut St. to Second Ave. and onto Elm St. in historic Browne's Addition. A scenic loop will put you back onto Riverside Ave. to Lincoln St. and then onto Main St. The race will finish on Bernard St. in front of the Spokane Convention Center.

- The project to install a traffic signal at 44th Ave. and Regal St. is set to be complete and will reopen to traffic for the evening commute on Thursday, April 15.

The $265,000 project was funded by State Environmental Policy Act Impact Fees and the City of Spokane.

- The project to pave and install curbs and sidewalks on Bennett Ave. from Clarke Ave. to Spruce St.; and Spruce St. from Bennett to Clarke avenues will be complete by Friday, April 23. Motorists can expect closures and obstructions through tomorrow, Friday, April 16.

The $242,000 project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and Local Improvement District.

- The project to install fiber optic cable in conduits in the area of Ray and Freya streets to Sprague and Hartson avenues is substantially complete.

The $72,000 project was funded by the City of Spokane.

Port of Entry Project Starts Monday

I love this time of year. It's the time when news releases are coming out my ears about construction projects getting ready to start. I never have to dig for blog material in the spring. Here's the latest:

Work gets underway on the new Washington State Patrol Port of Entry facility (also known as the weigh station) on Monday. The new facility will be about one half mile west of the current port of entry and includes a new building and scales, a fully enclosed vehicle inspection building, and new “weigh in motion” scales on the Interstate 90 westbound lanes.

The weigh in motion system lets trucks equipped with special transponders to be weighed as they drive by at freeway speed. These trucks won't have to stop, meaning traffic will keep moving more efficiently.

Most of the work will not affect freeway through traffic. And just for the record, I will most likely not be going out to take pictures of the new station. Some of you may recall the last time I was asked to take pictures of the weigh station and how it led to the State Patrol tracking me down, via my personal cell phone, to ask what I was up to. That resulted in a minor tiff with state patrol personnel who didn't like the fact that I blogged about the incident because some speculated on the blog was that state patrol was pulling a 'big brother' on me.

State patrol officials said they don't supboena cell phone records, they use your license number if you're seen doing anything unusual (such as taking a picture) at the weigh station, and use it to find out who you are. If you've ever contacted law enforcement for any reason, they obtain your contact information and give you a call to chat. So that's the long and short of it.

Time To Register For Bike To Work Week

It's official- time to register for Bike to Work Week. I literally just got an email from BTW saying registration is open on
the BTW website.

Registration is in the upper right-hand corner of the website.

LaHood Not So Popular With Industry

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (pictured) is somewhat of a rockstar with bicycle, pedestrian, and transit advocates, but he isn't gaining any popularity with conservatives and a lot of people in the manufacturing and trucking industries.

A backlash is apparently brewing over his new bicycling policy, which says that the government is going to give bicycling and walking the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money.

While many bicyclists, environmentalists and urban planners have praised LaHood, he's taking heat from others, with one congressman going so far as to suggest his new policy is a result of him being on drugs.

Here's an article from the Associated Press about the situation.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spokane Is Doing A Little Spring Cleaning

We're all happy to see the sunshine today, but the City of Spokane seems particularly happy. They just sent out a news release announcing how they are welcoming spring: by striping streets.

That's right, the release says that each year, the City eagerly awaits warm, dry weather in order to repaint lane lines, crosswalks, and other street markings, which they were able to do today.

Also for the first time this year, crews today began using “hot mix” asphalt for street repairs. During the winter months, the asphalt plants shut down and only “cold mix” asphalt, which is limited in uses, is available.

The Street Department asks that motorists slow down around City Street crews and drive carefully around areas that have been coned off for street work. Motorists should not cross wet paint lines; the paint used is difficult to remove from automotive paint finishes.

City Wins Commute Award

The City of Spokane and Mayor Mary Verner were recognized yesterday for efforts to reduce drive-alone commutes. Mayor Verner was in Olympia Tuesday to accept the “Commute Smart” award from Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The City was named a Commute Smart Employer Champion, and Mayor Verner was recognized as a Commute Smart Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Board Champion.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says that “Employer Champion Award—Affected Sites” award recognizes consistent, time-proven leadership in CTR. Employers who are chosen for the award continue to contribute to solving regional transportation challenges. These organizations demonstrate a commitment to their employees, the quality of life in their communities and the protection of the environment.

The City’s Commute Trip Reduction program is part of the City’s work to reduce its impact on the environment, saving resources and money.

What's In This Coffee? Is That A Rabbit Trying To Cross The Road?

I saw this article on the Coeur d'Alene Bicycle and Pedestrian Blog and it was too good not to steal it.

Say you're driving along and you see a giant bunny trying to cross the street. Do you yield to it? Speed through the intersection? Try to hit it with your car so you can have rabbit stew for dinner? The correct answer is to yield for pedestrians wawlking along unmarked crosswalks, and a lot of drivers in Arizona who got the wrong answer were issued tickets.

That's right, that's no ordinary rabbit, it's a police officer in disguise. Here's the article.

15 Cent New Gas Tax Being Discussed

Some big-name senators are tossing around the option of a new tax on gas in the range of 15 cents a gallon. The tax would be part of an effort to win Republican and oil industry support for the energy and climate bill now idling in Congress.

Here's the details. Would an extra 15 cents per gallon convince you to drive less?

Help Me Identify Some Major Transportation Accomplishments

I was asked to compile some information to be included in the 2011-2030 Washington Transportation Plan (WTP 2030) that the Washington State Transportation Commission is developing.

WTP 2030 is an effort to craft a new vision and goals for an integrated statewide transportation system.

One of the questions I was asked to provide information on was 'Identify your region's top recent accomplishments; either infrastructure projects or policy-based accomplishments.'

I sat down with the boss and here's what we came up with:

- Obtaining TIGER funds for the North Spokane Corridor

- Doing a major over-haul of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) in 2007, then updating it in 2008 and again this upcoming summer.

- The SmartRoutes non-motorized transportation initiative

- And the near-completion of the Fish Lake Trail, using stimulus funds.

All this looking back over the past few years got me thinking; some of those projects are pretty behind-the-scenes and beauracratically-oriented. If I asked the average Joe on a Spokane street what he thought are some of our area's recent major accomplishments in transportation, what would he say? So I'm asking you; what do you see as our major accomplishments? Why?

See Transit-Oriented Communities Display This Weekend

No plans this weekend? Saturday is the annual Earth Day celebration at Riverfront Park. And while you're downtown, you should take a few minutes to stop by the Futurewise exhibit, 'Blueprint for Transit-Oriented Communities,' in the lobby of the Saranac building.

The exhibit features information on growth patterns that give people access to choices in housing and transportation by creating more mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods with excellent pedestrian, bicycle and transit connectivity.

There's also an 'interactive word cloud' so you can leave your ideas about what you would like to see more of, and what you would like to see less of, in Spokane.

Here's more information.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

'Bike Shop Swap' Coming Up Saturday

With 60+ degree weather here and Bike to Work Week coming up, it’s time to get the bikes out and ready to roll. No matter what your level of biking expertise, it’s important to have the proper equipment and your bikes in working order.

In an effort to promote bicycling, Spokane County's Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) office is holding its' first Annual Spokane “Bike Shop Swap” this Saturday, April 17th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Participants can sell, trade or purchase bikes or bicycling equipment and apparel or just take advantage of the great deals offered by four local participating bike shops. Interested? You can find more information on the home page of the CTR website.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can You See The Clown?

I got this little gem out of 'Parents' magazine (it was all they had at the doctor's office to read. I swear):

Researchers from Western Washington University compared people talking on cell phones to people strolling alone, in pairs, or listening to iPods. Only 25% of the walking cell phone talkers noticed a unicycling clown nearby, compared to the 71% of the pairs who took note of the unusual site!! Come on folks, it's a unicycling clown! How can you miss it??

Cell phone users also had trouble simply walking; they were slower, more prone to weaving, and rarely acknowledged other people.

Pedestrian Safety Week Kickoff

Due to an extremely hectic schedule last week and scheduling conflicts, I wasn't able to attend the kickoff ceremoney for Pedestrian Safety Week at the Saranac building on Friday. Out There Monthly was there though. Here's a link to the website.

Train Crossing Getting Extra Safety Measures

Do you folks have a death wish or what? Spokane Valley engineers are working on a project that will keep drivers from going around railroad crossing arms at Park Road south of Trent Road. Apparently, it's been an ongoing problem and obvioulsy not safe.

Also in transportation, there's an emphasis patrol going on that targets speeding and construction starts today on Sullivan Road. Here's what's happening this week from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

Cell Phone Rule Raises Worry Of Another Danger

The state law banning drivers from using hand-held cell phones goes into effect in June. That has Washington State Patrol troopers worried that people may break a different law in order to obey the new one. Here's the story from the HeraldNet website.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Letter Writer Says Get Used To Bikes

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Car romance cooling

Reference to Dennis Heine’s letter, “Why No Tax on Cyclists?” (March 30), I believe we have to end our “love affair” with the car sooner or later. We cannot forever pave the earth to accommodate roadways, and we don’t want to keep breathing the pollution caused by cars, and we need the exercise, be it cycling or walking.

Spokane’s comprehensive plan states that “For Transportation – Design the city for people, not cars and to link the parts of the community through routes, paths and systems to improve accessibility.”

So, I guess we need to get used to those cyclists and in time, perhaps, our attitudes will change, not just in Spokane, but in all cities – small and large. Many in the Colville area have a “love affair” with large pickups as well as cars.

Trudy Lundy

Have to admit I was kind of surprised to see a letter from Colville telling people to get used to bikes, and quoting Spokane's Comp Plan. Good for you Trudy. Any other comments?

Emphasis Patrol Targetting Speeders

Washington law enforcement agencies today are launching a crackdown on speeding with extra patrols being deployed by 153 agencies across the state.

The 'Slow Down or Pay Up' emphasis patrol is sponsored by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Here are the details from the Spokesman-Review.

US 2 Crossing Improvements Coming

Work starts soon on some modifications to three existing mid-block crossings on US 2 in Airway Heights.

Work includes installing new pedestrian crossing lighting and controls, overhead flashing beacon lights, and reconfiguring existing pedestrian refuge islands.

Some added items include the installation of two solar powered, radar speed indicator signs and improved pavement striping at the crosswalks. Pedestrians will be able to activate the eastbound and westbound overhead flashing beacons separately to warn drivers they plan to cross each leg of US 2.

Federal Enhancement funds will pay for the $230,000 worth of improvements scheduled to begin in late April and finish up in early May.

It's Not Just A Bus Ride- It's A Trip

For those of you who like to combine your daily commute with a little bit of circus fun, try riding the East Sprague #90 bus route.

My sister-in-law said there was a man who appeared to be either mentally ill or homeless (or both) on the bus the other day who was creating really cool balloon animals and flowers for all the women and kids. She was quite excited to get a beagle that matched her yellow rain coat.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Council Resolution Posted

I blogged ealier this week about the City of Spokane City Council members passing a resolution in support of complete streets on Monday night.

Well, resolution sponsor Jon Snyder has just posted the actual resolution on his blog site. Here's the link if you want to read it.

Power Out To Some Traffic Signals

The high winds are causing problems for drivers. An email just sent from the City of Spokane says that there are multiple power outages throughout the area, which means no traffic lights at some intersections.

Crews are working to get these signals functional again, but a quick reminder that when the power is out, treat intersections as a four-way stop. That means everyone stops, then takes turns proceeding through the intersection.

Some Items From The City Of Spokane

- Wellesley Ave. from Driscoll Blvd. to Assembly St. will have lane closures until mid-April as Water Department crews work on water service lines.

- Perry St. to North Center St., near the Avista complex, will be closed to traffic Monday, April 12, through Wednesday, April 14, as crews repave the approach and repair the railroad tracks.

- Crews will be repairing the Monroe St. Bridge on Friday, April 9 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and Maple St. Bridge next week. Work is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. southbound and 9 a.m. northbound ending at 3:30 p.m. each day.

- Crews will be crack sealing Third Ave. from Maple to Division streets next week.

- Strong Road will be graded on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 13 and 14, closing the road during the work.

Gas Prices Up

Has anyone else noticed that gas prices shot up really quickly lately? I got gas for $3.10 per gallon this morning, versus $2.99 less than a week ago! Across the border in Idaho, it's closer to $3 per gallon. The national average right now, according to AAA is $2.84 a gallon. So what's going on around here???

Medicine DUI Arrests Increasing

Here's an interesting story from the Arizona Republic newspaper about how DUIs tied to prescription medicine are becoming more and more prevalent. Forget booze, apparently pills are the new cocktail, whether taken legitimately or not.

Some Possible WSDOT Traffic Interruptions

- Starting at 3:30 this afternoon, the Geiger Boulevard interchange bridge over I-90 will be reduced to one lane with flaggers directing traffic. There will be no mainline freeway disruptions. Crews will be repairing bridge joints in that area.

- The eastbound inside lane of I-90 will be closed from the Freya interchange to the Broadway interchange today until 3:30 p.m. so that crews can change bulbs in the street lights.

- This one has no bearing on traffic but I think it's an awesome project so wanted to highlight it. Rockford will be replacing existing sidewalks and adding sidewalks near the city park. Yay Rockford! Glad to see ea little town being progressive and encouraging its' citizens to walk!

Joe Says 'No' To Studs

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Studs’ day has passed

The April 2 story on studded tires understated the cost of the damage to our roads by the use of studs in winter tires. A study in 2006 by the Washington state Department of Transportation stated that the average cost on just concrete state highways is $18 million per year. Since there are five times the miles of asphalt state roads and adding in the city and county road damage we may be approaching $100 million of damage per year. Can we, the taxpayers, afford this?

With the advancements in new-car technology of traction control, ABS brakes, all-wheel drive and other features, do we need the old technology of studs? Besides, the new soft-rubber snow tires will outperform studded tires in all conditions except glare ice, and how often do we have that?

There are seven states that have banned the use of studded winter tires. Four of these are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, all northern-tier states. They get far more ice than we and have no rutted roads. The tire dealers have lobbied against the ban for years but people that buy dedicated winter tires will find that the new soft rubber tires are superior replacements.

Joe Tortorelli
Secretary, Spokane Area Good Roads Association
Spokane Valley

Thanks Joe, 'nuff said!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monroe Street Bridge Lane Closures

The Monroe Street Bridge will be reduced by one lane in each direction starting tomorrow and continuing Friday. One northbound lane will be blocked beginning at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., southbound traffic will also be reduced by one lane. The lanes should reopen to traffic by 3 p.m. The closure is needed for bridge maintenance. Signs will be in place.

Studded Tire Deadline Extended Again

The Washington State Department of Transportation has extended the deadline to remove snow tires again. Winter weather and freezing temperatures forecasted for the Cascade mountains and most of eastern Washington led to the decision to move the deadline to April 17.

Drivers must remove their studded tires by 12:01 a.m., Sunday April 18.

WSDOT is encouraging drivers in areas with milder temperatures to remove their studded tires as soon as possible and not wait until the April 17 deadline.

Traffic Awareness & Pedestrian Safety Week Coming Up

The 12th annual Traffic Awareness & Pedestrian Safety Week is coming up- April 9 to 18. I guess that makes it longer than an actual week, but you get the idea.

Hosted by the Community Assembly’s Pedestrian, Transportation and Traffic Committee, this week will be kicked off by Mayor Mary Verner and members of the City Council at an event at the Saranac Building, 25 W. Main Ave., at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 9.

During the week, drivers are reminded to slow down, obey speed limits, and become more aware of pedestrians, thus making Spokane neighborhoods safer and more livable.

I'm not sure what's going to take place at this kickoff event but I'm going to try to be there to document it if my workload allows.

Tuesday Accidents Slow Traffic

It was an ugly day on local roads yesterday, with several accidents caused by the weather and other factors. One driver was killed on US 395 when she lost control of her car on the slushy roadway. Here's the story on that.

Another woman was injured when her car was pinned under a semi truck. Here's what happened.

Moral of the story? Take it easy out there folks. Even if the roads aren't bad, I've seen a lot of speeding, tailgating, getting cut off, etc. lately. Let's mind our manners.

Sullivan Road Project To Start Next Week

Three road improvement projects along the Sullivan corridor could slow you down, starting next week. The first project starts on Monday. Spokane Valley's newsletter, Hot Topic, has a great article on this series of projects, as well as a helpful map. Check it out. Then make plans for an alternate commute route starting next week.

Report A Spokane Valley Pothole

Did you know that Spokane Valley has a pothole hotline? With the freeze and thaw cycle still in progress, crews are going to have their hands full filling in potholes. If you spot one that needs work, call it in to Call (509) 720-5110.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a legal disclaimer. The picture above is not a pothole in Spokane Valley.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

City Road Closure

Woodside Avenue from Dell to Lindeke streets will be closed to drivers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, for sewer repair.

Complete Streets Passes Spokane City Council

The Spokane City Council voted last night to support a 'complete streets' resolution that will direct city workers to “identify the gaps” and locate “opportunities to supplement and fund” complete street plans.

That means bike lanes, improved sidewalks, and other transportation amenities will get a renewed focus in the city of Spokane.

Although it’s nonbinding, the plan triggered spirited debate at the Council meeting, with over a dozen people testifying and over an hour of discussion.

Councilman Jon Snyder introduced the measure. Council members Bob Apple and Nancy McLaughlin voted against the resolution, arguing they’re concerned about the cost.

SRTC has been working with a group of area agencies to educate local leaders on the complete streets concept. So far we have had a lot of receptive elected officials ask about it and there is a training session coming up for staff at area jurisdictions. We'll keep you updated.

Moses Lake Lands BMW Electric Vehicle Parts Factory

The companies planning to build a parts plant for BMW cars have selected a site in Moses Lake because of the availability of hydroelectric power. The decision by SGL Group and BMW AG was announced Tuesday.

The factory's $100 million initial investment will create 80 jobs.

The carbon fiber parts made at the plant will be used in BMW’s Megacity electric vehicle, which will be available sometime before 2015.

Public Meeting Reminder

Don't forget that today, tomorrow, and Thursday, the City of Spokane will be hosting public meetings to give you an idea of what construction projects they'll be working on this year.

The City has 40 projects worth $60 million planned for this year.

The series of meetings is set to get citizens information they need about the Street Bond projects. The meetings will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on:

· Tuesday, April 6, at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., focusing on projects in Council District 3.
· Wednesday, April 7, at the Northeast Youth Center, 3004 E. Queen Ave., focusing on projects in Council District 1.

Thursday, April 8, at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St., focusing on projects in Council District 2.

City engineers working on the projects will present information on design and construction schedules. Question and answer time will be part of each meeting.
This is in Montana, but I really wish it was in my neighborhood.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Council To Vote On Complete Streets Policy Tonight

Tonight is the big night for the complete streets movement at the Spokane City Council meeting. Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders are all considered under a complete streets policy. Here's more information on the movement from the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Spokane City Council member Jon Snyder proposed a complete streets policy for Spokane and the Council will vote on it tonight. Here's a piece from today's Spokesman-Review where Councilman Snyder does an eloquent job of explaining complete streets and why it's a good idea for Spokane.

It's Officially Construction Season Again

Construction, construction, and more construction. That's what's going on this week in the world of local transportation. Even in the snow/sleet/hail/rain.

Here's the roundup of projects from the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column.

Weather/Construction Cause Flight Cancellations

This &^%$# weather isn't just trying my nerves, it's also causing some problems at the airport- that and a construction project.

Several Southwest Airlines flights into Spokane were cancelled this morning due to a combination of poor visibility and the start of a project to extend the main runway.

Planes are being diverted to the airport’s cross-wind runway during construction, which will last until October. Southwest pilots had not yet been certified to land on the cross-wind runway during periods of low visibility and the weather reduced visibility to below three miles.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NSC Project Accused Of Violating Clean Water Act

The Center for Justice says the Washington State Department of Transportation violated the Clean Water Act during construction of the North Spokane freeway.

The group filed a complaint today that argues that the state has ignored its permit to build the corridor by allowing untreated storm water to flow into Deadman Creek.
Here's the story.

Train Kills Person In Valley

There's been another train-pedestrian death. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review. Be sure to read the comments after, especially the one by the person that says you can't hear trains until they're right up on you. I literally work in the train station, so I beg to differ. All day it's trains going past non-stop. And we hear them long before they get here.

Everytime someone gets hit by a train, I point out how the Bridging the Valley series of projects could cut down on these kinds of accidents. I'm going to save my breath this time and just send you to the Bridging the Valley site to figure it out on your own.

Some Items From The City Of Spokane

- Construction on Decatur Avenue from Freya Street to Julia Street is set to being on Monday, April 5. The project will pave and install curbs and sidewalks on Decatur Ave. from Freya to Julia streets; and Julia St. from Dalke to Francis avenues. The streets will be closed to thru traffic with local access only.

The $540,000 project is being funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and Local Improvement District (LID).

- Residential street sweeping within the City of Spokane starts on Monday, April 5. Sweeping will be done between 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Residents are asked to move their vehicles from the street during sweeping. Here's the sweeping schedule for next week:

Northwest: Monroe St. to Ash St. and Wellesley Ave. to Francis Ave.

Northeast: Mission Ave. to Euclid Ave. and Ruby St. to Hamilton St.

South: Hartson Ave. to 29th Ave. and Crestline St. to Ray St./Thor St.

US 2 Work Starts Monday

Work starts on the intersection of US 2 and Elk-Chattaroy Road, north of Spokane on Monday. This project removes the existing right turn lane and highway shoulder on northbound US 2 at Elk-Chattaroy Road to allow for widening of the roadway to the east.

Once removed, the right-turn lane and shoulder will be rebuilt with a new offset right-turn lane that will provide better sight distance and generally improve the safety of the intersection.

Northbound US 2 traffic will be reduced to one lane through the work zone, except during the 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekday commute period, when both lanes northbound will be open.

The project is expected to be complete by mid-May.

Council To Vote On Complete Streets Resolution

SRTC has been working with a group of area jurisdictions, social service agencies, concerned citizens, etc. to educate people about complete streets and whether they're right for our area.

Your help is needed to spread the word about this. On Monday, April 5, a complete streets resolution goes up for a vote in front of the Spokane City Council, and we need people to be there to speak in favor of complete streets.

Councilperson Jon Snyder supports the development of a Complete Streets Ordinance as a component of the City’s street standards.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard.

Want more information?There is a 'Complete Streets Spokane' Facebook page you can check out.

Get Your People Together Charles. Hillyard's Not Doing So Hot

It's April Fools Day but this is no joke. It's National Census Day, the day Census officials would like you to get your Census forms in the mail to them, if you haven't already.

Because we use census data in-depth in transportation planning, and because SRTC is a state data center affiliate for the Census, we take the Census very serious here at SRTC. I think you can tell just how seriously from our GIS guy Kevin's get-up. And yes, even his headband has the Census logo on it. Is the headband overkill perhaps? Heck no, Kevin works up a sweat crunching numbers and the band keeps the sweat from getting in his eyes.

Kevin had some Census 'factoids' he filled me in on during this 'photo shoot': Hillyard is the neighborhood, or Census 'tract' area with the lowest return rate in Spokane County so far, with 37%. The Indian Trail area has the highest local return rate of 67%. And Washington State has an overall return rate of 57%.

Want more facts? Her's a link to the U.S. Census Bureau website.

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.