Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Visioning Meetings: Day 3

I'm rummy from 'Visioning.' I dreamed about Visioning last night. The dog says I talked in my sleep about the North Spokane Corridor and other possible future transportation projects. That's right folks, it's day three of our first round of meetings for the Spokane Transportation Vision Project and here at SRTC we've been living, eating, and breathing planning for a future transportation system for our area.

Right now I'm sitting in on a 'roundtable' meeting of the Vision Project, this one targetting economic development. There's a roomful of people involved in economic development in the area and they have some pretty incredible insights, ideas, and items they would like to see in our transportation future. Here's what I've learned so far today:

- The average age of residents in Spokane Count is increasing
- 1 in 4 jobs in the region is dependent on trade
- In 2009, trade between Washington State and Canada was cut in half due to the shut down of the Oil Sands project
- International trade and tourism brought the same amount of money into the area in 2009
- Older people are moving back into urban areas to either access services or be closer to their grandchildren
- Education and health services were the only areas to add employees during the current recession
- Area assets include quality of life, lack of congestion, good schools, close to nature, and strong entrepreneurial spirit
- Only 21% of commuters in Seattle drive alone due to the price of parking
- There will be a shortage of about 35,000 truck drivers in the U.S. in the next 10 years due to baby boomers retiring and less drivers wanting to do long haul trucking and being away from their families.
- 75% of people polled in the area have lived here 27 or more years (I need to get more information on this, such as who did this poll, how many people were polled, etc. because I find this to be an amazing statistic)
- We have some of the lowest cost power providers in the country, which is good for recruiting businesses.
- One attendee said that people she knew visiting Spokane for the first time said the downtown area 'smells good.'
- A carton of cigarettes in Spokane averages $62. In Idaho it's closer to $35 so many people are driving across the border to buy cigarettes and gas.

Valley Council Votes To Move Ahead On Broadway Project

After weeks of debate, the Spokane Valley City Council last night went with public sentiment and voted in favor of keeping the Broadway Avenue Safety Project.

The project, originally scheduled to begin construction in June, will restripe Broadway between Pines and Park from four lanes to two traffic lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes.

The project was put on hold when Councilmember Brenda Grassel voiced objections to it on the grounds that it reduces volume on an arterial. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Holiday Closures

Us government workers are looking forward to a long weekend, so don't plan to do any official business on Monday. All government offices will be closed Monday for the Independence Day holiday. SRTC is a government agency, so we will be closed. I have negotiated Friday off, so there will be a blogging hiatus of approximately four days, depending on the weather. If the weather is nice, I will be on the beach. If not, I will be inside blogging.

Parking meters in the City of Spokane don't have to be plugged on Sunday and Monday.

All Washington State Department of Transportation construction will be shut down by noon on Friday in order to make it easier for travellers to get through the area.

I90 To Close Near Snoqualmie Wednesday & Thursday Nights

I90 near Snoqualmie Pass will close for an hour again tonight, so if you're heading to the west side, try to plan around it.

Crews will be blasting rocks starting at 8 p.m. For the safety of the public, I-90 will be closed in both directions from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. between Hyak (milepost 54) and the Price Creek Sno Park (milepost 61) during blasting activities.

Another controlled rock blast will take place tomorrow, Thursday, July 1 at 8 p.m. This work is part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam project.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wanted: One Personal Assistant Willing To Work For Nothing

Its only Tuesday but this week has already been a killer as far as work and transportation does. I didn't realize how preoccupied I'd been until I got in my car this morning and realized that I had left my keys in the ignition all night. In my driveway. Unlocked. And with my laptop in the back seat.

Anyone else ever done this? Did anyone take your car for a joy ride?

Here's What We've Been Up To So Far This Week

You may have noticed that I haven't blogged as much as normal lately. That's because we've been doing intensive meetings for our Transportation Vision Project this week. In fact, I'm in one of those meetings right now. But I thought, what better time to blog about the Vision Project than when I'm immersed in it?

So here's what's been going on; Monday and this morning we hosted workshops for area elected officials and their key transportation staff. We had a decent turnout and it was interesting to hear what concerns our leaders have for transportation in our area, now and in the future.

Here is a brief sample of what I heard:

- Many folks see railroads as a physical barrier to our transportation system.
- Several local jurisdictions are studying the feasibility of changing one way streets back to two way streets.
- Truck traffic is a HUGE issue. Many jurisdictions see it as restrictive to regular traffic, yet a necessity to promote economic development in the area.
- Spokane has less severe recessions than the rest of the country; meaning we feel the effects of recessions later than other communities, don't feel as severe of effects, and come out of recessions quicker than others.
- Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder wants to see a transportation plan developed that is 'subservient to economic development, quality of life, and local comprehensive plans.'
- 81% of freight that comes into the area via the railroad is just passing through. That number is 32% for trucking.

All the input gathered from this morning's meeting will be analyzed and addressed as this project advances.

Now, I'm sitting in a meeting of the Vision Process Team. The Team is made up of local elected, civic, and business leaders willing to volunteer their time to help guide this process.

We're currently reviewing what we heard in yesterday and today's workshops, but have also talked about our outreach plan (that's where you come in- we want to hear from you, the public, on this too), and plan to discuss the emerging transportation vision framework before we wrap up.

So here is what you need to know at this point: Mark your calendar for July 13. We are hosting a public workshop from 6-9 p.m. that night. I will post more details as we get closer to the date, but go ahead and put it on your schedule and plan to attend.

Oops, My Bad. Wrong Time For Visioning Roundtable

We committed somewhat of a snafu. I posted last week about our upcoming Economic Development workshop that is part of our Transportation Vision Project. Well, I posted the wrong time. The workshop is actually from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. tomorrow NOT 1-4 p.m. So if you show up at 1, no one is going to be at CenterPlace but the janitor.

So take note and tell your friends:


Rail Symposium Presentation Available

Last week, SRTC sponsored a 'Rail Symposium,' as part of our 'Transportation Learning Series.' For the event, we brought in three national rail experts; Arthur Shoener, Avery Grimes, and John Ficker. They talked about the economics of the region and the past, future, and present of rail and how it fits in in our area.

If you couldn't make it to the symposium here is the power point presentation that was given.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lots Of Drivers To Hit Roads For Holidays

If you're hitting the road for the Independence Day holiday this weekend, you're going to be far from alone. AAA says holiday travelers can expect crowded roadways and higher gas and lodging prices this weekend.

The organization estimates over 34 million Americans nationwide will travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, with about 90% of them getting there in personal vehicles. That's an increase of 19% from a year ago in western states.

Carlson says the national average price per gallon is $2.75.

Roundup For The Week Of June 28

Planning is in the final stages for the new 'Spokane Summer Parkways' event, highways are expected to be a lot busier this weekend than they were at the same time last year, the North Spokane Corridor is taking shape, and people say they would actually drive out of their way to avoid paying a toll. Here's what's happening this week in transportation from the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column.

Cheney Pedestrian Hit & Killed By Car

A Cheney man was killed last night while trying to cross the highway. 61-year-old James L. Dahl was struck by a car while crossing State Highway 904 in the southwest section of Cheney.

The driver of the car that hit him, and a passenger in the car, were not hurt. An investigation into the cause of the accident is underway, so it is too early to determine whether charges will be pressed.

Some Meeting You May Be Interested In

I have got meetings coming out my ears lately. Here's a look at what's coming up this week so you can attend if the subject/demographic pertains to you:

- June 28, 1-4 p.m.- Visioning Workshop: Elected Officials & Key Transportation Staff, CenterPlace in Spokane Valley

- June 28, 3 p.m.- Transportation Advisory Committee meeting, SRTC, 221 W. First Ave.

- June 29, 9 a.m. to noon- Visioning Workshop: Elected Officials & Key Transportation Staff, CenterPlace in Spokane Valley

- June 29, 1-3 p.m.- Visioning Process Team meeting, CenterPlace in Spokane Valley

- June 30, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.- Visioning Roundtable: Economic Development, CenterPlace in Spokane Valley

A Smorgasbord Of Bike Happenings

- The City of Spokane Valley is asking for your help to develop a Bike and Pedestrian Master Program (BPMP). They're asking for your thoughts and comments through this short, 10-question survey.

- The Spokane Police Department is launching a bike lane violation enforcement effort. They have just put the finishing touches on the email address and would like you to use the email address to notify them of cars parked in bike lanes. In order to follow up, they will need you to provide an approximate address of where the vehicle is parked, the make, model and color of the vehicle, the time and date of the violation, and a photograph of the vehicle parked in the bike lane.

- The Spokane Valley City Council will vote Tuesday, June 29, on whether to reject grant funding for the Broadway safety project that would include the addition of bike lanes.

City leaders are worried that narrowing Broadway to add bike lanes would defeat the purpose of an arterial and are considering not constructing the project.

- The new event 'Spokane Summer Parkways' needs your help. On Sunday, July 11 and Sunday, August 22 from 9 am to 1 pm, 2 miles of Howard Street from Riverfront Park to Corbin Park will be closed to automobiles and opened up to create a 5-mile loop for bikes, pedestrians, skaters, and other human-powered forms of transportation.

Volunteers are needed to set up and break down the course, direct traffic, assist vendors, help with recycling and provide information to participants. If you can help, visit and sign up.

Friday, June 25, 2010

And While We're Talking About STA...

Letter to the Editor

No desire for streetcars
Not content merely unsuccessfully trying to force obscenely expensive Liberty Lake light rail systems on county residents — only to follow that bravura performance with infliction of massive commuter bus service cuts — Spokane Transit Authority management now want creation of totally new, thoroughly undemanded “frill” services: downtown streetcars.

Loyal riders on certain routes (such as No. 23, which dramatically reduces single-occupant-vehicle Maple/Ash corridor travel) are preparing farewells in September for fellow riders they’ve accompanied for years, some for decades, because STA management lacks backbone to advocate taxes on wealthiest residents to offset temporary sales tax revenue declines.

Demanding creation of completely new and unnecessary services at the same time commuters are forced to accept route reductions, requiring daily walks of more than four miles just to reach bus stops, smacks of supreme arrogance.

It’s overdue that STA board of directors’ part-time appointed memberships be taken out of the hands of indirectly related local governments’ office-holders. STA board members need to be directly elected by voters to serve for one purpose only: being accountable to STA riders and other county voters to whom mass transit issues are crucially important.

Robert A. Ethington

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Ethington? Why?

I talked to Karl Otterstrom at STA regarding this item I posted yesterday, and he said they are doing everything they can to accomodate riders of route 23, which is being eliminated. The route 124, which serves the same routing north of Francis (with faster and more frequent service), will have three new stops added in order to capture most of those riders. There are apparently only about 10 riders who are not within a half mile of the 124 stops (including the stops that now exist).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pedestrian Struck By Hit and Run Driver

A Spokane man is in stable condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center after he was struck in a crosswalk near Riverfront Park by a hit-and-run driver around 3 this morning.

The man was crossing the street at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Post Street and was within the crosswalk when a gray 1990s Cadillac hit him and then drove off.

The injured man appeared to have a broken pelvis, police said.

Hoopfest Road Closures

A reminder that you're going to want to avoid driving through downtown this weekend if you're not taking part in Hoopfest.

Starting at 6 this morning, Howard St. from Main Ave. to Spokane Falls Blvd. was closed; the remaining streets will close at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 25, through 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 27.

North-south routes will be limited; through access will be maintained on Monroe, Lincoln, Howard, Bernard, and Division streets. The main grid downtown will be closed to traffic including: Sprague Ave. from Howard to Monroe streets; Main Ave. from Lincoln to Browne streets; Riverside Ave. from Bernard to Monroe streets; Broadway Ave. east of Monroe, Mallon Ave. from Post St. to the west side of The Flour Mill; Washington St. northbound at Sprague Ave. and southbound at Northriver Dr.; Wall St. from First to Second avenues; Post St. between Mallon and Broadway avenues as well as the Post St. Bridge; and Spokane Falls Blvd. at its intersection with Bernard St.

Economic Development Roundtable Meeting Next Week

I'm going to step away from the STA topic train for a minute to talk about something we're doing here at SRTC. For a couple months now, we've been working on a Transportation Vision Project aimed at developing a unified regional transportation vision.

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

We hired consulting firm MIG, Inc. to lead this effort. So far MIG has reviewed a boatload of existing transportation plans for the area, interviewed an even bigger boatload of local stakeholders, and met several times with our Vision Process Team; a group of elected, civic and business leaders helping to guide this project.

The next step is to start getting input from the public on what their vision of an ideal transportation system is. We'll do this through a series of public open houses and roundtable meetings. The roundtable meetings will target certain groups. For instance, the one we're holding next week is aimed at those involved in and interested in economic development.

So if that's you, we want you at our meeting. The meeting is next Wednesday, June 30, from 1-4 p.m. at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley, 2426 N. Discovery Place.
Just so that MIG knows how many materials to prepare, please send me an RSVP email if you plan to attend.

STA Open House Next Week

Spokane Transit has been partnering with the City of Spokane since early 2010 on a Downtown Transit Alternative Analysis (DTAA) to explore the possibilities for high performance transit service in the downtown core.

This project aims to connect major activity centers, encourage new development, improve sustainability, and increase transit mobility. It will compare several options such as streetcar, bus rapid transit, light rail, personal rapid transit, and others.

The project will also compare the environmental impacts of the transit options and look at ways to increase regional resources and transit mobility. Essentially, this plan will create a blueprint for transit that will help to guide future development in Spokane.

The project will be studying and comparing different options, while collecting information and comments from the public. The first opportunity for you to provide this comment is next Tuesday, June 29, when a DTAA Public Open House is held. Mark your calendars. It's from 6-8 p.m. in the Champions Room at the Spokane Arena.

Take The Bus To Hoopfest & Leave Your Road Rage Behind

Playing in or watching Hoopfest this weekend? Then you may want to find a way to get downtown other than driving. With many downtown Spokane streets closed, and parking at a premium, negotiating the downtown area in a car has traditionally been difficult during Hoopfest.

Spokane Transit can help though. They're offering free parking, $1.25 all-day fare and rapid service. Here's some things you should know about this weekend:

- The STA Plaza is closed to bus traffic during the Hoopfest weekend. Alternate loading zones for regular routes will be in effect while the streets are closed.

- A day pass during Hoopfest to ride as much as you want will only cost you $1.25

- Shuttles run every ten minutes throughout the day to two satellite parking lots.

Here's more information on all of the above, plus more STA/Hoopfest details.

Digital License Plate- The Next Thing In Advertising?

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time actually concentrating on driving because I'm on stimulus overload. Drive up 95 and you'll see signs everywhere- signs advertising stores, services, hotels, etc. Now throw into the mix possible advertising on license plates, and I could have a serious distracted driving problem.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow research into the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The device would look like a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. Here's the story.

What do you think? Is this a cool idea or kind of crazy?

Stimulus Blamed For Naked Roads (Why Does That Just Sound Wrong?)

Naked roads!! What? Where have Indiana's morals gone? Okay, I guess it's not that bad, but a nationwide shortage of road paint is leaving Indiana's roads bare of stripes and other pavement markings.

And it's all the fault of the federal stimulus funding, according to
this article in the Chicago Tribune.

So far, no word of the shortage affecting our area but if you see workers out with sidewalk chalk, you'll know why.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snoqualmie Closure Delayed To Thursday

Due to challenging drilling conditions and for the safety of the traveling public and construction crews, WSDOT has postponed tonight’s controlled rock blasting and temporary closure of both directions of I-90 between Hyak and the Price Creek Sno Park until tomorrow night.

During the temporary closure, drivers should plan for an hour of added travel between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. This work is part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam project.

Rail Symposium- Everything You Need To Know About Freight and Rail

Sorry for the unannounced blogging hiatus yesterday. I was tied up all day with the Rail Symposium we hosted. No, it wasn't the model train show, as one participant suggested, but it was an interesting day, even if we weren't playing with toy trains like Thomas here.

For the symposium, we brought three national railroad experts to town; Art Shoener, John Ficker, and Avery Grimes. My sister-in-law said they sound like a 60s folk trio; 'Avery, Ficker, and Grimes- the Rail Boys.' And they were a fun bunch of guys, making what could be a somewhat dry subject pretty interesting.

It started with a breakfast for the Inland Pacific Hub Advisory Committee, as they are overseeing the study into what it would take to develop a multi-modal global gateway in our area to increase international commerce. Freight rail and international commerce go hand in hand after all.

At the breakfast, they gave an overview of what they would go into later that day in the Symposium. Ficker talked about on-time delivery and how only about 5% of containers that come into the U.S. on ships are inspected. Kind of scary huh? That's because realistically it would be impossible to go through every item in every container.

Grimes explained the difference in class 1,2 and 3 railroads and talked about actual 'Railroad Colleges' that more and more people are attending to get their foot in the door to get a railroad job.

Shoener talked about shipping and explained that Mexico has three main exports to the U.S.- appliances, automobiles, and alcohol (mostly beer). He also said that Washington has a unique opportunity to build a deep water port at Grays Harbor.

After the breakfast the Rail Boys toured some local industry, then reported for duty for the 1 p.m. Rail Symposium at the Convention Center. At that event, they talked more about how there will be a huge hiring boom in the next five years for railroads as baby boomers start to retire, how many areas on the east coast only allow trucks on freeways during overnight hours, and how most rail cars aren't even owned by the railroads, but by shipping and car rental companies.

They promised to get their power point presentation to us, so I will post it here as soon as I get it.

Colorado Town Bans Bicycles

Thanks to blogger Holly for sending me this article about a Colorado town that has banned bicyclists on most of its streets, allegedly for safety purposes.

Black Hawk is a tiny historic town with narrow streets that were designed for horses and buggies. While they haven't had any actual deaths, Black Hawk officials say they're worried about the potential for accidents, thus the bicycle ban.

The funny thing about this article is that it was published in a UK periodical and is the first I've heard about this town. You'd think someone would have made a big fuss about it in the states.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spokane Summer Parkways Event Coming In July

This event is still a while away, but the City of Spokane sent out a news release about it today, so I thought I might as well get the idea planted in your head.

The City of Spokane, Spokane Parks and Recreation and Spokefest invite you to a brand new event- “Spokane Summer Parkways.”

On July 11 and August 22, bring your family, bikes, boards, and feet down to Howard St. between Riverfront and Corbin parks for “Spokane Summer Parkways.” The street will be closed to all motor vehicles and be open for all human-powered transportation such as bikes, skateboards and pedestrians.

The event will take place on both days between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. with activities for the whole family, including: music, dancing, physical fitness classes and snacks.

The idea for “Spokane Summer Parkways” came from an event in Bogotá, Columbia, called Ciclovia, which means “bike path” in Spanish. The goal is to focus on recreation, fitness and community.

Here is the Spokane Summer Parkways website for more information.

Maple Street Bridge Work This Week

City of Spokane crews will be doing maintenance work between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the Maple Street Bridge this week. While crews are working, there will be one lane closed to traffic. Signs will be in place.

Addision & Standard Project Delayed

False alarm! You can go back to using Addison and Standard streets this week. The project to reconstruction them won't start this week as planned. I'm not sure why yet, but the folks at the City said they'd send out updated info on the project later this week so I'll pass it along when I get it.

Hoopfest Emphasis Patrols This Weekend

If you plan to get a little crazy in celebration of Hoopfest this weekend, be aware that there will be DUI emphasis patrols in effect over the weekend.

The Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Valley Police Department, Cheney Police Department, EWU Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Liberty Lake Police Department and the City of Airway Heights Police Department will be participating in the extra emphasis patrols across Spokane County.

The goal of the patrols is to have a fatal free, family safe Hoopfest event.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Please Encourage Your Elected Officials To Attend

Okay, I know some of you folks who read this blog work for other local government agencies. If you're one of those people, I need your help. As part of SRTC's 'Visioning Process,' we will be hosting a Regional Visioning Process Workshop for Elected Officials and Key Transportation Staff next week.

The point of this is to discuss the Visioning Process and get feedback and guidance on it. The Visioning Process is looking 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.

We put out invitations to all local elected officials last week and asked for RSVPs. So far we haven't heard much, so I need you to encourage the elected office-holders in your jurisdiction to attend the workshop.

There are actually two workshops scheduled, in order to get the maximum amount of people there. They are:

- Monday June 28 2010 • 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm or
- Tuesday June 29 2010 • 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

It is not necessary to attend both workshops as the content will be the same at both.

PLEASE let your people know about that and have them either RSVP to or send questions to that email address.

We would like to have every jurisdiction represented at the workshops so everyone's voices are heard in this process.

I90 To Close Near Snoqualmie Wednesday Night

If you're headed to Western Washington this Wednesday night, plan for an hour of added travel time between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. as crews temporary close both directions of I-90 between Hyak and the Price Creek Sno Park for controlled rock blasting activities.

Hope You Didn't Have Other Plans 'Cause We've Got You Booked All Week

This is going to be a crazy busy week for transportation, so don't call wanting to take me out to lunch this week. I'm fairly open next week though.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is holding an open house Thursday to update the public on north-south freeway progress, construction starts today on Nevada Street and Addison and Standard streets, the Barker Bridge is open to traffic again, SRTC's Rail Symposium is tomorrow, and STA is planning for a public meeting to see how badly you want a streetcar line in downtown Spokane.

Here's details on all of the above, and more, from the Spokesman's 'Getting There.'

Thursday, June 17, 2010

MLK Jr. Way Dedication Ceremony Moved

The dedication ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Way planned for tomorrow is being relocated due to rain in the forecast. The ceremony will now take place at 11 a.m. in conference room 170 in the Sirti Technology Center, 120 N. Pine St.

City Of Spokane Projects Starting Next Week

- The project to rehabilitate Nevada St. from N. Foothills Dr. to Broad Ave. is set to begin next Monday, June 21. Nevada St. will be closed to traffic from N. Foothills Dr. to Providence Ave. Motorists will be detoured to Crestline or Division streets to Empire Ave. Bridgeport Ave. will remain open. The project will include a full depth curb-to-curb rehabilitation. Sewer services will be upgraded and ADA curb ramps will be added as necessary.

The $2.1 million project is funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and City of Spokane Wastewater Department.

- The project to rehabilitate Addison and Standard streets from Francis Avenue to Colton Street and Beacon Avenue from Dakota Street to Nevada Street. The project includes upgrading stormwater drains and installing ADA curb ramps. The streets will be closed to traffic. Motorists will be detoured to Francis Ave., Magnesium Rd., Division St., and Nevada St. Local access will be maintained.

The $1.7 million project is being funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and City of Spokane Wastewater Department.

- Finish work on the traffic barrier on the new Freya Street Bridge is scheduled for the week of June 21. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction for most of the week. Southbound traffic will be reduced to one lane between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., while northbound traffic will be reduced to one lane from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The work is weather dependent and could be postponed due to rain.

BTW Commute Challenge Picnic Cancelled

Bad news folks, the Bike to Work Commute Challenge celebration picnic has been cancelled due to predicted bad weather. Even if it's not raining tomorrow evening (when the picnic was scheduled for), the grass will probably still be wet and uncomfortable.

The good news though- an event will be rescheduled. Stay tuned. I'll post the new time/date/location when I get it.

Rail Symposium Coming Next Week

Don't forget, SRTC is hosting a 'Rail Symposium' next week.

We're bringing three national rail and freight experts to Spokane on June 22. Avery Grimes, John Ficker, and Arthur Shoener have spent several decades each in the rail industry in a variety of capacities and will present on the continuing evolution of the railroad and its effect on the economics of the inland pacific region.

The International Trade Alliance, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Avista, and Inland Empire Distribution Systems are helping to bring this event to Spokane by sponsoring it. The symposium is free and open to everyone, so come down and learn something new. Here's a flyer for the event.

Survey Shows Walking/Biking Increases

The U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday released new data from the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 National Household Travel Survey which shows that both bicycling and walking trips have increased by 25% since 2001.

The survey has been taken every year now for 19 years. The number of reported walking trips has more than doubled since the first survey, from 18 billion in 1990 to 42.5 billion in 2009. Bicycling trips saw a similar increase, from 1.7 billion to four billion during the same period. The report also noted the population increase resulted in a greater number of overall trips and that progress is being made.

The full report can be read here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

STA Comp Plan Hearing Tonight

I know this is last minute, but here's another meeting you may want to attend tonight: as part of Spokane Transit Authority's regularly-scheduled Board meeting, there will be a public hearing on STA's Draft Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation.

The meeting starts at 5:30pm. Here's a link to the agenda so you can see approximately at what time this item will be.

A planner for STA says that the adoption of this type of document at STA has been overdue for a while, so this is a big step. The Comp Plan plan defines STA’s goals and policies to provide guidance for decision-makers and clarity for the public. It also contains a map of a preliminary proposal for a High Performance Transit Network for the region.

Thursday Is Dump The Pump Day

Get up a little early tomorrow folks- just early enough to give yourself enough extra time to ride the bus instead of driving. Tomorrow is national 'Dump the Pump Day' where you're encouraged to use a public transit system instead of driving.

The day is dedicated to creating awareness about local public transit services and its advantages. Plus it doesn't hurt your wallet either, with gas prices hovering around $2.90-$2.95 per gallon.

Maybe you could even show your bus driver a little gratitude on Dump the Pump Day. I'm trying to think what to get my bus driver as a token of appreciation. Normally I do coffee gift cards, but since we affectionately call him 'Speedy Gonzalez,' I don't think he needs anything that would make him drive even faster.

Bike & Ped Master Program Meeting Tonight

Don't forget that tonight is the community meeting to help develop Spokane Valley's Bike and Pedestrian Master Program. If you're interested in making walking and bicycling easier, safer and more attractive in Spokane Valley then be at City Council Chambers (11707 E Sprague Avenue)at 5:30 p.m. The meeting goes until 7 p.m.

Here's more info on the program.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why The Hate? We Don't Mind Chrome At SRTC

If you're using SRTC's logo to promote your own beliefs, KNOCK IT OFF! Someone put a note on a gentleman's car when it was parked in the Albertson's parking lot at Argonne and Trent and the note had the SRTC logo at the top of it. The note complained about the amount of chrome on this person's truck and made a somewhat derogatory reference to a sticker of the Mexican flag on the vehicle.

Here at SRTC, we're not in the practice of putting notes on anyone's cars, unless they're parked in my reserved spot in the parking lot (the boss continues to maintain that I don't have my own reserved spot but I beg to differ). And when we do that, we don't use the company logo. So rest assured that it's not SRTC discriminating against trucks with chrome or Mexico stickers.

And if you're the culprit behind this, get your own logo.

A Couple Of Events Going On Friday

This Friday is going to be a big day in the world of dedications, so mark your calendar to attend these events:

In the morning, a dedication ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Way is planned, in advance of construction starting on the new roadway in July.

Last summer, the Spokane City Council approved naming the planned Riverside Avenue extension through the University District in honor of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The new street will extend east from Division St. and connect to Spokane Falls Blvd. prior to the new Trent Ave. Bridge.

The project is designed to reduce vehicular traffic on Spokane Falls Blvd. It is estimated to cost $ 2.1 million for construction and will take four months to complete. Money for the project came from federal funds.

Everyone is welcome to attend the dedication ceremony at the southeast corner of Division St. and Riverside Ave. at 11 a.m.

On Friday afternoon, a celebration marking the Spokane Centennial Trail’s addition to the National Trails System will be held at Veterans Park on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Veterans Park is located at the western most edge of Riverfront Park, in downtown Spokane. It's the area where the soldier statue is placed near the end of the Monroe Street Bridge and Bridge Street. There's a big shelter down there and some benches.

The Trail has been selected as one of 31 newly designated National Recreation Trails
based on the “spirit of partnerships and resource conservation that it represents.”

National Recreation Trail (NRT) is a designation given to existing trails that contribute to health, conservation, and recreation goals in the United States. About 1,000 trails in all 50 U.S. states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles (781 km) in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately-owned lands.

This ceremony is also open to everyone.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I90 To Close Near Snoqualmie Tuesday Night

If you're travelling to the west side tomorrow evening, you may want to know this. WSDOT crews are scheduled to begin the first of a series of controlled rock blasts on Interstate 90 near Hyak on Tuesday, June 15, 2010.

I90 will be temporarily closed in both directions from Hyak (milepost 54) to the Price Creek Sno-Park (milepost 61) at approximately 8 p.m. for up to an hour.

The rock blasting is part of the $571 million I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam project that calls for widening the interstate from four to six lanes.

TTC Meeting This Week

Our Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meets this week. Here's the agenda in case you would like to attend. Everyone is welcome. The meeting is Wednesday, June 16 at 1:30 p.m. in the SRTC conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Commute Challenge Celebration Picnic

The Bike to Work Spokane 2010 Commute Challenge is drawing to an end, so now it's time to celebrate! If you took part, you're invited to the celebration picnic on Friday, June 18 from 5:30-7 p.m. at Mission Park.

The Bike to Work folks will provide general-audience drinks and snacks; but ask you to bring any other picnic items you would prefer. To get an idea how many people to expect, they ask you to take this super short survey. And they're not joking when they say 'short.'

Oregon Vehicle Registrations Dropping

Here's something I found interesting- vehicle registrations are dropping in Oregon, and transportation officials think it's because more people are finding alternative ways to get where they'red going, to avoid paying the costs associated with owning a car. Nearly every county in the state saw a decrease in registrations last year. Here's the story from the Oregonian.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Snoqualmie Closure

Beginning at approximately 8 p.m. on Monday, June 14 and Thursday, June 17, 2010, WSDOT will temporarily close I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass for up to one hour for rock blasting activities.

Crews will stop eastbound traffic at MP 54 (Hyak) and westbound traffic at MP 61 (Price Creek Sno Park).

These are the first in a series of blasts that WSDOT and crews will conduct. WSDOT urges freight to plan for up to one hour added travel time for temporary closures every Monday and Thursday at approximately 8 p.m. from June 14 to October.

Updates From The City Of Spokane

- The project to rehabilitate Wellesley Ave. from Maple to Division streets begins Monday, June 14. The project will install a new signal at Monroe St. and Wellesley Ave. and install ADA curb ramps at the intersections. Wellesley Ave. will be closed to through traffic during construction.

The $1.9 million project is funded by the 10-Year Street Bond.

- The project to rehabilitate Thurston Ave. from Arthur to Crestline streets also begins Monday, June 14. The project will rehabilitate Thurston Ave. from Arthur to Crestline streets and surrounding residential streets including: Crestline St. from Thurston to 39th avenues; Helena, Hogan and Madelia streets from 42nd to Thurston avenue; Napa St. from 44th to 37th avenues; Perry Street from 45th to Thurston avenues; and Pittsburg St. from 44th to 37th avenues.

Additionally, sewer upgrades and ADA curb ramps will be installed, where necessary. The $1.5 million project is being funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and Wastewater Department.

- In preparation of school being out for summer, speed limits are being dropped near City parks. Crosswalks have been repainted near the following parks and have installed the lower 20 mile per hour speed limit signs for the summer:

• A.M. Cannon Park
• Chief Gary Park
• Lincoln Park
• Mission Park
• Shadle Park

Signs will be installed next week at:

• Hays Park
• Comstock Park
• Audubon Park

- There will be lane closures and parking restrictions while crews repair Nevada St. from Beacon Ave. to Rosewood Rd. and Buckeye Ave. from Post to Division streets.

Hands Off That Cell Phone

You've known this day was coming and it's finally here. Just put your phone down and drive if you don't want a $124 ticket.

Starting today, talking or texting on a cell phone while driving and NOT using a hands-free device is a primary offense. That means a police officer can pull you over if they see you doing either, they don't have to wait to get you on some other driving infraction.

Here are the new rules from the Spokesman-Review.

SRTC Hosting Rail Symposium

When we say we deal with EVERY mode of transportation here at SRTC, we're not joking. That's why we're hosting a Rail Symposium later this month.

We're bringing three national rail and freight experts to town on June 22. Avery Grimes, John Ficker, and Arthur Shoener have spent several decades each in the rail industry in a variety of capacities and will present on the continuing evolution of the railroad and its effect on the economics of the inland pacific region.

Thanks to the International Trade Alliance, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Avista, and Inland Empire Distribution Systems for sponsoring this symposium. It is a free event and open to everyone.

Want more information? Here's a flyer for the event.

Complete Streets Information

SRTC has been working for probably the past six months with the Education Coalition for Safe and Complete Streets to educate local elected, civic, and business leaders about complete streets and the possibility of passing a complete streets policy in the City of Spokane.

One of our goals was to produce a one page information sheet explaining the concept of complete streets and the benefits. After we completed one info sheet aimed at the general public, we decided we had another demographic we needed to address; businesses. Complete streets can be a big boost to businesses, so it was decided to do a separate info sheet aimed at business owners and managers.

Here's a link to the sheet aimed at everyone.

And here is information that could help business folk determine if they would like to support complete streets. Both sheets contain information on how you can show your support for complete streets and get involved. Please feel free to download them and pass them on to anyone else you think may be interested.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Second Ave. Design May Reach Compromise

Second Avenue in downtown Spokane will be repaved as planned this summer, but now city leaders say there's the possibility the road could be reduced to three lanes in order to add a bike lane.

Spokane City Councilmen Richard Rush and Jon Snyder had pushed for a complete revamping of the street’s design, which could have delayed the project a year or more. It now looks like a compromise may be reached.

Here's more from the Spokesman-Review.

Bike Commuter Asks For Support For Broadway Project

Speaking of bicyling in Spokane Valley (see below), a local bike commuter, Mark Mims, started a Facebook page in support of the Broadway safety project that would add bike lanes.

The Broadway Safety Project would extend the new lane configuration on Broadway from Pines to Park. That means the roadway would be reduced to one lane in each direction and a center turn lane and bike lanes would be added.

The Spokane Valley City Council is considering suspending or killing the project completely though, because it reduces capacity on a major arterial. Here is the Facebook page if you want to learn more about the situation.

Bike & Pedestrian Plan Workshop

Mark your calendars because the City of Spokane Valley is hosting a workshop next week to help create the City's Bike & Pedestrian Master Program. The plan is aimed at making walking and bicycling easier, safer and more attractive in Spokane Valley.

City staff will be working on the plan over the next year, identifying opportunities and barriers to walking and bicycling throughout the City. This process will include an assessment for safety and use of existing routes and facilities.

Preliminary information will be presented at the workshop, which is schedule for Wednesday, June 16 at 5:30pm to 7:00pm. The open house will be in the the City Council Chambers, at 11707 E. Sprague Ave. As always, here's more info.

Lyons & Nevada Closed Tomorrow

due to today's rain, the closure of the intersection of Lyons Avenue and Nevada Street is postponed until tomorrow. The closure will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Crews will be paving the intersection.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thursday Is Board Meeting Day

This Thursday, June 10, is the SRTC Board meeting. As usual, you're all invited to attend. Here's a look at the agenda in case you want to know what you're getting yourself into in advance.

And if you're really feeling crazy that day, come an hour earlier for our brown bag lunch session to learn about the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center. Now THAT is going to be a good time. Bring your own lunch though if you're not a Board member, we can't afford to feed everyone.

Help Needed Completing Trail

No plans for Saturday? How about helping the Parks Department complete a new trail from the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex down to Riverside State Park?

On Saturday, June 12, a volunteer work party is planned to help finish this trail. Once done it will connect NW Spokane, Joe Albi Stadium and the brand new Dwight Merkel Sports Complex to Riverside State Park and the Spokane River. This trail will create a new and exciting opportunity for mountain biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

To participate, meet Saturday at 9 a.m. at the west Francis Cul-de-sac just off Rosewood Dr.

Maybe It's Time To Invest In One Of Those Aquatic Cars

Poor Martha S. It takes a lot more to keep her going than it used to. She's 62 years old though, so what do you expect.

Martha S. is the Keller ferry vessel that shuttles drivers across Lake Roosevelt. And she'll be out of commission for up to a month starting next Monday, June 14, for inspections and repairs. Work should be completed no later than July 16.

If you use the ferry, you're going to have to find another way across the Columbia River. The nearest crossings are downstream at Grand Coulee Dam or upstream via the Gifford/Inchelium ferry.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bike Parking Mapped

Any day now the weather has GOT to start getting better. I promise, it will. So if you're planning to ride to work during the good weather, but not sure where to park your bike, Bike to Work Spokane has a new map on their website of area bicycle parking. And if there is bike parking that you know of that's not on the map, you can add it. So get busy.

Bear Closes Rest Stop

If you're heading to the coast this week, there's one less rest area for you to use. A rest area on Highway 8 at Elma has been closed indefinitely due to a black bear that is making itself at home there.

The bear has been sleeping in a tree between the rest rooms and the parking area. The Department of Fish & Wildlife can't remove the bear because it could fall and injure itself if it were hit by a tranquilizer dart while in the tree.

Department of Transportation officials say they won't open the rest stop again until the bear leaves the area.

Projects Open To Comment

Way back in December, SRTC put out a call asking local jurisdictions to submit projects they'd like to secure federal funds for in order to do preliminary engineering. There aren't any federal funds available now, but we want to be prepared when they become available. And we usually ask for projects that are ready to be constructed, or are 'shovel ready.' But with all the ARRA funds handed out last year, we've now funded or constructed all our shovel ready projects.

So we thought we'd get some projects teed up and on the back burner just so we'd be ready when the federal government is ready to hand out more money.

Here is the list of projects chosen for those funds. A public comment period is open if you agree/disagree or other on the projects chosen. Follow the link to see how to comment.

SRTMC Camera Outages Scheduled

The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) is going to be a busy place this week. There will be some camera outages Monday night and Tuesday and the SRTMC will be the subject of a special 'brown bag luncheon' for the SRTC Board on Thursday.

ALL SRTMC live traffic camera feeds will be down for a short time tonight. The outage is scheduled so electricians can perform system updates. Work starts around 8 p.m. and last from four to six hours. The camera outage could occur anytime during that period, but is only expected to last for 15 to 20 minutes.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), all the cameras showing the North Spokane Corridor will be down so that crews can fix part of the system that has been damaged. Work starts around noon but it's not clear yet at what time the cameras will be taken out of commission, or how long they will be out. All other cameras, except the NSC cameras, will be working.

On Thursday, you're all invited to come down to SRTC to eat lunch with us and learn more about the SRTMC. The brown bag lunch session will precede the regularly-scheduled SRTC Board meeting. Lunch starts at 12 p.m., with the meeting following at 1 p.m. Both will be held in the SRTC conference room 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Everyone is welcome to attend but we can't feed everyone so bring your own lunch.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Possible I90 Delays

Heads up from the Washington State Department of Transportation- crews on Monday will be grinding and resurfacing eastbound I90 traffic in the area of Freya Street.

From 7 p.m. until around 6 a.m. the following morning, eastbound I-90 traffic will be reduced to one lane. Drivers can expect slow traffic, congestion, and possible delays. In addition, the eastbound Freya on-ramp will be closed during the work. This work requires dry weather and may be rescheduled if it rains.

Have You Been Caught Sleeping On Public Transit?

If I can stay awake long enough, I find it hilarious to watch people nod off to sleep on the bus. Usually they wake up when their head drops violently against their chest, then look around guiltily to see if anyone notices they're drooling. But sometimes folks get pretty comfortable. I have about a 20 minute bus and there's one guy who sometimes gets so deep into sleep in that short time that he starts snoring.

Well, a big thank you to Joel for sending me a link to the POOPT website- standing for 'Passed out on public transportation'. Take a look and see if you see yourself. You can submit pictures too. I'm trying to catch the kid on my bus sleeping who always leaves a big smear mark on the window, but so far no luck.

Come Eat Lunch At SRTC

Start packing your lunch, because the June 10 SRTC Board meeting will be preceded by a 'brown bag lunch' session. The purpose of the session is to educate Board members (and other attendees) on the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC).

The brown bag session starts at 12 p.m., with the regularly-scheduled Board meeting following at 1 p.m. Both will be held in the SRTC conference room 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

You're all welcome to attend of course, but being a government agency, we can't offer to feed you lunch. You can bring your own though.

McMorris Rodgers Shows Support For LaHood

Washington State Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers is one of only four Republicans that co-signed a letter praising USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood for supporting increased investment in bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Here is more on the letter and a link to view the letter itself.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

STA Has Been Very Busy Lately

Spokane Transit has released a draft of it's Comprehensive Plan for public comment, and they'd like to know what you think of it. The plan is called “Connect Spokane – A Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation” and you can view it by clicking here.

The plan provides a home for policies related to planning decisions for various services, activities and programs STA provides and maintains. It also provides a vision for a “High Performance Transit Network” that establishes corridors for future service and infrastructure investments.

A final draft is expected to be adopted by the STA Board in July.

But that's not the only STA news I have. STA's Downtown Transit Alternatives Analysis website is now up and running. Take a look and help shape downtown Spokane's transportation future. It's good stuff, be sure to check it out.

Test Your Driving Know How

How long has it been since you took a driving test? Ten years? Fifteen years? It's been closer to 20 for me. Think you could do it again? Right now without looking at a driving manual or sitting in a car? Okay hotshot, let's see you do it.

Here's a test of 20 questions from MSN taken from real licensing tests across the country.

I scored 85, with most states requiring a score of at least 80 to pass. If I remember right, that's pretty close to what I got the first time around when I was 16. Take the test and let me know how you score.

Train Derails, Blocking Tracks Between Spokane & Seattle

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train derailed about 30 miles west of Spokane, blocking the main rail route between Seattle and Spokane. A spokesman for BNSF says it’s blocking Amtrak trains and some freight trains.

Sixteen empty cars derailed just after midnight last night. There were no injuries, the cars remained upright, and nothing hazardous spilled. Workers are currently trying to re-rail the cars. They expect to reopen the track by about 3 p.m. today.

About 1,000 feet of track were damaged in the derailment.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Goodbye Appleway Bridge

The Appleway Bridge that provides access to Stateline, ID shuts down today until the fall of 2011 to be torn down and rebuilt. Just saying, so you'll find another route.

Who Needs A Stinkin' Stop Light?

The video below was sent to me with the title 'Intersection in India.' I'm not sure it really is India or what the story is behind it, but it's crazy. Watch the pedestrian in the lower right hand corner at about 12 seconds in, as he has not 1, but about 3 near misses.

What's Next? When Will Technology Actually Start Driving The Car?

Blogger 'Ventura' left a comment on the 'They're Not Joking When They Say Hands Free' thread about how the Ford 'SYNC' system will actually read your text messages to you, along with doing about a hundred other things we used to not think necessary. Having been apparently living in a cave for the past two years (SYNC came out in 2008), I hadn't heard of it so looked it up. Here's a portion of what Wikipedia says about SYNC:

"Ford SYNC allows various portable devices (e.g., the iPod, Zune, and most other USB mass storage devices) and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to be operated with simple voice commands. SYNC can even receive text messages and read them aloud using a digitized female voice "Samantha". SYNC can interpret a hundred or so shorthand messages such as LOL for "laughing out loud" and will read swear words; it will not however, decipher obscene acronyms.

Obscene acronyms?? Not familiar with those. I must not be getting texts from the right people. While I try to figure out what an obscene acronym would be, here's a link to the official SYNC site, in case you want to invest in a Ford.

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.