Thursday, December 30, 2010

City of Spokane Snow Update

The City of Spokane is continuing work under a Stage 2 Snow Emergency declared yesterday. That means City crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas.

Currently, the City has 57 pieces of snow removal equipment out, including 19 teams of plows and graders working in the neighborhoods. Private contractors were added to the effort yesterday. Teams are working in residential snow plow routes 5, 20, and 24 on the South Side and routes 8 and 23 on the North Side. They’ll move to route 9 next. Crews have completed work in residential hill routes 21, 22, and 23.

By now, all cars should be parked on the even side of the street in the residential areas.

Crews also are working on secondary arterials and STA fixed bus routes. No cars can be parked on arterials or STA routes during a snow emergency. Additionally, parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there.

Click here to check the progress of City plows.

WSDOT Posts Winter Driving Pics

We weren't the only ones hit by snow and messy commutes yesterday. The WSDOT blog has posted pictures that people from all over the state tweeted of the ugly conditions. Check it out. It's mostly the Pass and Western Washington pics, but it might make you feel better about your own situation to know that they're suffering right along with us.

Collision Count

It was a mess of slideoffs, collisions and stuck vehicles out there last night. On the bus ride home, the freeway was at a standstill, so our driver took a detour. She was nervous about which roads to take though, so a rider stood at the front with her, on the phone to his girlfriend who was watching traffic cameras on her computer at home. He not only directed her around several accidents that could have tied us up on the bus for a LONG time, but when we got to the park and ride, the same man helped each of the women off the bus and over a giant mound of snow at the sidewalk. Thanks to our bus driver and that gentleman for getting us all there in good condition.

Here's a roundup of how many accidents and other incidents law enforcement dealt with last night.

On my way in this morning, I noticed a car in the ditch and the eastbound lanes of I90 blocked by an accident near the Sprague exit but for the most part things looked a lot better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Afternoon City Snow Update

The City of Spokane has just upgraded to a Stage 2 Snow Emergency. That means crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas. The City has also called in private contractors to help with the snow removal effort.

By 8:30 p.m. tonight, citizens in residential hill routes—routes 20 and above must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street. By 4:30 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 30, citizens in all other residential areas must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street.

Additionally, parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there. And no parked cars are allowed on arterials or STA fixed bus routes. Here's the link to the residential plow map for more information.

Best Rest Stop? I'll Be The Judge Of That

What do you find desirable in a rest stop? I personally like the ones that have real mirrors instead of those scratched up pieces of metal mounted on the walls, and I really love a rest stop that doesn't have shady characters skulking around. A pet area that's not two miles away is also nice, as is free coffee, which is getting harder and harder to find.

One rest stop in Utah has all of the above, and more. And in recognition, it's been voted the best rest stop in the country. It doesn't look that great. I mean, where's the guy who cleans your windshield for free or a kiosk to look up google maps to make sure you're actually on the right route? Alright, I'm asking too much. Check out the video and give me your opinion, plus let me know what characteristics you judge rest stops on.

Video Courtesy of

City & County Snow Updates

From the City of Spokane- they're calling a Stage 1 Snow Emergency, which requires cars to be moved from all arterials and STA fixed bus routes within six hours, or by 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.

A Stage 1 Snow Emergency includes plowing residential hill routes—those numbered in the 20s on the residential plow map.

If you park on the street, do so on the even side of the street in those areas within 12 hours—or by 8:30 p.m. Plows will begin in route 21 on the South Hill and 22 on the North Side.

City crews currently are working on arterials throughout the City.

From Spokane County– Road crews are back to working 12-hour shifts around the clock to plow the County's 2,550 miles. Currently snow removal equipment is working on emergency routes and primary arterials.

After crews finish plowing/sanding emergency routes and primary arterials, they will move to secondary roads, hilly residential areas, followed by flat residential neighborhoods.

Check Traffic Cameras Before Hitting Roads

A reminder that on days like this it would be a good idea to check the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website before heading to work or home. The site shows you conditions from 60+ live traffic cameras. And if your usual route is at a standstill due to accidents or bad conditions, you can check out alternate routes to see what's the best way to get where you're going.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Short Week For Gov Workers

It's a short week for us government workers again. All local government offices are closed Friday, and several close early on Thursday. The Building and Planning Department at Spokane County will be closed all day Thursday, December 30th as well for a staff furlough day.

New Year's Day is a parking meter holiday in downtown Spokane.

All government offices open again at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3.

Valley Planning 2011 Road Projects

After all the snow we're expecting to get dumped on us tonight, we may not even be able to see area roads tomorrow, but Spokane Valley is moving ahead with plans to improve them in 2011 anyway, including how the construction will affect traffic. Here are some of the construction projects planned for 2011, courtesy of the Spokane Valley Herald.

WA State Highway Fatalities Down Over Holiday

Highwway fatalities were down over the Christmas weekend compared to last year. There was just one highway death last weekend according to the Washington State Patrol - a hit-and-run in Auburn. There were four over the same time period last year.

There were more DUI arrests though. The exact numbers aren't available yet so I'll get back to you on that.

Cheap Bike Snow Tires

Check this out. Don't want to pay for fancy snow tires for your bike but want to be able to ride it in the winter? Thanks to Alison for sending me these do-it-yourself bike snowtires! Everyone has zip ties lying around their garage. Just strap them on your tires and you're ready to go.

Here's more on this idea from Lifehacker.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Car Parts Disapearing In Broad Daylight

As if it wasn't bad enough that you have to worry about someone breaking into your car, now you have to worry about thieves stealing parts off of your car as well.

Auto shops said they’ve seen a rise in the numbers of cars missing catalytic converters in the past month. Why? Krem 2 News explains in this story:

Someone Got Pretty Creative

Okay, I know Christmas is over now and people are already talking about taking down their trees, but check out the picture of the Christmas tree made from bikes on the Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog before the season is completely over. It's pretty cool.

Transportation Roundup For Week Of Dec. 27

The state is losing revenue as drivers are using less gas, the Washington State Department of Transportation buys more rail cars to move grain to port and aggressive driving appears to be becoming more prevalent. Here's what's happening this week in transportation from the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogging Holiday

A reminder that there will be no new blog posts for a couple days as SRTC celebrates the holidays. To quote Clark Griswold, "Well I'm gonna park the cars and get the luggage, and well, I'll be outside for the season."

Letter Writer Dodges Traffic At Thurston & Regal

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Enough to make a pedestrian cross

Walking to school should be easy enough. I live only a couple of blocks from Ferris High School, but every day I dread the task because of the monster between points A and B. It’s called the Thurston and Regal intersection.

It’s hard enough turning onto Regal in a car, but what’s worse is crossing it without a layer of metal and air bags between you and the speeding vehicles. Trust me when I say it’s not fun standing at the corner for over a minute waiting for a gap in traffic or a nice person who stops for pedestrians.

Once a woman was polite enough to stop, but then honked and yelled at me, “This is not a crosswalk!” It might as well be. A large number of people cross there every day, many of whom are high school students trying to get to school on time. This leads to students waiting for a gap in traffic so they can run to the lane dividers then run again to the school grounds.

Crosswalk indicators are necessary to protect pedestrians at the Thurston and Regal intersection if drivers continue to ignore them.

Sheridan Robak

I went to Ferris many, many, many (x20) years ago and it seems like the problems we had then still exist today, only probably worse because of the increased amount of traffic. Could this location be a candidate for a complete street treatment sometime in the future?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Federal Vs. Local. Or Not An Issue?

Congress will begin drafting transportation legislation next year, but the lack of available funding has some speculating that there could be competition between transit and highway advocates over federal funding.

The argument on the part of highway advocates could be that highways are inherently an interstate concern while transit and non-motorized forms of transportation are a nonfederal concern. To which some say the line between “federal” and “local” transportation is not as easily determined as some may think.

This article in 'Planetizen" argues that every transportation project has an equal interstate impact. Any thoughts on this that weren't mentioned in the article?

Local Cyclist Dies

A 32-year-old Spokane bicyclist has died from injuries suffered in a collision last fall at Fourth Avenue and Lincoln Street.

Matthew R. Hardie died on Dec. 14 from complications stemming from head injuries sustained in the Oct. 4 collision. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Insuance Industry Names Safest Cars For '11

What cars are the safety new vehicles? According to the insurance industry's annual list, the safest vehicles belong to South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia and German car maker Volkswagen.

66 vehicles were recognized today with “top safety pick awards” for the 2011 model year. The list also includes Audi, GM, Ford, and Toyota. I've been looking at buying a Toyota just because they have Eric Estrada in their latest commercials. Glad there's some stats to back up my decision.

Here's the info on which of these auto makers' cars are the safest and why.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Navigating Spokane Streets From A Different Viewpoint

It's not unusual to see Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder on two wheels. Those wheels are usually attached to a bicycle though, not a wheelchair. Mr. Snyder took to this chair forInternational Disability Day, to experience what people confined to wheelchairs deal with every day. Dec. 3 happened to be a pretty snowy day too, no picnic in a wheelchair. Snyder blogs about his experience here.

I've had the pleasure over my years at SRTC of working with a wonderful woman from Millwood who has Lou Gehrig's disease. She has worked with us in the past to identify situations that can be huge barriers to folks on wheels. And the days I went out with her, there wasn't even snow on the ground. Some items she did point out:

- Sidewalks that were too narrow for her power chair
- Crosswalks where the button to push to get the walk signal was mounted on a pole that sat in the middle of a bed of decorative rocks, which her chair couldn't traverse
- Poles and signs placed in the middle of sidewalks
- ADA ramps that were too steep to navigate
- Bus stops where the bus couldn't get close enough to the curb for her to get her wheelchair on
- Debris such as broken glass and other trash on sidewalks.

Kind of opens your eyes to take even a short walk with someone who gets around in different ways than we do.

WSDOT Projects for 2011

I know, it seems like construction season just wrapped up. But the Washington State Department of Transportation just doesn't rest. They're already releasing their list of projects for our area for 2011. Among the 19 projects that will cost approximately $130 million:

- Continuing North Spokane Corridor projects
- Four Interstate 90 projects
- Two US 195 projects
- Preventative maintenance chip sealing

You can check out the entire list here, plus a map of where each project will be located.

Spokane Makes 'Best Commutes' List

Thanks to Bike to Work Barb for sending me this item: Congratulations to Spokane! According to 'TheStreet and Bundle,' Spokane has one of the top ten 'best commutes' in the country.

How did they determine this? By determining how much people spend each year for transportation and what cities are the worst in terms of expenses, plus the average commute length, miles traveled and annual hours delayed.

According to this survey, Dallas, TX has the worst commute with an average of 38 minutes and 53 hours of delay per year. Eugene, OR has the best with an average 17 minute commute and 11 hours of delay per year. Spokane had the fifth best commute, with an average time of 30 minutes and nine hours of delay per year. No word on where our Idaho neighbors came in at.

Here's how the rest of the numbers shook out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Closures

This is a short week for us government workers. Because Christmas falls on a Saturday this year, we have Friday off for the holiday. That means you only have four days to get your government business done. The City of Spokane will have a number of closures related to the holidays.

Some other things to keep in mind:

- The Spokane City Council is not scheduled to meet on Monday, Dec. 27. Council meetings will resume on Monday, Jan. 3.

- Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, and again on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

– The Spokane County Building and Planning Department will be closed on Thursday, December 23rd (staff furlough) and remain closed on Friday, December 24th.

- All offices open for normal business hours again on Monday, Dec. 27.

Special SRTC Board Meeting

A special SRTC Board meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 7, at 10:30 am here at SRTC to discuss the performance of a public employee. The meeting will go directly into Executive Session so I don't have an agenda to attach.
Someone sent me this picture in an email with some other pictures, and the caption was, 'This is why America is fat.' @Todd sent me the story behind the picture and it's actually pretty amazing. While technology makes me crazy some days, this is one of those examples of how it's making a huge difference in someone's life. I'm not going to link to the actual article because there's some language in it I'm not comfortable linking a government site to, but here's the overview: the woman in the picture is named Melissa. She's a 15-year cancer survivor. She lost her left leg to the illness and started using the Segway as an assistive device because it's both maneuverable and because she has difficulty walking, especially on hilly areas. It also allows her to be in the standing position and look people in the eyes during conversations, and be mobile in ways that wheelchairs are not. So there's your uplifting story for the day. Way to overcome Melissa.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grants To Help Pay For Projects

Spokane County Commissioners yesterday accepted four grants to help pay for local road construction projects. And the speed limit has been dropped on Harvard Road.

The Spokesman-Review has information on both stories.

Lane Barrier & Striping Adjustments

Work starts today to adjust the lane barrier configuration and paint striping on US 395 in the vicinity of the new NSC/US 395 Interchange. This work is being done to shift the southbound traffic off of the bridge shoulder.

Starting at 7 this morning, Northbound US 395 traffic will be diverted onto Wandermere Road between the vicinity of Hastings Rd. and the Hatch Road Interchange. Drivers should expect slow traffic and congestion. Northbound traffic will be moved back onto US 395 when the work in that lane is complete. Following that work, possibly Thursday afternoon or beginning at 7 a.m. Friday morning, southbound traffic will be diverted onto Wandermere Road from the Hatch Road Interchange to the vicinity of Hastings Rd. When this work is complete, southbound traffic will be moved back onto US 395.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Freeway Back To Normal After Series Of Accidents

Westbound I90 was at a crawl through Spokane a little earlier this morning after a series of accidents, but it appears to be moving again now. One of the accidents involved a driver knocking over a light pole alongside the freeway just west of the Thor Street overpass.

According to the Spokesman-Review, after the light pole came down, other drivers struck the pole. This caused a backup, almost to Argonne Road. This in turn caused two more accidents.

The good news though is that the mess is cleaned up and the freeway running smoothly now. And you can check for slowdowns like these on the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center website in order to avoid them. Jeff in our office used his phone while on the bus this morning to see what the slowdown was, then informed the bus driver, who promptly got off the freeway at the next exit to avoid the mess.

Emphasis Patrol This Weekend

An emphasis patrol for impaired drivers starts this weekend. For the past 20 years law enforcement agencies throughout Washington have conducted “Night of 1,000 Stars” impaired driving traffic safety emphasis patrols. Each “star” represents the badge worn by an on duty law enforcement officer. This year’s patrol, scheduled for Friday, December 17, is dedicated to all fallen officers, the Washington officers who have died in the line of duty, and the officers who continue to protect and serve.

This statewide enforcement will look for drivers impaired by alcohol and other drugs. Officers will also be on the lookout for people who speed, drive aggressively, are not wearing a seatbelt, or violate other traffic laws.

There were 44 traffic fatalities in Spokane County in 2009, 20 from impaired drivers.

10 Worst Foods To Eat While Driving

With all the attention on texting and driving, apparently some people have forgotten that it's not safe to do a lot of other things while driving, such as eating or anything else that makes your hands unavailable to be placed on the steering wheel. MSN remembered though and came out with this list of the top ten worst foods to eat while driving. Below is the list, followed by MSN's comments:

1. Coffee: It always finds a way out of the cup.
2. Hot soup: Many people drink it like coffee and run the same risks.
3. Tacos: A food that can disassemble itself without much help, leaving your car looking like a salad bar.
4. Chili: The potential for drips and slops down the front of clothing is significant.
5. Hamburgers: From the grease of the burger to the ketchup and mustard on top, plenty of goop can end up on your hands, clothes and steering wheel.
6. Barbecued food: Similar issue arises for barbecued foods as for hamburgers. The sauce may be great, but it will end up on whatever you touch.
7. Fried chicken: Another food that leaves you with greasy hands, which means constantly wiping them on something, even if it's your shirt. It also makes the steering wheel greasy.
8. Jelly- or cream-filled doughnuts: Has anyone ever eaten a jelly doughnut without some of the center oozing out? And jelly can be difficult to remove from material.
9. Soft drinks: Not only are they subject to spills, but they also can fizz as you're drinking them if you make sudden movements. Most of us have childhood memories of soda fizz in the nose; the sensation isn't any more pleasant now.
10. Chocolate: Like greasy foods, chocolate can coat your fingers as it melts against the warmth of your skin, leaving its mark anywhere you touch. Try to clean it off the steering wheel and you could end up unintentionally swerving.

Here's the reasoning behind how these foods ended up on the list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quiet Zone Creation Could Be Long Process

From time to time I receive a complaint about train whistles and am asked what can be done to shut them up at night. SRTC's Bridging the Valley project could help with that problem, but it's not moving ahead very quickly due to a lack of funding and the lack of a new Federal transportation bill.

The City of Spokane Valley is now jumping on the band wagon, looking into establishing 'quiet zones.' So far they're not having a lot of luck though due to the long, expensive process required by the railroads to develop these zones.The Spokane Valley News Herald has the story.

Trees Arrive By Bike

Anyone can go to a tree lot and buy a Christmas tree, but how many can get them delivered? Especially via bike? A group in Portland is delivering trees behind their bikes as a fundraiser for the less fortunate. Here's the story.

Transportation Advisory Committee Agenda

This month's Transportation Advisory Committee meeting is a week early, due to the holiday, so it's next Monday, Dec. 20. I just posted the agenda to the website so take a look and see if anything jumps out at you. As always, members of the public are encouraged to attend all SRTC committee meetings. This meeting will have an alternate location though, also due to the holidays. It will start at 3 p.m. on the 20th at the Downtown Spokane Library. Feel free to attend.

County Building & Planning Expanding Hours

The Spokane County Building and Planning Department will expand it's hours starting in January 2011. Effective Monday, January 3 the Building and Planning Department will be open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. as well as Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Planning Director John Pederson says it's a matter of customer service. A survey of their customers found that approximately 65% of those who responded were inconvenienced by the department’s Friday furlough policy. Since business volume improved slightly in 2010, the Building and Planning Department is able to stay open half a day on Fridays.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'll Stop Complaining About Riding In Work Clothes Now

Thanks to @Charles for directing me to this cool photo. I have a couple friends that have tandem bikes and in both cases the husband complains that the wife sits in the back and doesn't pedal so he's essentially hauling her around. Well can you imagine this couple on a tandem?

Harry: "Are you pedaling back there? My goodness woman, what do you weigh?"

Mildred: "It's not me, it's this blankety blank 40 pound dress! Oh fudge, now it's tangled in the spokes!"

This picture is part of a project where historic photos are combined within the same frame as the current landscape, creating an interesting perspective of reality. You can see more historic photos here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's On Your Mind?

I sat through a 'webinar' on blogging today. The presenter was Dan Zarella, author of The Social Media Marketing Book and an award-winning social, search, and viral marketing 'scientist.' He said scientist, not me. Dan studies social media behavior to teach marketers best practices for whatever type of social media they're using to push their product. Which in this case is transportation.

Among other interesting points, Mr. Zarella said that if you want comments on your blog, just ask for them. It turns out to be a slow day as far as transportation news goes, so this is your chance. I'm going to turn it over to you. Anything you want to say? Any topics I haven't addressed that you'd like to see info on? Any general transportation observations you'd like to share? Just don't tell me about your cat Fluffy or what you had for breakfast. Please keep it focused on transportation and I'll do my best to come up with an answer or reply or dance around the issue and try to change the subject. Just kidding, that's not my style. I'll share whatever I know. Now ask away.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review & Comment On Submitted Projects

SRTC recently solicited applications on behalf of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for their 'Consolidated Program.'

Eight projects were submitted by area jurisdictions. They are available for review and comment starting today until Jan. 7, 2011. Click here to view the list of projects, how to comment on them, and more information on the Consolidated Program.

Council Backtracks On Vehicle Tab Fee

The Spokane City Council this week made a couple of surprise moves- backtracking on implementing a new $20 vehicle tab fee and shifting money away from road plowing and repairs to be spent instead on rewarding departments whose labor unions made wage and benefit concessions.

Council members spent almost a year working out the details of a Local Improvement District (LID) to raise extra money for transportation improvements through the tab fee. At Monday night's Council meeting, Council President Joe Shogan, who organized the initial work, reportedly wasn't pleased with the rest of the council allegedly waffling on the decision. Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

City Snow Plan Adjustments

The City of Spokane made changes to its snow removal plan following the first real test of the plan over the last couple of weeks.

Changes to the plan include:
• Adding residential hill routes to the Stage 1 Snow Emergency. Under a Stage 1 Snow Emergency, the City already plows all primary and secondary arterials, fixed STA bus routes, the central business district, neighborhood business districts, and the medical district on the lower South Hill. Residential hill routes are those routes numbered in the 20s on the residential snow plow route map, and include Five Mile, part of Indian Trail, the Eagle Ridge area, and other parts of the South Hill.

• Deploying graders in residential areas for Stage 2 Snow Emergencies, if conditions warrant. When starting on residential plowing, the Street Department will test the effectiveness of using truck plows. If the truck plows cannot remove snow to 0 to 2 inches of material, the department will use graders or grader/truck plow teams to plow in the residential areas.

• Eliminating berms from downtown streets at the conclusion of a full-City plow. Once a full-City plow is complete, Street crews will be deployed to melt or remove berms from the downtown core. They will continue this work as long as other storms don’t require they focus once again on plowing streets.

The updated Snow Plan can be found here. And one more thing: there’s a fake Twitter page claiming to be a City snow plowing site. To get information on the City's snow removal efforts, the City’s Twitter account can be found here.

A Couple Items From The City of Spokane

- Lane closures are planned on Division St. near its intersection with Sprague Ave. from 5 to 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9. Lamar Advertising needs to repair a damaged sign that was hit by a truck. Traffic control will be in place and motorists should anticipate delays.

- With warmer temperatures and rain forecast into next week, the City is taking steps to address potential problems that may occur from melting snow. Standing water at intersections and in low-lying areas is likely, and City Wastewater Management and Water crews are clearing storm drains and catch basins at intersections to help prevent possible minor street flooding. Citizens are asked to clear snow away from storm drains in front of their homes, if it is safe to do so. You should also avoid driving through deep puddles of water.

How Much Have You Hauled?

What are some of the more unusual items you've hauled on a bike? Everyone brings a water bottle for hydration, but how about this load of water bottles? Ever drag around your own keg of beer? Or how about your pets? Here are some other odd items people have managed to haul on their bikes, from Wired. I think the strangest thing I've hauled was a crockpot. It was empty though, unfortunately, as I was coming home from a work potluck. What have you hauled?

Downtown Spokane: What To Do With The Snow?

Three years ago when we got a huge dumping of snow was the first time I can remember witnessing the 'berming' of snow in downtown Spokane. Apparently the practice has been around for years though, despite complaints from many that it's unsafe because it only allows drivers to change lanes in the intersections. KXLY News asked the City yesterday what happens next with the berms, and if berming is a common method of snow removal used in other places.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thursday Is SRTC Board Meeting

The SRTC Board monthly Board meeting is this Thursday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. Here's the agenda. Feel free to attend. The meeting is in our conference room at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

New Proposal Would Require Camera In Every Car

I blogged recently about a move to require equipment in cars that would disable cell phone use. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling for all new cars to be built with backup cameras. The auto industry hasn't come forward with a stance on the suggestion yet, but many think they won't support it as it could be very expensive to equip every car with this technology.

Here's the story from

Merchants Ask For Plows- Get Umbrellas

Speaking of bad weather causing trouble in Seattle (see below), some west side merchants are asking to have their roads plowed- and getting umbrellas instead. Some business owners are upset that thousands of dollars are being spent on a campaign to raise awareness of pedestrians. They feel that money should go toward snow removal efforts instead. King 5 News has the story. Watch the video then let me know if you think the business owners have a point or if they're comparing apples to oranges.

New Snow Strategy In Place For West Side

If you turned on your TV or computer at all last week or the week before, you probably saw the media coverage of the mayhem that seiged the west side of the state when a snowstorm blew through. People were literally stuck on I5 for hours due to many slideoffs and collisions. To avoid this kind of gridlock again, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol have come up with a new strategy that includes two new 'response teams.' You can learn more about that strategy here, from the Snohomish Times.

City Plowing Done. For Now, Anyway.

Done! The City of Spokane says it finished plowing all routes yesterday, with the exception of some cul-de-sacs scattered throughout the City.

Street crews completed the full-City plow in about four days with the help of private contractors, who have now been released. However, City officials say it's possible that crews may have missed blocks here and there. Citizens should call 625-7733 to report an unplowed section.

Local Rider Hit By Car Needs Moral Support

Bike to Work Barb is on a mission, and is asking for your help. She's trying to help a local woman get back on her bike again, after being hit by a car. It sounds like 'Bike Shop Girl' is physically recovered from the incident but isn't over it emotionally. She wants to get back out there, but is nervous about it, as any normal person would be. So Barb is asking for a little moral support from you. Here's how you can help.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Very Latest On Plowing

I just received another snow update from the City. Because it contains a lot of info I've already posted in the past few days, I'm just going to include new info and the highlights:

- Crews continue to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to complete a full City plow, including all residential areas.

- Citizens need to move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street in the residential areas.

- Graders are being used to do an initial cut down the center of the streets and truck plows are moving the material to the side of the road. Private contractors with graders are assisting with the plowing effort.

- The full City plow likely may take longer than usual because of the slushy/icy conditions. The berms left at the end of driveways are heavy and difficult to move, especially if temperatures drop as expected over the weekend.

- Plow work has been completed in residential plow route 5 on the South Hill, and plows are working in portions of 2, 3, and 4 on the South. On the North Side, plows have completed parts of plow routes 9 and 13 and are continuing work in those areas, as well as in portions of routes 8 and 10.

Here is the link to the plow route map. Due to very heavy traffic, you may experience delays using it.

Here's info that just came in from the County:

- Currently, County crews are using approximately 60 pieces of equipment and five private contractors with graders have been hired. Together they have moved into residential neighborhoods – especially in the northern and southeast sections of the County.

- Road crews will continue to work 24/7 to clear the entire County road system by Sunday morning.

For more information, here's the County's snow removal website.

Mystery Stop Signs Didn't Install Themselves

Here's an interesting, yet kind of frightening, story out of Rhode Island. Apparently nearly 700 stop signs recently popped up in the city of Cranston that hadn't been approved, or installed, by the City.

A month-long (that's right, it took an entire month to get to the bottom of this) investigation, installed at intersections with state roads, showed they were installed by the state Department of Transportation, following a state statute that requires drivers to stop before entering a state road.

This is part of why SRTC exists; to make sure all the area jurisdictions are communicating when it comes to transportation projects. Twice a month, we all sit down in a room and discuss what everyone's doing. Once a month its with the elected officials that make the decisions (SRTC Board meetings) and the other time its at our Transportation Technical Committee meeting, when the engineers and planners behind the projects discuss the technical aspects of what they're working on. Keep in mind that you're always welcome to attend.

Drugged Driving Numbers Going Up

Everyone knows that drunk driving causes traffic accidents, but new statistics are showing that about 1 in 5 drivers who were killed last year in car crashes tested positive for drugs.

That's nearly 4,000 drivers who were killed in 2009, or 18% of the nearly 22,000 drivers killed last year. Here's more from KLEW News on what the National Highway Safety Adminstration is calling a growing problem.

Thanksgiving Travel Numbers In- And They're Down From '09

Washington State Department Of Transportation’s traffic data is in for the long Thanksgiving weekend and it shows 33% fewer drivers traveled over Snoqualmie Pass and 45% fewer traveled over Stevens Pass compared to the same weekend in '09.

WSDOT tracks holiday travel in locations where travel increases significantly on long weekends. Here are their numbers for this year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Cup Alert

The Washington State Department of Transportation is warning Apple Cup fans traveling into the Palouse for the big game to prepare for winter driving conditions. Snow and high winds continue to hammer the Palouse region. WSDOT will have its crews and snow equipment out fighting the storms. Apple Cup routes are a priority and additional crews will shift into the Palouse as needed and available to help keep roads open and clear.

Council Members To Navigate City Hall From Wheelchairs

Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Council Member Jon Snyder will observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities from wheelchairs tomorrow, Dec. 3.

The exercise, sponsored by the Spokane Human Rights Commission, is designed to bring awareness to persons with disabilities and provide elected officials with greater understanding. The two Council Members will spend the morning at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., in wheelchairs, then discuss their experiences at 11 a.m.

The goal is to increase the understanding of the issues around disabilities and focus on the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. So what's that have to do with transportation? A lot.

A lovely lady named Jenny with Lou Gehrig's disease came to a SRTC Board meeting a couple years ago and told us of her challenges getting around. It's hard for her to push the button to signal she wants to cross the street because many of the buttons are placed on poles inside of decorative rock beds or in grassy areas that her power chair can't navigate. There are also many narrow sidewalks around town and sidewalks with poles and signs in the middle of them that folks in chairs can't navigate around. Getting on and off the bus is often difficult because bus stops aren't built to accomodate wheelchairs and weather like this makes it almost difficult to operate a chair. In fact, here's a piece from KXLY news on how weather conditions is making getting around very difficult for one disabled man.

Thursday Snow Update

Spokane County: – Spokane County crews have had to repeatedly return to plowing/sanding emergency routes, primary arterials and secondary roads (in that order). And while some neighborhood areas have been plowed at least once, others are still waiting. Current conditions are further complicated by warmer temperatures that have melted the floor of compact snow and ice. As motorists break through, vehicles become stuck in the churned up slush and/or rutted surfaces.

Currently, County crews are using approximately 80 pieces of equipment and will move into residential areas later today. This morning, the County authorized hiring private contractors to assist in clearing residential areas.

For more information on County snow removal, go to their website here.

Spokane City: The City of Spokane is declaring a new Stage 2 Snow Emergency today, Dec. 2, which means crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full City plow that includes all residential areas.

Within 12 hours—or by 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2—citizens must move their cars so they are parked on the even side of the street within the residential area. Parking is restricted in downtown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to facilitate plowing there. And no parked cars are allowed on arterials or STA fixed bus routes.

Last night’s rain and heavy snow mix converted snow-packed secondary arterials and residential streets into a slushy mess with deep ruts. The City’s truck plows are having a difficult time moving the heavy material so the City will need to rely more on graders. The City has 10 graders in its fleet and is calling in a dozen private contractors with graders to help with the effort. They also are looking into renting graders.

To check the progress of City plows, go to the City website. You can type in your address to get a closer look at your area.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Airport Delays and Cancellations

This weather isn't just slowing down people travelling on the roads, but there have been some cancellations and delays at the airport too. So be sure to check your flight here before you leave home.

I just checked and it looks like most flights are on time now, but one to Seattle was cancelled. Earlier this morning was a different story though. My parents haven't been on a vacation in years where they actually flew somewhere just to have fun. So I was shocked when they booked a trip to Maui. They were so excited when I drove them to Spokane International Airport last night. They were a lot less excited when I talked to them this morning and they were STILL at the airport. Their first flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and their second was delayed by several hours due to weather. They were switched to another flight and were supposed to be getting on a plane around 9:30 this morning. I haven't heard from them since so they must have gotten out of there. They said there were a LOT of other people waiting for cancelled and delayed flights as well.

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.