Thursday, December 29, 2011

STA On Holiday Schedule Monday, Jan. 2

Spokane Transit wants to remind you that they will be on Sunday/Holiday service Monday, Jan. 2. Check your bus schedule, call 328-RIDE or check the STA website for the right schedule.

Also, the #1 Arena shuttle will not run on Monday since it is a holiday.

Tow Company Charges $1400 To Tow Car

Ever have your car towed and you were surprised by the bill afterward? Apparently some folks on the west side of the state have been talking about the need for a law regulating towing rates, as tow companies can currently charge whatever they want.

One I-5 driver would probably line up to be first to sign a petition for a law like that, as he was recently taken for $1400- for a single tow! Here's the story.

Could Non-Motorized Transportation Be a Source of Energy Production In the Future?

At the end of each year, IBM examines emerging technologies to develop a forecast for the next five years of future energy sources. Here's this year's list, which includes a transportation related-energy source: YOU.

IBM predicts that non-motorized transportation in the near future will become a power source. For instance, the strike of your heel and the bend of your sole when walking could release enough energy to charge your cell phone. And a device on the spokes of your bike could collect energy to power your kitchen appliances. You are your own natural resource, as it turns out. Here's the article.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meeting Dates For SRTC Committees In 2012

Want to get all SRTC's committee meeting dates on your calendar for 2012? Who wouldn't? They're right here.

Forbes Predicts Low Hiring In Spokane For 2012

Just when you thought the economy was getting better, Forbes Magazine goes and pulls the rug out from under you with their What Hiring Will 2012 Bring? article.

According to the article, and a survey done by financial information company Sageworks, 92% of the companies surveyed believe they'll either maintain or increase their employee count in the coming year.

While that's great news, there is some less-happy news locally. The magazine lists the cities where employers are most pessimistic about hiring in the first quarter of 2012 and unfortunately Spokane is at the top of the list. Here's a look at the cities Forbes thinks jobs won't be in 2012. Can we prove them wrong folks?

Top Transportation Stories Of 2011

It's that time of year when everyone is looking back on the year that was and putting together lists of the top everything. Well, transportation is no different. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Journal, Congress' debate of a transportation reauthorization bill dominated the transportation policy sector's headlines in 2011.

Budget and appropriations stories were also highly read. Here are the the top 35 transportation stories of 2011 from the AASHTO Journal.

Holiday Closures

A reminder that all government offices, including SRTC, will be closed on Monday, Jan. 2 to observe the New Year's Day holiday. We reopen at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Night Spokane Street Closures

If you're planning to come downtown next Saturday night for First Night Spokane, the following streets will be closed:

- Howard St. from Main Ave. to Spokane Falls Blvd.
- Spokane Falls Blvd. from Stevens to Post streets
- Wall St. from Main Ave. to Spokane Falls Blvd.

STA shuttle service will be available to pick up attendees at the yellow lot at Riverpoint Campus and move them from one venue location to another. More information on First Night and transportation options can be found here.

Results From U-District/Sprague Ave. Corridor Planning Workshop Available

Results of a planning workshop earlier this month on the University District and Sprague Avenue corridor have been posted here.

Participants in a survey given at the workshop showed a preference for urban village-style development. Read more at the link above.

New Pie Locker Claims To 'Run Circle Around' Other Bike Lockers

Thanks to @Vanillajane for sending
this item. It's a new space-saving type of bike locker called 'The Pie Locker.' The lockers are shaped like a piece of pie (hence the name), making the options more plentiful of where you can place these lockers. I've never used a bike locker so am not overly familiar with them. Check this one out and let me know what you think; if you see any obvious advantages to this locker versus a regular one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

FAA Clears Santa To Fly

Breaking news from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood- Santa has been given the green light to fly by the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA safety inspectors today cleared Santa One--the world’s only known reindeer-powered aircraft--to deliver presents to children around the world.

And if you didn't know, Rudolph’s red nose features gumdrop-enhanced avionics to make it ten times brighter and easier to track, even in the heavy snowfalls experienced at the Pole.

HREF="">Here's his flight plan and how to track him in case your kids would like to follow along. You know what I'll be doing all day tomorrow now.

Cast Your Vote For the 'Streetsie' Awards

It's the last day before the holiday so it's quiet in your office and frankly, you're not really motivated. Oh wait, that's me I'm describing. Well anyway, here's something work-related (if you're in transportation, that is) and fun you can do: cast your votes for the 2011 Capitol Hill Round-Up: Streetsie Awards.

With questions like 'Low Point of the Year (or, I Almost Threw in the Towel and Moved to Barbados When…),'Best Obama Plan That Died a Slow and Horrible Death This Year,' and 'Most Outrageous Attack on Cyclists and Pedestrian of 2011' how can you NOT want to vote? And don't worry, they provide multiple choice answers to choose from, so you don't have to do a whole lot of thinking for yourself.

HREF="">Here's the link. Get to voting now.

Expanding Waistbands Mean Shrinking Ferry Passenger Numbers

I don't know about you, but I know I've put on a couple pounds as I've gotten older. And apparently the population's collective weight gain has caused the Washington state ferry system to reduce capacity on it's boats.

Coast Guard vessel stability rules that took effect Dec. 1 raised the estimated weight of the average adult passenger to 185 pounds from the previous 160 pounds, based on population information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That translates to a difference of almost 250 passengers per ferry!

The Spokesman-Review has the story, and my favorite quote of the day, “We do serve light beer.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Transportation Benefit District Funded Projects Approved For 2012

The Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board and the City Council on Monday approved 2012 TBD program recommendations made by the Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB).

The 2012 projects will be the first to be done under the TBD, which was created to fund street maintenance and pedestrian improvements, and is funded through a $20 vehicle license tab fee.

Approximately $2.5 million in revenues generated from the fees during the 12 months ending August 2012 will be used to pay for the projects approved for the 2012 construction season. 2012 projects include:

• Five grind and overlay projects on arterial streets.
• Three grind and overlay projects on residential streets
• Three chip seal projects on residential streets
• Investment in the residential crack seal program, resulting in approximately 300,000 linear feet sealed.
• Recommendations for implementing the Pedestrian Program of the TBD.

Spokane Transit Service Changes Go Into Effect Jan. 15

Based on analysis and customer feedback after the September 2011 Service Change, STA is making some minor adjustments to improve reliability and route connections. Those changes go into effect January 15 and cover a variety of routes. You can check out all the changes here.

LaHood Doesn't Back Proposal to Prohibit All Phone Use Behind Wheel

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday he will not back a proposal to prohibit drivers from talking on cellphones, even hands-free devices.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) last week asked states to ban cellphones while driving.

LaHood has pushed to reduce driver distraction in the past but now says hands-free calling, such as using a headset or bluetooth, is not the big problem. Here's the story from Fox 2 in Detroit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sullivan Road Bridge Improvement Construction Starts In January

Temporary improvements to the southbound Sullivan Road Bridge across the Spokane River are scheduled to begin in early January and wrap up by the end of February. Once completed, the improvements will allow City of Spokane Valley Public Works engineers to lift the bridge weight restrictions that have been in place since June.

The weight restrictions are in place to limit deterioration until the aging bridge can be replaced. Concerned about the impact of restrictions on local businesses that rely on the bridge for transporting heavy loads across the river, the Spokane Valley City Council authorized $358,000 for temporary improvements until funding can be secured for bridge replacement.

While construction is under way, traffic will be shifted onto the northbound bridge and reduced to one lane in each direction. About half the estimated $19.7 million needed for the replacement bridge has been received from federal sources and the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board. Additional funding sources are being sought to make up the balance.

Giant Seed Chosen For Gateway Project. What Would You Like To See Locally?

This item caught my eye because we have been discussing possible ways to spruce up local 'gateways' into our area lately:

Committee picks giant seed for Moscow's gateway art

MOSCOW - A 20-foot-tall seed made from compacted earth is recommended to be Moscow's first free-standing work of public art.

The Wren Welcome Garden Selection Committee formally recommended the sculpture "Helio-Terra" Tuesday to the Moscow City Council. Artist Robert Horner's design now awaits the approval of the council at its next scheduled meeting Jan. 3.

Hmmm... a giant seed. What to say about that? Guess I'll reserve judgement on that for now. In the meantime, my boss has asked me to research some 'cool stuff' that other communities have done to beautify the entrances to their metropolitan areas. I'm digging around but if you have any ideas of what you'd like to see, let me know.

Holiday Government Closures & Transit Schedules

The next two weeks will be short ones due to the holidays. All local government offices, including SRTC, will be closed on Monday, December 26th and Monday, January 2.

Any remaining road construction work will be suspended from noon Friday, December 23rd, through Monday, December 26th, in anticipation of increased holiday traffic. Long-Term lane restrictions are still in place on US 395 in north Spokane where it crosses under the North Spokane Corridor Wanderemere interchange bridges.

The Spokane City Council will not meet on Mondays, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. Council meetings will resume on Monday, Jan. 9, with a 3:30 p.m. briefing session and 6 p.m. legislative session.

Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Mondays, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.

Spokane Transit will operate Holiday Service on Monday, December 26th and Monday, January 2nd. Holiday service times can be found here.

Dutch Airline Lets Passengers Choose Seatmates Off Facebook

I can't decide if this is cool or creepy: a Dutch airline wanted to let people pick their own seatmates, so they turned to Facebook.

Using a new feature called "Meet & Seat," KLM Airlines allows passengers to browse the Facebook profiles of other passengers in hopes of making each flight a bit more enjoyable by sitting next to someone you might want to meet or have something in common with. Here's the story from Yahoo news.

What do you think- is this something you would do or does it offend you?

Valley Lowers Mission Speed Limit

Against the advice of city traffic engineers, the Spokane Valley City Council opted to lower the speed limit on Mission Avenue to 30 mph from 35 mph between Barker and Flora roads.

City staff says the road is wide and smooth with good visibility, which makes drivers want to go faster. Lowering the speed, they say, could result in complaints, frustrated drivers and potentially unsafe conditions if drivers attempt to pass others they feel are going too slow.

The Spokane Valley News Herald has the full story.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I-90 Construction 1964

I stole this cool photo off the Spokesman-Review website. It's construction of I-90 heading west out of downtown in July 1964.

City of Spokane Complete Streets Ordinance Passed

After about two years of working toward it, Spokane's City Council passed a Complete Streets ordinance last night after nearly three hours of public comment and council deliberations.

A complete street is a road designed to be safe for drivers, bicyclists, transit riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. The program will ensure those people are planned for in construction projects. It doesn't mean every street will have a bike lane or sidewalks, but increase the chance of items like those being put in.

Members of the public that testified said they want complete streets for everything from encouraging exercise to increasing wheelchair access. 39 people spoke in favor of complete streets and six against. The main concern of those who were against it is that they don't want to pay more taxes to support this kind of program, even though that's not where funding would come from for complete streets. Most likely, it would mean that one or two less construction projects will be completed per year, and that money used for complete streets items.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Transportation Roundup For Week Of Dec. 19

Snow plow drivers who want to help free stuck cars, AAA says more people will travel over the upcoming holidays than last year, and Interstate 90 from Sullivan to Barker roads is now open to three lanes in each direction.

More details on those topics can be found here in the Spokesman's 'Getting There' column.
I'm back and breaking myself back in easily. Here's something funny while I gather my thoughts and get through hundreds of emails and basically wander around here shellshocked.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Going Into Hibernation. Blogging Resumes Dec. 19

I may post a couple more things throughout the day, but after 5 p.m. today this blog is on hiatus for about a week and a half. I'll be back from my annual deprogramming on Dec. 19 and resume blogging at that time. In the meantime, if you need a transportation fix in my absence, attend all those public meetings I posted threads about.

SRTC's Regional Priority Project List & How It Could Affect Economic Development

Yesterday I posted the Spokesman-Review's article on SRTC's Regional Priority Project list, so today I'm posting the Spokane Valley News Heralds' article on the same topic. It goes more into the economic development aspect of the list and how the projects stack up in that respect.

Approved City Budget Adds $700k To Street Fund

Spokane's City Council last night adopted the 2012 City Budget. They largely accepted the budget proposed by Mayor Mary Verner, with a few tweaks. The last item pertains to transportation so take note of it:

• Added $100,000 to the Human Services budget for additional allocations to social service agencies. Some $900,000 already was included in the budget for Human Services grants.
• Added back $30,000 in funding to the City’s Arts Department.
• Retained the Weights & Measures function at the City.
• Made some changes to the Council’s own office budget.
• Added minor amounts to the Spokane Public Library to help job seekers and to the youth program, which is expected to be turned over to a non-profit agency in 2012.
• Moved $700,000 in real estate excise tax money to the Street Fund to limit the use of Street reserves in that fund to balance that portion of the 2012 Budget.

The City’s General Fund for 2012 will total approximately $164 million. The General Fund pays for police, fire, streets, parks, and libraries, among other things. Revenue for the General Fund comes from sales, property, and utility taxes.

As part of the 2012 Budget the City also will add $615,000 to the City’s rainy-day fund, which had been largely depleted over the last several years of tough budgets.

I was going to add a link to the budget itself, but the City's website appears to be down right now.

Latah Bridge Rehabilitation Public Open House

It appears that December is the new 'It' month for public meetings, based on the sheer volume of meeting announcements I've posted here recently. And here's another one: The City of Spokane is partnering with CH2M Hill to develop rehabilitation solutions for the Latah Bridge, also known as Sunset Bridge or High Bridge. The study team will host a public open house on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 4-7 p.m. at the Woodland Center at Finch Arboretum, 3404 W. Woodland Blvd.

Study staff want to hear from drivers, bikers or walkers who use the bridge, in order to ensure the long-term vitality of the critical link the Latah Bridge provides in the region’s transportation system. The purpose of this study is to provide the City with an understanding of the current condition of the bridge and develop a plan on how to rehabilitate it. Once completed, the study will allow the City to seek funding for the next steps.

Monday, December 5, 2011

SRTC Board Develops List Of Regional Priority Projects

SRTC's Board got together for a special meeting last week to discuss which projects to put on a list of priority projects for the region that would be used in upcoming discussions of a 10-year, statewide transportation funding package. There was extensive discussion and a lot of projects tossed around. Here's the Spokesman-Review's story on that list and what it contains.

Federal Transportation Bill Delayed To 2012

As they say in the transportation industry, expect delays. Not in local travel this time, but in getting a Federal transportation bill passed.

Representative John Mica, chair of the Transportation Committee, announced last week that his committee will not act on the bill in December as previously announced, but will resume work on it in mid-January, at the earliest. Here's why, from the Transportation Issues Daily website.

SRTC Board Meeting This Thursday

SRTC's Board meets this Thursday, Dec. 8 for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The meeting packet is here. Look it over and see if anything catches your eye and plan to attend if it does. As always, there will be a time for public comment so you can say your piece. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310.

Transportation Plan Open House Tomorrow Night

Don't forget that tomorrow is SRTC's open house to gather input on the 2012-2015 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and 2012 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).

Both documents are currently available for public review and comment through 4 p.m. on December 18.

The MTP is a long-term, “blueprint” for transportation aimed at meeting the mobility needs of the area through the year 2035. Transportation plans and projects proposed to potentially be constructed by all jurisdictions within Spokane County over the next 25 years are included in the MTP. That document can be found here.

The TIP is a short-term document that provides information on state and local projects planned for construction or implementation within the next four years. The TIP contains funding information for all modes of transportation including highways and transit. You can review the TIP here.

The open house is 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6 at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310 so come by and give us your input.

Irish Blogger Says America Is Made For Cars, Not People

Thanks to @Vanillajane for sending this item. It's a list of 17 reasons one Irish blogger says he never wants to live in America. Be aware that this piece contains some bad language and skip numbers 1-12 to arrive directly at reason number 13; a country designed for cars, not humans.

'Benny the Irish Polyglot' says, in his experience, the U.S. is the worst place in the entire world to live in if you don’t own a car. He claims, with rare exceptions, all shops, affordable restaurants, supermarkets, etc. are miles away from where people live.

He even criticizes Austin, TX for being rated among the most “walkable.”

Read Benny's post and let me know if you agree with his points.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bridging the Valley Website Moving

In an effort to consolidate our online presence, we have incorporated the former Bridging the Valley (BTV) website into SRTC's agency website.

BTV is a series of projects that will separate vehicle traffic from train traffic in the 42 mile corridor between Spokane, WA and Athol, ID. to promote economic growth, traffic movement, safety, and train whistle noise abatement.

BTV was developed by SRTC, in partnership with several other agencies. The new webpage can be found here. Any questions?

Complete Streets Plan Commission Hearing & T-Shirt Making

SRTC has been working with the Complete Streets Education Coalition for a couple years now to educate area elected officials and the public on the
complete streets movement.

The work of the coalition is coming to fruition now, with the City of Spokane Plan Commission holding a public hearing on a proposed Complete Streets Ordinance on Dec. 14. And if that goes well, City Council could hold a hearing on Monday December 19th.

Complete streets is about making our city and its businesses and services accessible to all citizens whether they own a car or not. If that appeals to you, Futurewise (a statewide public interest group working to promote healthy communities and cities) has four things you can do to help pass this ordinance.

If it doesn't appeal to you, Futurewise has some reasons why Spokane needs complete streets; and they address safety, accessibility and economics.

And for those of you that support complete streets and want a shirt or bag that says so, there's a complete streets t-shirt making party coming up this month so you can make something to wear to the hearing.

Major I90 Lane Restrictions Next Week

If you use O-90 through Spokane Valley, get ready for some restrictions and delays over the next week or so; crews will be reconfiguring the freeway between Sullivan and Barker roads from two to three lanes each direction.

Eastbound I-90 will be reduced to single lane traffic during the following days and hours:

• Thursday, December 1st from 9 a.m. until 3p.m.
• Thursday, December 1st from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Friday morning.
• Friday, December 2nd from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
• Friday December 2nd from 7 p.m. until work is completed sometime Saturday mid-day.
• Westbound I-90 will continue to have two through lanes through the weekend.

You can expect slow or stop and go traffic, heavy congestion, and long delays during this work and may wish to consider alternate routes.

Westbound I-90 will have the following restrictions:

• On Monday, December 5th, beginning at 7 a.m. until work is complete, eastbound I-90 will be reduced to two through lanes for center barrier work.

• Westbound I-90 will be reduced to one through lane from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

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.