Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Snow Season Prep Includes Removing Abandoned Vehicles

As part of their snow season preparations, City of Spokane officials are asking citizens to report abandoned or disabled vehicles on City streets that may impede the effectiveness of snow plowing efforts. Please call 625-4246 to report vehicles that have been left parked on the street that should be removed before the snow falls.
According to the Spokane Municipal Code, vehicles shall not be parked continuously in any one block on a public street or highway in the City of Spokane for more than 12 hours. Vehicles parked for more than 12 hours may be subject to a 24-hour notification of impoundment and then towed and vehicles with registration expired greater than 45 days may immediately be impounded.

Editorial Suggests Taking Another Look At Where Gas Tax Is Being Spent

An editorial in the Spokesman-Review today says our lawmakers need to take a closer look at the gas tax and where it's going.  37.5 cents-per-gallon is explicitly dedicated to highways, ferries, etc. but the rest of the tax is going to things like cleaning up hazardous waste.
With a new governor coming in and mega-projects like the North Spokane Corridor and I5 bridges over the Columbia River, the article says the legislature should go back and look at the current gas tax allocations before coming up with new transportation-related taxes. Here's the editorial. What do you think?

 

Brown Bag Lunch To Discuss Urban Transportation Corridors

Anytime there's a possibility that a quorum of SRTC Policy Board members will be in one place at one time, we're legally required to tell you. So here's your notification that SRTC will host a brown bag lunch session for Policy Board members immediately preceding the November 8 Board meeting. Guest speaker and Economist Dena Belzer will talk about Urban Transportation Corridors, what they are, the market for this type of development in the Spokane region and what it would take to make this approach work here.


The brown bag is being held in conjunction with work to update SRTC’s long range transportation plan, Horizon 2040. The plan will identify and prioritize transportation projects and programs to be implemented through the year 2040. Traditional transportation measures such as congestion levels, transit ridership, and safety will play important roles in the plan. However, given the recent economic crisis, the role that transportation can play in supporting economic activity has gained a much greater emphasis. The emphasis has shifted from reducing congestion to using transportation investments to create and sustain jobs.

Ms. Belzer, founder and president of consulting and research firm Strategic Economics, specializes in connecting regional economic and demographic growth trends to real estate development activity and local policy initiatives. Her firm helps local governments, community groups, developers, and non-profit organizations understand the economic and development context in which they operate in order to take strategic steps towards creating high-quality places for people to live and work.
Ms. Belzer’s presentation will focus on urban transportation corridors, which encourage higher density, mixed use development along specific corridors served by quality transit. The corridors would be walkable,  create a sense of place, and  be well integrated with adjacent neighborhoods.

The brown bag session is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the SRTC conference room. Members of the public are welcome, but must provide their own lunch. The brown bag session will be immediately followed by the regularly-scheduled Policy Board meeting at 1 p.m.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Grant Buys Bikes/Helmets For Local Bicycle Education

A grant from the SpokeFest Association will provide 30 new bikes and helmets to Central Valley School District students to help get kids involved in cycling.

The $6,100 grant paid for the bikes, which will be rotated throughout CV elementary schools. Each school will have the bikes for about three weeks to complete a bicycle education curriculum for all fourth and fifth grade students.
The Down to Earth Northwest Blog has the details.

It's Not A Rave, It's a Glow-In-The-Dark Highway

Apparently I never grew past the mental age of 13, because anything that lights up, changs color or glows still facinates me. So imagine the excitement this morning when I saw this: a proposed glow-in-the-dark "Smart Highway."

The Dutch designers behind the highway say it will promote safe driving by improving visibility at night and in the winter.
The "Smart Highway" uses paint treated with a luminous powder, which "charges" during the day and glows for up to ten hours at night.

The design also includes "dynamic paint," made to become visible at certain temperatures. When ice crystals form on the pavement, the newly activated paint appears, providing a reminder to drive carefully.

And it saves on electricity too. Read the article here to see how. Or if you're not into reading, the pictures that accompany it are pretty cool and pretty much tell the story.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Shutting Down East Coast Transit

Mass transit is grinding to a halt on the east coast as Hurricane Sandy approaches. Bus and train service has been shut down in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and other cities and there's even talk of closing some bridges once winds reach 60 miles per hour. CNN Travel has the story.

And if you'd like to watch live as Sandy hits, The Altantic Cities has the webcams to watch all the way up and down the East Coast. Some crazy stuff happening on a couple of these cameras.

Transportation Advisory Committee Members Still Needed

Don't forget that we're still looking for members for our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). Here's info on the TAC and how to apply. All we ask is that you're transportation "literate," have time to attend the meetings and bring your transportation thoughts and inpout with you.

We meet once a month, on the fourth Monday of each month at 3 p.m. You've got until November 9 to get your application in.

Take The Horizon 2040 Survey Please

If you haven't taken it already, don't forget that we're still looking for your transportation priorities and opinions with an internet survey. Click the link to take the 10 minute survey. The input you give us will help to develop Horizon 2040, or Metropolitan Transportation Plan. Horizon 2040 will identify and prioritize transportation projects and programs to be implemented through the year 2040. Key focus areas for the plan include economic vitality, stewardship, cooperation and leadership, quality of life, choice and mobility, system operations, maintenance and preservation, and safety and security.

Snoqualmie Snow Shed Could Be Thing Of The Past

I90 over Snoqualmie Pass could be getting something new to replace the old snow shed. The Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" column has that story and lots of other local transportation happenings.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Funny Signs for A Gray Day


It's Friday, you deserve a break for a few minutes. Take that time to check out these funny signs from Travel and Leisure.

Really? I should check under my vehicle for penguins? Uh... okay. I guess so.

North Spokane Corridor Traffic Increases With Completion of North Half

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says, now that the north half of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) is fully completed, drivers are using it more, with traffic counts nearly triple since the first segment was opened in 2009.


About 11,000 vehicles per day travel on the nearly 6-mile long route. That’s up from less than 4,000 per day in 2009.

Completing the northern half of the NSC helped speed up north/south freight traffic in the Spokane metro area. Drivers on the US 395 corridor now cut up to 20 minutes off their travel time by using the NSC, then connecting to the Market, Greene and Freya route. Drivers only encounter 11 traffic signals instead of plodding along on Division Street through 29 signalized intersections and countless business approaches.

With the north half of the 10-mile corridor complete, the first construction project in the south half of the NSC got started in early October, the Francis Avenue Bridge Replacement project. The next project in the pipeline is the rail relocation and trail extension job in the Hillyard area. These are the only projects currently funded for construction.

To date, about $615 million has been allocated for the NSC. An additional $1.3 billion is needed to fully fund all of the remaining work to build the full facility from Francis to I-90. Engineers are working on less costly interim configurations to create a drivable link through the remaining 5-mile section.

Spokane's Top Parking Ticket Offenders

So you get a parking ticket here and there. Nothing shocking. But a handful of people in Spokane have thousands of dollars worth of outstanding parking tickets.

KREM 2 News looked into who Spokane's top offenders are and what can be done to collect the money they owe. And yes, they name names in this article. Being that it's Friday and we're all tired from a busy week, I'll also post the video so you can just watch it instead of read if you prefer.

It Better Be A Really Good Game For $130- And That's Just The Parking

As if you didn't pay enough for those tickets to the World Series game, now you have to add in an extra $100+ dollars for parking!

Because the games start at 5 p.m. San Francisco time, many of the garagees near AT&T Park

are still full with worker's vehicles, meaning parking is at a premium. $130 though??
Yahoo Sports has the story.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Construction Project Updates for Next Week

WSDOT

I-90 Westbound- Argonne Rd. to Division Street- Monday through Friday, Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, from about 9 a.m. to as late as 3 p.m. westbound drivers should expect inside lane closures so crews can clean drains.

I-90/East of Pines - On Sunday, Oct. 28, beginning at 3 a.m., drivers should be alert for slowed traffic as overhead utility lines are installed across the freeway.

US 195/Cheney-Spokane Road Intersection- Monday through Friday, Oct. 29-Nov. 2, during daytime hours,  expect lane restrictions on Cheney-Spokane Road and/or the southbound off ramp lane at US 195 for utility company work. The intersection will remain open. Expect delays.
SR 290-Trent Road/Spokane River Bridge-East of Pines Road in Spokane Valley-  Monday through Thursday, Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, from about 8 a.m. until around 2 p.m. Drivers can expect lane restrictions due to bridge surface repairs.

Spokane Valley

Park Rd. between 8th and 12th Avenue and Montgomery between University and Van Marter - Shoulder work with shifting lane closures through Nov. 5 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.. At least one lane open in each direction.
Sprague/Sullivan Intelligent Transportation System - In the middle of next week, crews will begin an 8-week project to connect traffic signals and make other updates on Sprague between Evergreen and Sullivan and on Sullivan from Sprague to Mission. The right lane will be closed on westbound Sprague from Progress Rd. to Bannen Rd. between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Spokane City   Madison St. from 16th to 17th avenues- Madison from 16th to 17th will be closed from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27 to accomodate the event the Great Pumpkin Race.   Dalke Ave. from Myrtle to Freya Streets- The project to pave Dalke from Myrtle to Freya will be substantially complete and the streets open to traffic by Friday, Nov. 2. It also paved Myrtle from Dalke to Francis and installed curbs and sidewalks.



Almost 20 Years Of Being Known As "The Plaza"

Spokane Transit's downtown Plaza has been around for almost 20 years now and when someone says "The Plaza" pretty much everyone knows what you're talking about. But is "The Plaza" the right name for this building that's been the cause of a lot of debate over the years? That's what TransitZac asks in this blog post from him.

October Newsletter Available For Your Reading Pleasure

Wondering what we've been up to at SRTC the past couple months besides competing to see who gets to take the recycling out every Tuesday afternoon? Well we've been busy. Really busy. So busy I don't think the recycling has even gone out the past couple weeks. Here's the October newsletter if you'd like to see what it is we've been so busy doing. Feel free to ask questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Please Review Projects Submitted For Funding

SRTC recently administered a call for projects for the Washington State Department of Transportation's 2013-2015 Consolidated Public Transportation Grants Program. There are several programs covered by the application process including (but not limited to) Federal Transit Administration Sections 5310, 5311, 5316, and 5317; State Rural Mobility Competitive; and the State Paratransit/Special Needs Competitive Grant for non-profit organizations. Information on all those programs can be found at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Transit/Grants/grants.htm.
Fourteen applications were submitted in the call for projects. All were required to meet a need and address a strategy identified in the Spokane County Coordinated Public Transit Human Services Transportation Plan (HSTP). These projects will potentially be incorporated into the HSTP as strategies to mitigate transportation barriers identified in the plan.
We've put together a Projects Application Summary so you can review the projects and programs that submitted funding requests. Please look them over and submit any comments you have on them by 4 p.m. on November 23, 2012 by emailing contact.srtc@srtc.org or mailing to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA 99201.

This summary sheet doesn't include the full applications for each project, as they were lengthy. You are welcome to view them though by dropping by the SRTC office between 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the address above.

Teen Drinking and Driving Cut In Half In Past 20 Years

Good news- the number of high school students who drink and drive has decreased by more than half in the past 20 years. The Christian Science Monitor says this is due to a number of variables, including graduated driver-licensing systems, zero-tolerance laws, and parental involvement. The article is at the link.

Looking For Input On Our Human Services Plan

Get out your red pen because we're looking for public input on the 2012 Update to the Spokane County Coordinated Public Transit - Human Services Transportation Plan (HSTP).

Federal law requires a coordinated public transit human services transportation plan for all human service transportation programs. The purpose of the HSTP is to improve transportation services for persons with disabilities, older adults and individuals with lower incomes in Spokane County. The HSTP includes an inventory of local services that provide transportation in Spokane County, an assessment of transportation issues and “gaps” in the system and implementation strategies for addressing those gaps.

We're looking to you to let us know if we've identified all the barriers out there, presented a complete inventory of local transportation services and come up with all feasible solutions. So please review the document here and let us know what you think by emailing contact.srtc@srtc.org.

The deadline to comment is 4p.m. on November 23, 2012.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

List Of 2012 "Great Streets" Announced

Drumroll please.... the American Planning Association (APA) has announced its 2012 list of Great Streets across the country. So what is a Great Street? The APA considers three main characteristics when evaluating contenders:
1.Street Form and Composition - Does the street accommodate multiple users? Does it encourage social interaction?

2.Street Character and Personality - Does the street reflect the local culture? Is it an interesting place to be?

3.Street Environment and Sustainable Practices - Does the street use green infrastructure? Does it promote sustainability?

Pictures and details about hte winning streets can be found on the APA's website at http://www.planning.org/greatplaces/streets/2012/.

Washington State Rail Plan Public Workshop

When out talking to people lately, I've been hearing a lot about railroads. That the passenger service in our area isn't exactly convenient, that there are intersections where trains cause long waits for vehicles and that additional safety measures are needed at some railroad crossings where cars and rail aren't separated.

As it seems to be a top-of-mind subject, now seems to be the right time for a public workshop on the Washington State Department of Trnasportation's Washington State Rail Plan.

The workshop is 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Oct. 30 and everyone is welcome. But you have to RSVP to ensure enough space and materials to accommodate all attendees.

The workshop will be preceded by a mini-open-house  from 9-10 a.m. where you can look over materials in advance of the workshop.

Workshop Objectives include:
1. Introduce the project vision/goals, timeline and opportunities for public involvement
2. Identify vision and goal statement themes; solicit “big questions"
3. Solicit and record feedback from the group

To R.S.V.P., contact Kerri Woehler at 360-705-6902 or WoehleK@wsdot.wa.gov. Directions will be sent when you R.S.V.P. ~ please include:

Your name
Phone number and email address
Rail interest: freight rail, passenger rail or both

A Fork In The Road- Literally

It wasn't just a figure of speech in a California town when drivers ran into a fork in the road. It was an actual fork.

The oversized kitchen utensil was 6 feet high, made of wood, painted silver and mounted in the concrete island at an intersection. Unfortunately, the City didn't see the humor in it. KXLY has the story.

This reminds me of when I worked for the City of Spokane and one of the engineers referred, in writing, to a "wye" in the road. Being from a public outreach background and not an engineering one, I did what any public relations person would do and mocked him. Of course I was wrong, what I had been calling a "Y" in the road all along was really a "wye." And I was never allowed to forget that. The next time that engineer had a party, he sent out directions that included taking a right at the wye. And when I got there, yep, there was a sign at the split in the road that said simply "wye." I stole the sign and still have it in my shed, just waiting for the right moment for retribution.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Five Mile Prairie Pathways Plan Approved

Two years of work by residents of Five Mile Prairie has resulted in a comprehensive plan for developing bicycle and pedestrian pathways. The delay to a project to reconstruct Francis Avenue was not due to layoffs at the City. And a bunch of other transportation stuff in today's "Getting There" column from the Spokesman-Review. 




Spokane Valley Street Sweeping Starts This Week

Fall street sweeping gets under way in Spokane Valley this week. Wweeping will be conducted during daylight hours in Fall Sweeping Priority Zones 1 and 2 and will continue until those roadways are completed, weather permitting.
Priority zones are outlined on the Fall Sweeping Service Area Map online at www.spokanevalley.org. Go to the Public Works Department web page and selecting the "Street Maintenance" link, where you'll also find a link to the map and more detailed information.

In addition to improving storm drain function, annual fall street sweeping provides other important benefits:

• Enhances safety by reducing standing water in the roadway, which can pose a driving hazard.
• Avoids deterioration of the roadway caused by standing water, and helps save road maintenance costs.
• Improves vehicle traction by removing heavy accumulation of leaves from the roadway.
• Reduces pollutants in surface water, groundwater, and air.
• Reduces costs for maintaining storm drainage by keeping excess debris out of the system.
• Extends the functional life of the storm drain system

To help crews complete street sweeping, residents are encouraged to keep vehicles, trailers and portable basketball hoops out of the right of way while sweeping is under way. It is also important to trim vegetation back and out of the right of way, and to trim overhanging branches to at least 14 feet above the public street.

Try Your Hand At Traffic Management With A New Game

Oh boy, here's something that I suspect is going to become a major time sucker for me, Gridlock Buster--an online game developed by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Click on an intersection to change the traffic light, and let the cars go. The more you can get through without people becoming antsy, the more points you accumulate.


The aim of the challenge, according to the folks at the University of Minnesota, is to educate young people about the role of traffic management, and its impact on economic activity and environmental performance.


The game gradually increases in difficulty as you move up the levels. You contend with one and two intersections at first, and then more intersections, and more vehicles, so get ready to time traffic lights!

Sullivan Road Bridge Blimp Pictures

I told you last week how a small blimp would be used to take photos of the Sullivan Road West Bridge to get exactly the right photo angles.  These pictures are of the actual photo shoot, and the ones below pictures that the blimp took. Insight Low Altitude Photography spent about two hours taking 200 images that Spokane Valley will receive to help with their project to rebuild the aging bridge. 

The 15 foot long by 8 foot diameter blue and white blimp was tethered to an operator on the ground, who maneuvered it into position and then used radio controls to adjust the camera to get the photos.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

White Cane Walk Shows How Transportation Can Be A Challenge To The Sight Impaired

What a cool event! I just got back from The Lighthouse for the Blind's White Cane Walk event and am really impressed.

Lighthouse opened in Spokane in 2008 as a manufacturer of a variety of projects that it hires blind people to make. It currently employs 52 blind or sight impaired people in Spokane and plans to add more jobs in the years to come. Products currently manufactured at the INL include Quartet/SKILCRAFT co-branded wallboards, hanging file folders, spring-back binders, paper trimmers, and dry-erase easels. You can find out more about the The Lighthouse for the Blind here.

There were a lot of dignitaries at today's event, talking about what a great thing Lighthouse has brought to our community and how we are trying to improve conditions, such as transportation infrastructure, such as Spokane Mayor David Condon, State Representatives Andy Billig and Kevin Parker, County Commissioner Mark Richard and Spokane City Councilmembers Amber Waldref and Ben Stuckart.

What I really enjoyed though was listening to the people that actually work at Lighthouse. One gentleman talked about how he has worked up to being a machinist, and his family's main provider, over the four years he's been there. He also talked about how he almost fell in a six foot ditch on his way to work one day because a construction site wasn't adequately marked with cones and tape. He said that without his white cane telling him there was nothing ahead of him, he would have been at the bottom of that hole.

Another woman told me about an area that has a decorative sidewalk of brick, but no delination between it and the street, like a curb, and how that's a falling danger to people with sight impairments. And before Lighthouse came to Spokane, our area didn't have a single audible crosswalk signal; the signals that make a sound when it's safe to walk. There are several of them now but Lighthouse has a walk of priority intersections where they would like more that I had no idea about.


There was a demonstration on how to guide a blind or sight impaired person and we got to play with something called a mini guide that you hold in your hand and it sends out stronger vibrations the closer you get to an object in your path. Peggy, the woman doing the demonstration, told me later that, while being a pedestrian is a choice for someone like me or you, when you're blind or sight impaired, it's usually your only choice and walking is your main form of transportation.

Then it was time for the main event; the White Cane Walk. Participants donned goggles, sleep masks, and other eye coverings to simulate sight impairment, grabbed a cane, a guide and, in a couple of cases a seeing eye dog, and set off across Riverfront Park to try their hand at getting around.

And speaking of dogs, one other thing I learned today is that The Lighthouse for the Blind actually has a kennel on site where seeing eye dogs spend their time while their owners are working.

I90 Construction for Tomorrow and Next Week

WSDOT

I-90 Eastbound- Division Street to Havana Street- On Friday, October 19, from about 9 a.m. to as late as 3 p.m. eastbound drivers should expect left lane or right lane closures so crews can clean drains. All ramps remain open.

I-90/Geiger Blvd. to Downtown Spokane- High impact pavement grinding is under way from about 7 p.m. until as late as 6 a.m. When work is underway, the legal speed limit will be reduced to 50 mph. I-90 may be reduced to one travel lane in each direction depending on the location of the work.



Behind the Scenes of a Transportation Management Center

While our region doesn't have nearly the traffic congestion that Seattle has, we do have a transportation managament center (TMC) like them, the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center. This piece out of KING 5 news shows how the overall management of traffic works, although some of it may be a little different for our area considering the difference in traffic levels. It's cool to watch though, so you know what goes on behind the scenes of a TMC.

Census Data Shows Where Americans Bike To Work

In what cities do the most people commute to work by bike? New census data just released has the answer.


The 2011 American Community Survey says that more than 777,000 people nationwide rode to work as their primary means of commuting in 2011.
Davis, CA was the city with more workers biking to work than any other city. And Spokane even made the list, although obviously not nearly as close to the top as Davis.

Governing.com has the story,but remember, there are some pretty big error margins when figuring something like this.

Man Boards Bus With Gunshot Wound

I've seen some unusual things on the bus, but downtown Seattle transit riders may have seen everything now. A man got on the bus last night with a gunshot wound, and he didn't appear to be trying to get to the hosptial. KOMO News has the story.

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Agenda

The agenda for next Wednesday's Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting is now available. Click here to view it. And feel free to attend the meeting if something on the agenda catches your eye. Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend all of our committee meetings. And there's an item on every agenda for public comment so if you have something transportation-related to say, this is your chance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Transportation Advisory Committee Members Needed

So if you've been reading this blog on any kind of regular basis at all, I'm going to assume you're interested in transportation issues. Which means that we need you for the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC has three openings coming up for 2013 and we want to get them filled so that whomever joins us can start attending at the beginning of the new year.

The TAC is a citizen committee that provides transparency and a community perspective to the local transportation planning process. The TAC advises the SRTC Policy Board regarding plans, programs and activities to determine consistency with SRTC's policies; makes recommendations on regional transportation policies; and tackles other activities as directed by the Board.


One very important thing- as a TAC member, you will be expected to serve as a kind of conduit for information between the Board and the public. That means you'll hear about a project or program that SRTC is working on and take the information out to any other groups you are a member of (such as neighborhood councils, bicycling clubs, church groups, books clubs, etc.) and fill them in. The input you get will be passed back to the Board and considered public input. So you should feel comfortable speaking to people if you'd like to be a member.

We're looking for a diverse team of TAC members. We're looking for everyday people and those who represent groups such as people with disabilities, senior citizens, youth, the business and freight moving communities, traditional automobile users and advocates for non-motorized transportation or public transit.

The time commitment is manageable too. The TAC meets onces a month (the fourth Monday of each month) at 3 p.m. in the SRTC office at 221 W. First Ave. And the best part? I serve as the staff liaison to the Transportation Advisory Committee so you would work with me. While we make decisions that have a real impact on the community, the TAC group is fun and the meetings interesting. Plus you get to be the first to know about upcoming projects so you can wow friends and family with your transportation knowledge.

Okay, so have I talked you into it? Then hit this link that takes you to the TAC page of the SRTC website and start filling out the application. Or you can call or email me with any questions or to have an application mailed to you. You can get me at contact.srtc@srtc.org or (509) 343-6387. You've only got three weeks though so get going, the deadline is November 9.




Gubernatorial Debate Hits On Transportation Issues

Last night's Presidential debate may not have dealt with transportation (except for minor references to gas prices) but the final Washington Governor’s debate was also held Tuesday night and the candidates did discuss a couple transportation topics.

Here’s the transcript of an exchange about tolling and light rail, from Transportation Issues Daily.

And also from Transportation Issues Daily, here’s the transcript of a question about reforming and funding the ferry system.

SRTC Will Be At White Can Day Walk


A couple years ago some local elected officials took place in an exercise that put them in wheelchairs and told them to try to get around. I remember Spokane City Councilmember Jon Snyder blogging about how hard it was to get from his home to his office, which weren't very far apart, in the chair. If I remember right, he said there were gravel areas that were hard to roll the wheelchair through, crosswalk signals that didn't give him time to get all the way across a street and long stretches of sidewalk without a wheelchair ramp to let him get up onto them.

Well prepare to experience being "transportation challenged" for yourself. Inland Northwest Lighthouse tomorrow is hosting "White Cane Day Walk" in Riverfront Park. The event is open to the public and gives you a sense of how it would be to try to get around using a cane instead of your eyesight. I've heard other communities have done this and its a fabulous event.

Because we have been asking for people with transportation barriers to talk to us about the issues they have with our transportation system, I will be there asking for input for our Horizon 2040. The event is 2-4 p.m. at the Clocktower Meadow in Riverfront Park, so come down and try walking a mile (or a much shorter course) in someone else's shoes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blimp Will Be Used To Take Pics Of Sullivan Road Bridge

This is so cool! One form of transportation will be used to take pictures of another! A small blimp like this one will be used to get exactly the right photo angles of the Sullivan Road Bridge southbound across the Spokane River tomorrow.


The blimp, which carries two to three pounds of camera equipment, is tentatively expected to launch sometime during the early afternoon and will be in the air for about two hours.

The 15 foot long by 8 foot diameter blue and white blimp will be tethered to an operator on the ground, who will maneuver it into position and then use radio controls to adjust the camera to get the photos. The photos will be used to help create visual simulations depicting the finished bridge and its relation to the surrounding environment.

Drivers in the area at the time of the blimp operation are warned to keep their attention on the roadway.

Coal Train Meeting Date

While meeting with EWU Planning students (see below), the topic of an increase in coal trains through our area came up. We were asked when the public meeting is to discuss the environmental impact statement (EIS) that three agencies plan to jointly prepare for a proposed bulk-cargo shipping terminal and rail spur improvements in Seattle.

We thought it was in November, but Conservation Northwest reports it is Tuesday, December 4 from 4-7 p.m. at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.
Whatcom County, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are together conducting the EIS process for the proposed terminal projects and will jointly produce one EIS.

An Afternoon With A Class Of Planning Students

We just had the chance to talk to a class of Planning students from Eastern Washington University, which was pretty cool. They came into our office for a class, to learn what it is we do here at SRTC. And while I always worry about boring the heck out of visitors with our technical talk, I feel better about this group because they are after all planning students. And they were sharp too.

After going through everything that we do here, we asked them for some input on the transportation system of the area. Some of their observations included:
  • The lack of stop signs at intersections in the neighborhood near 5th and Cedar make riding a bike kind of scary.
  • There are no safe or comfortable routes to cross either I-90 or Freya to get from the south hill to downtown.
  • There are long stretches of Francis avenue without crosswalks to get across it.
  • One student commutes from Sandpoint to attend EWU and can't wait for the North Spokane Corridor to be complete because it will take time off his commute.
  • Another student has always been in towns without bus infrastructure or transit options and is now intimidated by riding the bus. As a result he's never ridden public transit in his whole life (we're going to have to take him for a field trip I think).
So that's what you have to look forward to folks. These kids will be getting out of school in a couple of years and taking the planning world by storm. Hopefully they'll let us old timers keep our jobs when they take over.

Complete Streets Policy & Checklist Now Posted Online

The past couple weeks have been hectic, to say the least. So please forgive me for just now getting the Safe and Complete Streets Policy and Checklist, approved by the SRTC Board in September, posted to the SRTC website.

If you've been wanting to check them out to see how they will change things, this is your chance.


Complete streets are roads designed and operated with all users in mind- including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

A Safe and Complete Streets Policy and Checklist at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (that's what SRTC is) level will have a region-wide impact in changing the decision-making process so that all users are routinely considered during the planning, designing, building and operating of roadways.

It will also ensure that elements of the Safe and Complete Streets policy are incorporated into the 2013 MTP update, Horizon 2040, that we are working on now.

The checklist that goes along with the policy will mean that any project seeking to be included in the annual Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) will have to be evaluated to see if it meets the Policy guidelines or is exempt. The TIP is the funding program document that lists what projects will be funded for construction or implementation in the next four years.

Also, SRTC does occasional "calls for projects" when there is transportation funding available. Local jurisdictions are invited to submit projects they would like to see funded. The projects are ranked and prioritized and the ones determined to be top priorities are given money. From now on, any project submitted during a call for projects will have to be accompanied by the checklist to show that the needs of all users have been considered when designing the project.



New Cardboard Bike Cheap and Recyclable

It's cheap, it's green and it's recyclable. No, I'm not talking about Oscar the Grouch. It's the new cardboard bike! Yes, someone has actually come out with a bike made completely out of cardboard and it will sell for less than $20. Don't worry, it's not going to crumple when it rains or when you gain a few pounds around the holidays. The bike lasts up to ten years, can support up to 485 pounds and can be recycle again when it finally gives out.

Here's the article and a video from the Examiner.com.


Monday, October 15, 2012

TAC Agenda and Packet Available

The agenda and packet for the meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) next Monday, October 22 is now available here. Check it out and feel free to attend. Everyone is welcome and we have some interesting (and usually fun) conversations.

Roadkill Not Going To Waste In Spokane

It's that time of year again- lots of big game coming down to the lower areas. And many of them are getting hit by cars. While this is unfortunate for the animal, and a lot of the time your car too, there's a group of folks benefitting from the weatlth of roadkill- the people at the Union Gospel Mission Culinary School and the men who go there for meals. KREM 2 News has the story.

Washington Has Highest Seat Belt Use In Country

A federal survey suggests Washington state has the highest use of seat belts among drivers in the country.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked Washington at 97.5 percent seat belt usage in 2011. The lowest was Massachusetts at 73.2 percent of usage. The national average was 84 percent.

This is the seventh year in a row Washington has scored 95 percent or higher.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Think Before You Act Or Traffic Cameras May Catch You In The Act

Downtown Seattle traffic cameras caught more than just traffic the other night. According to KOMO News, they caught some criminals in the act of breaking into cars.

DOT operators were monitoring the cameras when they noticed something odd on the Yesler Way overpass in downtown Seattle just after 4 a.m.

They spotted a couple of men peeking into cars. Suddenly one of the men appeared to smash a window.

The DOT operators called Seattle police and officers responsed within two minutes and took the suspects into custody.
The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center is within the SRTC offices. It's where all the local live traffic camera feeds are monitored. So I asked the operators in there what's some of the craziest stuff they've seen. One operator saw a man near Argonne and I90 use a rock to break a window out of a disabled vehicle. He said he called police and the man was picked up.

He also saw a guy walking down the Sunset Hill in the middle of the night pick up a beer can from the side of the road and drink out of it. There's also been a child riding a bike on the freeway and my favorite, a man walking late at night who stopped to urinate over the jersey barrier. The lesson here folks is that, even when you think you're alone, you really aren't.

New Road Construction Stuff For Next Week

There's not much in the way of local transportation construction starting or wrapping up next week. Here's all that I've got this time:

SPOKANE CITYThe Spokane Marathon will take place on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Spokane Falls Blvd. from Stevens to Lincoln streets will be closed from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. The race starts at Riverfront Park along Government Way to Riverside State Park, back along Pettit Dr. through the West Central neighborhood ending at Riverfront Park. Drivers are asked to drive with caution while runners are on the road.

WSDOT
Snoqualmie Pass Load Restrictions- Loads over 12 feet will not be allowed on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass 24 hours a day starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14 through 7 a.m., Friday, Oct. 19, due to single lane closures.

Snoqualmie Lanes Six Day Closure- Give yourself extra time if driving Snoqualmie Pass next week. One lane in each direction will be closed for six days starting Sunday night. The six-day closure is part of the $551 million I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam project that’s widening a five-mile stretch of the highway from four to six lanes and improving reliability and safety. The project is scheduled to be complete in fall 2017.

Would You Pay To Drive Fast?

Would you pay to drive fast? How about really fast? That's what folks are apparently willing to do in Texas, where a toll road with an 85 mph speed limit- yes you heard me right!- opens this month. 85 mph is the highest speed limit in the country.

And the price to use this racetrack- I mean corridor- is only about $6 for personal vehicles! The San Antonio Express News has the story.

Article Says Land Use Not Being Considered With Planning Processes

Jeez, StreetsBlog is reading my mind lately. Which is scary, to say the least. Everything we've been talking about while developing our Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Horizon 2040, has been blogged about recently there.

Today's article is about how land use ties in with transportation planning, but a lot of people still aren't recognizing that link. It uses as an example how two jurisdictions in Minnesota are working on the same street, with different end goals in mind. It's not fair to pick on Minnesota though, as this happens everywhere and it's not neccesarily the fault of either jurisdiction, it's the approach to transportation planning that being blamed.

So how should it be done? Here's the article.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Funny Public Service Announcement

This public service announcement about texting and driving is in French, but the humor, and message, carries through despite the language barrier.

Liberty Lake Trail To Close Next Week

Beginning Monday, October 22 and continuing through Friday, October 26, the popular 7-mile loop trail at Liberty Lake Regional Park will be closed to the public to facilitate trail renovation. The work will include blasting rock to widen and level the trail’s tread in an effort to improve public safety. The trail will reopen to the public on Saturday, October 27th unless otherwise posted onsite.


The work is being funded through a $36,860 grant from the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office. In addition to blasting work, the grant is funding bridge replacement, interpretive signage, habitat restoration, and other trail improvements along the popular loop trail. The Washington Trails Association, Backcountry Horsemen, and the Lands Council are partners in this project.

No More Drinking While Pedaling For Spokane Party Trolley

Where the heck have I been? I just found this article on the Down to Earth Northwest Blog about the Liquor Control Board fighting Spokane's Party Trolley. Holy cow, we have a party trolley? Sign me up looks like fun.

Apparently you rent the trolley and the owner provides a sober driver and you just pedal around town to your destination(s). The driver does the steering and everyone helps to pedal. In the past, the novelty was that passengers could drink alcoholic beverages while on board, as long as there was a sober driver. Not anymore says the Liquor Control Board. Because all of the passengers are pedaling, they are considered operators of the vehicle which means they can be cited for open container while operating a vehicle. Well getting a ticket would certainly put a damper on things.

Here's the rest of the story, from KREM 2 News.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gas Tax Increase Proposed With Revenue Going To Surprising Cause

Well this is interesting. Transportation Issues Daily says Mike Baumgartner, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from right here in Washington, wants to raise the gas tax. No big deal right? Every politician seems to have been saying that for a while now. What is different about his proposal though is where the money raised would go. It would make sense to go back toward transportation projects right, since money is so tight in that area and infrastructure is crumbling? Well that's not what Baumgartner is suggesting.

He says revenue raised from his proposed one cent tax increase should be dedicated to a special fund for veterans care. He told the Seattle Times this would remind every American that a war is still going on every time they fill up and that nearly 70,000 troops are in harms way.

Thoughts on that?

Mass. Transpo Secretary Says No More Superhighways In His State

Massachusett's Transportation Secretary is getting serious. I've been saying for a while now that the trend appears to be toward a mode shift away from a single driver in a car and Richard Davey says his state isn't messing around anymore, he's starting a mode shift campaign, and it’s time for people to get out of their cars and onto trains, buses, bikes, and their own two feet.

He says he plans to triple the share of trips taken by those modes, as opposed to single-occupancy vehicles,
and that there will be no more superhighways built in Massachusetts. While a lot of states have been going that direction, none have come out and said so directly.

MassLive.com has the story.

Number Of Teens In Car Increases Chances Of Deadly Crashes




I found this infographic (click on it to view full size) on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website. It's from a study that shows a strong association between the number and age of passengers present in a vehicle when a teenager is driving and the risk of a teen driver dying in a crash.


The report, “Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers,” found that the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver being killed in a crash, per mile driven, increases with each additional young passenger in the vehicle. Compared to driving with no passengers, a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s fatality risk:

 Increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers)
 Doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)
 Quadruples when carrying three or more passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)

Conversely, carrying at least one passenger aged 35 or older cuts a teen driver’s risk of death by 62 percent.

Want to know more? Check out the link to the report above.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bikes Outsell Cars In Italy In 2011

For the first time since the end of the Second World War the number of bicycles sold in Italy has overtaken the number of cars. 1,750,000 bikes were bought in 2011 compared to 1,748,000 motor vehicles.

Why is this happening in a country that loves their autombiles (especially luxury ones that they produce there) and has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world? The Business Insider has the answer.

Council Connection Talks Red Light Cameras and Transportation Improvement District

If you missed last week's live episode of Council Connection, you can still catch it online at the preceding link.

The show highligthts a variety of City topics every month and is hosted by a different City Council member each month. October's show was hosted by Council Member Jon Snyder and the second half of the hour is devoted to “Your Tax Dollars at Work: Photo Red Traffic Calming Program and the Transportation Benefit District” with guest Kitty Klitzke, Eastern Washington Program Director for Futurewise.

For followers of this blog, you may recognize Kitty as a member of SRTC's Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). She's been a great influence on the TAC and we appreciate the time she puts in to educate herself and the public when it comes to education.




Monday, October 8, 2012

How Do We Project How Much Will Be Spent On Transportation In The Next 20 Years?

I've been talking a lot lately about the work we've been doing on Horizon 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) that we're required to update every four years. This year is different though. We're not just updating the MTP, we're giving it a full overhaul and facelift. The old version was ridiculously long, not user friendly to members of the public (in other words, wasn't written in plain speak) and included a ton of transportation projects intended to be constructed or completed over the next 20 years (the timeline of the MTP).

While it's great we had big ambitions four years ago by including all those projects, the reality is that there isn't money to fund every transportation project we'd like to do. One requirement of the MTP by the federal government is that it must be financially constrained. In other words, we have to be able to prove that we can reasonably pay for all the projects included in it, based on current sources of income and proposed future sources.

With this in mind, we sat down last week with a group of representatives from our partner agencies and had a couple workshops to make sure we are all on the same page (as the projects in the list are all submitted by the agencies we work with that actually do construction (versus SRTC, which covers the planning end of things). So the workshops covered Project Cost Estimating and Revenue Forecasting.

Being a non-technical employee, I was dreading sitting through these workshops. But to my surprise, they were actually interesting and went by quickly! So, if you're interested in finding out how local jurisdictions set the price tags on the projects they do, you can read the summary from that workshop here.

And if you're interested in how much money is expected to come into the region, and be spent on transportation projects, over the next 20 years, and how we figure out these numbers, that workshop summary is here.

While you're on the page, you might as well take the survey of your transportation priorities as well. Click the "Horizon 2040 Survey" box at the top left to take it.

Where The Presidential Candidates Stand On Transportation Issues

As expected, there wasn't mention of transportation issues in last week's Presidential debate, so what are the candidate's thoughts on the subject? We know, to a certain degree, where Obama stands as we've seen him in action the past four years. But what about team Romney/Ryan? Transportation Issues Daily has some insight into where the candidates stand.

Friday, October 5, 2012

SRTC Board Agenda

The October meeting of SRTC's Policy Board is next Thursday, Oct. 11. The meeting agenda can be found here. As always, everyone is welcome to attend and there is a public comment period at every meeting, so feel free to attend.

International Trade Big Part of WA Economy- Transportation Plays A Role

International trade now accounts for 40 percent of all jobs in Washington and is the largest single driver of the state’s economy, according to a report to be released earlier this week. So what's that have to do with transportation? I just wanted to use it as a chance to point out why projects like the Inland Pacific Hub (IPH) study and the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) are important to our region.

As an Asian gateway to the United States, Washington state has been cashing in on its ties to China, which now ranks as the state’s top trading partner, followed by Canada, Japan and South Korea. Exports to China have increased 230 percent since 2004, while imports coming through the state’s ports on their way to other U.S. destinations have created thousands of new jobs.

The IPH is a project to transform the Inland Northwest into a hub for commerce, vital to the global economy.  We've already got the international trade coming through the state, so why not capitalize on it in our area? The study is looking at ways to do this. And the NSC, when complete, will allow freight to be moved more quickly to Canada, and vice versa and over to the coast to China.

Here's more on Washington's trade statistics from the Tri-City Herald. It's an interesting read.

Free Car Care Fair Tomorrow

It's time to go through the basics on your car and make sure it's ready for winter. Save yourself some time though, and money, and do it tomorrow at the FREE Car Care Fair at Spokane Community College.

Automotive specialists will provide a free vehicle inspection this Saturday, October 6 from 9 a.m. to 3p.m. You can click the picture below to view the flyer full size. 

Construction Projects Starting Or Wrapping Up Next Week

Washington State Department of Transportation
Snoqualmie Pass Closures- Some closures are scheduled for Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 next week. The pass will be closed  from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, through Thursday, Oct. 11, from Hyak to the Price Creek Sno-Park.

Then, starting Oct. 14, the pass will be limited to one lane in each direction while crews prepare to open a new section of the highway.

From 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, to 7 a.m. Friday, Oct. 19 the lane reductions will be in place. When WSDOT reopens the lanes Oct. 19, the 27,000 drivers who travel over the pass every day will have a new six-lane highway for two-and-a-half miles between mileposts 54 and 57.

Spokane City

Centennial Trail Open House- A public open house is set to discuss improvement options for addressing a gap in the Centennial Trail. The open house is Thursday, Oct.11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.

Litchfield Place Sewer Improvement- The project to realign sewer mains to improve flow is complete and the streets are open. The $324,000 project was funded by the Wastewater Department.

Euclid Ave. from Crestline to Market- The project to rehabilitate East Euclid Ave. from Crestline to Market streets is nearly complete and the street will reopen for the Monday, Oct. 8, morning commute. Until then, the street remains closed to traffic. Drivers are detoured to Garland Avenue. The project included a curb-to-curb rehabilitation of Euclid Ave. and replacement of a 30-inch water transmission main. The $1.4 million construction project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond and the City Water Department.


29th Ave. from High Dr. to Grand Blvd., Phase 1- The first phase of the project to rehabilitate 29th Ave. from Bernard St. to Grand Blvd. is expected to be complete and open to traffic on Wednesday, Oct. 10. Drivers are detoured to Grand Blvd. or High Dr. until then. The overall project includes a full depth rehabilitation of 29th Ave. from High Dr. to Grand Blvd., replacing a water main, restriping existing bike lanes, repairing the sidewalks on 29th Ave. from Madison to Howard streets, and installing new sidewalks on the north side of 29th Ave. from High Dr. to Lincoln St. The second phase of the project from Bernard St. to High Dr. will begin in 2013. The $2.7 million project was funded by the 10-Year Street Bond, Water Department, and Transportation Benefit District.

Spokane ValleyCarnahan between 14th & 16th avenues- Closed to through traffic from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9 through Thursday, Oct. 11 for utility work. Signs will reroute traffic via 8th or 16th and Bettman.


Fancher Rd. between Sprague and Broadway- Construction is expected to finish this week, weather permitting.





Monday, October 1, 2012

Short Blogging Hiatus

I'll be out of the office for a couple days so no blogging until further notice. Check back late this week or early next week to see what's new in the world of transportation though.

Take A Survey To Let Us Know How To Spend Local Transportation Money

We've been crazy busy around here, developing our Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Horizon 2040. We work on a lot of plans and documents each year, but Horizon 2040 is probably our most important. That’s because it’s based on projections for growth in population, housing and jobs and considers every mode of transportation, such as vehicles, public transit, bicycling, walking, freight movement, rail and air travel.
When complete, Horizon 2040 will include a list of transportation projects and programs from each jurisdiction within Spokane County to be constructed or completed over the next 20+ years. We're required to demonstrate that funding exists, or will exist during that timeframe, to pay for each of those projects. As a result, we can’t include every project we’d like to see built or finished. As you keep hearing, funding for transportation is extremely limited right now. This means choices will have to be made and community priorities decided upon as to what projects make the cut and what will have to wait.

That's where we're looking for your input. We recently hosted a series of "Roundtable" discussions on six topics: Public Transit; Bicycling, Pedestrians and Health Issues; Transportation for Seniors and Veterans; Transportation for People with Disabilities or Transportation Barriers; Roads and Freight Movement; and Transportation for Young People.

We got a lot of input from the folks who attended those sessions. Some topics that came up at almost every roundtable include:

• Improved snow removal and snow storage options are needed.


• Cuts to public transit have presented challenges to transit users across the board, but particularly to the disabled, elderly, low income and those too young to have drivers’ licenses.

• Sidewalks need improvements such as fixing damaged sidewalks and filling in sidewalks where they don’t exist.

Summaries of the conversation and themes from each of those Roundtables are available on the Horizon 2040 webpage.

We asked the people at those listening sessions to fill out a survey on their transportation priorities for the region, but we want to make sure the results reflects the priorities of the larger public, so now we're asking you to take the survey too. You can take it here.

Please spread the word about the survey. We can’t accurately portray the community’s needs and priorities without their feedback.



National Walk To School Day Is This Wednesday

This Wednesday, Oct. 3 is National Walk to School Day (and ride your bike too), so what are you going to do to get your child to school that day without driving him or her?

The Walk To School Day Website has some ideas. And if you're a teacher, PTA (or whatever the Parent Teacher committees are called these days) member, or volunteer, it's also got some great ideas for events you can hold to mark the day. Let me know if you're doing anything at your school please.

North Spokane Corridor Hits Halfway Point

As you may already know, the Parksmith Road interchange on the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) opens to traffic tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 2 with a brief ceremony at 11 a.m. to mark the milestone. The event will be held on the Parksmith southbound freeway on-ramp (accesible from Market Street) and will feature a parade of classic cars. will be the first vehicles to use the new interchange.
What a lot of people don't know though is that the opening of the interchange marks the completion of  the first half NSC. Last month, the Francis to Farwell/Southbound Lanes project also wrapped up, resulting in 5.7 miles of the planned 10 ½ mile corridor open to traffic.

That means we’re only five miles away from linking the NSC with Interstate 90 and construction starts today at Francis, working toward the river. The Francis Avenue Bridge Replacement and Intersection Improvements is the first of six construction phases needed to complete the NSC between the Spokane River and Francis Avenue. The existing 160 foot-long Francis Avenue bridge will be removed and replaced by a new structure with a 450 foot span to provide room for the BNSF Railway and NSC facilities to pass underneath. During construction, a temporary route, with an at-grade railroad crossing, will be in place for Francis Avenue traffic. The new bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in 2014.



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.