Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pines Near I-90 To Be Closed Over Weekend

Southbound Pines Road will be fully closed near I-90 at the UPRR tracks and detoured on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2 & 3, from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. Union Pacific Railroad crews will be making improvements to the crossing there.

Prescription: More Bike Lanes. STAT

If an apple a day will keep the doctor away, what will a bunch of new bike lanes do? A group of physicians in Toronto are asking city council to speed up the installation of bike lanes throughout the city, using the slogan "Change lanes and save lives." The Torontoist has the story.

Bill Seeks To Repeal WA Helmet Law

Anyone have one of these they
want to part with?
I was just telling a friend that I need an Evel Knievel-style motorcycle helmet for my winter sledding exploits and how hard it is it find them. There could be a lot of helmets flooding area Goodwills though if a bill repealing the state helmet law is passed. The Washington State Senate Transportation Committee has a hearing on the proposal today.

While I'm skeptical that the bill will pass, motorcycle helmet laws across the nation have apparently been falling out of favor in recent years. The News Tribune has the pros and cons of repealing the helmet law.

Some New Hondas To Come With Siri

Like Siri in your Iphone? Well you may have her in your car soon. Honda says it will install Apple's Siri voice-activated telematics assistant into several of its 2013 models, so you can keep your hands on the wheel while Siri does the calling, texting and navigating.

Automotive News has the story.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Public Meeting For Stormwater Drainage Project

If you live or drive in the area of  Bettman Road and Dickey Street, you'll want to learn how your route is going to be disrupted initially, but improved in the long run, with a project to improve stormwater drainage this summer.

The City of Spokane Valley will host a community meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13, 6:30pm to 8:00 pm at Park Place Assisted Living, 511 S. Park Road to share information on the project. It calls for adding swales, installing underground pipe and structures, and possibly removing some privately-installed landscaping in the public right of way. The work is expected to begin during summer and may take between four and eight weeks to complete.

Want To Be First On Your Flight? You'll Pay For It

Want to board your flight early so you can be sure to get a seat with family or friends? You're going to pay for that. At least with Southwest Airlines anyway. While Southwest continues to let your bags fly free, they're also looking for other ways to make money through fees, just like other airlines. The company is now offering customers the opportunity to purchase a spot in the 'A' boarding group- for $40! Yikes, seems kind of expensive to me, but then it's never fun to get on the plane and have to choose among the last available seats that are usually not very desirable.

KBOI News/Talk has all the details.

WA Senator Cantwell Reflects On Work With LaHood

Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell worked closely for several years with Ray LaHood, who announced Monday he is stepping down as U.S. Transportation Secretary. That announcement led Cantwell to release a statement yesterday about her time with LaHood and "his record of making smart transportation investments that support economic growth” and how "... His commitment to this vision paved the way for the new Freight Policy Council that adopts the collaborative Washington state approach to freight mobility."

Transportation Issues Daily has Cantwell's whole statement and how she says LaHood has helped our state out in particular.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quit Playing With My Emotions Ray, Are You Staying Or Going??

Update: I reported last week that Ray LaHood would be staying on as U.S. Transportation Secretary 'indefinitely.' Well, apparently indefinitely only means two months or until his replacement is appointed. LaHood made the announcement yesterday that he would be leaving the position as soon as someone is appointed to take his place. Transportation Issues Daily looks back at his time as Secretary and how he won a lot of people over.

Senator Says Hitchhiking NOT Dangerous, But About Free Choice

Okay, so apparently we've had it wrong all these years. All those warning from my mom and teachers about how you'll end up dead in a ditch or raped if you hitchhike are bunk, according to a Wyoming senator who wants to make it legal to thumb a ride again.

Sen. Leland Christensen says hitchhiking is much safer today than it once was, you're much more likely to hurt yourself in a freak accident than be assaulted by a driver that picks you up, and that picking up hitchhikers was once even considered patriotic. He's also selling his bill as 'free choice' and 'neighbors helping neighbors.'

The Jackson Hole News has the story. What do you think?

Annual TV Station Pothole Campaign is Back

It was pointed out during yesterday's Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting that it's that time of year in Spokane when the roads can be really hard on our vehicles, and the annual 'Pothole Patrol' campaign and KREM 2 News is back up and running.

Each year the station asks viewers to report the biggest potholes they see and they will report them to the jurisdiction responsible, then follow up with those jurisdictions to see if they were repaired. How the program works is below, or you can go to the KREM Facebook page to report them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

City Partners With Kendall Yards To Keep Road Pollutants Out Of River

One of the 'buzzwords' gaining momentum in transportation in recent years has been 'public-private partnership' and Spokane has formed one of their own. The City is partnering with the Kendall Yards development to divert a portion water that runs off city streets, carrying pollution and toxins, from ending up in the Spokane River.  The Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column has the story.

Susnet Hill Today and In 1938

The Spokesman-Review has a cool 'then and now' photo in today's issue of the Sunset Highway in 1938 and then the same view today. They have it protected so I can 'steal' it to post here however, so you'll
have to go here to see it yourself.

There's also a brief history there of the Washington State Good Roads and Transportation Association (WSGRTA), which I didn't realize has been around since the very early 1900's. SRTC Board Member Joe Tortorelli is president of WSGRTA.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Music You Listen To Can Influence How Good Or Bad Of A Driver You Are

Can Elton Make You A
Better Driver?
Who would have thought it? New research says that which song you listen to can influence how safe a driver you are. And some of the safest artists to drive to are Elton John and Norah Jones. Their slower songs anyway. That's because, in a recent study, fast beats were found to cause excitement that caused drivers to speed up to match the beat of the song. And hip-hop made females drive more aggressively than normal.

So what are the 10 safest songs to drive to? You might be surprised. The Telegraph has the playlist you should download to be a safer driver.

Spokane Invades Olympia To Talk Transportation

A delegation of business and community leaders that went to Olympia for a day of advocacy this week are headed home today. SRTC's Executive Director, Kevin Wallace, was on that trip, although SRTC, being a government agency, doesn't take part in advocating for anything. Kevin's role was to educate on the needs of transportation in our area, and education was apparently a hot topic.

Greater Spokane Incorporated blogs about talks in Olypia involving the North Spokane Corridor and a possible state transportation revenue package.

LaHood Says He'll Stay On As Transportation Secretary 'Indefinitely'

This item may be a couple days old but it's breaking news to me; U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he will continue to fill the position for an indefinite period of time during Obama's second term. LaHood had originally said he wouldn't serve past Obama's first term and now he's being somewhat cagey, not saying how long he'll be around or why he's staying; if it was at the president's request or his own idea.

I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with LaHood for the visibility and transparency he brought to the field of transportation over the past four years so I say good for you Ray! Let's get some stuff done this term then we'll let you retire to go fishing or whatever it is you do when you're not at work. Although I suspect it's still something transportation-related, such as building model trains or flying remote control airplanes.

New Mothers Confess To Dangerous Driving

While they're otherwise protective of their children, a new survey finds that new mothers talk on the phone and text or check e-mail at an alarming rate while driving with their babies in the car. The data shows 78 percent(!) of mothers with children under age 2 acknowledge talking on the phone while driving with their babies and 26 percent say they text or check their e-mail. And that distracted driving doesn't even take into account how many times they say they have to turn around to deal with their baby in the back seat while driving.

So how do they come out when the number of crashes new moms have been in are compared to the general population of drivers? Not very good. AZCentral takes a look.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Police To Enforce Taxi Zone Parking Downtown

Spokane Police are starting to crack down on drivers other than cab drivers who park in "taxi zones" in downtown Spokane. Taxi Zones have been established around most nightclubs to allow intoxicated patrons to safety utilize taxi service. Ultimately, this will reduce drinking and driving, making our streets safer.

A lot of everyday drivers are taking advantage of the zones though, parking in them and preventing cabs from being available to the public. Partnering with local downtown businesses, Downtown Neighborhood Conditions Officers (NCO’s) will be increasing the enforcement of these parking zones. Parking in a Taxi Zone is a parking infraction with a fine of $30.00. The zones are also posted as immediate tow away zones, and officers can impound unauthorized vehicles.

Irish Council Asks For Permit To Drive Drunk

Would you pay for a license to drive drunk? Some small-town politicians think Irish farmers would. Councilmen in a southwest Ireland town passed a motion asking the government to create a permit that would allow isolated farmers the ability to drink a few pints and then return home in their car, or on their tractor, without fear of being busted. KHQ News has the story.

Two Local Schools Join No-Idle Zone Program

With the recent weather inversion and so many kids these days having asthma, a lot more people are thinking about the positive aspects of clean air. Two local schools have recently joined the 'No-Idle Zone' program.

Libby Center and Moran Prairie Elementary are now taking part in the program, which provides No-Idle Zone signs to post near trouble spots, which typically at schools are near student pick-up areas. The signs ask drivers to turn off their cars in those areas instead of letting them idle, and accompanying educational information is sent home to parents and activities are available to teach kids about air pollution in the classroom.

If you're interested in your child's school being in the program, check out Spokane Clean Air Agency's newsletter here. The No-Idle info is on the third page.

Flaming Cheese Closes Norway Road Tunnel.

I can NOT even believe that a news agency would put an article like this out there and not accompany it with a picture! A road tunnel in Norway is shut down for several weeks- due to flaming cheese. Yep, you read that right. A truckload of goat cheese caught fire and burned for four days when gases from the melting cheese hindered fire fighting efforts. I say throw some chips at it and let the locals eat the problem. Anyway,
here's the article from the Washington Post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Supports Gas Tax Increase

Washington State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom yesterday lent support to the proposed state gas tax increase. He said he would support an increase to fund road projects and that, "If you want new roads, you pay for new roads. There's a direct nexus there."

He singled out transportation and education as two areas that we need to focus on. The Olympian has the story.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January SRTC Newsletter Now Available

SRTC's quarterly newsletter for January is now available. It's got everything in it that we've been working on for the past several months, and a lot of stuff that's coming up. You can check it out here.


Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting Next Monday

The January Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) monthly meeting is next Monday, January 28.
Here's the agenda and packet for the meeting. Look through it and feel free to attend if anything looks interesting to you. The TAC is a citizen's group charged with giving input to the SRTC Board on our activities. It's a pretty interesting group and our meetings are pretty lively most of the time. Plus we have three new members starting next week who I think will bring a nice dynamic to the group.

New Service Lets You Text Parked Car Owners

Ever left a nasty note on someone's windshield because they parked so poorly that they took more than one spot? Or have you ever wanted to alert someone that there car is about to be towed cause they didn't pay the meter? San Francisco drivers can now alert each other to parking issues through a program called CurbTXT. Drivers sign up by registering their license plates and phone numbers. A sticker on the car gives people an anonymous way to contact the driver through text messaging by referencing the plate number. The service forwards the message to the owner.

There is, of course, some issues to work out. Here's more from CNET.

The Least and Most Expensive Vehicles To Insure

I've got a friend who's been eyeing a luxury car for a while now and, with the economy the way it is, she thinks she can finally afford it this year as the company is offering all kinds of deals and incentives. At least she thought she could until I brought up what it costs to insure luxury cars (way to be Debbie Downer huh?).

An annual study by says the Ford Edge SE is the cheapest 2013 model year car to insure, while Mercedes-Benz is the most expensive. You folks driving Jeep Cherokees and Subaru Outbacks will also be happy to know you're on the cheap end, while Porsche and Jaguar drivers are shelling out the big bucks. They can afford it though, I'm assuming. So where does your car fit in?Here are the survey results.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lots of Area Transportation Activities Happening This Week

Demand is so high that Spokane Transit Authority is adding new buses to the morning commute headed to Cheney and Eastern Washington University. The wrangling over a potential increase in coal trains through our area heats up even more. A portion of Spokane Falls Boulevard remains closed due to an unfinished construction job. And STA is offering surplus van pool vehicles to nonprofit agencies. The Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column has all the area transportation activities for this week.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Walking School Buses- Ever Heard of One?

I've been saddled with watching some friend's kids for a week while they go on vacation. I have no children of my own and don't have any plans to so this has been somewhat of a culture shock for me. And apparently the way things are done has changed a lot since I was a kid. For instance, the 10-year-old I'm watching was extremely indignant when I suggested we walk to the bus stop this morning instead of drive. For the love of Pete, it's two blocks! But her mother drives her every day so it was like I had suggested she crawl there on her knees.

So it was fitting that I attend a training session put on by the Spokane Regional Health District on 'walking school buses,' or 'WSBs.' What's a walking school bus? A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. If that sounds simple, it is, and that’s part of the beauty of the walking school bus. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school to as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.

So why do we need to be trained in order to start one? Because there are a lot of questions parents have about safety and other issues, as well as some perceived barriers. For instance, the instructor, Robert Johnson of PedNet (a coalition out of Missouri devoted to building healthy and active communities) showed a picture of a bicycling class he taught at this time last year. The kids in the pictures were wearing jeans and long sleeve shirts but no hats, gloves or coats! His point was that parents don't dress their kids for the cold anymore these days so they think their kids can't walk to school when it's cold outside. But ask a kid if he wants to go out and play and invariably they'll be excited no matter what the weather.

Johnson also pointed out that crime hasn't increased, just the coverage of it. So a lot of parents are worried about aductions when your child actually only has a .000133% chance of being abducted by a stranger. Even so, Johnson said that's one statistic that often doesn't sway parents. The dichotomy is that, while parents are charged with raising healthy, independent members of the community, the common perception is they're bad parents if they let their children out of their sight.

The walking school bus is an intermediate solution though because the children walk as a group and with at least one adult. He said that most kids who start out walking with a WSB move up to walking to school on their own in the next few years.

One big argument against the walking school bus that many people use is that they live too far from the school. Johnson's answer is that you can drop them off at a 'bus stop' within a mile of the school and they can join a WSB there. On the extreme side of that, Johnson cited a school in Missouri where the traffic from parents taking their kids to school is so bad that kids are now prohibitted from walking or riding their bikes to school. What's crazy about that is that the kids that live across the street from the school now have to ride the bus for 45 minutes to get dropped off across the street from their house.

Johnson cited some statistics about how kids who get exercise daily do better in school and have fewer behaviorial problems. He then went into lots of details about how to start a walking school bus. So if you're interested, check this link out. And if you want to go even further, let me know and I'll hook you up with people who can help.


Big Jump In Car Sales In 2012

We keep hearing that the economy is getting better but many of us haven't seen any signs that is actually happening. Well, now the auto industry says things are definitely picking up for them, with sales of new cars and trucks rising 13 percent to 14.5 million in 2012. And if they climb much beyond that, they'll be closing in on a high set in 2005.

So why the increase in car sales? DailyFinance looks at the reasons.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Couple Items From The City of Spokane

  • The City of Spokane will host an open house for the project to rehabilitate Rockwood Blvd. from Cowley St. to Southeast Blvd. under the 10-Year Street Bond on Tuesday, Jan. 22, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Hutton Elementary School, 908 E. 24th Ave.
  • On Monday, Jan. 21, the Spokane Community will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The annual rally will begin at 10 a.m. in the breezeway at the Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. Following the Rally, a Unity March through downtown Spokane will start on Bernard St. then onto Main Ave. ending at River Park Square. Please drive with caution while the March is taking place.

Economist Looks At Demographics In Relation To Transportation

In fall of 2012, SRTC partnered with the Spokane Regional Health District to bring urban economist Dena Belzer to Spokane to look at the possibility of implementing urban corridors in our area, roadways that can accomodate more services, businesses and restaurants, as well as offer housing nearby and public transit for residents and employees to get in and out of the area.
Belzer took a good look at the relationship between transportation and economic development while here, and came up with some insights that might surprise you. A reporter from The Inlander attended one of the events featuring Belzer and wrote this article.

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Agenda

Next Wednesday is the next meeting of the Transportation Technical Committee, the first of the year. The agenda is here. Check it out and if anything jumps out at you, feel free to attend. As always, all of SRTC's Board and committee meetings are open to the public, and there's a public comment item on the agenda so you can let us know if there's something on your mind. The meeting is 1:30 p.m. January 23 at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310, Spokane.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Former TAC Member Featured on Comcast Segment

Barb Chamberlain used to be a member of our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and a big bicycling advocate here in Spokane. Until she moved to the west side of the state last year to take over as Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

The show "Comcast Newsmakers" checks in with her on how it's going. The video below and a transcript is on the Down to Earth NW blog.

Study Shows Safe Routes to School Program Working In NY

The national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program was funded by Congress in 2005 in an effort to create safe environments for children to walk or bike to school. Spokane Regional Health District has a Safe Routes to School coordinator and SRTC has participated in SRTS efforts in the past. So is the program working? A new study says it does, at least in New York where it evaluated the program. In fact, the drop in injuries to school-age pedestrians fell significantly in neighborhoods where the program was implemented.
Science Daily looks at the data.

Other Govt. Offices Closed Monday; SRTC Open

This is your heads up that this is a long holiday weekend coming up. Most government offices will be closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. And when I say "most," I mean every agency but SRTC. Many, many years ago, before I started working here, SRTC staff voted to use MLK Jr. Day and Presidents Day as 'floating' holidays. That means the office stays open but staff has the option of taking the day off or using that day off any other time during the year.

So SRTC will be open, but I personally will have the day off, so there will be no blogging. That resumes on Tuesday.

A couple other notes: parking meters don't have to be plugged on Monday and the Spokane City Council Meeting has been cancelled for that night due to lack of a quorum.

We Made The Bicycle Alliance Blog List!

If you enjoy this blog, chances are you're a transportation junkie of some sort. Well then, you should check out the Bicycle Alliance of Washington's list of bike blogs in Washington State. Not a rider? Don't worry, many of them are like this blog; they tackle other transportation issues in addition to bicycling.

As the Alliance folks say, "By “bike blog” we mean bloggers who either focus entirely on biking, cover bike stuff on a fairly regular basis, or ride a bike and may occasionally talk about it because it’s a part of their lives."

So check out the list here, you might find some new reading material that interests you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hope You've Got Some Time On Your Hands

Okay, this is crazy! It's a blog post from Greater Greater Washington about an intersection in the Washington, D.C. area that takes 8 1/2 minutes to cross legally to the other side of the road. And in the course of that crossing, you traverse 28(!!) lanes! No wonder two pedestrians were severely injured crossing the street there last week. Here's the story.

Spokane Bike Swap Needs Your Sponsorship

Yes it's January and yes, there is snow on the ground but it's not too early to think about riding your bike. In fact, I've seen several people who haven't let the weather stop them from riding. The 2nd Annual Spokane Bike Swap will be here soon, on April 13 and 14, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

The Spokane County Commute Trip Reduction program Office is partnering with the Friends of the Centennial Trail (FCT) to host the event and needs sponsors to ensure the success of the Bike Swap. If you're owner or work for a business that supports cycling and would like a little community exposure, there are several sponsorship levels including Title, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze that range from $250 - $5,000. Each level offers marketing exposure while emphasizing your business’ community involvement and support.

Last year the Swap had over 2,000 adults attend and they're hoping to double attendance this year! For more information go to

Monday, January 14, 2013

SRTMC Website Can Save You Time In Winter Conditions

Thanks to Eric at Spokane's City Cable 5 for putting together the great video below.

Don't take chances. Winter driving can be ugly. Check the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) website before hitting the roads each day to check that your route is safe and clear, or if there isn't a better route to take.

Roundup Of Transportation Happenings

A long-awaited improvement to US195 in southwest Spokane gets underway this week; the City of Spokane announces plans to dig up Monroe Street north of the river in an effort to reduce stormwater flowing into the river; and new live traffic cameras are watching traffic on Division Street and US 2 and 195.
The Spokesman-Review's Getting There column has a roundup of local transportation happenings.

Gas Prices Dip Below $3 Some Places

Well, I wasn't completely sure I'd ever see this again, but $2.99 gas I did see a couple times this weekend around town. Despite that low price, the AAA auto club reports the average price of a gallon of gas in Washington is $3.38.

That’s down 2 cents in a week, but the same prices as a month ago. It’s 8 cents higher than the national average. The average prices in Spokane is closer to $3.06 though.

As usual, Bellingham has the highest average in the state at $3.50.

Governor-Elect Talks Transportation To Media

At a media briefing late last week, Governor-elect Jay Inslee touched on a couple of transportation issues, including coal trains and the need for a transportation package that would ask voters to approve new revenue for  major transportation needs. Here are the details from The Columbian newspaper.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Couple Of Area WSDOT Updates

  • SR 27-Pines Road/UPRR Crosssing near I-90- Possible daytime southbound lane restrictions from Wednesday, January 16 through Wednesday January 23 for railroad crossing improvements. There may also be a period where southbound Pines Road is detoured.
  • US 395/Vicinity of Little Spokane River-Dartford Drive-Rock Slope Stabilization- Dartford Drive will be closed from Mill Road to Wandermere Road. Drivers will need to use Mill Road. (This portion of Dartford is already closed as a part of Spokane County’s Little Spokane River Bridge project.) Drivers on Wandermere Road may see some shoulder restrictions. No US 395 or NSC traffic impacts.

City Wants Trade Winds Property To Build Gateway

The city of Spokane is talking with the owners of the old Trade Winds Motor Inn just off I-90 in downtown Spokane about a possible property swap, with the intention of tearing down the motel to create a more appealing entrance to the city center.

City officials say the motel has a negative visual impact on travelers entering the city from the Lincoln freeway exit; one of  several eyesore locations the city wants to spruce up,
Here's the history on the hotel and the City's full plan of what they'd like to do with the property. And be sure to read the comments following the story; well worth your time.

Pedestrian Killed On Highway 2

Here's something I hadn't heard about until just now; according to the Spokesman-Review, a pedestrian apparently under the influence of alcohol was killed Tuesday night after being struck by a vehicle in Mead.

Dorothy J. Ryan, 47, of Spokane was walking in the northbound lane of Highway 2 at 8:20 p.m. when she was hit by 2002 Ford Focus driven by Sara M. Babcock, 20, of Chattaroy. A news release from the WSP said Ryan was drunk. She was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, the release said.

The accident is under investigation. No charges have been filed.

Commission Wants To Study 'Pay As You Go' Idea

The conversation has been happening on and off for several years now; move away from gas taxes to a system of charging drivers by the mile to use state highways and roads. The idea is appearing to gain traction now though; the Washington State Transportation Commission is requesting money for a study on the possible funding source. The Seattle Times has more on the idea and why some think it's necessary.

SRTC Board member Joe Tortorelli is a member of the Transportation Commission.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Browne's Addition Plowing Moved Up To Beat Freeze

With warm, windy weather melting snow, the City of Spokane is changing its approach to plowing in Browne’s Addition. Crews are plowing the center of streets, where possible, to remove as much slush, snow and ice as possible this afternoon and evening before it freezes. Crews anticipate only small berms as a result of this plowing.
Citizens won’t be expected to move cars for this work. Not all streets may be plowed because the streets are narrow.

New Tool Assigns Economic Values to Ecosystem

The Puget Sound Regional Council is roughly the equivalent agency to SRTC for the Puget Sound area. Their Growth Management Policy Board heard a very interesting presentation last week on
the possibility of putting a monetary value on nature to be able to make better regional policy, planning and economic development decisions.

Earth Economics, a Tacoma-based nonprofit, has designed a valuation tool to assign economic values to services provided by an ecosystem. These services can include tourism, clean water, flood control, food, and more.

So the question was posed to me, how could that factor into the economic value assesment of transportation projects? While I try to wrap my head around that, you can watch the video of the discussion.

Highest/Lowest Gas Prices In Country

I saw a friend on Facebook post about how she got gas for below $3 per gallon, and she was pretty excited about it. Another friend posted that he got it for $2.85 somewhere in Coeur d'Alene. Although that's not the state average, it seemed really low, so I started wondering, is that the cheapest gas in the country? Turns out, no it's not. Utah has that claim to fame. reports that the AAA of Utah lists the average price for regular, self-serve gas at $2.80 per gallon.

That's down a cent from last month, but still 22 cents higher than this time last year. Wyoming comes in second with a statewide average of $2.91 a gallon. The national average for gas is $3.09 per gallon.

Hawaii has the highest prices in the country, at $3.69 per gallon.

Device Tracks Your Lost Luggage

Trakdot locates missing luggageSo it's not unusual for an airline to lose your luggage when you're travelling right? Especially if you have a layover and you make your next flight but your bags don't. A new device can help with this situation. The Trakdot is a tracking device that's about the size of a deck of cards and powered by AA batteries. You throw it in your suitcase, and when the bag doesn't show up on the carousel at the airport, you can check its' location via an app, text message or email.

So in theory that's a great idea. The one flaw I see though is on the airline's end; are they going to take the word of some device you claim is in your luggage as to the location of your suitcase, and are they going to be motivated to actually check that location. It's worth a try though. The LA Times has the details.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Browne's Addtion Plowing Thursday & Friday

The City of Spokane will plow the streets of Browne’s Addition on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 10 and 11, starting at 8:30 a.m. each day.
Cars must be moved from the north-south streets on Thursday, and from the east-west streets on Friday in order to give the plows room to get through the narrow streets. Vehicles parked in those areas my be towed. If your vehicle is towed, call 625-4100.

Several Transportation Items On City's 2013 Legislative Agenda

The City of Spokane City Council last night approved the 2013 legislative agenda, the list of priorities that the City uses to lobby the state legislature. The list includes several transportation items, such as supporting
efforts to fund completion of the North South Corridor, fund the regional transportation system’s operation and maintenance, support improvements to the Medical Lake interchange and more.

Here's the entire list, from Councilmember Jon Snyder's blog.

Rule Proposed Saying Electric Vehicles Need To Be Louder

The so-called quiet-car rule would save an estimated 35 lives over each model year of hybrid vehicles and prevent 2,800 injuries, a federal agency says.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants cars to be louder. Well, just electric cars. The NHTSA is proposing a law that would require electric cars to make a detectable sound when travelling less than 18 miles per hour so they can be heard by bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Seattle Times has the details on the so called 'Quiet-Car Rule.'

Toyota Had Most Vehicle Recalls In 2012

For the third time in four years, Toyota Motor Corp. recalled more vehicles than any other automaker operating in the U.S. market during 2012. Toyota’s various safety-related service actions involved a total of 5.3 million cars, trucks and crossovers last year, nearly half of those in a single recall involving potential vehicle fires. Here's a look at some of Toyota's problems in the past year.


City & Valley Snow Removal Updates

City of Spokane snow removal crews made good progress overnight under the Stage 2 Snow Event declared yesterday. They have completed the residential hill routes and are moving into other residential areas this morning. They will work 24 hours a day until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas.
The City has about 68 pieces of snow removal equipment out, including private contractors. Crews currently are working in Routes 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the South Side and in 10, 11, 12, and 13 on the North Side. To see the residential routes, go to the City’s residential plow map. The next routes scheduled are 5 and 6 to the south and 9 and 7 to the north.

Cul-de-sacs are plowed by separate teams that include either backhoes or loaders; cul-de-sacs may not be plowed at the same time as the rest of a street. Cul-de-sac teams are working on both the north and south sides today.

Citizens should be parked on the even side of the street in all residential areas by now.

Spokane Valley crews continued plowing and clearing slush from primary and secondary arterials and hillside areas last night and into this morning. They are coordinating with the Spokane Valley police department to address problem areas.

Monday, January 7, 2013

City of Spokane Launches Texting Service For Parking Restrictions

The City of Spokane is launching a texting service to let the public know about parking restrictions that are in place as part of snow removal efforts. This is a pilot project designed to test the interest and effectiveness of such a service.
To sign up for this service, just send a text to (509) 385-5775. Text the word “Brownes” to that number if you live in Browne’s Addition, the word “Hills” if you live along an arterial or in a residential hill route—those numbered 20 and above on our residential plow route map- and the word “Parking” if you live outside of these areas.
I just did the general 'Parking' one and am waiting to see if I get any texts today.

City of Spokane Upgrades To Stage 2 Snow Condition

The City of Spokane has just announced they're upgrading the snow declaration to a Stage 2 Snow Condition, which 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. The City is calling in private contract graders to help with the snow removal effort.

The City has about 50 plows, sanders, de-icers, and graders out working to improve driving conditions now. City crews currently are working in arterials and in residential hill routes 22, 23, and 24—essentially Indian Trail, Five Mile, and the Eagle Ridge area. They are using teams of plows and graders in the residential areas. Crews will leave berms at the end of driveways in the residential areas.
By 11 a.m. today, parked vehicles need to be moved off the arterial streets and STA fixed bus routes. By 6 p.m., vehicles should be parked on the even side of the street in residential hill routes. Parking also is restricted downtown between 2 and 6 a.m. during Stage 2 Snow Emergencies to assist with plowing there.

Public Transit Incentives Included In Fiscal Cliff Bill

Thanks to Paul for sending this article to me. You've most likely heard about all the big stuff in the fiscal cliff bill that finally passed last week, but Congress also managed to include all sorts of corporate tax breaks and other provisions in the final bill, covering everything from electric scooters to NASCAR racetracks and incentives for commuting via public tranist. 
So here are ten of the more curious tax provisions in the fiscal cliff bill. Number ten itself is the one I want you to pay attention to but if you feel you must read through the first nine I'm okay with that too.

Projects Sought For Federal Transit Administration Funding

So listen up out there any of you folks reading this that work for social service agencies; SRTC is issuing a call for projects for public transit transportation programs. Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is the designated recipient for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Section 5310 Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities, Section 5316 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and Section 5317 New Freedom funding for the Spokane Urbanized Area (UZA). As the Metropolitan Planning Orgnanization for Spokane County, SRTC is responsible for developing and administering the competitive grants process to award those funds.

You don't have to be a transportation agency to apply for money from any of those programs though. Any agency that provides transportation (such as community centers that provide rides to the center, etc.) may be eligible. Your project just has to fit the following criteria:
This Call for Projects will determine the final list of projects for these sources of funding. For more information or an application, go to

Jurisdictions Working To Move Snow

As of 6 a.m. this morning, the City of Spokane has declared a Stage 1 Snow Condition. The City has plows, sanders, de-icers, and graders out working to improve driving conditions. Snow may change to rain later this morning, and the City will continue to monitor conditions and make changes to snow removal efforts as needed.

A Stage 1 Snow declaration means that City snow removal crews will work 24 hours a day to plow all arterials, STA fixed bus routes, and all streets in the City’s residential hill routes.
Cars must be moved from all arterials and STA fixed bus routes within 6 hours, or by 11 a.m. today, Monday, Jan. 7, and on the even side of the street in the residential hill areas by 6 p.m. tonight.

Crews in Spokane Valley deiced primary and secondary arterials and hills last night and are plowing today.

They will continue monitoring conditions to respond as needed, and will coordinate with the Spokane Valley police department to address problem areas.

Spokane County crews have been working since last night to plow 2,500 miles of road and will continue to work in 12-hour shifts, using 90 pieces of equipment (de-icing and sanding trucks, plows and graders) until roads are clear and conditions improve.

This morning, crews are working to keep Priority 1 roads (emergency routes and primary arterials) clear, while trying to make progress on Priority 2 and 3 roads (secondary arterials, hilly residential, flat residential). County crews have also been sanding and de-icing hills and intersections to the north and south where higher elevations receive more snow.

Friday, January 4, 2013

January SRTC Board Agenda

Next Thursday is the monthly SRTC Board meeting. Which means the
agenda and packet for the meeting are available now. On the agenda in January? Two separate 'Calls for Projects' for available funding through a couple different programs and a somewhat eye-opening presentation by our Executive Director on Horizon 2040; the long term transportation plan we're working on right now.

Board meetings are always open to the public so attend if you can.

Hundreds of Thousands of Subarus Recalled Due To Fire Danger

Because everyone and their dog pretty much drives a Subaru around here, you should probably know about this recall. Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because lights beneath the doors can overheat and catch fire. Yikes, that could be bad.
So check this out if you own a Subaru. The recall covers several models and years.

Plenty of Pedestrians; Not Enough Sidewalks

I hear people complain often about how we need more sidewalks in our region. True enough; there are gaps in many areas of our sidewalk system and some existing sidewalks are cracked and broken. Mumbai, India has the the same complaint, only for a different reason. They have plenty of pedestrians and not enough sidewalks.

There are approximately 15 million walking trips around Mumbai EVERY DAY. That's because the majority of the households there earn less than $100 a month, making walking the sole means of travel.

For all the pedestrians though, there's little pedestrian infrastructure. In fact, a walkability index for Indian cities scored a ridiculously low average. The Atlantic Cities takes a look at just how bad things are and how a handful of walking advocates are working to change conditions.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

STA Experiences Record Ridership

Congratulations to Spokane Transit Authority! STA broke their record for ridership in 2012,  providing over 11 million rides on fixed-route buses. What's impressive about this though is that this record comes just one year after a servicre reduction that many felt would have a lasting effect on the system's ridership numbers. Here's the press release from STA and some other impressive numbers they wracked up last year.

Five New Republicans Join WA State House Transportation Committee

I blogged last week about the new Democratic members of the Washington State House Transportation Committee. Well now, it’s the Republican's turn. The committee will have five new Republican members and nine returning members when the Legislature convenes on January 14. Transportation Issues Daily looks at the makeup of the group.

Ignition Interlock Devices Now Come With Cameras In WA

Whoa- I hadn't heard about this before; starting yesterday, law enforcement is getting even more serious about preventing driving under the influence. All new ignition interlock devices installed in vehicles of people convicted of DUIs will also feature a camera.
Ignition interlock devices require a clean breath sample before allowing a car to start.The point of the cameras is to keep a sober passenger or child from blowing into the device in order to get it started for the person who has been drinking. The Yakima Herald has more.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 25 Cities For Bicycling Named

The website "Walk Score" recently announced its top 25 cities for bicycling and there were some surprises this year.  And yes, there is a Washington city in the top 15.

The cities are scored on four factors: bike lanes, hills, destinations and road connectivity, and bike commuting mode share. Here's the top ranking cities.

Could Budget Negotiations Ruin Promising Year For Transit?

2013 looks to be a good year for public transit. Roughly $64.3 billion in transit expansion projects will begin construction this year alone. However, the next stage of budget negotiations following the New Year’s Eve “fiscal cliff” drama could have a major dampening effect. Streetsblog shows how the New Starts program that funds major transit projects could lose funding.

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.