Tuesday, December 30, 2014

America's Best New Bike Lanes of 2014

It's the end of the year, so you know what that means. It's time for a countdown. So without further ado, I present to you America's 10 Best New Bike Lanes of 2014.

As "People for Bikes" rounds up their favorites of the past year, they point out that the nice bike lanes are no longer just concentrated in a few cities. And some of the ones on the list are in cities you really wouldn't expect to have great bicycling infrastructure. Three of the lanes mentioned are in northwest cities. Also worth noting, in 2014 protected bike lanes grew twice as fast as in 2013.

More Holiday Closures For This Week

So it's that weird stretch between the holidays when you're never sure which government offices are
open and which aren't. Well here's what's happening locally this week:

  • All government offices (including SRTC) will be closed Thursday, Jan. 1 for the New Year's Day Holiday
  • Spokane City Hall will be closed at noon on Wednesday, Dec. 31, and all day Thursday, Jan.1.
  • Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Jan. 1.  

IPads Are Replacing Waiters At Airport Restaurants

You need to kill time in the airport so how do you go about it? Often you find a restaurant and get a
drink or something to eat. At many airports, you will soon be doing your ordering and paying through an IPad rather than a waiter. Then, while you wait for your order to arrive, you can kill more time surfing the web on the IPad.

It's all part of a movement towards improving airport services and updating facilities.
DigitalTrends has more on this movement.

Monday, December 29, 2014

WSDOT Suggests Safety Improvements to Highway 2

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has some ideas to make the stretch of U.S. Highway 2 from Mt. Spokane Park Drive north to Day-Mt. Spokane Road safer.

Development in that area has increased the amount of traffic and the number of accidents. Some suggested improvements include a roundabout, flashing lights, bike lanes, narrower lanes, speed reductions and more.

Here's more on this project and a timeline for it.

Six Things Learned From Riding In A Self-Driving Car

Most people are familiar with the cartoonist The Oatmeal by now. I was given his book "How to Tell if Your Cat is Trying to Kill You" for Christmas. And it was an eye opener, let me tell you. Another eye opener was his serious, yet funny, take on self-driving cars. The cartoonist got the chance to try one out recently and did a blog post about it.

While I'm used to The Oatmeal's content being snarky most of the time, he took this opportunity to point out some things about self-driving cars that many people haven't realized. Such as the huge opportunities they will present to elderly people and those with disabilities.

He also calls the cars "Skynet Marshmallow Bumper Bots" and shares some theories on why they're so darn cute.

Here's the full article, from The Oatmeal.

Drilling Under Seattle Suspected of Causing Building Damage

Bertha can't get a break. From spending overruns to climate change, Bertha's being blamed for it.

Bertha is the giant drill that has been parked under Seattle for almost a year now. It was brought in to drill a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct so traffic can go under the city, instead of across it's scenic waterfront on a crumbling, aging structure.

Trouble is, Bertha broke down almost a year ago and efforts to fix her have been fraught with problems. In the meantime, there have been outcries about the expense, the delay, and now the cracks caused by the drill. Bertha is being blamed for damage to the foundation of several historic buildings in Pioneer Square. And for the viaduct sinking. No big deal right?

Well, here's the story from the Spokesman-Review.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

More Vehicles Being Deemed "Safer" by The Institute for Highway Safety

Despite stricter requirements, more vehicles are earning top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In 2014, 71 vehicles earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick awards compared to 39 last year.

The Insurance Institute, a private group financed by auto insurers, puts vehicles through various crash tests to measure how well they protect occupants. So which cars are getting these awards?
Here's a report on it.

Amtrak Back To Normal Schedule Starting In January

A while back, I posted an article on how Amtrak trains have been regularly running late because
they're getting bumped from the tracks by an increase in other kinds of trains. Because Amtrak contracts with the railroads for rail space, they kind of have to take what they can get, when they can get it.

Today, I was forwarded a news release from Amtrak that says they will resume operating the passenger train Empire Builder on it's regular schedule starting January 12 and that Burlington Norther-Santa Fee is doing $1 billion in construction that will add capacity on the tracks and improve future service for all trains using the rails. The release also says BNSF is committed to work to improve the performance of the Empire Builder from here on out. Ok, so we'll see how that goes.

If you're willing to give it a try, here's the link where you can check out Amtrak routes and buy tickets.

Taiwan To Ban Smoking While Driving

It's the original distracted driving, but drivers caught smoking while on busy roads in Taiwan will start being fined in 2015. While the act of lighting up and actually holding the cigarette while driving can take your concentration off the road and your hands off the wheel, it was pedestrians that lawmakers were worried about.

Because many people in Taiwan get around by scooter, and smoke while doing so, there had been many complaints of people nearby having ash blown into their eyes.

So how much will offenders have to pay for potentially blinding an innocent bystander? The China Post has the answer, and it's kind of ludicrous.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A History of Spokane's Streetcars

In the course of his research for Spokane Transit's Central City Line, the Spokesman-Review's Nick Deshais turned up a LOT of information on the history of Spokane's streetcars. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't use this cool stuff in his everyday reporting. But fortunately for us, he made a lot of it into a blog post instead.

So if you ever wondered how streetcars got their start in Spokane, and what happened to them, plus why a form of them is back again, check out the Getting There blog here.

Editorial Board Says To Look Beyond The Gas Tax For Transportation Funding

An editorial in today's Spokesman-Review lauds Governor Jay Inslee for his proposal on taxing industrial polluters to pay for transportation. While the Editorial Board says states they don't feel the proposal is a good solution, they do say it at least moves discussion of the state's transportation needs beyond reliance on the gas tax.

They also talk about Washington Treasurer James McIntire's suggestion of dedicating half of gas tax revenues to bond financing for the most urgent projects and the rest to street and ferry system upkeep. But they don't like that idea much either. So what's their suggestion Find out here.

Cast Your Vote For The Best and Worst In Transportation In 2014

Have an opinion about the state of transportation and the milestones, and low points, we hit in 2014? Streetsblog is asking for you to weigh in for their annual Streetsie Awards.

There are questions on all kinds of topics, from which cities to honor for their transportation efforts to the best election outcomes in 2014 and the "worst highway boondoggle" (guess what- Seattle's chunnel is one of the options).

So get voting! You only have until Dec. 28, then results will be posted after the new year. It's cool though, because you can see how many votes each option has gotten already.
Here's the link.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Closures

Apparently safety DOES take a holiday.
You know that all area government offices are closed on Christmas, this Thursday, December 25. But did you know that Spokane County and Spokane Valley offices will also be closed the day after, Friday, December 26?

The City of Spokane and SRTC will be open the day after Christmas so feel free to call with your transportation questions. The City of Spokane will close at noon on Christmas Eve though.

Also, Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Thursday, Dec. 25

Millennials May Be In the Cities, But Numbers Say That The Jobs Aren't

Here's something I hadn't thought of- if you pay any attention to transportation, community development or economic development issues, you've been hearing over and over lately that more and more young people are moving to the heart of the city to live where they can be part of the action and not need a car. The problem? This article from Salon says, while the millennials may be in the cities, the jobs aren't.

 New statistics show that, in all but nine of the largest 100 U.S. metro areas, the share of employment located downtown declined during the first decade of the millennium. So where are the jobs going? And will they come back? Read the article.

Spokane International Losing Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines is leaving Spokane, a local paving project received an award and the local office of the Washington State Department of Transportation has made a major contribution to area food banks.

The Spokesman-Review's Getting There column has a roundup of local transportation items.

Friday, December 19, 2014

California Bucking Trend of Declining Traffic

You know how everyone (including SRTC) keeps talking about how the amount of driving is dropping? Well one state is bucking the trend. California’s highways are experiencing record traffic.

Drivers traveled about 185 billion miles on state highways from December 2013 through November 2014, up almost 5 billion miles, or 2.6 percent, from the prior year, according to estimates from the California Department of Transportation.

So, while the rest of the country is driving less, why are Californians driving more? The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the situation.

STA's Board Agrees To Send Tax Increase Proposal to Voters

It took four hours to get it done, but members of the Spokane Transit Board yesterday voted to send STA's Central City Line project to voters in the spring.

The project would cost $300 million and includes a sales tax increase of 0.3 percent to fund the plan that would extend hours, expand service to new areas, and fund a trolley-like route between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College.

For a while it wasn't clear what the outcome would be, as discussion among board members turned contentious at points.

There were also decisions made yesterday regarding an overhaul to the downtown STA Plaza.

Here's the Spokesman-Review's take on the meeting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Melting AK Permafrost Causing Major Infrastructure Issues

Alaska house sinking due to melting permafrost.
This article from KNBA out of Alaska is really interesting. In Alaska, infrastructure such as bridges, roads, buildings and runways have been built on permafrost- soil that became frozen from hundreds to thousands of years ago and remains frozen year-round.

Fairbanks used to have winters that stayed below zero degrees for months at a time. Reportedly due to climate change, the winters are much warmer now. And that's thawing out the permafrost. Which is playing havoc with transportation facilities such as roads. And costing a lot of money in maintenance and preservation.

Check out the full story at the link above.

10 Worst Transportation Safety Campaigns

We've seen some transportation safety campaigns in our area in recent years, such as Stickman Knows, which was a good campaign with a solid message about bicycle and pedestrian safety and clear messages about the rules of the road. Some of the campaigns in Jalopnik's "10 Worst Transportation Safety Campaigns Ever"- well- not so much.

For instance, crotches kill. Uh, okay, if you say so.

Then there's "Do It On The Bus." Come on, let's not give anyone any ideas.

And then there's this. I just don't even know what to say about it. It gets good- er, bad- at about 40 seconds in.

Want to see the other seven bad campaigns? Check them out here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Complete Streets Engineer and Intern Struck by Bus

In an sad twist of irony, the engineer in charge of Columbus, Ohio’s complete streets program has been seriously injured when struck by a bus and his intern killed.

The pair were walking in downtown Columbus Friday when a truck ran a red light and smashed into a school bus which went up onto the sidewalk and hit the two.

Streetsblog USA has the story.

Editorial Calls For Scaling Back Spokane Transit's Central City Line

Spokane Transit Authority directors vote tomorrow (Thursday) on a plan aimed at boosting
revenue and service throughout Spokane County by 30 percent and launching a new central city line that would shuttle passengers from Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community College.

Most of the funding to implement it would come from federal and state grants.To help cover all of the projected $160 million though, the local sales tax would be raised 0.3 percent, or 3 cents per $10 purchase.

An editorial in today's Spokesman-Review says the plan is too ambitious and a scaled-down plan and smaller tax increase should be undertaken first. While the piece credits much of the plan for being needed additions to the transit system, it names the downtown STA Plaza as the plans' weakest link and says, "Some (people), unfortunately, also pursue a life around the Plaza that has little or nothing to do with transportation."

You can read the entire editorial here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Millions Are Spent Every Year to Paint Bridges

Painting your house is a relatively quick, inexpensive upgrade you can make that has a huge impact on how it looks. Painting something like a bridge is completely different.

The Washington State Department of Tranportation (WSDOT) spends millions of dollars to paint bridges every year. They're not just doing it so they look better though, there's a much bigger reason. And why does it cost so much to paint a bridge? There are several reasons.

The WSDOT blog looks at all the factors that go into something seemingly as simple as slapping on a new coat of paint.

Aussies Offer Support to Muslims on Public Transit

Some Australian social-media users have sent a message of solidarity to Muslims in the wake of the Sydney cafe
siege, offering to accompany anyone who felt intimidated on public transit.

Hostages were held inside a cafe yesterday by a gunman who had a flag bearing an Islamic declaration of faith that has been used in jihadi imagery. That prompted speculation that the siege could ignite retaliatory violence against Muslims.

The Twitter hashtag #IllRideWithYou had been used more than 90,000 times by early today. Sydney resident Rachael Jacobs wrote on Facebook that she had seen a woman on the train remove her headscarf and offered to walk with her. That spurred a Twitter campaign in which users offered to travel on public transit with those in Islamic dress who felt insecure. Mass Transit has the story on this movement and show of solidarity.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Driving While Black" App To Be Released This Month

With the national focus lately on police killings of unarmed African Americans, a "Driving While Black" smartphone application is set for release this month that is aimed at helping people navigate encounters with law enforcement.

The app describes how people can assert their civil rights with officers, enables drivers to alert friends and family with a push of a button that they've been pulled over, and includes a recording function to document the interaction.

Here's more about it from ABC News.

Local Transportation Emphasis Is On Options

So how do you see local transportation changing in the future? That's what a reporter from the Here's his answer, along with some thoughts on the future of transportation for our area from some other local leaders.One thing everyone agrees on; things are definitely changing when it comes to how you get around the region.

Spokesman-Review asked SRTC's Executive Director.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Next Week

We're jamming a whole bunch of meetings into two weeks, due to the impending holidays. The monthly meeting of the Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) is next Wednesday, December 17 at 1:30 p.m. at SRTC, 221 W. 1st Ave., Spokane, WA. The agenda is here.

Feel free to attend if you have the time and the inclination.

Red Light Cameras To Be Used To Catch School Zone Speeders

There are a lot of people who take issue with red light cameras that send tickets to people caught
running lights. Well, let's see how folks feel about those cameras being used to nab school zone speeders.

Children who walk or bike to Longfellow, Finch and Stevens elementary schools may have a safer route next year as the City of Spokane launches a camera pilot program that has been shown to drastically reduce speeds near schools in other Washington cities.
The Spokesman-Review has more on this plan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WA State Transportation Commission Looking At Pay-By-The-Mile Tax

KXLY News yesterday ran a story on the Washington State Legislature's proposal to test out a pay by the mile tax within the next couple of years that would tax drivers for every mile they drive on public roads.

At first, it would be a pilot program but if succesful, as the pilot was in Oregon, it would eventually replace our current per-gallon gas tax altogether.  When KXLY asked watchers to weigh in on the possibility, the comments were overwhelmingly negative. Some sample comments are below- click to see them full size. There were a handful of respondents who pointed out that the roads are in terrible shape and we need a new way to pay to fix them. With cars more fuel efficient, the availability of alternative-fuel vehicles, and more people using public transit, the money raised by the gas tax is dropping and isn't enough to cover our basic needs.

For the most part though, people who responded to the KXLY article called the idea "insane," "communism," and "big brother."

Read the article (and the comments if you dare) here then feel free to let us know what your take is.

Why Amtrak Trains Run Chronically Late These Days

The perception in Spokane has always been that travel by rail just really isn't convenient because of
the hours. Traditionally, the Amtrak passenger plane would arrive in Spokane around 1 a.m. and department a while later. The SRTC offices are in the bus and train station where people catch the train and depart from it. In recent months, when I arrive at 7:30 a.m., the Amtrak train has just been arriving or is still here from when it arrived.

So I found this article interesting. It's from the Poughkeepsie Journal on why Amtrak trains run chronically late. Turns out it's not because Amtrak doesn't respect your time or the conductor needed to stop for a cigarette break. It's because of the increase of other kinds of trains on the rails. And it's hurting Amtrak's bottom line. And our variety of transportation options. Check out the article.

Copenhagen Using Lights To make Driving/Bicycling More Efficient

Copenhagen gives everyone else an inferiority complex. Because they just have it so... well... together. 

The city is working on expanding a wireless  network of streetlamps and sensors aimed at saving money, cutting the use of fossil fuels and easing mobility- all with the goal of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

Sounds cool but what does this network actually do? Well, truck drivers can see on smartphones when the next light will change so they can vary their speed to avoid idling. And, using sensors, streetlights brighten when vehicles approach. After they pass they dim. And there are a lot of plans for it in the future.

The New York Times looks at Copenhagens big plans for lights.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Spokane Transit Reportedly Considering "AutoSocks" for Bus Traction

KREM 2 News is reporting that Spokane Transit is looking into useing "AutoSocks" to give their buses better traction in the winter.

The AutoSock is an alternative traction device to chains that slips over your wheels and is made of fabric. It's manufacturer claims the tire socks do no damage to the roadways and are reusable.

KREM 2 has more on this story.

Iowa Driver's Licenses to go Virtual

I guess it was only a matter of time until this happened. Iowa motorists will soon be able to show identification by pulling out a cellphone.
The Iowa Department of Transportation plans to roll out a new digitally-encoded license sometime next year.

DOT Director Paul Trombino says the digital licenses can be used at a traffic stop, the airport, or anywhere identification is needed.  

Here's more from Iowa Public Radio.

Transportation Advisory Committee Meets Next Week

SRTC's citizens committee, the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), is meeting a week early this month due to the Christmas holiday. Usually the group meets the fourth Monday of each month. Instead, they will meet next Monday, Dec. 15. The time remains the same though- 3 p.m. here at SRTC, 221 W. First Ave.

Here's the agenda. If anything catches your eye on it, feel free to attend. Everyone is welcome.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Havana Street Project Open House

The City of Spokane will hold a second Open House on December 11th at 6 p.m. at Chase Middle School, 4747 E. 37th Ave. to discuss revised improvements to Havana St.and Glenrose Rd.

The proposed project area includes Havana from 37th Ave. to Glenrose and Glenrose from Havana to 57th Ave.

The improvements are part of a larger project to install a water main within the street which will continue south in Glenrose Road beyond the city limits.

Workers will install the new 36-inch water main as well as remove and replace pavement with a thicker section of rock base and asphalt. There will be new curbs for the 32 foot-wide street, storm water facilities, additional sidewalk to fill in gaps, and bike lanes, among other improvements.

The project will be completed in phases starting in the spring of 2015. Here's more info on the project.

WA Dropping Law That Requires New License Plates Every Seven Years

The Washington state law that requires vehicle owners to buy new license plates after seven years is going away. Now you can keep your license plate as long as you want it and it's in good condition.

And some traffic signals that are supposed to change based on traffic demand aren't working correctly at several intersections in the City of Spokane. That's about to change though.

The Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" column has a round up of transportation happenings.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Final SRTC Board Meeting of the Year

How does this happen? How did it get to be December already? Well it did, and that means the last SRTC Board meeting of the year is next week. The agenda is here. Check it out and feel free to attend if something catches your eye. All SRTC committee meetings are open to the public and there's a "public comment" item on every agenda in case you have transportation-related thoughts you'd like to share.

Ales 4 the Trail

Ales 4 The Trail
Let's face it, you don't really need an excuse to drink beer, but if it makes you feel better, here's one that's for a good cause.

Celebrate Spokane's Centennial Trail with an "Ales 4 the Trail" event next Monday, Dec. 8 from 3-8 p.m. at River City Brewing, 121 S. Cedar St. in Spokane.

One dollar from every pint sold will benefit Friends of the Centennial Trail, the advocacy voice for our Centennial Trail. Your support helps fill in the gaps, fix asphalt cracks/heaves and advocate for Trail care and maintenance year after year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Open House On US 2/SR 206 to Day-Mt. Spokane Road Project

US 2 and Day-Mt. Spokane Road intersection
Mark your calendar if you live or drive through the US 2/SR 206 to Day Mt. Spokane Road area. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is hosting an open house on Tuesday, Dec. 16 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Mountainside Middle School, 4717 E. Day-Mt. Spokane Rd. to talk about some proposed changes to that corridor.

In particular, some of the proposals you might be interested in include possibly putting a traffic circle at Day Mt. Spokane Road and Highway 2. There are also some work planned for the medians, such as preventing left turns to and from business accesses, installing some bike and pedestrian infrastructure and paving part of Yale Road.

There isn't much on the WSDOT website about this yet so I'll keep you updated when I see more posted or receive more information.

Bus Rapid Transit Taking Off Around the World

If you've been paying any attention to Spokane Transit's plans for the future lately, you've probably heard mention of "bus rapid transit." Bus rapid transit (BRT) is longer distance transit service with few stops. Wikipedia says it's sometimes described as a "surface subway," combining the capacity and speed of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.

So why do I mention BRT? Because a post on Jarrett Walker's Human Transit blog from yesterday talks about a new study that shows that growth of BRT around the world has been explosive in recent years. It's growing fastest in Latin America, followed by middle-wealth countries like China, India, Mexico, and Brazil. 

Why these locations? For a number of reasons that you can find in the article here. Also, you'll be surprised I think at just how fast BRT has grown in a decade.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Honda Expands Airbag Recall

Under pressure from federal regulators, Honda is expanding a recall of driver’s side air bags to all 50
states, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The air bags, made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp., can explode with too much force, sending metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

Takata insists that current recalls covering 8 million U.S. cars in high-humidity areas are sufficient. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants the recalls expanded nationwide after some incidents outside the high-humidity zones.

Freight Mobility Plan Aims to Boost Washington's Economy

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has just released the 2014 Washington State Freight Mobility Plan, which says investing in our freight system is key to growing local and state economies.
Washington’s multimodal freight transportation system supported 44 percent of the state’s jobs and $123 billion in total imports and exports in 2012, according to the plan. However, the state’s highways, bridges, short-line railroads and waterways continue to face challenges caused by delayed maintenance, increased congestion and global competition.

If you're interested, but don't want to read a full report, or you want to see more of what's inside before committing to reading the full report, here's what the plan features:

  • A series of YouTube videos that put a face on workers’ and residents’ use of freight systems. 
  • An interactive infographic illustrating the facts and figures of the state’s freight system. 
  • An executive summary explaining the key findings and recommendations of the study. 
  • The full report, which makes the economic case for preserving and improving the state’s multimodal freight systems. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Plow App Can Get A Snow Plow To Your House When You Need One

You've heard of the Uber or Lyft apps that let you request a ride to take you where you need to go, when you need to go?

Well now there's a similar app to get a snow plow to come to your house on the east coast. PlowMe lets you request one-time snow removal, or set up automatic service anytime it snows. The app has about 60 private plow drivers around Boston, New Hampshire, Denver and Chicago just waiting to get a request. Then they drive to your house, plow your driveway and shovel your walk if that's what you want, and move on to the next place.

Part of the appeal of this app is that it avoids price gouging on days of big storms by letting consumers specify how much they're willing to pay.

Here are the details.

No Bus Horn Developed To Warn Pedestrians Distracted by Phones

Buses in Manchester, in the United Kingdom, are getting a kinder, gentler horn to alert pedestrians engrossed in their phones. Instead of a loud traditional horn sound, buses will be equipped with a "horn" that has eight dings, followed by a voice saying ‘take care, vehicle approaching’, then five more dings.

The warning was developed after pedestrians said they found  the traditional horn 'aggressive.' Really?? Well, it is a horn.

You can hear the new horn here. There's also more to the story here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Secret Santas May Plug Your Meter

Along with writing parking tickets, Spokane City Parking Enforcement crews will be performing random acts of kindness during the holiday season, plugging parking meters for some visitors to Downtown Spokane.

According to a City press release, every year City crews plug random parking meters starting on Black Friday through New Year’s Day. It's an effort to encourage people to come downtown during the holiday season to celebrate and support downtown businesses. In December 2013, parking enforcement officers gave more than $400 worth of free parking to downtown visitors.

The City’s nine parking enforcement officers will operate as ‘secret Santas’ during normal parking meter hours (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday).

Money to plug parking meters is donated from the City’s parking meter revenue funds.

City to Move Ahead With "Gateway" Project

The entrance to downtown Spokane at
Division and Third Ave.
The city of Spokane is going to move ahead with a project to "beautify" the Division Street entrance to downtown at Interstate 90.

New landscaping and walkways will be combined with a series of themed sculptures to welcome people to the city.

The Spokesman-Review has more details on this project, and why earlier attempts to do the same thing have been scrapped.

Highway Project Trees Removed- Because They Block A Billboard

Dozens of palm trees recently planted as part of a construction project in Miami have just been un-
planted (yes, I know that's not a word)- because they blocked a billboard. And one that may be illegal, at that. And the Florida Department of Transportation said that's okay. In fact, it was their idea to dig the trees back up again. What??

Here's the story from the Miami Herald.

Are Studded Snow Tires Losing Traction In Public Opinion?

There's a lot of debate over just how badly studded tires damage our roadways. But it may not be an issue much longer. Results from a recent survey show that most people make a conscious effort not to buy studded snow tires.

The survey also showed a difference in opinion on studded tires between the east and west sides of Washington state. And between age groups, with younger people using studs much more than older drivers. But why?

The Spokesman-Review has more on the poll.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Work Off That Turkey

Do you just lie on the couch all weekend after Thanksgiving is over? Not this year! Washington Bikes wants you to join them to work off the turkey, stuffing and gravy. 

After you burn some calories in the cold, ride organizers will refuel you with hot cider and swap tips and stories about cold-weather riding.

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014
Time: 1pm
Location: Meet at the Rotary Fountain, Riverfront Park
Cost: $20 in advance or at the ride (arrive by 12:45 if you aren't pre-registered; they can take cash, check, or credit card). Ride registration is a tax-deductible donation to Washington Bikes, your statewide voice for better bicycling.

Letter Writer Defends Traffic Circles For Pedestrian Safety

Spokesman-Review Letter to the Editor
Traffic Circle Vetted

To John Yates and others in Spokane who speak without knowledge regarding our neighborhood traffic circle:

The Lyons Avenue and Cincinnati Street traffic circle project began after my husband was struck by a car in 2011. He was a pedestrian crossing this intersection. As a resident, I went to my neighborhood council and received permission to use money from the red light fines to make our residential street a safer, less traffic-used area. The red light funds are not taxpayer money. They come from those who have failed to follow the law.

Next, the traffic circle was unanimously voted for by the people on this street and those nearby. We, the people on Lyons, are happy to see the changes made because this is not an arterial. We were disappointed the engineers created a less-aggressive traffic circle than what we expected. The circle could have been more similar to Seattle’s thousands of residential traffic circles, involving reflectors and a 45-degree-edge curb.

If you would like to travel down a street at speeds greater than 25 mph or avoid a traffic circle, I welcome you to use Francis Avenue, which is an arterial.

Alice Moon

Vodka Leftovers May De-Ice Our Roads

Vodka isn't just for drinking anymore- it could help to de-ice our roads soon! Because road salt is hard on our roads, vehicles and the environment, researchers at our own Washington State University are using barley residue from vodka distilleries to develop environment-friendly deicers to combat highway snow. Why not? It was just going to go to waste anyway.

Time has the details on this.

Bio-Bus Runs On Human Waste

The bus route between Bristol and Bath in the United Kingdom should be called the number 2. That's because it's the first "bio-bus" that runs on human waste.

With a full tank, the bus can travel up to 186 miles, while producing up to 30% fewer emissions compared to diesel-powered buses. And get this- one person's annual waste could power the bus for around 37 miles.

Want to know more? I'm not sure I do, but here's the story from KXLY News. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

AAA Predicts Travel To Be Down This Thanksgiving

Now THIS is my idea of holiday travel!
AAA is predicting a decline in travel this holiday week. The motor club says 43.4 million Americans are likely to travel 50 miles or more from home over the five-day period starting Wednesday.

That's a 1.5 percent decline from last year. The decrease is even greater for air travel, which is expected to be down by 3.7 percent to 3.14 million air travelers this year.

Automobiles will carry 38.9 million travelers, down from 39.5 million last year.

AAA said lower gasoline prices might entice travelers, but a lot of Americans are still uncertain about the direction of the economy and that is causing more of them to forgo travel this holiday.

Government Offices Closed, But Free Parking and Bus Rides

It's a short week for us government folks. Get your government business done by Wednesday, otherwise you have to wait until next Monday.

All area government offices will be closed this Thursday and Friday, November 27 and 28, for Thanksgiving.

If you're going to try to get some shopping action in after eating on Thursday, parking meters do NOT have to be plugged on Thursday. For the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend, normal meter use rules apply.

If you want to just skip parking at all, Friday is free ride day on Spokane Transit buses. Go wherever you want to go- all day- free. Info at www.spokanetransit.com.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pay Your Parking Meter By Phone In Spokane

Drivers can now ‘plug’ certain City parking meters using their smartphones in Spokane. A test period for the pay by phone technology launched today.

The test includes 41 meters on the block adjacent to City Hall and Riverfront Park.

To use pay by phone parking, you must download the QuickPay App onto your smartphones. A link to the app can be found at SpokaneCity.org.  If the maximum time limit is purchased for a parking meter, smartphone users are allowed a one-time paid extension of 15 minutes on that meter. After the maximum limit including the extension expires, drivers must move their vehicle. Drivers who attempt to use the pay by phone feature after the maximum time limit allowed will receive a message that they have exceeded the stay allowance at that meter. When setting up QuickPay on a smartphone, users can choose to receive notice of payment and time expiration via text, email, or both.

When the test period is over, the pay by phone feature will be gradually extended to all 3, 000 meters in the City.

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.