Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ford Recalls Almost 600,000 Vehicles

According to Boise Weekly, the Ford Motor Co. is recalling more than 591,000 vehicles in North America for four separate problems, including possible broken bolts that could make steering difficult. Here are the vehicles being recalled:

  • 2013- 2015 Ford Fusions
  • 2013- 2015 Lincoln MKZ sedans 
  • 2015 Ford Edge crossovers
  • 2014-2015 Fiestas
  • 2014 Transit Connect vehicles 

Contact your local Ford dealer if you have one of these vehicles.

The $58,000 Speeding Ticket

Ouch! That's a steep fine!
What if the fine associated with parking or speeding tickets you receive was based on your income?
That's how it works in Finland, where a millionaire businessman was recently fined over $58,000 for doing 64 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone. His response? Let's just say his social media campaign was NOT a happy one.

The "My Parking Sign" blog has the full story.

Political Ads Banned On NY Public Transit

It seems like during election years you can't get away from political ads no matter where you go. Am I right or am I right? Well, you could ride New York's subway or buses if you want a few minutes of peace- the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted yesterday to ban political advertising on public transit.

They're not just doing it to save your sanity though, the vote is a way to avoid future legal challenges like the ones the board faced after rejecting some ads with political messages in the past.

The New York Times has more on the stance by the MTA.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Judge Upholds Spokane City Street Levy Tax Exemption

A Spokane County Superior Court Judge today upheld a City of Spokane ordinance that authorized a property tax exemption for low-income seniors and disabled individuals.  The ordinance applies to the City’s new street levy, approved by voters in November.

The Spokane City Council adopted the exemption ordinance in February, mirroring one already allowed by state law. The City adopted its own exemption program to apply to the street levy because the City was told that the state’s program didn’t apply to the new levy as it did to the previous 2004 Street Bond. 

The Spokane County Assessor’s Office argued that the exemption was not authorized to implement it because of opposition by the Washington State Department of Revenue.  The issue ended up in court, following the City’s attempts to resolve the issue administratively.

City staff will now work with the Assessor’s Office to determine how to correct the approximately 4,700 incorrect property tax bills.

The tax exemption applies to seniors or disabled individuals with a household income of $35,000 or less. Citizens can apply for the property exemption through the Spokane County Assessor’s Office. Information is available at

Transit Proposition Awaiting Further Vote Counting

When the numbers came in last night, Spokane Transit's Proposition 1 for a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to pay for improvements to public transit was too close to call, according to this article in the Spokesman-Review.

More results will be released tonight and it's rumored that about 500 ballots came in without signatures on them and election workers are trying to authenticate those ballots. So it could go either way at this point. We'll keep you updated.

WSDOT To Use Goats to Control Vegetation Growth Near the North Spokane Corridor

I doubt this is how it will look, for the record.
BREAKING NEWS- goats will be used to control vegetation along Spokane's North Spokane Corridor (NSC).

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for managing non-native vegetation along our highways, such as Knapweed or Dalmatian Toadflax. Typically, the Department uses mechanical mowing and herbicides to control these weeds.

They're trying something new- and more organic- to go with our new freeway however.
Goats will eat almost any kind of vegetation right down to the ground.  There has been extensive research on the use of goats and sheep for vegetation management and noxious weed control over the years.

In 2014 the WSDOT did a "pilot program," leaving a herd of seven to 15 goats in a fenced storm water retention pond on the other side of the state. In addition to the Japanese knotweed they ate, all the goats needed was water and they did a great job.

In the 2015 growing season, WSDOT will conduct a pilot project to study the use of goats as a mowing tool on state highway rights of way.  The pilot will include utilizing "grazing contractors" in Olympia and Spokane.  The trials are designed to study the use of grazing for vegetation management situations found within the highway right of way.

In Spokane, the goats will be used in a couple of areas along the North Spokane Corridor, totaling about 15 acres. This trial will be conducted using a contractor who will remain on site for 5 to 10 days and supervise 250 goats within an already fenced area along the NSC Children of the Sun trail.  The grazing will be done late spring/early summer to prevent normal flowering and seed production.  This allows for more effective weed control with herbicide later in the season when perennial weeds are most vulnerable.

Although goat usage will cost a little more than present weed control methods, unlike mowing, by the time a seed passes through the goat, it apparently has become sterilized and cannot produce another plant when re-deposited on the ground.  Data will be collected throughout the process and an analysis of feasibilities and benefit/cost will be prepared in the fall of 2015.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

City Council Approves Purchasing Land for U-District Bridge

The potential bridge designs for the U-District bridge
Despite some controversy, the University District bicycle and pedestrian bridge inched closer to reality last night with the Spokane City Council approving spending nearly $1.7 million to purchase 20 parcels of land on which to build the bridge.

With engineering on the bridge complete and the land soon to be acquired, it's just a matter of actually building it now. But that could take a little longer as the state comes into play for that phase of the project. The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Why We BEG You To PLEASE Fill Out The American Community Survey

Those of you who are familiar with SRTC know we use tons of U.S. Census data and we LOVE census years because they mean we will be getting new, updated data soon. How MUCH do we love the Census. That's Kevin, one of our GIS Analysts. Even the headband has the Census logo on it. 

Most everyday people don’t even think about where State and Local governments get the information they need to make sure programs are on track, or that local services are keeping pace with their community’s changing demographics.

This infographic explains the important role the American Community Survey plays in the future of America's planning needs. The ACS asks questions about our lives - how old we are, how much we earn, whether we work or go to school, how much we pay in rent or on a mortgage, whether we need assistance with daily routines, and more. These 72 questions provide an annual portrait of the nation and our communities that America can use to assess the past and plan the future. 

So if you receive one of the ACS surveys, PLEASE fill it out. Click the graphic to view it full size.

Why We Ask
 [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Monday, April 27, 2015

The 9 Worst-Designed Cities in the World

Twenty lane highways, urban sprawl and commuting by helicopter to avoid traffic jams? Just a few of the signs that your city is poorly designed. One of the worst designed in the world, in fact.

Thrillist asked urban planners to highlight the flaws of some of the largest cities in order to rank the "9 Worst-Designed Cities in the World."

And get this- Missoula, MT made the list! 

Do Bikes Actually Cause Congestion When Bike Lanes Aren't Available?

We've all heard horror stories from bicyclists who have been yelled at or had things thrown at them by drivers. Conversely, we've also heard from drivers who have had bicyclists dart in front of them, ride erratically or just don't follow the rules of the road.

Others complain about bikes just generally slowing the flow of traffic. And it's true, it does happen sometimes, although, on shared roadways, bicyclists have as much legal right to be in the lane as motor vehicles. Bike lanes can help in this situation but obviously there aren't bike lanes on every street.

A study recently released looks at the delay caused by bicycles on streets without bike lanes, and it's more significant than you'd expect in some instances. So while bicycling takes people out of cars and lessens traffic congestion in one respect, it can add congestion when bicyclists ride on busy roads. A catch 22?  That's what this Streetsblog article says could be the case.

Wrong-Way Driving Alert System Installed in Rhode Island

We occasionally hear of drivers on Interstate 90 going the wrong way, which often causes traffic collisions. Apparently this same problem is so bad in Rhode Island that the Department of Transportation is installing systems to detect wrong way drivers and alert them that they're headed the wrong direction.

Sensors will detect if someone enters a ramp going the wrong direction, which activates a series of signs that flash along the highway and displays a message to warn other drivers.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spokefest Has Grant Money to Give Out

SpokeFest wants to give you money. Yes, really. The team behind the event has awarded the "Bicycle Education and Safety Grant" for the past four years, providing over $20,000 in funding.  If you are a non-profit and support bicycle safety and education in the Spokane Community go to the SpokeFest website for more information on how to apply. You can also click HERE to view the grant description and application. The deadline to apply is May 15th and grant funds will be available on June 1st. Grant amount is $1500.

Local Road Construction Update

For more information on all the projects below, and to see them in relation to each other on a map, check out SRTC's 2015 Spokane Regional Construction Map here. The map is updated as new projects start and existing ones wrap up.

US 2/Camelot Yard Sale- There is NO parking on US 2 for the Camelot neighborhood yard sale in north Spokane on Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26.  Signage will be in place and the Washington State Patrol will ticket illegally parked vehicles and have them towed.

US 2/Spokane Airport Vicinity Signage Upgrade- Thursday, April 23, until as late as 3 p.m., lane restrictions on the westbound I-90/US 2 airport off ramp.  All ramps remain open. Be alert for equipment and workers on the shoulders with possible shoulder restrictions or lane restrictions.  All ramps will be open. Crews are replacing deteriorated freeway signs. 

North Spokane Corridor/Francis Avenue Bridge and Intersection Improvements- On Friday, April 24, from about 5:30 a.m. until around 6:30 a.m., expect some lane and turning restrictions at the intersection of Francis and Market in northeast Spokane for lane striping work.

NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment; Ped/Bike Trail Extension- Possible intermittent short delays with flaggers directing traffic at the Freya St. roundabouts.  Flaggers will be stopping traffic intermittently to allow trucks in and out of the work site or during times of overhead work on the Pedestrian bridge.

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Minor items remain. Work at the Eastbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195 will require shoulder restrictions.  All ramps remain open. Crews are replacing or adjusting guardrail sections or terminals in some segments of Interstate 90 in the Spokane metro area.

Adams Road From Trent to Wellesley- Starting Monday, April 27, closed for asphalt work through Wednesday, April 29.

Wellesley from Sullivan to Moore- Lane closures from Monday, April 27 through Wednesday, April 29 for asphalt work.

Residential Street Sweeping- Street sweeping vehicles in residential areas throughout the city Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May.

Sullivan Road Bridge Replacement Project Area:
  • Sullivan Road is reduced to a single lane each direction between Indiana Avenue and the Sullivan Park traffic signal
  • Southbound Sullivan Road will be reduced to a single lane between the Sullivan Park traffic signal and the north end of the bridge over the Spokane River
Monroe Grind and Overlay Project- Monday, April 27, a grind and overlay will begin on Monroe from Garland to Wellesley. Anticipate lane closures and delays.

South Perry Grind and Overlay Project- Work continues on a grind and overlay project on South Perry Street from 53rd to 49th Avenue.There may be delays.

Bloomsday Route Sweeping- 
Crews are cleaning the Bloomsday route, with No Parking signs placed along it on Riverside on the North side of the street from Jefferson to Hemlock. Cars will be towed after 9 a.m. Monday, April 27. Tuesday, April 28, the south side of Riverside from Jefferson to Hemlock will be swept. No parking signs will be in place and towing will occur. Citizens are asked to remove their cars for sweeping to occur.

T.J. Meenach Bridge Inspection- Tuesday, April 28, starting at 10 a.m. the City Bridge crew will be inspecting the T.J. Meenach bridge southbound curb lane. The inspection will take approximately 5 hours for completion.  Traffic control will be in place.

6th Avenue Closure- 6th Avenue will be closed between Oak and Elm for a sewer repair until April 29.

South Grand Boulevard Partial Closure- The 2200-2500 blocks of Grand Blvd will have partial closures through May 15 while crews replace stormwater catch basins.

Fort George Wright Lane Closure- The right hand turn lane from Government Way onto Fort George Wright and the southern east bound lane on Fort George Wright is closed until April 30 to replace the curb and sidewalk.

Rebecca Street Utilities Relocation- Utility crews are working to lower and/or relocate utilities.  work continues for retaining wall installations and for installation of drywells and connection piping.  Access along Rebecca from Pratt to 8th is very limited during work hours.  Local access across Rebecca at intersections within the project site is open.

Garden Park Booster Station Rehabilitation- This project is to rehabilitate the existing booster station with a new building, pumps, and motors. 37th Avenue between Cook Street and Crestline is now open.  

Traffic Calming Projects- This project will construct crosswalks, sidewalks, curb ramps, and place signage around the city. Sidewalk and ADA work on:
o   Walnut and 7th Avenue – curb bump outs are being installed.  There will be lane restrictions from 8th Avenue to 7th Avenue for approximately 1 week
o   Jackson Street from Perry to Columbus, asphalt patching is finishing
o   Bernard Street From 29th to 31st – sidewalk installation is occurring
o   Rockwood and upper Terrace at Arthur a walk through Island is being installed
o   Two Hawk Signals are being installed:
§  18th and Grand Boulevard will be installed – lane restrictions will occur.
§  Ruby and Boone


No projects that impact traffic at this time.

Amendment to Transportation Improvement Program Includes Another Road Diet

The 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a document that identifies projects programmed to be undertaken or constructed during the upcoming four years. It includes project names and descriptions, the jurisdiction sponsoring them, funding attached to each project, and where the funding came from (local, state or federal funds). The TIP gets "amended" almost every month as things change. Local jurisdictions (City of Spokane, Spokane Valley, WSDOT, etc.) get new funding, move funds around or get projects ready to move forward and the TIP has to be updated for SRTC to stay in compliance with federal regulations.

This month's proposed amendment would add eight new Spokane Valley and WSDOT projects to the program. Here are samples of a couple of those projects:
  • Giving McDonald Road in Spokane Valley a "road diet" by restriping ti from four lanes to three lanes with a center turn lane and bike lanes.
  • Mounting reflectors to the backs of traffic signals at ten Spokane Valley intersections.
  • Paving Trent Avenue from Mission Avenue to Sullivan Road.
  • Replacing the Trent Avenue Bridge over the Spokane River located just east of the Hamilton and Trent intersection.

More details, and the rest of the projects, are in the list below. Click to see it full size. The Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) is looking for input on the amendment. 

After checking them out, please let us know if these projects are a good use of transportation funds for our areas or any other thoughts about them you'd like to voice. A public comment period on the proposed amendment starts today (April 24) and goes through 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 3. You can submit comments by emailing or calling 509-343-6370.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Governor Requires Study Before Raising Speed Limit

Legislation that could raise highway speed limits to 75 mph in some parts of Washington was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Jay Inslee, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The bill will take effect in July and authorizes the Washington State Department of Transportation to raise speed limits above 70 mph in areas where studies show doing so would be “reasonable and safe.”

Using his first veto of 2015, Inslee struck out a section of the bill that presumed that the increases would be reasonable in at least some locations, stressing that without a recommendation from traffic safety officials, the speed limit won’t be increased.

The Department of Transportation will work with the Traffic Safety Commission and the Washington State Patrol to study whether the speed limit could be raised without compromising safety.

Walk Score Ranks The Most Walkable Cities of 2015

What are the most walkable U.S. cities for 2015? Walk Score ranked them and New York came out on top, increasing its lead over No. 2 San Francisco since last year. Here's the top ten:

RankCityWalk Score
1New York87.6
2San Francisco83.9
7Washington D.C.74.1

The Redfin Blog has more highlights from this ranking. And a lot of discussion in the comments section about why Portland isn't on the list and whether or not it should be.

Court Rules Police Can’t Extend Traffic Stop to Wait for Drug Dog

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police may not drag out a routine traffic stop in order to buy time to bring in a drug sniffing dog to search the vehicle for drugs.

The judges agreed that authority for stopping the vehicle “ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.”
The Yakima Herald has more on this case, and its' history.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Funds to Fix Old Sidewalks

If you've been in Spokane for any amount of time, you know what people are talking about when they refer to the vaulted sidewalks downtown. Many sidewalks in the city core were originally built with space under them to be used as storage or to make deliveries through, One hundred years later, and many of these sidewalk "vaults" are crumbling, making walking a potential danger.

The $40 million needed to fix the sidewalks wasn't easy to come by. Sidewalk maintenance and repair is generally the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent property, but in this case it's not cheap and could pose an extreme financial burden for property owners.

Utilizing parking meter revenues as matching funds, the City recently secured money to start the process of making repairs. Check out the City of Spokane's blog to see where these funds are coming from.

1/3 of WA State's Urban Highways In Poor Condition

These photos I took of SR290 (Trent) yesterday show
just a little of the damage this report talks about.
Ouch! A new report says maintenance has been shortchanged so long that Washington State's urban highways are becoming worse in condition than in other states.

A researcher for the group TRIP in Washington, D.C., says Some 34 percent are in poor condition, as are 22 percent of the state’s rural highways. An estimated 21 percent of state bridges are functionally obsolete, and 5 percent are structurally deficient, the report goes on to say.

While the study is careful not to cast blame, it
does say that the state government is only currently spending 1/7th of state DOT funds on maintenance and preservation — while running up big debts to deliver big-ticket projects including the Highway 99 tunnel and Highway 520 bridge.

Here's more on this analysis from the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Trek Recalls Almost A Million Bikes

A recall of a different kind- nearly one-million Trek bikes in the United States and Canada are being
recalled after a person was paralyzed while riding one.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports the recall involves Trek bicycles from model years 2000 through 2015 equipped with front disc brakes and a black or silver quick release lever on the front wheel hub that opens far enough to contact the disc brake.
You can find a diagram of the disc brakes here.

Bikes with front quick release levers that do not open a full 180 degrees are not included in the recall.

An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle.

Trek reports three incidents, all including injuries. One resulted in quadriplegia, one in facial injuries and one in a fractured wrist.

If you have one of these bikes, it's recommended that you stop riding it immediately and contact an authorized Trek retailer for free installation of a new quick release on the front wheel.

Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting Next Monday

The next meeting of SRTC's Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) is next Monday, April 27 at 3 p.m. in our office at 221 W. First Ave., Suite 310. The TAC is the citizens committee that provides transparency and a community perspective to the transportation planning process. The agenda for the meeting is here.

All SRTC committee meetings are open to the public so feel free to attend.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Commute of the Century Changing A Little This Year

The City of Spokane's "Commute of the Century" event is changing a little this year for Bike Month. The 2014 Commute of the Century was focused on riding Spokane's bicycle infrastructure and gathering public feedback on it.

The 2015 event will still include group rides during Bike to Work Week and will offer a full 100-mile “century” route, but the focus will be on neighborhood connections. The group rides will range from five to seven miles and will showcase potential “greenways” – neighborhood streets that prioritize walking and biking for all ages and abilities.

Here's more on the changes and this year's goals.

Spokane's Earth Day 2015 Event A Great Day

The weather was beautiful this weekend and people were outside like crazy. SRTC teamed up with the Commute Trip Reduction Program, the Spokane Clean Air Agency and Spokane Transit for a booth at Saturday's Earth Day event. We talked to tons of people about alternatives to driving and signed probably hundreds up for "Undriving Licenses." What was surprising to me was the huge age range of people interested in getting their Undriving License. Even a couple dogs pledged to find a way to get around other than driving. That's two less dogs we'll see behind the wheel folks.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oil Transportation Safety Act passes Washington State House

The Oil Transportation Safety Act passed the state House this week. Senate Bill 5057 requires oil transporters to give advance notices to local emergency responders so they can better prepare for the possibility of oil spills, tanker derailment, or fire.

To fund the increased regulations, a 1.5% fee will be imposed on railroad revenue from intrastate operations.

Not everyone is happy about the bill and the fee though, including farmers. The Columbia Basin Herald explains why.

Local Road Construction Update

2015 Spokane Regional
Road Construction Map
For more information on all the projects below, and to see them in relation to each other on a map, check out SRTC's 2015 Spokane Regional Construction Map here. The map is updated as new projects start and existing ones wrap up.

US 2/Spokane Airport Vicinity Signage Upgrade- Be alert for equipment and workers on the shoulders with possible shoulder restrictions or lane restrictions as crews replace old signs.  All ramps will be open.  

NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment; Ped/Bike Trail Extension- Today, Thursday, Apr. 16 from until as late as 1 p.m., Freya Street will be closed at the NSC ramp roundabouts for crews to place girders. Drivers will be able to access businesses and residences on Freya from Francis Avenue on the south end or Market Street on the north end.  The NSC will remain open. Southbound drivers should be alert for flaggers directing traffic at the Freya Street roundabout.  Southbound NSC vehicles will be routed through the roundabout in the opposite direction to accommodate the girder work. Northbound NSC traffic from Francis to the NSC will not be affected.

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Work at the I-90/US 195 Interchange will require the following on/off ramp closures:
·  Thursday, Apr. 16, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to eastbound I-90.
·   Friday, Apr. 17, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Eastbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.

In general, Monday evenings through Saturday mornings, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the US 195 Interchange and the Thor/Freya Interchange. Crews are replacing and adjusting guardrail. 

4th Avenue between McDonald and Blake - Closed through Monday, April 20 at 5 p.m. for pavement patching. Signs will redirect traffic via Sprague.
Intersection of 4th and Blake - Closed from Monday, April 20 through Wednesday, April 22 at 5 p.m. for pavement patching. Signs will redirect traffic via Sprague.
10400 block of 28th- Reduced to one lane from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 20. 

Dishman-Mica at 29th- Reduced to one lane northbound from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, April 20. 

Bowdish Road south of Sprague Avenue- Temporary lane restrictions through 5 p.m. on Friday, April 24 for median work.

12th Avenue (between Houk and Vercler)- Closed daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Wednesday, April 22 for utility work. 

Residential Street Sweeping- Street sweeping vehicles in residential areas throughout the city Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May.

Sullivan Road Bridge Replacement Project Area-
  • Northbound and southbound Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane between Indiana Avenue and the Sullivan Park traffic signal.
  • Northbound turns from Indiana Avenue to Sullivan Road will be reduced to one lane.

University at Appleway Intersection- University at Appleway will be reduced to one lane each direction through Friday, April 24 at 5 p.m. for work on the Appleway Trail. Appleway at University will be reduced to two lanes for median work.

Central Avenue Closure- The Water Department will close two blocks of Central Avenue between Kalispell and Atlantic from April 17 – May 1.  A detour route will be in place.

Bernard Street Closure- 
Bernard will be closed from Spokane Falls Blvd. to Main Street from April 19-30 for a water main project. All lanes on Spokane Falls Blvd. at Bernard Street will be closing as well, Sunday,  April 19, 8 p.m. through Monday, April 20.  Traffic will be diverted on Spokane Falls through the Convention center pull out. 

Government Way Lane Closure- The curb and sidewalk along the southeast corner of Government Way and Fort George Wright is being replaced until April 30. The right hand turn lane from Government Way onto Fort George Wright is closed and the southern east bound lane on Fort George Wright.

Cleveland Avenue Closure- Cleveland is closed between Belt and Hemlock until April 20 for a new sewer connection.

Mallon Avenue Closure- Mallon is closed between Post and Lincoln until April 17 for an asphalt patch.

Rebecca Street from Pratt Avenue to 7th Avenue and from Pratt to Hartson- Utility crews are working to lower and/or relocate utilities.  Access along Rebecca from Pratt to 8th is very limited during work hours.  Local access across Rebecca at intersections within the project site is open.

33rd Avenue/High Drive/Bernard Street Drywellk Installations- This project will provide drywell installations in nine intersections: 33rd Avenue and High Drive, Jefferson Street and Regent Court, Jefferson Street and Saxon Court, Lincoln Drive and Saxon Court, Lincoln Drive and Croydon Court, 36th Avenue and Bernard Street, 37th Avenue and East Gate Court, 37th Avenue and High Drive and Bernard Street and High Drive.

37th is closed between Lincoln Drive and High Drive.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Driver's License Suspensions and the Cycle of Debt That Follows

Having your drivers license suspended for DUI, unpaid tickets, unpaid legal fees or any number of
other reasons is definitely an inconvenience. But for many who rely on driving to get to jobs they can't access otherwise, a license suspension is the start of cycle of debt and, often, poverty.

Many people who cannot afford to pay the fines to get their licenses back drive anyway, in order to make a living. Every time they're caught and face more repercussions, new fines are added on top of old and, as repeat offenders, these people are sometimes jailed, causing them to lose the jobs they were driving for in the first place.

Washington has apparently seen the impact and stopped suspending licenses for failure to pay nonmoving violations like expired registrations. The result?

Find out in this New York Times Article.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Article Calls Out Washington Policy Center

An article in today's Spokesman-Review calls out the Washington Policy Center for putting out information opposing the Spokane Transit ballot measure but claiming their not taking a position on Prop 1.

Columnist Shawn Vestal says the center has made presentations, issued news releases and blogged regularly, and produced a piece of “independent research” questioning the cost and efficiency of an electric trolley through the center of the city, yet says it's standard practice for the center to not take a position on ballot measures.

On their end, Washington Policy Center officials say their group has only been "informing the public" about the measure. So which is it? Read the article here and decide for yourself.

Bill Would Make 4th DUI Conviction a Felony

Senator Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are proposing a bill that would make a fourth DUI conviction within 10 year a felony, according to KHQ News.

Senate Bill 5105 would make a fourth DUI-related offense in 10 years a class C felony, meaning offenders would face time in prison rather than county jail.

According to Ferguson, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says impaired drivers cause 50 percent of fatal traffic crashes in Washington. In 2013 alone, Ferguson says 220 people died in crashes involving an impaired driver.

Currently Washington requires five convictions within a 10-year period to be considered as a felony. By comparison, Oregon and Idaho require only three.

Car Buyers Want Their AM/FM Radios Still

From the "priorities" file- apparently ipods, Pandora and other radio apps, and other kinds of in-vehicle entertainment aren't enough- people still want an AM/FM radio in their cars.

Despite the technological advances that are making the car a digital hub on wheels, the consumer’s love affair with AM/FM radio remains and the number of radio listeners are staggering. More Americans listen to AM/FM radio each week than use Facebook. Nearly 60% of the population listens to the radio on a daily basis and nearly 85% of the American people report listening to the radio at least once a week.

Why so many radio listeners when there are so many other options? Forbes looks at the reasons.

Cruise Control For Pedestrians?

This is just weird to me. It's kind of cool but also kind of creepy; cruise control for pedestrians. It;s actually called "Actuated navigation" and uses GPS and electrical stimulation of the muscles to literally "drive" your body around unfamiliar locations, without having to consult a map.

Actuated navigation would combine GPS navigation with a new, direct method of delivering that information to the human locomotion system using weak electrical signals delivered to the muscles, using non-invasive electrodes on the skin. The signal interacts with motor nerves, which contracts the relevant fibers and forces you to change direction. Yeah, that's why I'm not so sure about it. You can learn more about it and decide for yourself though here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Local Road Construction Update

To see all of these projects on a map with more information, check out SRTC's interactive 2015 Spokane Regional Construction Map.

Monroe Street Closure- Monroe Street will be closed from 9-10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 12 from Spokane Falls Boulevard to Broadway for the Negative Split Marathon. From 10:30 a.m. until about 1 p.m., south bound Monroe Street bridge traffic will be restricted to one lane. The west curb lane witll be closed between Main and College. Lincoln will be closed from 8 a.m. to about 12 p.m. between Spokane Falls to Bridge.  Riverside will be closed from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. between Hemlock to Government Way. Government Way north bound will be restricted to one lane from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. between Sunset and Riverside with runners using the east curb lane.
Magnolia Closure- Magnolia will be closed between 24th and Pinecrest until April 14 for a sewer line repair.

37th Avenue Closure- 37th Avenue is closed between Lee St. and Altamont St. for work on the Garden Park Booster Station. The detour route for this project is Crestline to Thurston to Regal. This work is for installation of a new transmission main and connection to the new Booster Station. 
Barker Road Closure- Barker Road will be closed between Chapman Road and 15th Avenue from Monday, April 13 until Monday, April 19 to install a sewer.
Bowdish Road south of Sprague Avenue- Temporary lane restrictions from 7 a.m. on Monday, April 6 through 5 p.m. on Friday, April 24 for median work.
University at Appleway Intersection:
University at Appleway will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 7 a.m. Monday, April 6 through Friday, April 24 at 5 p.m. for work on the Appleway Trail. Appleway at University will be reduced to two lanes for median work. 
Government Way lane closure-
 The right hand turn lane from Government Way onto Fort George Wright and the southern east bound lane on Fort George Wright will be closed until April 30 to replace the curb and sidewalk. 
3rd Avenue Closure- CenturyLink will be working on 3
rd from Cowley to Sherman until April 13 to splice fiber optic cable. The left lane on east bound 3rd will be closed.

Elm Closure- Elm is closed between Riverside and 1st until April 13 for a sewer repair. 

Division Gateway Construction Continues- This project is for beautification improvements to five highly visible locations at the I90 and Division Street gateway entrances to the City.  Work is from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and will include the closure of one westbound lane on the off ramp and the West lane under I90.
South Perry Grind and Overlay Work- Work continues on a grind and overlay project on South Perry Street from 43rd to 49th Avenue.  

Residential Street Sweeping: Street sweeping vehicles in residential areas throughout the city Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May.

Crews are replacing deteriorated freeway signage.

North Spokane Corridor/Francis Avenue Bridge and Intersection Improvements- Traffic across the bridge will be restricted to one lane at times, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.  
NSC/BNSF Railway Structures/Realignment & Ped/Bike Trail Extension-On Thursday, April 16 from about 10 a.m. until as late as noon, the southbound North Spokane Corridor lanes will be intermittently closed as the contractor sets each of the three bridge girders for the pedestrian overpass near Freya Street.  Drivers may be delayed for 30 minutes or more during the placement process for each girder.  

I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades- Work at the I-90/US 195 Interchange will require the following on/off ramp closures:
I-90/Spokane Area Guardrail Upgrades-  Monday evenings through Saturday mornings, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, be alert for eastbound and/or westbound shoulder and/or lane restrictions on I-90 between the US 195 Interchange and the Thor/Freya Interchange. Drivers may also see narrow lanes and/or lane restrictions on the on/off ramps, bridges, and adjacent streets. Crews are replacing guardrail sections in some segments of Interstate 90 in the Spokane metro area.

US 2/Spokane Airport Vicinity Signage Upgrade- Equipment and workers on the shoulders with possible shoulder restrictions or lane restrictions.  All ramps will be open.  No delays expected.
  • Friday, Apr. 10 and Monday April 13, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning-Westbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.
  • Tuesday, April 14, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to westbound I-90.
  • Wednesday, Apr 15 and Thursday, Apr. 16, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Northbound US 195 off ramp to eastbound I-90.
  • Friday, Apr. 17, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning-Eastbound I-90 off ramp to southbound US 195.

You Could Be Driving 75 MPH on I90 Soon

A proposal to allow the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to raise highway speed limits to 75 mph will be decided by Gov. Jay Inslee, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, would allow the WSDOT to  raise speed limits 5 miles per hour over the current limit, but only on stretches of highway the department considers safe. The bill passed the state Senate yesterday by a vote of 41 to 7. Last month it passed the House.

Washing Your Car Could Possibly Save Your Life

They also have those places
you can drive through
if you're this short on time.
It's not the car maker's fault, it's the... salt used to deice roadways? That's what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says caused rusting brake fluid pipes in about 5 million Chevy, Cadillac and GMC vehicles. The NHTSA's five-year investigation into the pipe rust determined that it was not the result of a manufacturing or design defect and the answer is to simply wash the underside of your car if you live in climates that use road salt, according to NBC News.

The agency urged people in 20 states with cold weather and Washington, D.C., to get their vehicle undercarriages washed several times during and after the winter, and to get their brake lines inspected for rust to ensure brakes are in proper working order.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Does This Mean We Can All Work From Home?

This reminds me very much of
a plane ride I took recently.
You know those days when you're in a bad mood just because you have to go to work? Well it may not be the actual work part that's bringing you down. Your commute could be putting you in a bad mood. lists the many ways your commute can be (physically) bad for you, including causing weight gain, neck pain, stress and more. Check it out here. 

It's Not Just Public Transit That's Subsidized...

Good for Spokesman-Review columnist Gary Crooks! In his "Smart Bombs" column this week, he responds to a comment posted on the S-R website asking why Spokane Transit can't pay their own way because people who drive their own cars do. He points out that driving is actually subsidized. Do drivers pay for the streets they take to work? To a certain degree through their taxes, yes. But the people who ride public transit also pay for them. And what about parking? Before you buy a car, do you save up enough money to pay for your own parking lot? Of course not.

He also talks about the economic hit caused by vehicle crashes, as well as the impact to quality of life. The most interesting thing that he says to me though? How his teenage children find it wasteful to take a Sunday drive. I wonder if a Sunday bus ride is acceptable...

Very interesting. Check out the entire column here.

What's Spokane's Livability Score?

How livable is Spokane? According to, it's extremely livable. This website analyzes a city's amenities, graduation rates, cost of living and housing market, plus many other factors, to give it a livability score. It also breaks down data into easily-digestible information nuggets such as that the cost of living index is 7% lower than the entire state of Washington, median household income is $42, 274 (28% lower than the state overall) and the median rental rate for a home is $718. One piece of data it lists that I take issue with is that our average summer temperature is 66 degrees. I wouldn't live here if that was true!

Anyway, the site has a lot of useful information so check it out here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Vanpooling the New Answer to All Kinds of Transportation Issues?

It's basically vanpooling on a real-time basis. Transportation wonks say that "Bridj" will be the new Uber. Bridj has 13-person vans that, for $3 to $5, will take people directly from point A to point B, while sharing the ride with other people.

The trips will be a little slower than taking your own car, faster than taking the bus and cheaper than driving yourself and paying for parking. Bridj CEO Matt George says “We don’t have routes or schedules. The routing is dynamic. People tell us where they need to go. We direct them to a pop-up mass transit stop. The vehicle expresses them to a drop-off point within a five- to ten-minute walk of their destination.”

Cool idea huh? So where will Bridge start up? And will the private company threaten local public transit systems?

Bacon's Rebellion asked the company CEO these questions and more.

Microsoft to Use Data To Predict Traffic Jams

Microsoft could soon be using it's technology to predict traffic jams before they even happen. Microsoft is teaming up with the Federal University of Minas Gerais, on the Traffic Prediction Project to crunch all traffic data, including historical numbers where available, from transport departments, road cameras, Microsoft’s Bing traffic maps, and even drivers’ social networks, to see if established patterns can help foresee traffic jams from 15-60 minutes before they happen.

VentureBeat tells us how it could work, using big data.

BNSF to Use Drones to Inspect Railroad Infrastructure and Operations

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. has a new tool for inspecting railroad infrastructure and operations- drones. BNSF recently received approval to use the remotely controlled flying drones to maximize safety in railroad operations, but hasn't said specifically how and where they'll be used.

BNSF did say it will use the drones, equipped with cameras, to inspect track and monitor trains.

Here's more, from the Sioux City Journal.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Volunteers Needed for "Walking School Bus"

One week after spring break wraps up, the new "Walking School Bus" will launch at Holmes Elementary in northwest Spokane on April 20th. Adult volunteers are needed to join this active transportation program and walk with kids one mile to school rain or shine (appropriate weather gear provided).  

Commitment is one morning per week, but more is preferred, from 7:30-8:30 a.m.  The Walking School Bus continues until the last day of school on June 17th.  Seth Woodard Elementary's program will launch on May 11th and continue until June 12th.  

Please contact Annie Szotkowski, Walking School Bus Organizer for the Spokane Regional Health District (509) 324.1452 if you are interested in this volunteer opportunity.

Changes Being Made To 4th and Maple Traffic Signals

The intersection of 4th & Maple
City of Spokane crews start work tomorrow (Tuesday) morning to revise signal operations at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Maple Street. Changing the eastbound and westbound signal phases to operate independently is expected to resolve some congestion issues at that intersection.

Currently, the eastbound and westbound signal phases operate simultaneously. During peak evening hours, this can cause some traffic backup due to a large amount of eastbound right turns and westbound left turns. Sometimes, this results in traffic on the westbound off ramp at Maple and Walnut backing up onto Interstate 90. From now on, the signal phases will be operated independently at all times to address this issue.

Starting Tuesday, crews will place the signal in flash while they change out the existing overhead three-section signal heads to four-section signal heads. During a ‘green phase,’ a green ball and green arrow will be illuminated so motorists know they no longer have to yield to oncoming traffic when turning.  The City will also post ‘Signal Revision Ahead’ signs for 30 days. 

Work is expected to be completed during the day Tuesday. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Study Looks At Way To Relieve Pines, Argonne Traffic Congestion

Have you ever tried to get off I90 at Argonne Road from either direction around 5 p.m.? Then you
know about the long backups that sometimes stretch all the way back out onto the freeway. A traffic study being wrapped up by the public works division of Spokane Valley shows that about 42,000 vehicles travel over the two-lane bridge at Argonne every day. The Pines interchange has similar traffic issues.

The University Road Overpass Study is looking at what it would take to relieve congestion in these two areas and whether constructing an overpass at University Road, spanning I-90 and the railroad tracks, would make a difference. The early results? It's going to take a lot of money to fix the problem.

The Spokesman-Review has the details.

Smarter Street Talk?

I admittedly work in jargon hell. If there's a way to say something that will make it more difficult to understand, we tend to say it that way. Not because we want to or because we're stuffy or snooty but because there are so many acronyms in the government realm and so many requirements handed down from the federal government as to what we have to call our documents, etc.

We're getting better at plain-speak though. It's something we talk about anytime we develop a new document or other materials that the public will see, because it's not only alienating and confusing to everyday people, but policy-speak can detract from the message you're trying to convey.

The folks at Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a coalition of safe street community groups, have come up with a way to be less "wonky" in communicating with citizens about transportation matters. Their method centers around people and their experiences—not infrastructure, modes or buzzwords. And they've put together a cheat sheet of some of the "substitution" words they use to convey their messages. Take a look and tell me if you think this would help you understand more easily when talking transportation.

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.