Thursday, December 31, 2015

School Zone Speed Camera Ticketing Starts Monday

No more going easy on school zone speeders. The Spokesman-Review reports that, when school starts again on Monday, school zone speed cameras outside two Spokane elementary schools will start sending out tickets to registered owners of cars caught breaking the speed limit.

The cameras at Finch Elementary and Longfellow Elementary have been issuing warnings since they were installed in November. Warnings have been sent to 621 drivers going east on Northwest Boulevard past Finch Elementary in that time and 1,255 warnings were given to southbound drivers on Nevada Street past Longfellow Elementary.

Tickets range from $214 to $808 depending on the speed of the car.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

This Week's Holiday Closures

More holiday closures this week for area government offices.

SRTC will close at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31 and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4.

Spokane County
 offices will be closed Friday, Jan. 1, as will the City of Spokane Valley.

Spokane City Hall will close at noon on Thursday, Dec. 31 and will be closed all day Friday, Jan. 1.

Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Friday, Jan. 1.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Two Days Left To Take Web Survey

You only have a couple days left to take our web survey. There are many areas to consider when deciding which transportation projects to fund. Safety, reducing congestion, adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities, preserving and maintaining current roadways, and improving public transit are just a couple of the focus areas we have to look at.

So which is most important to you? That's what we're asking people to let us know with our web survey- which areas are a priority for you that we invest local transportation dollars in. Unfortunately, there's not enough money to go around so we have to be selective.

Let us know your preferences and thoughts so we can develop our transportation system into an efficient one for our community.

First Night Spokane Street Closures

Spokane’s First Night celebration will close some downtown streets starting at 7 a.m. Thursday. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the annual New Year's Eve celebration.

  • Howard Street from Main Avenue to Spokane Falls Boulevard must be cleared of vehicles from parking spaces marked by red bags starting at 7 a.m. Thursday
  • At 3 p.m., Howard will close from Main to Spokane Falls.
  • Spokane Falls will close from Stevens to Post streets. The closures last until 1 a.m.
  • For the 6 p.m. parade, Spokane Falls will be closed from Bernard to Stevens Street while Washington and Stevens streets will be closed from North River Drive to Main. These closures last about 30 minutes.

If you don't want to worry about driving and where to park, Spokane Transit is offering shuttles to and from First Night from the yellow parking lot at the Riverpoint Campus at 412 E. Spokane Falls Boulevard from 2 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Additional Options Needed Across the Cascades

Like last week, it happens every so often and we all freak out. The Washington State Department of Transportation closed both Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Passes on Christmas Eve due to ten feet of snow and serious avalanche danger. While this is a safety measure, people still complain. Several friends scrapped their plans to spend the holiday with family on the west side after looking into flights (too full and too expensive).

As the folks at the Seattle Transit Blog pointed out in a post yesterday, we need more and better options across the Cascades. A major storm can literally leave us, and the products we depend on that are shipped over the pass daily, stranded and separated from the rest of the state.

And, as the blog post points out, it's not just during the rare freak snowstorm that we need these options. I drive to the west side often and frankly, I hate the drive. If there was train service for a decent price, at a decent hour and that was timely, I think it would be well-used.

At the link above, Seattle Transit Blog breaks down the number of people traveling the passes everyday and how this amount of people could be transported more efficiently.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Traffic Sign Advises Drivers to "Vote Donald Trump"

We've seen electronic road signs hacked for many reasons- mostly as a joke- but for political reasons?? A sign in Corona, CA was reprogrammed last week to tell drivers to "Vote Donald Trump."

Browne's Addition Plowing Tomorrow and Wednesday

Browne’s Addition is scheduled to be plowed tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 29 – 30 ending the City of Spokane's plowing of all residential streets:  

·         Tuesday, December 29, 9 a.m., north and south streets
·         Wednesday 30, 9 a.m., east and west streets


Signs will be placed at the entrances of Browne’s Addition announcing the plowing schedule.  No parking is in place for Browne’s Addition during the plow schedule to allow room for the plows.  Cars not moved off the street will be towed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Best/Worst Times to Drive Over the Holidays

If you're headed over the hill and through the woods to grandmother's house for the holidays, chances are you are making the drive today or tomorrow to be there on Christmas day. Don't go today, if you can help it. The traffic-tracking app Waze has released data on the best and worst times to drive over the holidays, and today is one of the worst.

Good Housekeeping reports that the worst possible times to drive are Wednesday between 3-6 p.m. and Thursday, anytime after noon. These are the times when people are getting off work and getting in the car for their road trips. The Sunday following Christmas is also bad because people will be headed home from their holiday destinations.

The best driving times are anytime Friday, because it's actually on Christmas Day. 

Bertha is on the Move Again

The upper deck will carry the southbound lanes, the lower deck northbound.She's baaaaccckkkk! Bertha, the world's largest drill, went back to work on Seattle's waterfront yesterday, boring a tunnel that will become Highway 99. This is after the tunneling machine sat idle for two years due to various mechanical delays.

The Seattle Times announced that Bertha made a foot-and-a-half of progress yesterday. More drilling is expected today. At this rate, the tunnel is expected to be completed around April 2018. After that, work will be done to connect the entrance ramps, etc. so traffic won't actually use the tunnel until at least mid-year 2018.

Originally, that date was supposed to be right around now- the end of 2016 or very early 2016.



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

North Carolina Will Now Require Hand Signals as Safety Measure for Students

North Carolina admittedly has an issue with students being killed or injured by drivers passing
stopped school buses. Thirteen students have been killed in this way since 1999, four during the 2012-2013 school year alone. So what are school officials doing about the problem? They've added new lights on buses and additional stop arms and now they're implementing hand signals.

Yep, hand signals. Even after a bus stops. Students aren't allowed to approach the vehicle or department from it until the driver signals them to do so with a series of hand signals. According to the Courier-Tribune, in the morning, bus drivers must first hold up his or her palm facing students waiting to get on the bus to indicate they must wait before crossing the street.

When it's safe to cross, the driver will give a "thumbs up" then point his or her index finger the direction in which the child should cross the street. In the afternoon, the process is repeated, but going the other way as students get off the bus.


Area Government Offices Holiday Closures

In observance of the Christmas holiday, there are several local government closure to tell you about.

SRTC will close at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24 and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. Our office will also close at 1 p.m. on thursday, Dec. 31 and remain closed until 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4.

Spokane County
offices will close on Thursday, Dec. 24 at noon and remained closed through Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25. In observance of the New Year's holiday, all Spokane County offices will close on Friday, Jan. 1.

City of Spokane Valley
business offices will be closed from 12 p.m. on Thursday, December 24 and will remain closed through Christmas day, Friday, December 25. Offices will reopen with regular hours on Monday, December 28.

City of Spokane Valley business offices will be closed from 12 p.m. on Thursday, December 24 and will remain closed through Christmas day, Friday, December 25. Offices will reopen with regular hours on Monday, December 28.


Spokane City Hall will close at noon on Thursdays, Dec. 24 and 31, and all day Fridays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, in observance of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. 

The Spokane City Council is not scheduled to meet on Mondays, Dec. 21 and 28.  Council meetings will resume on Monday, Jan. 4, with a 3:30 p.m. briefing session and 6 p.m. legislative session.  

Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Fridays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.  

On Thursday, Dec. 31 and into Friday, Jan. 1, all vehicles must cleared of the RED Bagged meters on Howard Street between Main Street and Spokane Falls Blvd and on Spokane Falls Blvd from Stevens Street to Wall Street by 7 a.m., Thursday, December 31st for  First Night setup

Streets will remain open until 3 p.m.  At 3 p.m. Howard will close from Main Street to Spokane Falls Blvd. Spokane Falls Blvd. will close from Stevens Street to Post Street. The streets will remain closed until after the event ends around 1 a.m. on the 1st.

Parade Closures will be in effect from 6 – 6:30 p.m. Spokane Falls Blvd will be closed from Bernard Street to Stevens Street. Washington and Stevens will be closed from N. River Drive to Main Street. 

Wall Street will be closed from Sprague Ave to Riverside Ave, 7 a.m. Dec 31st to 2 a.m. Jan 1st.

Spokane City Declares Stage 2 Snow Emergency

The City of Spokane has JUST declared a Stage 2 snow event. That initiates a full-city plow.

City crews worked throughout the weekend to prepare streets ahead of the Monday storm. With 6 inches of snow on the ground and more anticipated during the same storm, additional crews were called in to remove snow ahead of this morning's commute. The city has more than 2,100 lane miles, including 250 principal arterial lane miles and more than 760 major and secondary arterials.

Snow emergency routes, which include principal arterials, major arterials, hills and transit routes, will be the initial focus. More resources will be assigned to residential hill routes as part of the Stage 2 snow event. A full-city plow takes approximately 4 days to complete and can be monitored on the snow removal progress map.

A Stage Two Snow Event is declared when:
Six inches of snow are on the ground and more is anticipated during the current snow event. This declaration triggers a number of actions.

The City will:
  • Notify citizens of the snow event.
  • Immediately embark on a full-city plow
  • Bring in additional crews
  • Be ready to implement the “Snow Corridor Plan,” if weather conditions severely restrict the City’s ability to keep up with the snowfall
  • Clear sidewalks around priority City-owned property within 24 hours
Citizens are asked to:
·         Move parked cars off all arterials and fixed STA bus routes within 6 hours.
·         Move vehicles off downtown street parking spaces between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
·         Move parked cars in residential hill routes  to the odd side of the street within 6 hours
·         Clear snow off vehicles parked along the street
·         Clear snow from around curb ramps, fire hydrants, storm drains, and mail boxes
·         Clear sidewalks of snow within 24 hours.


WSDOT Announcing Area Road Construction Projects for 2016

I know- the last thing you're thinking about now is road construction. You're probably more worried about digging yourself out of your driveway. But the Washington State Department of Transportation is always thinking about making our roads better and is announcing area road construction projects scheduled for 2016.

To start, because funding for the completion of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) was approved by the Legislature last June, you will see more activity along the NSC route next year. The major projects start in 2017 but there are a couple small NSC projects in 2016 including construction of a roundabout at the Freya and Wellesley intersection. That work is expected to start in mid-summer. 

There will also be work on city streets adjacent to the freeway in the Hillyard area, especially along Market Street.  That project includes sidewalk work and cul de sac construction.

On Interstate 90 in east Spokane, there will be changes to the westbound Freya Street exit.  A project this summer will relocate the westbound off-ramp further east, closer to Havana Street.  The ramp will connect to Second Avenue well before Freya Street to provide a longer ramp area that allows drivers to get in the proper lane to continue west or to turn north on Freya.  This will improve traffic flow and make the signal at Second and Freya more efficient, requiring only two phases instead of three.  This will also prevent traffic from backing up onto the freeway during busy times.

Smaller projects in our area include minor turn lane and traffic signal improvements at the Hawthorne Road/Division Street intersection, ADA ramp improvements at a few locations on Division Street and Trent Avenue, and some guardrail work on Interstate 90 and US 2 west of downtown Spokane.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa's Not Bringing Us Bags of Money for Transportation, So Tell Us How To Spend The Little That We Have

There are so many areas to consider when deciding which transportation projects to fund. Safety, reducing congestion, adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities, preserving and maintaining current roadways, and improving public transit are just a couple of the focus areas we have to look at.

So which is most important to you? That's what we're asking people to let us know with our web survey- which areas are a priority for you that we invest local transportation dollars in. Unfortunately, there's not enough money to go around so we have to be selective.

Let us know your preferences and thoughts so we can develop our transportation system into an efficient one for our community.

Division Street Bridge Collapsed 100 Years Ago. How Are Our Bridges Today?

Photo courtesy of the Spokesman-Review
It was 100 years ago today when one of the deadliest accidents in Spokane history occurred. The Division Street Bridge collapsed into the icy Spokane River just after 6 a.m.when two streetcars were crossing it, dumping them into the water.

Five people died and about 14 others seriously injured.

An investigation showed that the bridge might have been damaged by debris from an earlier flood. However, the main cause of the collapse was declared to be metal fatigue.

A new concrete bridge was completed in 1917.

Which brings us to- how much better condition are our bridges in today? While they're nowhere near collapsing, of the 163 bridges listed in Spokane County's inventory, 15 are considered functionally obsolete (bridge can't support weight or traffic volumes of today's vehicles) and 11 rated structurally deficient (components such as the deck, superstructure or substructure are rated in poor condition). The Washington State Department of Transportation has 148 bridges in Spokane County with 35 rated functionally obsolete and nine structurally deficient. Of the City of Spokane's 44 bridges, three are functionally obsolete and one is structurally deficient.

Sounds scary right? It's not as bad as it sounds but also, why don't we just get them fixed? The same answer as to every other transportation question- there's just not enough money to go around. Bridges are very expensive to fix. In the coming years though, as our infrastructure continues to age, I think we will see a lot more bridges under construction as the alternative is to have them fall down.

Assaults on Houston Bus Drivers up 73% Percent in 2015

It's seems like it would be hard enough to drive a bus- piloting a large vehicle, talking to people about where they need to get off, watching for cars cutting in front of you, etc.- without having to worry about getting beat up. Yes, beat up. Apparently there has been a spike in assaults on bus drivers in Houston, TX.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston Metro officials yesterday announced a public awareness campaign to make riders aware of the Transit Authority’s code of conduct for riders. This follows a 73 percent increase in assaults on operators in 2015 compared to 2014. So far this year, Metro has reported 52 assaults, ranging from angry riders spitting on bus drivers to punching, head-butting and cursing them. One man, in the video below, even violently confronts a bus driver while carrying a baby in a front pack on his chest.

Officials can't identify a single factor that is prompting the increased assaults. Some have been related to paying fares while others involved loud music or cell phone use. There is also a mental health issue in the Houston community according to officials that could be contributing to the violence.

As a preventative measure, drivers are receiving training on how to avoid escalating tense situations.




Thursday, December 17, 2015

U.S. Airlines Planning Flights to Cuba

U.S. airlines say they're eager to, and in the process of,  launching new flights to Cuba. KREM 2 News says this follows a new U.S.-Cuba deal that would restore passenger airline flights between the two countries for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Right now, only charter flights are allowed between the USA and Cuba, and travel to Cuba remains restricted for Americans. U.S. citizens are permitted to travel there only if they fall under several approved categories, such as educational, religious or humanitarian projects. Americans still can't go to Cuba strictly for tourism. So who wants to go to Cuba? I know I do.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Charlotte Airport Revokes Free Parking for Politicians & Other Officials

Well I have to say that this is long overdue. For years, one of the perks of being a politician or government official in Charlotte, South Carolina, was free parking at the airport.

According to the Charlotte Observer though, following an audit last year at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the airport revoked most of the free parking passes.

The program had been in place since 1989, allowing elected leaders and government officials free parking in any airport lot or deck, including the spaces closest to the terminal that charged for parking by the hour. It's not clear how much the airport spent on free parking annually.

The list of people who had the 220 free parking passes included all City Council members, county commissioners, several members of Congress, a former schools superintendent, heads of city departments, and more.




Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article49868155.html#storylink=cpy

Amendment Proposes Multiple Changes to WSDOT Project

We are asking for input on a proposed amendment to the 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The 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 is updated regularly as SRTC’s member jurisdictions have projects to add, change or remove from the program.

The proposed amendment would reduce the total project cost of a WSDOT Interstate 90 on-ramp project, change the source of funding from federal to state funding, and advance construction of the project by two years to 2017 and 2018.

Details on the proposed amendment are below. Click the image to view it full size. This information is also available on the SRTC website at www.SRTC.org.

A public comment period for the amendment goes through 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 26, 2015. Comments can be submitted by commnenting here, emailing to
contact.srtc@srtc.org, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Local Blog Suggests Night Bus Service

The Spokane Rising blog is suggesting a "night bus" service in Spokane. The idea is to model the system after similar ones in Europe where shuttles could be used on simple routes, all which start at the STA Plaza, on Friday and Saturday nights. Stops would be limited and park and rides and transit centers used as the terminuses for each route. The suggestion is to just have a handful of routes, such as two north routes, a south hill route, a Valley route and a couple others.

My concern with this suggestion was funding. Spokane Rising suggests charging a flat $5 rate for everyone, even if they already have a monthly pass. While this would help with some of STA's expenses, it still wouldn't cover all of them.

The blog suggests this new service would reduce traffic deaths and DUIs and increase economic activity in our downtown area by encouraging people to come downtown. What do you think?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cascade Bicycle Club and WA Bikes to Merge


Some interesting news for you bicyclists out there- the Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bike are officially merging.

The boards of directors of both organizations approved the merger this past Tuesday. It will enhance both organizations and increase the reach and effectiveness of bike advocacy and education.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, Cascade Bicycle Club will be the name of the 501(c)(3) tax-deductible wing, focused on education, diversity and inclusion programs, events, and other advocacy work. The organization’s 501(c)(4) arm, to be called Washington Bikes, will address statewide policy and outreach, selected statewide events and activities, and candidate endorsements.

The merger will create the nation’s largest statewide bicycle nonprofit, bringing together two organizations to leverage overlapping missions. 

The merger will result in saved overhead costs and more money directly funding current work and new programs. If you are a current Washington Bikes member, your membership will be automatically transferred to Cascade Bicycle Club through the end of your membership year, whenever you’re set to renew. You’ll receive all the benefits of Cascade membership such as discounts at businesses and early access to ride registration for sell-out events. After that you will need to renew membership in Cascade if you wish to belong to a statewide 501(c)(3) bike nonprofit and receive a tax deduction for your support.

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting to be Held Offsite

The final Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting of the year is next Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m. This meeting will be held at an off-site location though, at Enduris Washington, 1610 S. Technology Blvd. just off Highway 2 in the West Plains area. A map is below.

The meeting agenda is here. If anything grabs your attention, please feel free to attend. Everyone is welcome at SRTC committee meetings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Help SRTC Make Future Funding Decisions

Transportation planning isn't just paving roads. When we're distributing state and federal funds for local construction projects, we base our decisions on safety improvements a project will make, if it will reduce traffic congestion, if it includes bike and pedestrian facilities, and several other factors.

Now we want to know what your priorities are when it comes to transportation projects. Do you prefer ones that improve the condition of the roadway? Or would you rather put more money toward public transit or other areas? 


Please take our web survey to let us know how transportation funding should be divvied up. We will be taking it offline at the end of the year so you only have a couple more weeks. It should take ten minutes, at the most.



Los Angeles Public Transit Woos Baby Boomers

Are you a senior citizen? Then Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants you. According to KPCC news, Metro is wooing baby boomers as, by 2030, one in five people in the Los Angeles county will be older than 65.

In preparation, Metro is taking steps to make transit more usable and appealing to older passengers such as adding extra elevators, color-coded priority seating, more space for wheelchairs and walkers, tactile paths on platforms and bigger fonts on signage.

The transit company admits that public transit isn't for everyone though and has some tips including to take advantage of fare discounts for seniors, there are also discounts for off-peak hours, be careful getting on and off buses and trains as falls can happen, and there are clubs of baby boomers who use the transit system and can help new users.

$1.8 Million Awarded to Spokane Valley Projects

Three project applications submitted by the city of Spokane Valley will be funded by the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB).

According to a news release, those projects include new sidewalks installed along the east side of Bowdish Road from 8th Avenue to 12
th Avenue. This project also includes adding sidewalks on the south side of 11th Avenue from Bowdish Road east to Wilbur Road. These sidewalks will provide a safer route for students at Opportunity Elementary School and encourage students and parents to walk to and from school.
McDonald Road from 8
th Avenue to Mission Avenue will receive new pavement and sidewalk curb ramps. The TIB funding will supplement current funding to reconfigure McDonald from Sprague Avenue to Mission Avenue into a 3-lane road with bike lanes. Bike lanes will also be added from Sprague Avenue to 16th Avenue. The repaving will make McDonald Road safer for both drivers and bicyclists. The new bike lanes will allow better access to the future Appleway Trail.

A new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Mirabeau Parkway and Pines Road (SR 27). The signal will accommodate an increased amount of traffic along Mirabeau Parkway and Pines Road, making it easier for motorists to get through this area. The signal will also provide a safer crossing point for students walking to and from Trent Elementary School.

The cost for the three projects is approximately $2,806,310, of which the TIB grant will cover $1,878,129. The projects will be put into place within the next few years but specific construction dates haven't been set yet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Committee Meeting Schedules for 2016

The final meeting of the year for the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) is next Monday, Dec. 14. The agenda for the meeting is here. Everyone is welcome at all SRTC committee meetings so feel free to attend if anything on the agenda catches your eye.

Starting in 2016, there will be some changes to the TAC schedule. The group will meet at the same time (3 p.m. the fourth Monday of the month) but only every other month, starting in January. This is because staff in 2016 will be devoting a large amount of time to data gathering behind the scenes and there will not be as big of a need for policy advisory actions. With that said though, special meetings in off months can be called as needed.

Below is the calendar for all SRTC committee meetings for 2016.



Spokane Valley Numbers to Call For Downed Trees and Traffic Signals

From a news release received from Spokane Valley today:

With the Spokane office of the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasting the possibility of 35 mph winds gusting up to 60 mph on Wednesday, December 9, City of Spokane Valley Public Works crews and other staff members are prepared to respond to reports of downed trees in the roadways, missing or inoperative traffic signs and signals, and to help steer community members to response and recovery resources. 
Although not as strong as the 71 mph winds that tore through the region on November 17 of this year, community members should be prepared for potential impacts. 
The National Weather Service website at www.weather.gov has tips on preparing for strong winds. Just click on the "Safety" link for ideas including having a qualified and reputable service provider trim tree branches away from your house/power lines, securing loose items such as gutters, shutters and other items that could become airborne, and more preparation tips.  They also have tips for safety during and after high wind events, such as avoiding driving during strong winds, sheltering in a safe place, staying away from downed trees and power lines, and reporting downed trees, signs and inoperative signals.
Report storm-downed trees/debris in the roadway, traffic signal outages, and downed traffic signs as follows:
CITY OF SPOKANE VALLEY REPORTING INFORMATION
Description
Weekdays 8:00am - 5:00pm
After hours
Traffic signal outages
Call 9-1-1
Call 9-1-1
Traffic signs down
Call 921-1000
Call 9-1-1
Downed trees in right of way
Call 921-1000
Call 9-1-1
Debris in right of way
Call 921-1000
Call 9-1-1 if presenting traffic hazard; otherwise call 921-1000 and leave message or report online at www.spokanevalley.org using the Report a Problem link
Street lights out (not traffic signals)
Call 921-1000
Call 921-1000 and leave message or report online at www.spokanevalley.org using the Report a Problem link

Monday, December 7, 2015

New Technology Could Almost Completely Eradicate Drunk Driving

Some new technology that could soon be installed in every car coming off the assembly line may completely eradicate drunk driving in the future.

According to News 1130 The DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) is a breath and touch-based bio-sensor system designed to measure blood alcohol levels under the skin’s surface by shining an infrared-light through the fingertip or measuring the alcohol level in a driver’s naturally exhaled breath.

If you're above a preset level (probably zero for teenagers and maybe 0.5 for adults), the car takes over- it stays at a slow speed, the lights flash and the horn honks repeatedly to signal law enforcement and other drivers that the driver may be impaired. Plus, at that point, the car is going so slow that if the driver were to hit something, it wouldn't cause enough impact to kill or seriously hurt anyone.

The DADSS research program is a partnership between the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents the world’s leading automakers. Widespread adoption of the technology is expected to happen within three to five years, although some are skeptical.

For instance, Automotive Specialist with News 1130, Tim Dimopolous, says he doubts the technology will be available that soon, but also that it will need to be legislated into vehicles rather than introduced voluntarily by car manufacturers as it will cost extra money to be installed in vehicles.

In addition to the fight that car manufacturers might put up against this, I see some potential legal issues. For instance, what if the system is faulty or develops a glitch and goes off when you're not drinking or impaired? This could be embarrassing for some people and cause undue legal issues. Just some thoughts on my part. What do you think?

Obama Signs Five Year Federal Transportation Bill

      NOW we can celebrate! Last Friday, President Obama signed a $305 billion, five-year transportation bill into law. The 1,300 page Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) provides reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program (along with passenger rail and several other items). The new law includes additional local funding through the Surface Transportation Program and an increase in Transportation Alternatives Program and Metropolitan Planning funding. 
      You can read all 1,300 pages if you'd like, or here's another option: the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC if you like acronyms) has prepared an analysis of the new law, which you can access here and which will save you a lot of time. You're welcome.

"Secret Santas" to Plug Parking Meters Throughout the Holiday Season

It could be the most wonderful time of the year if free parking makes you happy.

Each holiday season, City of Spokane Parking Enforcement crews perform random acts of free parking kindness by plugging parking meters for unsuspecting downtown shoppers. Today, December 7, through New Year’s Day, the City’s ten parking enforcement officers will be randomly providing free parking to citizens Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (normal parking meter hours).

The tradition is an effort to encourage people to come downtown to celebrate and support downtown businesses.  In 2014, the ‘Secret Santa’ parking enforcement officers donated approximately $700 in free parking – the equivalent of about 300 free parking opportunities in the downtown area. 

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

The ‘Secret Parking Santas’ do NOT re-plug meters for vehicles already parked at a metered spot. Parking enforcement officers only plug the meters of drivers who have just pulled into an open space. 


Friday, December 4, 2015

Final 2015 SRTC Board Meeting on Dec. 10

The final SRTC Board meeting of the year is next Thursday, December 10 at 1 p.m. A few items on
the agenda: disposition of depreciated assets (how to get rid of a bunch of stuff around the office we don't need anymore), appointment of new Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) members, recognizing members who are leaving the Board and a discuss of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Guidebook. That last item should be a very interesting discussion as SRTC is proposing some policies to ensure that all the federal funds that come into our area get spend every year. It's harder than it sounds to actually make that happen because of all the boxes that require checking before money can actually be spent.

So if any of those items sound interesting to you, feel free to attend the meeting. The agenda is here. 

What Areas of Transportation Should Be Funded?

What is important to you when it comes to transportation? That the roads are better maintained or that there are more bike lanes and sidewalks? What about improvements that would make intersections safer or measures to reduce traffic jams and delays?

That's the problem- there are many ways to spend money on local transportation and not enough money. We come up against this issue all the time. So decide what areas are the most appropriate to fund, we're asking you.

Please take our web survey to let us know how transportation funding should be divvied up.

New federal and state regulations require SRTC to create and track performance measures and targets to ensure the transportation system is developing as planned. To do this, we must first identify what measures and targets to set.  

The web tool will help you understand how investments and outcomes are related and also allows you to identify priorities of the region that will help develop those targets. The tool allows users to choose an estimated level at which they would fund categories such as roadway preservation, congestion management, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, transit improvements and transportation safety.

As you allocate money to each category, graphics show just how far that amount would go. For roadway preservation, the amount of lane miles repaired changes as you change the funding for that category. For bicycle and pedestrian improvements, the percentage of people commuting by bike or walking increases or decreases as you add or subtract money.

The $50 million available for distribution on the web tool is based on the approximate amount of money projected to be invested in the local transportation system by SRTC over the next five years.  Once you have made your budgeting decisions, you can compare your results to others who have used the web tool and learn about the next steps in the performance measurements development process.

Congress Passes Five-Year Transportation Plan- Finally

Wow, it's like Christmas is coming early this year! We may have a new five-year, $305 billion highway bill very soon.

Both the Senate and the House yesterday approved the bill, which now moves on to President Obama to sign.

The Wall Street Journal says the bill would provide money for roads and rail projects, renew the Export-Import Bank, and even restore a crop-insurance subsidy. Ferry systems also stand to receive funding and auto companies face safety defect fines under the bill.

The majority of funding for the bill will be provided by gas tax revenue. About $207.4 billion would be devoted to highway projects, $48.7 billion to public transit, about $8 billion for Amtrak and almost $1 billion to safety programs.

If signed by Obama, the measure will also establish the first-ever grant program guaranteeing financing for large-scale freight project.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Transportation Technical Committee Makeup Meeting Tomorrow

The Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting that was scheduled for November 18 and cancelled due to the windstorm will take place tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 3) here at SRTC. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m., as usual. The agenda for the meeting is here. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Caltrans Says Building New Roads Only Relieves Traffic Congestion Temporarily

The California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans, may be questioning the logic of building more roads in an effort to relieve traffic congestion. According to the Sacramento Bee, the department recently provided a link on their website to a policy paper from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. That paper says constructing new roads and adding lanes doesn’t ease traffic congestion for very long because traffic quickly increases to fill the new capacity.

the theory, called “induced travel,” is basically the transportation version of the law of supply and demand. Adding capacity cuts travel time, thus lowering the “price” of driving and leading to an increase in driving. In the paper, Susan Handy, a professor at UC Davis, writes that increasing a road’s capacity by 10 percent is likely to increase vehicle miles traveled by 3 percent to 6 percent in the short run and 6 percent to 10 percent in the long term. This basically offsets any gains made initially.

Handy also claims that new and widened roads don’t lead to net increases in jobs or economic activity.

So the question many are asking is does Caltrans endorse the paper? The official answer is that “solid science” shows that expanding roads does lead to more driving, so the department is fixing existing roads first and only building new roads “strategically.” Caltrans is also pushing bicycling, walking and mass transit.

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.