Monday, February 29, 2016

Self-Driving Cars Can Both Help AND Hurt the Environment Apparently

Or for the love of Pete, you just can't win. While self-driving cars are being touted as the way of the This Vox article says that vehicle automation could initially save energy and reduce emissions by chaining cars together to drive more aerodynamically, driving at more consistent speeds and possibly serve as shared vehicles instead of everyone owning their own car. On the flip side though, more cars may be used if driving is easier and more pleasant, as self-driving cars will reportedly be. This includes the young, the elderly and disabled people using the cars that don't or can't currently drive, thereby putting more cars overall on the streets.
future, they may not be too great for the future of air pollution.

So how do these factors balance out? A new study called Help or Hindrance? The Travel, Energy and Carbon Impacts of Highly Automated Vehicles does a lot of calculation into this and says the answer is "it depends." Depends on what? Policies and decisions that need to be made today. A pretty interesting article, so take a look. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

WA State House Passed Transportation Budget Proposal

The Washington State House last night passed a proposal for a transportation budget that includes a raise for Washington State Patrol troopers. Fox Q13 reports that the proposal was approved on an 84-13 vote. The Senate’s transportation plan has not been voted on by that chamber.

The trooper raises are aimed at recruiting new troopers and retaining current ones. Data shows that troopers often leave for higher-paying local law enforcement jobs.

The House transportation budget would increase spending by $473 million from the two-year transportation budget.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Open House to Gather Input On Proposed Amendment to Transportation Plan

SRTC will host a public open house Wednesday, March 2 from 4-6 p.m. at SRTC, 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310 to get input on a proposed amendment to the area’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), Horizon 2040.

Horizon 2040 is the area’s long-range transportation plan that guides how the regional transportation system will develop through 2040. It is based on projections for growth in population, housing and jobs and considers every mode of transportation, such as private vehicles, public transit, bicycling, walking, freight movement, rail and air travel.

The proposed amendment to Horizon 2040 adds three new City of Spokane projects. To be eligible for funding, these projects are required to be included in the plan. The projects being added include:

·         Main Ave. - Browne St. to Division St. - Reconfigure three lane arterial to two lanes with possible center lane angle parking, mid-block pedestrian crossing and streetscape improvements.

·         North Monroe St.- Indiana Ave. to Garland Ave.- Reconfigure a four lane arterial to one lane each direction with a center two-way left turn lane, sidewalk and pedestrian improvements, curb extensions and traffic signal modifications at the intersection with Montgomery.

·         Maxwell Ave.- Maple St. to Washington St.- Reconfigure to two lanes with a center two-way left turn lane.

More info on those projects and Horizon 2040 in general can be found at We are looking for feedback on the proposed amendment and the projects to be added to the plan. If you can't attend the meeting, submit comments by emailing to, mailing to SRTC at the address above or by calling (509) 343-6370. All comments must be submitted by March 6, 2016.

The Professions With the Longest Commutes?

When we decide what we want to do with our lives, we generally don't factor into ours decision our future commute. But maybe we should. Lengthy commutes are now being associated with back pain. bad eating choices, a lack of exercise, and less quality time with family.

So if you could decide on a career based on the commute, which careers would you want to avoid? Priceonomics analyzed U.S. Census data to see which jobs have the longest commutes. Results showed that construction workers, computer scientists and lawyers have unusually long commutes. Conversely, food industry workers, military members, and teachers apparently live close to their places of employment.

The table below shows the average commute time by 24 categories Priceonomics grouped data into.

Longview Port Votes Against Refinery and Propane Terminal

Port of Longview commissioners voted unanimously this week to reject plans to build a refinery and propane terminal at the port. reports that the $1.25 billion facility from Waterside Energy out of Texas would have been the first refinery built on the west coast in 25 years.

The facility would have provided 700 construction jobs and 180 full-time jobs refining 30,000 barrels of oil and 15,000 barrels of biofuel each day. Another aspect of the project was a propane and butane terminal handling 75,000 barrels per day.

The refinery would have added an additional three trains per week carrying crude oil to railroad tracks along the Columbia River.
Many people were interested in the project originally because of the clean fuel component of including biofuel but in the end had financial doubts about Waterside Energy. Port commissioners said the company also missed deadlines and failed to fulfill its obligation to the port of providing certain financial information within 30 days. Port staff said those disclosures were intended to determine whether Waterside Energy had the financial backing to complete the project.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Indian Students Develop Driverless Bike

Move aside driverless cars, some Indian students have created a driverless bike. Inspired by their differently-abled classmates, these students developed an autonomous bicycle, that they are calling 'i-bike', according to Indian Times

The autonomous steering, braking, drive and balancing mechanisms differentiate this bicycle from other bicycles that need a rider. 

The steering hub on the bike has been modified using a gear mechanism that allows for both autonomous and manual mode. So someone who is an arm amputee could use the autonomous mode while someone with arms could steer manually. The balancing mechanism uses a training wheel based torsional spring mechanism that it is retractable, allowing it to be switched between manual and autonomous modes, depending on who is riding it. 
If a person has lost his/her leg(s), then the autonomous drive would provide the required energy to move ahead while the person only steers the bicycle.

The students are in the process of applying for a patent. 
The bike won first place in the KPIT Sparkle 2016, an annual national design and development innovation contest for engineering and science students across India. 

US 195 Colfax to Spangle Passing Lane Public Meeting

While this is outside of SRTC's planning area, many of us drive to Pullman or Colfax regularly so I thought it was worth a mention. Drivers will get their first look at the upcoming US 195 Colfax to Spangle passing lane project at a community meeting in Colfax on Wednesday, March 2.

Up to six new passing lanes are planned to be constructed in 2017 on US 195 between Colfax and Spangle. Washington State Department of Transportation staff will be on hand to present their ideas for the passing lane project, and to get opinions on where the new passing lanes should be located.

Studies have shown that installation of periodic passing lanes on a rural two-lane roadway provides a collision reduction of up to 42 percent. 

Please bring your ideas and join us on:
·         Wednesday, March 2
·         6 to 8 p.m.
·         Colfax Junior Senior High School
·         1110 N. Morton St.    

WSDOT staff will give a presentation on the project, possible locations and the results of a corridor crash analysis. The US 195 Corridor Crash stakeholder group will discuss comments. The public will be invited to provide comments on the US 195 corridor between Pullman and Spangle and the State Route 26 corridor between Hatton and Colfax.

WSDOT engineers will use the comments from the meeting to begin designing the passing lane segments, purchasing any required right-of-way, and moving to advertising the project for contractor bids. Work is scheduled to be underway on this project in 2017.

Pets Now Welcome on Amtrak Cascades Trains

Beginning March 7, small dogs and cats can join their owners on Amtrak Cascades trains for their next adventure.

Previously, only service animals were allowed on Amtrak Cascades trains. Due to the sensitivity of other passengers, dogs and cats must meet the following requirements:
  • The maximum weight including the carrier is limited to 20 pounds
  • Owners can reserve a space for their pet for a $25 fee; limit one pet per passenger.
  • For the safety and comfort of all passengers, pets must remain in a carrier at all times and carriers must remain on the floor in front of the seat next to the passenger
  • The maximum carrier size is 19 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 10.5 inches high
  • Five pet spots are allowed per train and are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis
Pet reservations will be accepted for travel beginning March 7 and can only be made with a reservation agent at 1-800-USA-RAIL or at a staffed station. Pets are not allowed on trips to Canada and cannot be booked on trips lasting longer than 7 hours.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

SRTC Board/Committee Meeting Changes

There are a couple changes in the works you may want to know about for next month. SRTC is moving to our new office at the Paulsen Center in approximately 30 days. We have already packed up the majority of our office and only left out of the packing boxes those things we use on an everyday basis.

We will still be in this building in early March and will hold the regularly scheduled Board meeting here. The April 14 Board meeting has been cancelled due to a scheduling conflict though.

We will be in the moving process in late March and are relocating our committee meetings as a result. The March Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) meeting schedule for 1:30 p.m. on March 23 will be held at the Spokane Regional Health District in room 140. The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) will be held at 3 p.m. on March 28 at Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., in conference room 3B.

We will continue to put out reminders as these dates draw closer.

Changes Proposed to the Transportation Improvement Program

SRTC is proposing an amendment to the 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that would adding four new projects and making changes to seven other projects already included in the 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 throughout the year as SRTC’s member jurisdictions have projects to add, change or remove from the program. The amendment under consideration would:

  • Add three new Spokane Transit, Spokane County and Spokane Valley projects to the plan.
  • Add additional federal funds to Cheney’s Washington Street: Betz Road to Oakland Street project.
  • Push Spokane Transit’s Monroe Street High Performance Transit Infrastructure Upgrades project from 2018 back to 2020.
  • Increase the total project cost of Spokane Transit’s Paratransit Van Replacement project to correct a previous error.
  • Change the scope of a Spokane Valley project to make improvements on Mission Avenue.
  • Reschedule construction of two Spokane Valley projects from 2018 to 2020.
  • Transfer funds from a STA project to a WSDOT project to implement a portion of the project.

Specific details on the proposed amendment are below (click the images to view full size). We are looking for input on the suggested changes. A public comment period for the amendment starts Thursday, February 18, 2016. All comments must be received by Sunday, February 28, 2016. Comments can be submitted by emailing to, mailing to SRTC at 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310, Spokane, WA, or by calling (509) 343-6370.

Central City Line Workshop

Spokane Transit is hosting its third All-Community Central City Line Workshop from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 1 to update citizens on the project, and gather input on the project’s implications for the West Downtown and Browne’s Addition neighborhoods.

Specific components of the workshop include:
 -  Downtown and neighborhood alignment (which     roads the CCL will travel on)- Stop locations
 - Station design and features
- Potential City of Spokane land use policies and economic development incentives

The workshop is at the Southwest Community Center, 310 S. Spruce Street, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Transportation Technical Committee Meeting Feb. 24

The February meeting of SRTC's Transportation Technical Committee (TTC) is next Wednesday, February 24 at 1:30 p.m. The agenda is here.  If you are interested in Spokane Transit's High Performance Transit (HPT) project, you may want to attend as STA staff will be making a presentation on HPT station design. There are other exciting items too, like an amendment to the long-range transportation plan, Horizon 2040 and selection of additional local transportation projects for funding.

As always, everyone is welcome at all SRTC committee meetings so feel free to attend if something on the agenda catches your eye.

Kansas Considers Raising Speed Limit to 80 MPH on Some Highways

Kansas may be taking the same route (pun intended) as Texas, considering a couple bills that would allow the Kansas Department of Transportation to raise the state's highest speed limit on highways from 75 to 80 miles per hour. reports that a decision could be made as soon as next week by lawmakers to send one of the bills to the full Kansas House of Representatives. Supporters of the bills say the change would help regulations match reality, as many people drive faster in open country. Kansas' Department of Transportation opposes the bills.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Spokane Competing for $50M in Transportation Competition

Spokane and Seattle are the only two Washington cities to submit bids for millions of dollars to upgrade their transportation systems with new technology, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will award up to $40 million to a city or region that demonstrates they have a plan to use ideas based on data and advanced technologies to reduce congestion, improve transportation safety, protect the environment, deal with climate change, connect under-served communities and support economic vitality.

Spokane’s application builds on work already being done in the University District by a number of parterns, including the city, Avista, Itron, McKinstry and Washington State University. Spokane’s application proposes electrifying the transit system, build over 600 vehicle-charging stations throughout the city, and enhance the Spokane Transit Authority’s Central City Line that would run between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College.

The challenge is part of a nationwide effort to spur innovation.

The Transportation Department grant will be matched with $10 million from Vulcan Inc., a company owned by Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and Seattle resident.

Five finalists will be named next month and awarded $100,000 to develop more detailed applications. The winner will be named in June.

New Live Traffic Website

If you hadn't noticed yet, the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) has released an improved website in a new, easier-to-use format.

The redesigned website, at, features real-time, customizable traffic information with more than 100 live traffic cameras that are automatically updated to view incidents and events as they happen. Users can zoom in or drag the map to specific areas and check construction updates to plan their commute route around upcoming road construction.

The map-based website is designed to be user-friendly. By clicking icons on the right side of the screen, users can find more detailed information, such as the location of traffic cameras, areas impacted by collisions, road condition reports or signs displaying warning messages. Users can customize their view to see each of these options individually, or turn on all the “layers” to see them all at once. The new site supports mobile devices and includes links to transit and travel resources.
The SRTMC, located in downtown Spokane, is the nerve center for area transportation systems. Center operators work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using video screens and high-tech traffic control equipment to monitor roadways for potential problems and alert incident response crews to issues. They also remotely control dynamic message signs that warn drivers of incidents and delays, and post warning messages to area highway advisory radio stations. All this is done to help citizens avoid congestion and backups.

The SRTMC is a collaboration of the Cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley, Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane County, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.  Each of those jurisdictions share the management, operation and funding of the center.

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Projects Proposed to be Added to Long-Range Transportation Plan

SRTC staff is proposing an amendment to Horizon 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), and we're looking for your opinion on the idea.

Horizon 2040 is the area’s long-range transportation plan, a “blueprint” that guides how the regional transportation system will develop through 2040. It is based on projections for growth in population, housing and jobs and considers every mode of transportation, such as private vehicles, public transit, bicycling, walking, freight movement, rail and air travel.

The amendment to Horizon 2040 adds three new City of Spokane projects. To be eligible for funding, these projects are required to be included in the plan. The projects are:

·    Main Ave. - Browne St. to Division St. - Reconfigure three lane arterial to two lanes with possible center lane angle parking, mid-block pedestrian crossing and streetscape improvements.

·    North Monroe St.- Indiana Ave. to Garland Ave.- Reconfigure four lane arterial to one lane each direction with a center two-way left turn lane, sidewalk and pedestrian improvements, curb extensions and signal modifications at the intersection of Montgomery.

·    Maxwell Ave.- Maple St. to Washington St.- Reconfigure to two lanes with a center two-way left turn lane.

An update to Horizon 2040’s Financial Plan has also been completed to ensure the plan is financially constrained, and a few other updates made.

·    The proposed 2016 amendment to Horizon 2040 is available for review at A public open house will be held Wednesday, March 2 from 4-6 p.m. at SRTC, 221 W. 1st Ave., Suite 310 to discuss changes to the plan in detail and gather comments from members of the public. A flyer for the meeting is below. Click on it to view it full-size. For those who cannot attend,comments can be submitted by emailing, mailing to SRTC or by calling (509) 343-6370. All comments must be submitted by March 6, 2016.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blogging Hiatus and Who Doesn't Like A Bargain?

Hey everyone- the grey skies are getting to me so I'm getting out of here for a little while. The boss actually signed my vacation slip so there will be a blogging hiatus until Monday, February 15. Don't worry, I'm leaving you with something to keep you busy. We're moving to a new office in a little over a month and need to clean out about 30 years of office supplies. So in my absence, spend a little time perusing these items we have for sale on Craigslist and I'll be back before you know it.

Video Scan Converter (yeah, I don't know what that is either)

Cassette Transcriber

The mother of all calculators (or a regular calculator for all of us over 30 years old)

Vintage metal toolbox

Projector Screen

Vintage electric stapler

SRTC Board Meeting February 11

The February SRTC Board meeting is next Thursday, February 11 at 1 p.m. here at SRTC. The agenda is here.

I would say the major item on it is the FTA/FHA Federal Certification Review. We go through these reviews every four years to make sure we are in compliance with state and federal regulations and that we're doing the duties required of a Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Planning Organization (SRTC is an MPO at the federal level and RTPO at the state level).

Four years ago when we went through this process, we didn't do so hot. We had 12 "corrective actions." The results from our 2015 review? Not a single corrective action. Some representatives from the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highways Administration will be at the Board meeting to discuss the review so feel free to attend if interested. SRTC Board meetings are always open to members of the public.

1980 Bike Map Pulled From the SRTC Files

We are moving to a new office sometime in March. So in the meantime we are cleaning out a lot of files and getting rid of many years of "stuff." Turns out we had a lot of file cabinets around here filled with a lot of old stuff.

Amongst all the junk, we made a cool find yesterday- the first (as far as we can tell) bike map for the area. While there weren't bike lanes at the time, this circa 1980 bike map lists "easy through streets," "non-arterial bicycle connectors," "difficult intersections," and more.

It also lists area bicycle repair shops. That part was surprising to me. I turns out there were a lot of bike shops back in 1980. And some are still around today, such as Midway Cyclery, Garland Cycle, Spoke 'n Sport and Wheel Sport!

My favorite part about the map- it looks like it was all done on a typewriter. Which had to take someone a LOT of time.

Forgot A Book? No Worries- You Can Now Watch Movies at Airports

A rendering of what PDX's movie theater is expected to
look like.
What do you do while killing time at the airport? Read, check email, chase the kids around, sit in the bar? Watch the kids run around from the bar? Soon, you will be able to spend your layover watching movies. Portland International Airport will soon be the latest airport to include a movie theater in it's list of amenities.

The theater will have  vintage theme and will start by airing short films made by local filmmakers.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International and Miami International also have theaters. Conversely, Asian airports have had movie theaters for years. Singapore's Changi Airport even has two 24-hour tehaters that show new movies for free. And Hong Kong's airport even has an IMAX screen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Driverless Bus On the Road in the Netherlands

Forget driverless cars- the Netherlands (as usual) is way ahead of us. Last week, an electric,
driverless bus called a WEpod was launched there on a trial basis on the campus of Wageningen University, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The bus doesn't even have a steering wheel or pedals that would allow a human driver to take control, unlike driverless cars in the U.S. The WEpods, which only travel at a top speed of 25 miles per hour,  only carry six people but will be used as regular public transit eventually. In April, driverlesss semi-trucks are supposed to be rolled out in the Netherlands as well. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spokane Valley Pothole Hotline

This winter's freeze and thaw cycle has brought potholes to Spokane Valley. Pothole repair crews are already at work fixing potholes around the city, but they need your help: The Spokane Valley Public Works Department wants you to report any potholes that you may come across throughout the city.

To report potholes, call 921-1000 or go online to and select the "Report a Pothole" link. 

Be sure to provide the following information to help locate the pothole to be repaired:
·         Location of the pothole: a street address closest to the pothole, or a description that includes the name of the street, nearest cross streets, side of the street (north, south, east, west) and the lane in which the pothole can be found (northbound, southbound, eastbound, westbound, curbside, turn lane, etc.).
·         Pothole description: the size or severity of the pothole.
·         Additional information: any supplementary details that may help us fix it.
·         Contact information: if you wish to be contacted about your report, please provide your name and an email address or daytime telephone number where you can be reached.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Seasonal Weight Restrictions Announced for Spokane County Roads

Spokane County’s Engineering and Roads Department announced today they are putting seasonal weight restrictions are in effect on county roads until further notice.  Roadway surfaces and the structures beneath have been weakened by the winter’s cycle of freezing temperatures, followed by warmer temperatures and precipitation.  As a result, roads are vulnerable to damage.

Weight restrictions now will reduce the need for road maintenance and vehicle repairs later this year.  These conditions vary from year-to-year, which means that different roads may, or may not, be restricted and the time frame for implementing the restrictions.

Vehicle speed limits on seasonal restricted roads is at the discretion of the County Engineer.  Seasonal road restrictions usually go into effect in late February or early March and last for approximately 6 weeks.  However, seasonal weather conditions dictate the extent of the restrictions and when they go into effect.  No exemptions or permits are given on emergency restricted roads.

Impacted roads in Spokane County are posted with signs indicating maximum allowable weights.  Typically, these restrictions do not apply to the average car or pickup truck.  However, commercial and construction vehicles may need to lighten their loads in order to comply with the restrictions.  Spokane County commercial vehicle enforcement officers will be on patrol and violators will be fined!  Fines may vary according to the nature of the infraction.

Local Speed Emphasis Patrol Feb. 5

Here's your warning- on Feb. 5th, the Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, EWU Police Department, Airway Heights Police Department, and the Washington State Patrol will be participating in extra emphasis patrols focusing on speeding drivers.

Speeding drivers are involved in a crash every 30 minutes in Washington State, according to annual data. Speeding is the third-most common factor contributing to fatal and serious injury collisions. It is often combined with other dangerous behaviors such as aggressive driving, impairment by drugs or alcohol, and not wearing a seat belt.

The extra speed patrols bring public awareness to the issue. They will take place across the area so the best way to avoid a ticket is just to slow down. 

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.