TCC Open House

I went to the Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) open house yesterday. It was a lot of waiting from 5-6pm drinking good wine and talking with individuals that were there. Then there was about 15 minutes of talking from the special guests namely Mayor Nickels. Here is a quick summary of what was brought up in the very brief talks.

Sound Transit and many parties are trying hard to get extended light rail onto the ballot for 2008 for obvious reasons.

The Seattle Streetcar is going to be expanded, they are working on a map right now. They will be waiting to see who steps up with dollars though. Sponsors are going to be a key perhaps in the direction it is expanded to? They are working on a map now as we know already.

As most of us know the 520 and Viaduct are big issues currently being worked on. It was mentioned that progress is occurring on both of those big projects. Not much detail, but Carless In Seattle has a summary of his experience there.

I wasn’t as aware of this, but Vulcan has a good working relationship with TCC and there is a lot of collaboration in each project in relation to transportation. Good to hear! Wish others would do the same. There was also a push to donate to TCC if you have the opportunity to do so, they do a lot of work with very few people and dollars. I think we all agree their efforts are needed for the future of Seattle.

Capitol Hill Station Art Concept

The Seattle Times has an article about the artist, Mike Ross, doing the main piece for Capitol Hill Station, and a potential design for $550,000 piece that will be put in the station.

His steel birds, one facing north and one facing south, would appear to kiss each other. They would lurk among huge crossbeams, over the train platforms. “Because I started with such aggressive symbols, I arranged them in a nonaggressive way,” he said Thursday. A New Yorker, he was inspired by Seattle’s natural setting and aviation history, but wanted bright colors to offset the region’s perpetually gray skies.

The Seattle sculpture would explore the relationship between nature and technology, war and peace, strength and fragility. “It asks a lot of people,” he said. Ross said he hopes children will enjoy the playful shape.

Check out the video:

Board Meeting Update

The board met today, but did not decide whether to go back to the ballot, as I thought they would. Whoops. Apparently, they have extened their time table until July to decide to go the ballot. Sorry about the misinformation. With a Billionaire John Stanton-back “governance” initiative likely to rear its ugly head come November, I pray we do get a ballot initiative.

Some interesting information came from the meeting according to the Tacoma News Tribune’s Patrick O’Callahan:

  • No Lakewood-Dupont extension to Sounder, mostly because that run would be mostly for commuters from Olympia. The Pierce County delegation was not happy with the idea of subsidizing Thurston County residents.
  • The Tacoma Link extension was out, which upsets me and a lot of other people.
  • Sound Transit would spend money on acquiring right-of-way for South Link to be built in ST3.

More Sounder runs would still be included. I know the News Tribune’s postion was with Pierce County Ladenburg that it’s all about light rail for Pierce County, but I wonder if just buying land will get enough support to pass a ballot proposition.

The High Cost of Doing Nothing

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Things get more expensive:

The Mercer project’s estimated cost has increased by 40 percent, from $137.3 million last year to $192.9 million now. Spokane Street improvement costs have risen 9 percent, from an estimated $154.3 million last year to $168.5 million now.

The estimated price of the Lander Street crossing has more than doubled since last year, from $71.2 million to $152 million.

The cost of cement and steel have been through the roof lately. I’m interested to see if the overall slowdown in the economy in generall and housing in particular means that construction costs will stop rising so quickly. I kind of doubt it, since China and the rest of the developing world continue to be on a tear.

Streetcar Crashes Again

I was on my way home this evening and went to wait for the streetcar only to find the electronic sign saying: Expect Delays 1 Streetcar Running. Shocked, confused, and curious, I found out that yet again another accident has occurred with the streetcar! Everyone jokes about hitting the parked car when you get your license, I think the jokes will start to fly now. The red car hit a parked truck on Terry near Harrison. Sigh….the problem is I have heard they are going to rely on one streetcar for tomorrow. The orange streetcar is in being serviced, and the red one is now obviously bruised and in need of some TLC. So I guess that we will have to expect more delays in the future as only the purple one will be running. So now, a couple questions run through my mind.

1. This is now the third accident in the short 4 months the line has been open. This clearly shows that the future additions to the line need to be away from traffic preferably in its own lane with space to clear all objects. That last part is most important. I don’t get how people still park their vehicles incorrectly, however, clearly there needs to be better information out about this. I have had to get off twice due to illegal parkers and the streetcar not being able to get around it. Perhaps banning parking on the line? That would eliminate that problem.

2. I have been on the streetcar when it has had to stop quickly, although difficult it can be done. Terry is a slow untraveled road, how is this not able to be avoided by the operator especially if it was parked? I am not placing any blame, but it seems odd to me that it couldn’t have been avoided?

I hope this isn’t a series of events that we can expect in the future, perhaps just isolated incidents. Although, they say three is a trend. What do you guys think?

Biofuels And Climate Change

In light of this week’s Time magazine article calling biofuels a scam, I think it’s well past time to bring up that which has been touted as a savior for the automobile lifestyle.

The basic idea is this: the carbon dioxide released by oil that we get out of the ground contributes to climate change. When we grow crops like soybeans, rapeseed, and corn, we get a source of oil to burn as the plants ‘fix’ carbon dioxide from the air. The biomass that we can’t convert to oil offsets the carbon dioxide released in the agricultural process, so at the end of the growing season we’ve both generated fuel and captured some of our previous carbon dioxide emissions – and the more efficient our crop, the more we capture.

As a result of this idea, several subsidies are now available to biofuel producers in the US and other countries, and a growing number of local governments have mandated that their fleets be partially fueled by biofuels. King County Metro is one example – our buses are fueled in part by biodiesel. These subsidies to producers are intended to help switch US fuel consumers to locally produced fuels, rather than foreign oil.

Here’s where the problems begin. For starters, most of that subsidized fuel isn’t staying in the US, because the producers can make more money in foreign markets. That’s bad for us, because it means our tax dollars aren’t helping at home. On top of that, our biggest biofuel subsidies go to corn-based ethanol, and it’s becoming more and more clear that corn is one of the least efficient ways to produce biofuels. In fact, there’s some disagreement as to whether corn ethanol production even nets us as as much energy as it takes to produce.

Some of the other biofuel crops fare better in that regard. It’s been generally accepted that some of today’s biofuel crops are energy positive, such as soybean biodiesel. Unfortunately, it looks like biofuel proponents (including, in the past, myself) have been missing a key part of the puzzle. As biofuels become more widespread and more profitable, as the original niche market for used frying oil has become a worldwide industry, land is becoming an issue.

Now, every time demand for biofuels increases, it results in rainforest in the Amazon being burned down for oil crops. This is what that looks like from above – please do look. As the New York Times recently reported, two new peer-reviewed studies published in the journal Science show that clearing this land emits hundreds of times more carbon dioxide than biofuels grown there can recapture. In fact, even when growing much more efficient switchgrass rather than corn, using existing US cropland has similar results. The soybean growers groups that funded the study responded to these findings by suspending their grants to the University of Minnesota, the institution conducting the research.

It gets worse. The price of food is increasing – in part because food crops now must compete directly with fuel crops for land and fresh water. The United Nations World Food Programme estimated a few years ago that the number of undernourished people today, some 850 million, could be reduced to 400 million by mid-century. They now estimate that this number will go up to 1.2 billion. This is not to say that biofuels are the only problem – Increased demand caused by prosperity in China and India could account for some of the price increases in basic crops, as well as investors shifting their money from stocks to commodities – but a problem they are.

In addition, the loss of biodiversity caused by dramatically adding new farmland for growing fuel is devastating. We bring new diseases to the modern world by pressuring rainforest fauna into urban environments, and we seriously damage the ability of these ecosystems to adapt to hardships like disease and drought.

There could be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s possible that algae-based, so called third-generation biofuels could dramatically reduce arable land use, using closed loop systems for water. Switchgrass-based biodiesel can use otherwise unfarmable land, but like used fryer oil, that’s a niche production market that largely serves to promote the biofuel industry.

Diesel Jettas aren’t going to solve our transportation energy problem. Personally, of course, I think the best real solution we have right now is to build electric rail transit so that we get a head start on adapting our community layout to a greener future. I hope this helps provide food (or fuel) for thought.

The Island Home Ferry

A few people asked me via e-mail on what the Island Home ferry looks like and after some quick searching, I found a picture of the M/V Island Home during Sea Trials.

After reading the article, it sounds like they basically encountered everything that the Port Townsend – Keystone ferry would encounter during bad weather.

She is a pretty boat and would be a great addition to the WSF fleet!


Sorry I wasn’t totally clear in the first post.. this should clear it up on why I put something on the Martha Vineyard boat on a Seattle blog =)

The Island Home ferry design is what would replace the Steilacoom II ferry which is on the Port Townsend to Keystone ferry route.

WSF would be replacing the Steilacoom II boat with two Island Home class boats that would hold 76 cars and a little over 1,200 passengers.

The reason for the Island Home design is because the boat can withstand the rough seas of that is common to that route.

Here is a quote from the Everett Herald

“They are weighing whether to reject the bid and instead pursue building two to three larger ferries of the Island Home design, which carry about 75 vehicles.”


April 2, 2008 6:32 PM

April Fools

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

By 12:30 in the afternoon you’d think I would have stopped falling for April Fools jokes, but this one caught me with my guard down. Nicely done.

An Introduction

Some may be surprised to see me posting on STB but after some thinking and noticed that my blog (Washington State Transportation) and Seattle Transit Blog mirror almost the same topics and my recent lack of time to maintain my blog figured it would be best to join heads with the gang over here!

So what I plan to bring here is more news on rail and ferry news. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to some of the more critical posts over from WATB to STB but so far nothing is available besides manual entries and correcting the date… Should be interesting…

Any questions? Feel free to harass me!

Transit Open House Thursday!!!

The TCC Open house is Thursday April 3, 5:00 – 7:00 pm at South Lake Union Discovery Center, 101 Westlake Ave. N, the same day as the Capitol Hill Light Rail station open house (5:30 to 8 pm). If the build-up wasn’t enough, the Sound Transit board will decide whether to go to the ballot on Thursday (signs point to yes). Three great Transit events, one day…

Also, the Transit Citizen’s Campaign is a little earlier on Wednesday (during the day so I can’t go), with the info below.

Time: 12:15 pm, Wednesday, April 2, 2008.
Place: Rainier UU Center (835 Yesler Way, same location as the First Friday Earth Forums)
Concept: As discussed at the First Friday Earth Forum on February 1st, a number of us are eager to form a Citizens Transit Campaign for better transit service.
A suggested goal has been to campaign for funding to double local transit service over the next decade, with an emphasis on frequent all-day service and good connections to Sound Transit’s expanding regional service.
This is the kind of service needed for dramatically more people to develop transit oriented lifestyles, as gas prices soar and green house gas emission targets become imperative.
The region has good transportation policy groups. What is needed is a group that can do its homework, form a sound strategy, and generate strong grassroots support, working with a broad coalition of groups from non-profits, labor, business, and government.
At this organizational meeting we’ll brainstorm how we might go about this and work on developing an agenda. So if you want to get in on the ground floor, this is your opportunity. We’ll schedule similar meetings at other times for those who want to be involved but can’t make this one.
Access: Walk 0.4 miles up the hill from 3rd & Yesler (Pioneer Square tunnel station) or take bus 27 from 3rd & Yesler at 12:17 pm & get off at Yesler and Broadway. Or bus 60. Or walk from bus stops on Broadway, Yesler & Boren, or 12th & Jackson. Or bike – secure “cage” downstairs.