Oregon Ironworks

Streetcar production, by Portland Transport

Portland Transport has some great shots of the new Oregon Ironworks facility where they are assembling streetcars. The cars are designed by Skoda, the Czech company that produced the SLU streetcar, and are assembled from some parts produced abroad. The FTA has a “Buy American” rule that requires at least half of the price of transit equipment funded by FTA money to be spent in America. The Oregon Ironworks satisfies the “Buy America” rule.

Sound Transit’s Link EMUs have similar construction arrangement. Most of the parts are produced in Japan and brought to a Boeing-owned building in Everett and assembled by Kinkisharyo.

I’ve got a suggestion for Congress. We know that the global auto industry produces far more cars than there is demand, and especially need. This was true before the recession started, and is even more true now. Congress has approved $50 billion in bailouts for the Big Three automakers in just the last six months. Rather than spend ever more money on bailouts for automakers, why not spend that money on creating a home-grown train car construction industry? Obviously it won’t provide a job for every GM employee, but it has better long-term prospects than dumping more money into the Big Three money pit. Especially if the Federal Government wants to invest in mass transit systems.

Gregoire the Used Car Saleswoman

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I really hate to be so crass but I’m calling it how I see it. Just as I started to warm up to the tunnel Gregoire shows her real priorities. She played Ron Sims and now there is very little reason for greens to support this solution. This was the last thing holding many on and it will be interesting to see how the tunnel fairs in the next few weeks.

I had a ton of questions about the deep bore tunnel and now I think a lot of people are going to take a hard look to see if this is the best solution, especially now that more bus service isn’t hanging over their heads.

For example look at the finances. The port has yet to pitch in 300 million (btw they are hurting right now, with container volumes down ~30 percent from last year). WSDOT has a funding deficit of 400 million (which looks like it can only be solved with tolls). And that is chump change compared to the roughly 1 billion that the city needs to raise. I’d like to see how much of an appetite there is for raising that kind of money when the state has a nearly 6 billion dollar deficit and as thousands of Boeing, WAMU, Starbucks, and Microsoft employees are getting laid off.

Despite the grand rhetoric I think there are at least a few more twists and turns down the road.

News Round Up

Patty Murray, by Ben Schiendelman
  • Gregoire says that the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) is not needed to build the viaduct replacement tunnel. This will likely make a lot of people happy, since the MVET tends to be extremely unpopular for some reason, but it makes me very unhappy, since that money was supposed to go to transit service.
  • Patty Murray and Diane Feinstein are pushing a measure through the US Senate that will increase the amount of infrastructure funding in the Senate version of the stimulus bill. Currently, the Senate version has significant less infrastructure, and especially transit spending, than the version the house passed last week. If the amendment passes, it’s virtually gauranteed that the stimulus bill will have more than $13 billion in transit spending. The Senate version is expected to be larger than the $819 billion House version was, due to the large number of amendments.
  • As you have probably heard, Ron Sims is going to DC to be the deputy director of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sims has been King County Exec since 1996, and was probably read for a new job. In the mean time, the County Council will select a replacement. Sims is a good fit for this position, and will do a great job.
  • The feeling outside North King County? Toll both the 520 bridge and the I-90 bridge to pay for 520 construction.
  • This is why double decker buses need to stick to their route.

The Senate Steps Up

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Sens. Murray and Schumer, among others, are offering bills to increase the amount of transit funding in the Senate version of the stimulus bill.  

While this is all well and good, if we’re going to be investing extra billions in transit during the stimulus, what I want to know is (a) is the money going to states or directly to transit agencies, and (b) is it according to existing formulas or new formulas that take into account transit-oriented development.  I’d rather wait and spend smartly six months from now than just dump money now. 

Sadly, I’m swamped with work right now and I can’t properly research the answers to these questions.  

The Week in Dave Reichert

Dave Reichert (wikipedia)
Dave Reichert (wikipedia)

I’ve never paid much attention to Dave Reichert and his battles with Darcy Burner, mostly because I’ve never lived in the 8th District, but also because in my state of partial attention I’ve always thought of him as a basically harmless moderate Republican.

Now that serious transit initiatives are afoot in Congress, however, we’re getting to see who the retrograde thinkers are.

Let the record show that in the past week Mr. Reichert voted in favor of a Republican amendment to the stimulus that would have cut virtually every spending category, while authorizing an 120% increase in highway spending.   Worse yet, he voted to strip Amtrak of $800 million in funding.

The rest of the Puget Sound delegation, all Democrats, helped to defeat these measures.

Chris Vance on our Urban Highways

photo by whizchickenonabun

Former Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance has a surprisingly reasonable argument (for Crosscut, Mr Vance is usually reasonable) about the state for a plan to complete the urban highway projects that were in the RTID package that voters rejected in 2007. He sums up the debate on highways and points out that light rail has won, and rail-haters need to get over it. Personally, I don’t agree that we need to complete those projects but it’s good stuff, worth a read.

Rainier Valley Meeting on TOD

Seattle Pvblic Library 3
Columbia City Library, by flickr user SlightlyNorth

According to the Rainier Valley Post, the Columbia City Community Council meets tonight at 6 pm in the Columbia Library. Today’s meeting is a briefing about the process of updating that area’s Neighborhood Plan, which the city uses to inform development and density goals, and will also have a discussion of the Futurewise/TCC “Transit Oriented Communities” bill we’ve been following (also here, here and here). From this quote, I don’t think the folks at the meeting are in favor of HB 1490:

If approved, this legislation will mandate high density housing development at station-areas that would make southeast Seattle the densest community north of San Francisco. This legislation is highly controversial.

That’s a pretty dramatic exaggeration, the bill isn’t prescribing even the sort of densities that are currently in place on Capitol Hill, much less First Hill or Belltown’s highrises.

If you live in that neighborhood and that’s your sort of fun, according to the RVP, the CCCC is looking for volunteers to work on the neighborhood plan. The long-term effectiveness of our light rail system is going to hinge quite a bit on the amount of development it’s able to spur. It’d be a shame if these meetings were attended only by NIMBYs and our whole region loses out because of it.

Big ST Express Changes in 2009

Remember those 100,000 extra hours of immediate bus service promised with Proposition 1?  Sound Transit has finally released a draft proposal (pdf), and it’s significant.

They haven’t even started collecting the additional taxes yet, but here’s the schedule of the service rollout:

  • June 2009: More trips on the 510, 511, 513, 522, 532, 535, 545, 550, and 554, as well as South Sounder.  As revealed earlier, ST routes 554, 555, and 556 would serve the Eastgate freeway station instead of the park & ride itself, and there would be route adjustments for the latter two.
  • A new Route 578 will provide long-desired “Sounder shadow” service to many Sounder stations when the train isn’t running.  It’ll run between downtown Seattle, Federal Way, Auburn, Sumner, and Puyallup.
  • Oh yes, Central Link opens in July.
  • September 2009: More off-peak service on the 510, 511, 550, and 554.

After Seatac station opens in December, we see the real bus action in February 2010.

Continue reading “Big ST Express Changes in 2009”