AVE
Ave train in train, photo by beco.
  • According to the DJC and confirmed by Sound Transit, the Mountlake Terrace Station project has received nine bids, all under the engineer’s estimate. That’s one good thing about a terrible economy, especially for construction: projects are cheaper. The lowest bid was from a company called “Mid-Mountain Contractors”, who bid $17.7 million, the original estimate was $21.9 million.
  • Streets blog notes that vehicle miles travelled (VMT) was down 3.6% nationwide in 2008 compared to 2007. That’s a huge decline, but even larger than that decline is the decline in congestion: about 30% nationwide and 24% in the Seattle area. You can see the actual DOT data here. I bet the majority of the fall has to do with the dramatic fall in employment, which explains why congestion has fallen faster than VMT: congestion is worst during commute trips, and commuters needs jobs to go to.
  • On that same topic, Matt Yglesias believes the large reduction in congestion caused by a small reduction in trips shows that even a little congestion pricing can go a long way toward a reducing congestion. However, he goes one step farther and makes the claim that congestion pricing shouldn’t be something that drivers care more about than transit users:

    I live in a walkable, transit-accessible neighborhood in a central city. I don’t own a car and get around on foot, on bike, on bus, or on Metro. Consequently, it doesn’t really bother me if other people have unnecessarily long commutes. Ultimately, neither drivers nor non-drivers benefit from bad policy that causes unnecessary traffic jams and inconvenience, but it’s regular car commuters who are paying the highest price.

    I’m not sure that it’s completely correct to say that car commuters are paying the highest price. Both bus commuters and drivers are paying for congestion with their time, but congestion drives up the cost of bus service, meaning fewer buses.

  • NPR’s Morning addition had a story about how Spain’s AVE high speed rail is faster than an airplane, and how Spain built the system so quickly. I wanted to write “The Trains in Spain are faster than a Plane”, but I the npr broadcaster beat me to it. (H/T to tresarboles).

This is an open thread.

12 Replies to “News Round-Up: VMT Down”

  1. woo-hoo! open thread!
    VMT has a lot to do with gas prices, and unemployment. But people are also living closer to work.

  2. Glad to see Renfre Talgo getting some well deserved credit for advancing HSR technology. They assembled the first US HSR cars right here in Seattle for WSDOT in 1994 with the hope our country would see the light. It’s been a long wait, but change is coming.

    1. Oh, forgot to mention that our Talgo trains currently carry more than double the passengers between SEA and PDX than the airlines(1232 to 496 daily). We get it!

      1. That last stat is the one that needs trumpeting from the mountain tops if regional HSR system are to blossom here like the national one had in Spain. The most interesting thing in the NPR story to me was it’s focus on several midwestern US mayors and at least one Governor (Wisconsin) had gone to Spain to learn about HSR. The Wisconsin Governor believed their national system would make a great template for regional systems in the US. Then just last night I got home and watched John Stewart play footage of a Fox anchor (?) making an “HSR…it’s just sooo weird” type of report in criticizing the Stimulus Law.

      2. On a lighter note, the number 1 destination from SEA was Las Vegas. Maybe Sen. Reids Maglev line from Anehiem could meander up I-5 before going to Las Vegas, with a few stops in between. (Source WSDOT Aviation Section).

      3. Great news. However, before the anti-rail folks jump all over this stat, are those 1232 folks SEA and PDX passengers only, or does that number also include all the short trippers to/from cities and towns betwixt Seattle and Portland? Either way, this is a terrific statistic – the gallons of aviation fuel vs tablespoons of diesel per passenger statistic must be amazing.

  3. Q13 news this morning said something about the house passing a bill promoting the deep bore tunnel and it was headed to the senate. I didn’t catch if it was an authorization or an appropriation (or just more study). Anybody?

  4. As long as this is an open thread…

    How about congestion pricing for the ferries? Sometimes there’s a predictable 2-3 boat wait. Edmonds/Kingston we can drive around faster and cheaper on a one boat wait. Even Amtrak charges more for fares during choice departure times. Shouldn’t WSF get on board with this?

    1. Not a bad idea. The problem with the ferries is that they see huge drops in passengers when they raise fares, which means often they make less money overall after a fare increase

  5. A lot of the runs are only half full or less. Higher fares on the prime time runs could offset a slightly lower fare off peak. I think ridership might go up if people had a reasonable assurance that they could get on the next sailing. How would bus ridership look if you had to wait 1-2 hours for a bus that wasn’t full?

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