Second Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver Approved…

Amtrak Cascades Trains at Rest in Seattle
Photo by mrbula

But only during the Olympics… The fate of this train all comes down to money now. I suppose I’d be in support of a minor fee added to the tickets for the border crossing fee, but still, the hostility is nothing but greed. I still don’t see airlines getting charged for passengers going to/from YVR, why should Amtrak? This is all greed and makes me very sour to even think about having to pay extra, when I would easily spend hundreds of dollars up there, like many other travelers do. A $10 surcharge would be needed to cover the expense using the 2008 ridership numbers with a bit of cushion. That surcharge should only apply to those passengers going to Canada.

This will raise the low price from $30 one way to $40 one way and a high of $50 to $60. Even with the current high fares, most of the weekend trains to Vancouver BC or to Seattle are sold out.

Regardless of that fact, it does appear that the second train will bring an expected benefit of nearly $14 million dollars of revenue to the Canadians.

Vancouver Sun story on April 1, 2009 – Vancouver Sun story on March 31, 2009 – H/T Ken Storey via Trainorders.com

Representative Simpson Defends East Link!

Rep Geoff Simpson, D-47th
Rep Geoff Simpson, D-47th

Publicola reports that Geoff Simpson, (D-47th), is stepping up to the plate! He’s got an amendment with over thirty signatures to counter Clibborn’s attack.

I’m told that we need calls to your representatives right now to convince them to sign on, as they have until about 5pm to get on board the quickly lengthening train and join the majority of the region to support East Link!

Please take a moment and make a call to each of your two representatives – ask them to sign Simpson’s amendment to protect light rail. You can find them with this handy district finder.

Senator Jarrett Peddles A Contrived Story

Senator Fred Jarrett
Senator Fred Jarrett

On the Senate Democrats’ blog, and presumably on the Seattle Times shortly, Fred Jarrett offers an attempt to blame someone else, somewhere else, a long time ago, for the active attack on Sound Transit we’re seeing today.

It’s barely worth picking apart. He tries to build transit credentials by claiming he helped develop Sound Move. Actually, amusingly, he says Sound Move created Sound Transit in 1996 – he talks about all this ‘hard work’ he did, but missed that Sound Transit was created in 1993, and they put Sound Move on the ballot.

So, let me set the record straight. All this nonsense about RTID and Roads and Transit is a way to distract from the fact that there isn’t money in either the House or Senate budget for R8A, despite the state committing to funding it the year after Roads and Transit failed. If money in transportation is in “short supply”, where’d the increase in viaduct funding from $2.4 billion to $3.14 billion come from? How about the $1.5 billion for Tacoma HOV lanes? Nobody wants to explain why $70 million of the federal stimulus package went to I-405, but the same bill took money out of R8A – when the region voted against funding 405 expansion, and for funding light rail.

He writes: “Sound Transit and the WSDOT have a plan to resolve these issues and meet all of the East Link project milestones.” Is that so? Where is this plan? Or is saying this just a delaying tactic? And RTID would have funded $33 million? Doesn’t Sound Transit’s new increase in funding of $45 million more than cover those lost funds? I’d imagine it does. And this BRT comment from the Senator? The 1976 memorandum of agreement says ‘fixed guideway’, and that’s not BRT.

And as for the Senator’s gas tax comments? He says “How do we deal with the constitutional prohibition on using gas tax funds to construct I-90 for transit?” HOV lanes are a highway project. Stage 1, as the Senator notes, was paid for partially by the state – with gas tax money. HOV projects around the state are routinely paid for with gas taxes. This is nothing new, and the Senator should know that. Then he asks “How do we negotiate waivers with the Federal Highway Administration for the federal funds used to build an interstate for transit purposes?” The federal government funded these lanes with the requirement that they be used for transit purposes.

The state has no stake in the I-90 express lanes past R8A. They were over 90% paid for by the federal government, and there is no legal avenue that justifies the state ‘negotiating’ for any money before giving them up. There are agreements in place that govern these transactions already, as I’ve mentioned before. I’ll be following up on this specifically soon.

It’s not hard to understand these issues – but it is hard to understand how this can be so clear to Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine, and so confusing to Senator Jarrett. The voters came through with a decision and backed it up with funding, and the state thinks this is a bargaining chip. I think all of our readers can see through this op-ed.

A Review of Route 25

For April Fools’ Day, the Seattle Times arts critic rode the 25 and wrote a review:

The real action starts with the appearance of the first passenger. Last Thursday it was a knapsacked, woolly-capped, iPodded gal on the corner of Sand Point Way Northeast who brought an admirable sense of understatement to her role. More passengers joined the drama at University Village and along the fringes of the University of Washington campus, their silence rivaling Harold Pinter’s famous pauses in creating a sense of mystery and tension.

It goes on like that for a while. How would you review your bus route?

BREAKING: Senate Moves a Little

Senator Fred Jarrett (D-Mercer Island), candidate for King County executive, has inserted the following amendment into the Senate Transportation Bill, SB 5352.

On page 36, after line 6, insert the following: “(29) The legislature is committed to the funding and construction of R8A in a timely manner, supporting the construction of Sound Transit’s East Link. The department shall complete the process of negotiating the airspace lease with Sound Transit, including appropriate and independent facility asset assessments required to accommodate the use and funding of the I-90 center roadway for East Link in support of East Link project milestones.”

EFFECT: Provides legislative commitment to constructing the R8A center lane and Sound Transit East Link project on the I-90 corridor, and directs the Department of Transportation to negotiate the airspace lease with Sound Transit to facilitate the project.

This is in direct conflict with the House’s provision to effectively block WSDOT negotiations with Sound Transit over the center roadway.  Assuming the Senate version wins out over the House’s, this would remove the procedural obstacle to East Link and leave only the funding one.

My source says the vote on the amendment was approximately 29-19; when they arrive, we’ll watch with interest the Yeas and Nays on this pretty straight up-or-down vote on East Link.

There are still two other serious problems with the treatment of Sound Transit in the proposed budgets, to say nothing of the gutting of funding for intercity rail.

Take Action: Mail Legislators About Light Rail to Bellevue

Washington State Capitol Building. Picture by swishphotos.
Washington State Capitol Building. Picture by swishphotos.

We’ve talked about about R8A and other legislature inference plenty over the last few days. It’s time for us to take action. We need to contact leaders in Olympia and tell them what we think:

  1. The state should fund, as promised, the two-way HOV lane project on I-90 so that light rail can be completed to the Eastside on time. East Link will be delayed for years without this funding.
  2. Sound Transit should receive funds for the three Regional Mobility grants which it was competitively awarded. ST won these grants because the projects are among the best transportation investments in the state.
  3. There is no need for a bureaucratic “asset assessment study” for light rail across I-90. A new study could only serve to delay building light rail across a bridge that has already been studied numerous times.
  4. The region voted overwhelmingly to support this light rail package. The legislature shouldn’t thwart the will of the voters.

Here’s a list of important transportation legislators:

The email address for your legislators can be found on the state legislature website, or you can use this form to automatically email your legislators based on your address. You can email Governor Gregoire on her website.

After the jump is the letter we’re sending out which reflects the above talking points. Feel free to change the text as you see fit and forward it to the above legislators as well as your own — let them know you’re paying attention.

Continue reading “Take Action: Mail Legislators About Light Rail to Bellevue”

Today is Drive to Work Day

Weekend traffic jam on I-5, March 21
Traffic on I-5, Courtesy of WSDOT

April 1st is Drive to Work Day, an event created to raise awareness of car driving among pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. The Seattle Transit Blog is joining with other local groups and a world-wide-movement to promote Drive to Work Day in order to increase gas tax revenues for the Washington State Department of Transportation so that new roads projects can be started in our area.  Our state transportation budget is severely in the red and more driving is the only means to more revenue for our state.

Each day millions of car drivers are put in danger, forced to drive more quickly in less traffic or otherwise inconvenienced by those on foot, on the bus or on bike. The millions of Americans who take transit, ride their bike or walk to work each day are not taking part in the American Dream of driving a single-occupancy-vehicle to work, and are causing millions of acres of land in United States to go unpaved every year. Do your part and make roads safe for single-occupancy vehicles: Drive To Work Today!

H/T to Bernie.

News Round Up: Recession, Recession, Recession

Pan Shot
Link in Action, photo by Stephen De Vight
  • Olympia’s devil transportation budget, the one that imposes a huge delay on East Link, seems to have passed out of the House Committee, with a full house vote Friday. The Senate version is bouncing around committees still. There is still time to email your legislators and tell them you want R8A and Eastlink back in the budget.
  • Newcastle 411 is reporting that the Sound Transit-funded Newcastle Transit Center project’s lowest bid was $2.1 million, 22.2% under the $2.7 million estimate. A number of projects have come under estimate recently, including the longer of the two U-Link tunnels. The bad recession is causing a huge shortage in construction projects, and engineering and construction firms are competing very strongly for the projects that are available.
  • The FAA foresees a 9% drop in air travel in the US this year due to the bad economy.
  • The rotten economy seems to be slowing transit-oriented-development in the Rainier Valley, according to the South Seattle Beacon. The nice thing about train lines is that even though they only open once, they stick around a long, long time. The TOD will show up eventually.