Transportation 2040 Alternative Costs
Transportation 2040 Alternative Costs

Transportation 2040, the update to Destination 2030, is a major decision point for the region. We have a choice to boldly move forward to reduce congestion, better fund transportation, and reduce CO2 or we can shy away from controversy and choose a business as usual alternative that hardly fixes these issues.

PSRC has been working for over two years on this update and it is currently soliciting public feedback on five different proposal alternatives. PSRC uses a scenario based planning process that emphasizes how a particular policy objective or decision will affect the region. These alternatives often fill out the full array of possible policy directions and are compared to a single “baseline” which includes current conditions plus funded projects (Nickel, TPA, ST2, RapidRide, Swift). I began to outline the alternatives myself, but I think these slides from a PRSC presentation to the Quality Growth Alliance will give you a better overview. I have included key slides but it is probably best if you download the presentation here. If you would like to learn more about the alternatives read the 42 page Plan Alternative Chapter (5.9 MBs) or the 38 page Executive Summary (16 MBs).

PSRC titles the alternatives one through five as follows.

  • Alternative 1: Emphasize the Efficiency of the Existing System: This assumes limited new transportation funding. It emphasizes system and demand management through great ITS and HOT lane tolling. ($165 Billion)
  • Alternative 2: Emphasize Roadway and Transit Capacity Expansion: This is the business as usual alternative (i.e. Destination 2030) and essentially is a capacity improvement alternative. ($201 Billion)
  • Alternative 3: Toll Revenues Expand Capacity and Improve Efficiency: This alternative is where we are currently. All major freeway improvements will be tolled for management and funding purposes. ($188 Billion)
  • Alternative 4: Combine Traditional Revenues and Tolls to Maximize Efficiency: This alternative explores the use of freeway wide tolling, traditional revenue sources, and strategic capacity expansions. It includes high bus service increases and ST3 level rail investments. ($192 Billion)
  • Alternative 5: Reduce Emissions with Limited Highway Investments and Regional Tolling: This alternative uses system wide tolling to manage demand and invests extensively in transit and non-motorized transportation. It is the only alternative that attempts to reduce CO2 emissions. ($196 Billion)

Text Summary of Alternatives
Text Summary of Alternatives

Data Summary of Alternatives
Data Summary of Alternatives

These alternatives were then evaluated according to the following criteria and discussed on the executive summary starting on page 12 or page 27 in the presentation.

  • Mobility (travel time saving, reliability)
  • Finances (O&M costs, revenues, capitol cost)
  • Growth management (support VISION 2040)
  • Economic prosperity
  • Equity (geographic, socio-demographic, freight)
  • Environment (emissions, impervious surface, open space)
  • Quality of life (health, safety, security)

I could go into more depth, but I would rather not pretend to cover all of the complexities of these alternatives. Rather, I would like to leave you with highlights of what I found interesting and surprising.

  • Alternative 5 hands down is the best for reducing pollution emissions.
  • Alternative 5 is the least susceptible to gas tax revenue decreases and is the only “fully” funded alternative. All other alternatives, even with toll revenue included, are not fully funded. Alternative 2 is roughly 40% unfunded.
  • All alternatives have higher CO2 emissions than 2006 except alternative 5 with a full hybrid fleet.
  • In alternatives 1-4 PSRC does not even attempt to meet state CO2 emissions and VMT reduction goals. (What are PSRC’s responsibilities in the area? Is PSRC required to adopt plans that at least attempt to meet these goals?)
  • Alternative 5 has lower emissions assuming a traditional fleet than the baseline assuming 50% hybrids. Same is true with 50% hybrid fleet and full hybrid fleet.
  • Alternative 5 is the only alternative to significantly reduce both VMT and VHT (vehicle hours traveled).
  • Non-tolling options only yield a 10% reduction in delay over baseline. Tolled alternatives have a 55% to ~70 % reduction in delay, with alternative 5 having the largest reduction.
  • Alternative 4 is bad for Kitsap county sub area mobility benefit. Alternative 5 is best for King county.
  • Alternative 2 has a negative cost/benefit ratio.
  • Alternative 3 has the highest cost/benefit ratio, with 4 and 5 close behind.

To grossly summarize, Alternative 1 is what happens if we have no money, Alternative 2 is what we thought we should do ~5 years ago, Alternative 3 is where we are right now, Alternative 4 is the middle road, and Alternative 5 is where we need to be.

Go here to comment on the DEIS. The comment period has been extended to July 31st.

31 Replies to “Transportation 2040: Be Bold”

  1. Interesting but irrelevant. The PSRC has been churning out reports that have been ignored for years.

    I don’t see Sound Transit paying any attention to this level of planning. Nor do I see WA DOT paying any attention, or the city via things like the Viaduct.

    Reasoning? Look at the commuter train miles, all options but #5 are zero miles? Fat chance of that, ST in the next round of funding ballot will throw in some more miles on either end to pick up the votes it needs in Pierce and Snohomish counties. ST will rely on it’s own polls and not this report.

    WA DOT is going to pay much more attention to whoever is governor than this report.

    The PSRC has struggled for years to justify itself and each time coming up empty. It should probably be disbanded and the funding given to run the schools.

    1. I don’t think you get the point of this type of long range planning. It isn’t meant to be detailed down to the project level, it is meant to simulate a set of investment and management strategies and see what the general outcome is.

      1. No the point is that these long range plans have been generated for years by the PSRC and ignored by all the transit agencies in the state.

      2. No Ben, Sound Transit wants to build out as much as possible. They don’t care which PSRC option is selected, they aren’t going to restrict the build out because the “no build” option is selected. They aren’t going to limit commuter rail because no option other than #5 has it no matter what option is selected.

        I’m not claiming that long range planning is useless, far from it. I’m claiming that an agency with no taxing authority, no enforcement authority, and no governing mechanism is useless.

        I am interested in the long range plans of WA Dot, and ST, and the City of Seattle’s Transportation dept. This particular plan is just hot air.

      3. This is a long range plan for ALL transportation agencies. That includes WSDOT (it is not WA DOT btw), SDOT etc. Yes Sound Transit will build as much as it can possibly afford but I don’t see what the problem with that is? The more transit we get the better. Also far as regional funding bodies ST gets more money for projects from PSRC than it does from the state so if ST is doing something that PSRC doesn’t like it should stop funding these projects.

      4. You don’t seem to understand. There is no point at all to making long range plans if every agency is free to do as it pleases no matter what is in the plan.

        We have a state budget that is strapped for cash. Rather than waste money making plans no one has to pay attention to, it could be used for other things like homeless shelters, ferries, more buses etc.

      5. PSRC is not going away anytime soon. It is required by state and federal law to have a regional transportation planning organization and metropolitan planning organization, respectively. Without PSRC we risk losing federal funding as that is how federal transportation funds are distributed to localities. Most of PSRC is funded through federal grants so your point about taking their money for other local stuff is moot.

  2. Gary – you’re right in the sense that most of their reports have been ignored, but that’s because their recommendations have no teeth, and the politicians have no foresight beyond the next election cycle. Adam is right – We NEED long range planning, and we NEED the agencies and the politicians to buy in. Likely in Pugetopolis? Not really, sadly…

  3. Well said. Option 5 still doesn’t get us even close to where we need to be in terms of GHG reductions(and where we are committed to being by law), but it’s a solid start. Please let PSRC know that you support it.

    1. Well Gov Chris seems to have lost the battle for any stim $ for WSF according to the front page of Seattle’s last daily newspaper this morning.

      1. To those who were saying Sen. Murray was toothless (see the comments on the ST article), she got another $7 million for ferries in Washington within 24 hours of LaHood announcing the ferry awards.

        Don’t mess with the “grandma in tennis shoes”.

  4. As for Option #5 being a bold plan… what a country we’ve become if we think that this is a “bold” plan. Going to the moon in under 10 years is bold. All of these options are milk toast.

    I want a “bold” plan that actually reduces Green House Gases. That means improving the electrical grid so that we have the electrical energy in the region that we are going to need to get off of burning fossil fuels. I want hundreds of miles of elevated track. An Urban MagLev preferably for the long trips. By 2040, it should be working… with plans to convert the existing steel wheeled trains to Maglev.

    If option #5 is the best we can do to reduce Green house gases, we’d better be planning on building more bridges so we can get around all the rising sea that will be here.

    1. MagLev isn’t viable. It’s basically vaporware The technology is not proven, and has not been adopted anywhere else in the world. It costs significantly more than comparable steel wheel on rail technology, and there are no systems in the world from which to project maintenance costs. It sounds great, but really steel wheel on rail is better.

      MagLev’s main (theoretical) advantage would be that it can climb steeper grades and go faster than traditional rail. We’re talking hundreds of miles per hour. An urban rail system is never going to need to get above 100 mph. If you’re talking about city-to-city transport, MagLev becomes a little more viable, but even within megalopolises like the Puget Sound region, MagLev isn’t the right way to go.

      I agree with the rest of your comment. A bold plan is needed, and not just in transportation.

      1. You’re kidding about MagLev right? By 2040, there will be no new developments? For the next 31 years software and hardware to run something like this won’t be available? The Shanghai system is hardly vaporware.

        You know if you’d like to invest your money in transportation, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that is a guaranteed money maker…

        Seriously, an Urban Mag lev has other advantages besides it’s top speed.

        Read the bit about efficiency. That’s one of the reasons, another is that the track is weather independent, another is no wheel on track noise, another is no latex dust (see Alweg Monorail).

        Bold vision requires more than just thinking that 100 year old technology is the only future.

      2. Funny think is after all of these years there are only two Maglev systems in the entire world while billions are being invested in high speed rail, commuter rail, metro systems, light rail, and trams all over the world.

        To me maglev is just an update to the gadgetbahn nonsense pushed by monorail and PRT boosters. The promises mostly fall flat when a real system has to be implemented in the real world. Not to mention the problems caused by going with a technology with a sole-source provider. OTOH with conventional rail technologies I can buy my system from any number of vendors around the world.

      3. I cannot think of any advantage to a system that is not interoperable with the rest of the transport system. Are you seriously saying that we should invest trillions in entirely new roadbeds and vehicles duplicating the already existing and often readily improvable rail infrastructure which works well in most modernised nations save the English speaking ones?

      4. Actually they are interchangeable. Sound Transit can order standard new cars from Siemens, Bombardier, or a number of other manufacturers. In other places those same cars can be used on the same ROW as mainline railway equipment. Furthermore much of the equipment used for maintaining standard gauge rails and rail vehicles can be used for the link track and vehicles.

  5. I agree with Gary that the PSRC options are not bold enough. I testified in the public hearing on the Transportation 2040 plan last Thursday that PSRC should come up with an alternative that doubles transit market share (from the baseline case) by 2040, so that citizens can understand what steps are needed and what resources are required.
    PSRC should also come up with an alternative that meets the State’s GHG reduction targets by 2040, or else explain why they cannot be met.

    1. The state’s GHG reduction goals are for every source, not just transportation. Transportation can only get us part of the way. It’s also going to take new transportation technologies, which PSRC can’t possibly predict, and reductions in other sectors.

  6. We have a choice to boldly move forward to reduce congestion, better fund transportation, and reduce CO2 or we can shy away from controversy and choose a business as usual alternative that hardly fixes these issues.

    We need to emphasize the point that business as usual is controversy. That doing nothing about congestion, transportation and climate change, means that business as usual is an agressive assult on livible communities and economic stability.

  7. We need a bold new plan? How long have you lived here? We are one of the last major metro regions in the west to build rail transit? You really think the political and economic climate in this region will support a bold plan? I think you are speaking as a transit junkie or somebody that just had a couple glasses of wine.

    Change in Puget Sound comes incrementally. It isn’t a sprint off the track but a marathon. You have to have focus and tenacity and a tolerance for pain.

    PSRC planning has been listened to and used sometimes as a starting point to debate what is possible. Then the plans are changes by practical realities.

    Yes, we need to do more. Yes we need less C02 and more mobility options. But we also need leadership, education, planning, inspiration, vision, practicality, persistence, and a lot of other nouns. Let’s plan, let’s debate, let’s fund, let’s educate and let’s find the right balance of practicality and vision. That is what we will get because that is what’s possible. Otherwise, if we go off advocating for things that aren’t reasonably possible when we don’t have the public on board then no one in power and no one in the voting public will take transit and sustainable development advocates seriously. Plan, educate, fund, build.

  8. I disagree with Gary. If PSRC weren’t doing this planning, there would be no federal transportation money coming here for anything, period. That’s the law. Don’t like it? Get Congress to change it. Good luck there: all of the interests that influence DC (at every end of the spectrum) want more of this type of planning, along with more capacity to match plans with more funds, not less of any of it.

    Looks to me like PSRC is just doing its job well. It is the only agency paying attention to the long term, which helps make sure near term decisions are mindful or longer term realities. Sound Transit depends on PSRC’s plans, so does WSDOT, and all the transit agencies, especially. PSRC is the route to federal funds for all of them. Early work by PSRC a few years ago led to Sound Transit on the ballot last fall.

    It doesn’t appear to me that PSRC plans are being ignored anywhere that matters. In fact, PSRC’s work is actually being used in DC as a leading edge example for how to reform federal policies and send more money to urban areas, in part to increase federal funds for transit.

    These plans change. It is early days in developing this one. If you have a problem with it, they should let people know, just like Niles did. Sure, a lot of it is ivory tower, but it has led to practical results, especially in the past ten years.

    1. I doubt Sound Transit would exist without the planning groundwork laid by the PSRC.

      As you say past PSRC efforts are behind a lot of the work being done by cities, counties, port districts, and the state today. It just isn’t really all that visible as the PSRC work is incorporated into the long-range plans of various governments and agencies. The lead agency/government on a particular project or effort tends to get the credit/blame after that.

  9. Unfortunately we can’t change our land use overnight. I think most of the growth from now until 2040 can be captured in locations where transit has a chance for success – with good planning that is. But most that has been built up until now regionally is not served well by transit, especially for non-work trips. That’s just a reality that we are faced with.

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