Paula Hammond and Joni Earl

Last night’s meetup featured two big names in transportation– WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond, and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, both of whom spoke at length about the role and status of women in transportation as well as general transportation issues at hand.  It was one of our best attended meetups ever with roughly 60+ in the audience.  The speaking session was led off with short introductions from Hammond and Earl who talked about their beginnings in transportation, and was later followed by a lengthy Q&A session.

Both Hammond and Earl talked about the evolving role of women in transportation, the shrinking gender gap, and cited a few examples where women now occupy traditionally male-dominated positions.  Earl mentioned that 75% 25% of Sound Transit’s senior management is comprised of women and that the CEOs of both Pierce and Community Transit are both women too.  On the highway side, the project managers of the State’s three mega-projects – the Deep-Bore Tunnel, Columbia River Crossing, and 520 replacement – are also women, according to Hammond.

Transportation funding and revenue sources also dominated the discussion for much of the night.  Repeated jabs were made at Tim Eyman and his incessant war on transport funding.  But what was most interesting was Hammond’s unfavorable view of the gas tax, which, according to her, has lost 49% of its purchasing power over the last ten years since the tax isn’t tied to inflation.  When asked if she supported defining transit as a “highway purpose” in context of the 18th amendment, Hammond iterated her support for a more user-based fee, like a VMT tax, and stressed that using gas tax money to fund transit wouldn’t likely work out in the long-run.

Other topics of the night also included State involvement in transit, burdensome bureaucratic regulations at the federal level, integration between highway and transit capital projects, and light rail buildout.  While time was limited, the event provided a robust forum for transit advocates to hear directly from Hammond and Earl, even on opinions we’ve disagreed with.

A big thanks to our guest speakers Secretary Hammond and CEO Earl for coming out to share their perspectives, as well as April Putney with Futurewise, who helped us coordinate this event.

104 Replies to “Paula Hammond and Joni Earl on Transportation”

  1. “When asked if she supported defining transit as a “highway purpose” in context of the 18th amendment, Hammond iterated her support for a more user-based fee, like a VMT tax, and stressed that using gas tax money to fund transit wouldn’t likely work out in the long-run.”

    I’d point out that she also said there isn’t enough gas tax to fund roads as it is.

    1. To be specific, she stated that we would need to raise the gas tax by $0.20 a gallon just to maintain our current infrastructure (roads and ferry, not mass transit) at an “ok” level.

      1. Yeah, but I’d suspect that her answer would be different if the gas tax was actually sufficient to maintain roads and ferries.

  2. I did get a very unsatisfactory answer when I asked about why construction projects cost more here than in other, similar places. Paula Hammond actually made fun of the question itself, and Joni said it was something she paid attention to but didn’t know the precise answer.

    1. While maybe more specifics could have been provided, their answers were better than what I think you’re implying. Their main point was that massive infrastructure projects like these aren’t directly comparable city-to-city; each product is unique. It’s not like asking why a box of mass-produced Kraft mac-and-cheese doesn’t cost the same everywhere. And Joni did give some possible reasons that Seattle’s system is expensive–terrain challenges, lots of tunnels, etc–without having immediate access to data about Melbourne or Vancouver.

      (I am genuinely not trying to make fun of the question, either.)

      Thank you, STB, for hosting this meetup! It was great to see so many people (and solid female representation) come out to chat.

      1. Saying “everything is unique” or “we are special” is just hand-waving away the facts. Sure things are different, but when similar (or wealthier, in the case of Melbourne) Western, Anglophone cities build massive highways, including longer, double-tunnel through actually larger and denser downtowns at lower prices, there’s got to be more to why they are different than just “tunnels” or “rain”, or “we’re special, like a four leaf clover.”

        These things are a lot more similar place to place than they let on. It’s not the price of materials (same everywhere) the cost of TBMs (same everywhere) the cost of engineering firms services (same everywhere). I don’t completely buy terrain as the whole explanation. It must be something, unions, regulation, funding composition etc.

        If the people running the agencies don’t know, they should. I think that’s a part of their job to understand these things. Someone needs to figure it out, otherwise we’re going to keep running out of money.

      2. I’ve wondered the same thing, especially when LA built their Red Line not too long about for about $250 million/mile whereas U-Link is more than $600 million/mile.

        Though with regard to tunneling, Seattle’s soil is pretty terrible for it. This PDF about NYC’s Second Avenue Subway talks about how they’re tunneling through bedrock for most of it, only needing an Earth Pressure Balance Machine where the bedrock is deeper. But my understanding is that the bedrock is so deep here that it really doesn’t enter into it, and the more costly and difficult Earth Pressure Balance method has to be used to tunnel through the sandy and silty soil.

      3. My educated (?) guess on the Canada Line…built mostly cut-and-cover, tiny platforms, tiny and nearly identical stations, public-private partnership (hello lower labor costs), built for the Olympics with up-front money rather than long-term bonding, an expedited construction schedule, and far fewer eminent domain takings (Cambie St is pretty much still intact).

      4. Regarding the Canada Line there was also the controversial use of temporary foreign labour to help construct the Line. Ultimately a tribunal did rule that they were being under paid and discriminated against. While a great deal of the work was done pre-crash when there was a labour shortage in Canada, it does appear the foreign labour was used to help keep construction costs down.

    2. In conversation afterwards Joni did mention that, as CEO, she doens’t know all the intimate details of other systems or how they were built, but that ST’s design teams spend a lot of time looking at other systems and how they were built, and try to apply that innovation here when they can.

      An example of that is the elevated section between Tukwilla and Sea-Tac, where ST hired the designers of Vancouver’s Skytrain to improve the build process, saving money not only on the actual track, but on ROW-acquisition and maintenance.

      Joni also noted, correctly, that while Link uses light rail technology, it has far more in common with heavy rail systems when you look at the ROW, build quality, capacity, etc. Taken in that light, Link is actually something of a bargin: we’re getting a heavy-rail-esque system without the massive cost that building heavy rail here would incur.

      I think both Joni and Paula implied pretty heavily that the federal regulatory process is excessively burdonsome and ‘clunky’ as well, adding waste in both time and the money it costs to maintain compliance with the Feds.

      1. Taken in that light, Link is actually something of a bargin: we’re getting a heavy-rail-esque system without the massive cost that building heavy rail here would incur.

        I’m really not convinced of this. We’re getting a heavy rail system at heavy rail prices, except for one segment in South Seattle that’s street running. That segment means we’re forced to use more expensive OCS instead of third-rail power, and it means our vehicles must meet stricter collision regulations that cause them to be heavier and bulkier. Our choice of a low-floor system also means that much space inside each car is devoted to staircases and bulkheads, whereas a heavy rail system with level boarding can fit many more people into a car of similar length.

      2. That reasoning makes no sense. Vancouver’s rail is mostly subterranean, entirely grade-separated, built to a higher capacity, and was half the price.

        Most Central Link stations are at-grade. The major tunnel, the downtown one, was built decades ago.

      3. How many riders per day does Central Link get?

        Canada Line gets 110,000. That’s not a little higher, that’s practically an order of magnitude higher. The grand total cost was $1.73 billion.

        Central Link cost $2.6 billion to build all told, but that doesn’t include the cost of the downtown tunnel (which would have to be included to make the comparison fair). That cost $600 million in the 1980s, which would put the price adjusted for inflation WAY north of $3.4 billion.

      4. Before anyone complains, I’m not highlighting the ridership to say Central Link is a bad idea or a bad deal. I understand the myriad reasons why Canada Line gets more riders. I am just pointing out that the Canada line is a very high-capacity system, not some rinky-dink trolley or crummy surface line.

      5. Ridership is not capacity. The capacity of the Canada Line and Central Link are nearly identical, and the cost per mile is about the same. I think it would have been great if they had built a Skytrain-like system here, but let’s not kid ourselves in to thinking it would have been much cheaper to build.

      6. For the subway portions, Canada Line was mostly shallow cut-and-cover which is much cheaper than bored tunnel.

        Half the price? Canada Line finally cost $2 billion to build for 11.8 miles, not 1.7 which was the pre-construction estimate.

        Higher capacity? “The Canada Line is designed for an ultimate capacity of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction, based on a frequency of two minutes with 3-car trains.” That’s similar to if not less than Link’s ultimate capacity. Granted, their ridership is significantly higher than ours but that’s not capacity.

      7. Ridership puts a minimum bound on capacity, right? The capacity is at least as good as the most number of people who have ever used it, right? The capacity is not the same. The canada line handled 228,000 riders per day during the olympics. Central Link will never do that, even with four-car trains at maximum headways.

        Furthermore, cost per mile is not a good comparison because 1) the most expensive part was already paid for (The downtown tunnel) and 2) much of the rest is surface construction. Joni herself said that subway is the most expensive, and surface is the cheapest. Canada line has more subway and no surface. They managed to do that at a lower per mile than Central Link and with more stations.

        I’ll use Oran’s estimate of $2 billion, and I will adjust the downtown tunnel’s cost for inflation (according to this: it would be more like $900 million today)

        2.0/11.8 = $169.6 million per mile.

        3.5/15.6 = $224.4 million per mile.

        Ok, so it’s not twice the price, it’s 33% more. But we got something slower and worse for more money. If you don’t care, fine, don’t think about it, close your eyes, bury your head in the sand and imagine just hope and sunshine and rainbows. I do care, I want more things, not less. We need to figure out why it costs so damned much.

      8. It’s the exact same speed per mile, and it stops at more stations! (which means it’s actually faster)

      9. Didn’t the Beacon Hill tunnel account for a large share of costs? Just conjecture here, but a lot of cost disparities are due to bidding, construction, and just the fact that state and federal regulations here vary from those in Vancouver. This Transport Politic article gives a teensy bit of insight into why Montreal built such a cheap tramway:

      10. They both have 13 stations end-to-end.

        Canada Line Waterfront to Richmond-Brighouse: 15km (9.3 miles) / 25 minutes = 22mph

        Central Link Westlake to SeaTac: 15.6 miles / 36 minutes = 26mph

        But I digress.

        In other news, the 6.8 mile long Evergreen Skytrain line slated to begin construction in 2012 is projected to cost $1.4 billion. :-)

      11. Oh, so a bit cheaper than our 3.5 mile U-Link? :)

        Let me ask this question: would you rather have Central Link or the Canada Line? I’d rather have the Canada Line.

      12. Uh, let’s not get into the average nonsense. The Tukwila-Rainier Beach segment speed makes up for much of the slower grade-running operation in the Valley.

      13. Things to consider:

        • Construction and delivery mechanism. Canada Line was built by a public-private partnership with a private company doing the design, construction, and operation of the line.
        • Environmental regulations and compliance. Canada’s environmental regulations may be different from the US’s. Critics of the project claim that environmental laws were violated with improper dumping of toxic materials into the ocean.
        • Neighborhood and business impacts. Funny how affected businesses along the line point to Seattle’s Link as mitigation done better than theirs.
        • Labor. Canada Line used non-union foreign labor and violated labor laws.

        In that respect, the grass isn’t always greener. There is always the ugly side of these kind of projects.

        Canadian contrasts: The 25-km (15.6 miles = Central+Airport Link) Eglinton LRT project in Toronto, originally estimated to cost $4.6 billion for a mostly surface line, is now estimated to cost $8.2 billion to put the entire line underground.

        I’d totally take the Canada Line today over Link but that’s not what we got.

      14. I suspect you are right, Sherwin, that the majority of the disparity is made from the accumulation of a lot of regulations, by-laws and guidelines. If those things are so expensive, we should consider getting rid of some of them.

        It’s not like the Canada Line was not an environmentally reckless project, nor was it a disaster to the community.

      15. As Oran points out, there’s not some inherent devil in our projects that just makes them more expensive for no reason. I don’t think we want to make the mistake of throwing out a silly comparison when there were key differences in design, build, and finance methodologies.

        But yes, I still would take the Canada Line any day.

      16. Oran, outside of the dumping of the toxic bits and the labor violation, the whole thing sounds brilliant. Less mitigation, cheaper labour, etc. These are smart ideas. We should do these.

        The benefits of more light rail outweigh the costs of union domestic labor or whatever.

      17. What’s silly about it? Those rules don’t exist perforce. They are made by human beings, people we elect. They can be undone.

        These things are expensive. Why make them more expensive by bad regulations?

        If we understand what the bad rules are, we can do something about it. It’s not silly, it’s really serious.

      18. Would I rather have a completely grade-separated, automated rapid transit line? Yes. Would I rather have the Canada Line? No! It has plenty if shortcomings of it’s own, just ask any Vancouver transit buff.

      19. What are the “massive costs” building “heavy rail” would incur? “Light rail” seems more a marketing term than anything really meaningful…

      20. Indeed, when LA’s “heavy rail” Red Line cost $250 million/mile and U-Link is costing $600 million/mile, it really starts to make you wonder how much we’re saving by building with “light rail” technology.

      21. You save with light-rail because you can do at-grade segments. You don’t really save during the grade-separated segments.

      22. Eh? Many systems that would clearly be called “heavy rail” by the OMG-light-rail camp run extensively at-grade and even have level crossings (the latter’s not desirable in many cases, of course, but it’s perfectly compatible with a well-run “heavy rail” system).

        Are you talking about street-running and other practices that typically demand very short trains?

        [Since “light rail” is such a fuzzy term, it’s really hard to pin these things down…]

      23. One of the defining characteristics of light rail is the ability to run in mixed traffic in the street.

      24. Grade crossings are different from shared segments, etc.

        There’s also a difference between metro systems (where heavy rail is something like bart and light rail is something like link) and freight lines (where heavy rail is something like sounder bnsf, and light rail are small railways)

      25. in Europe … Link would be considered a “pre-metro” or “light metro” system … one that acts like a heavy-rail metro but is constructed and operated like a light rail line (tramway)

      26. @Zed — are there places where Link runs in mixed traffic on the street?

        Is even practical, given the length of the trains (~400ft for 4-car trains), and the scheduling?

        Note, I’m not trying to argue minutiae, I’m just confused by what exactly Joni meant by “while Link uses light rail technology, it has far more in common with heavy rail systems when you look at the ROW, build quality, capacity, etc” and “we’re getting a heavy-rail-esque system without the massive cost that building heavy rail here would incur”.

        It sounds like she’s saying that the system uses “light rail” rolling stock, but heavy-rail(esque) routing, scheduling, planning, etc. That seems more or less consistent with what I see, but I’m not sure where the cost savings from merely using “light rail” rolling-stock come from; are such trains really significantly cheaper, and is that cost a significant portion of the long-term cost of a railway?

      27. It may be in the future that makes a difference. It doesn’t now, the train sets cost is tiny compared to construction cost.

      28. First of all, like Kyle said, “light” rail is a misnomer. Light-rail vehicles are heavier, and the required tunnels are bigger. If you design a heavy rail system, and then switch to light rail technology, it will increase the cost. The savings from light rail comes exclusively from the fact that it’s a more flexible technology, and so you can safely use it in situations that more traditional urban metros can’t handle.

        Second, not all grade crossings are created equal. Most long-distance rail lines, including Amtrak, commuter rail, and freight, have plenty of grade crossings with roads. But the train does not have to slow down for these crossings, because of the movable road barriers. Politically, these types of crossings aren’t good enough for driverless rail; people generally impose a far lower safety standard on humans than on machines. But if all you’re concerned about is moving fast, then train-priority grade crossings are just fine.

        Having said that, I’ve never seen crossing gates used for a median-running transit service. It’s hard to imagine that it could work well; with any reasonable frequency, you’d be raising and lowering gates nearly constantly.

      29. Miles: My guess is that Ms. Earl was referring to the fact that we’ve built a largely grade-separated system which directly connects ridership centers. We could have saved a lot of money by building along highway ROW, for example, or by building a largely street-running system (i.e. basically a fancy streetcar).

        The fact that we used light rail technology means that we have the freedom to allow grade crossings. Thus, the Rainier Valley segment only cost $160 million per mile, rather than something much higher.

        Personally, I think that elevating (or somehow grade-separating) the Rainier Valley segment would have been worth the money. It would have saved the expense of catenary (and larger tunnels), and it would have allowed for dramatically higher frequencies at dramatically lower operating costs (with driverless operation). But it’s definitely true that Central Link would have been more expensive if it were heavy rail.

      30. @Aleks

        re: Crossing Gates for Median Running LRT

        My hometown, Calgary, AB has a fairly significant segment of it’s LRT running on Memorial Drive and 36th Street NE in a median with crossing gates at level crossings. The trains are given complete priority and never stop at an intersection.

        Calgary’s LRT is by many metrics the most successful Light Rail system in North America carrying roughly 280,000 passengers per weekday on it’s two lines and with Calgary Transit being the primary mode for commutes to the CBD. And Calgary only has a metro population of slightly over 1 million people.

        I was personally shocked when I rode on Link last year when the train actually stopped at an intersection and that it was bound by the speed limit of the road. I hadn’t really done a lot of reading on it before hand nor was I nearly as interested in these issues as I am now but it didn’t make a bit of sense to me. It would be fun thing if it was crossing Seattle’s downtown, where crossing gates (which have been considered for Calgary’s downtown) would be disruptive and it’s too expensive to grade separate, but that stretch through the middle of nowhere? I can’t help but think that until something is done about that stretch Seattle’s Light Rail is going to be permanently hobbled.

      31. Jack,

        Actually, the highest ridership system in North America is in Mexico (Monterrey). :)

        I’m curious, how wide is the spacing of the grade crossings (and the barriers)? Intuitively, what you’re describing seems possible only on a road like 15th NW (here) where you have very few crossings, but I’d be happy to be shown otherwise. :)

      32. Indeed, when LA’s “heavy rail” Red Line cost $250 million/mile and U-Link is costing $600 million/mile, it really starts to make you wonder how much we’re saving by building with “light rail” technology.

        In what years dollars are the two figures you cite? Without adjusting for inflation $/mile figures are meaningless.

    3. I agree, it wasn’t a very good answer and actually almost showed how myopic US based leaders can be when looking at ways to do things and examples to follow. Some of the answers to some of the questions always compared Seattle’s accomplishments to results in the rest of the USA and not the World at large.

      I find it a bit depressing that the answer to the Vancouver/Melbourne question seemed almost entirely ignorant of the geographical complexities of Vancouver and no knowledge of projects around the world. Having been to Vancouver many times and lived in Melbourne, I can attest that the price of real estate in either of those cities is much much higher than in Seattle and continues to be so. In fact, the price of doing business in Melbourne is probably twice as high as it is here due to higher prices for almost 100 percent of goods and wages that are much higher as well.

      The only difference I could think of was both Canada and Australia are much less litigious societies and don’t have to deal with the threat of lawsuits constantly and both projects were public/private partnerships.
      East Link is tolled and probably will be forever and Melbourne is almost completely flat with some rolling hills here and there.

    4. Andrew, the high cost environmental regulations affected the entire country, and in fact construction inflation started rocketing nationally in about 1991 (right around the time ST wasn’t able to deliver its original U District line due to higher than expected costs). What stands out to me thinking about project costs here is the size of the combined transit and highway program that was introduced over the past decade — the entire 14.5% gas tax increase was bonded (so, 30 years of taxes spent all at once), as was most of both Sound Transit initiatives. When you have a huge spike in engineering and construction, you need to start importing engineers and construction firms, and you pay a premium to get them. Sound Transit still has many years of bond-funded spending to come, but the highway bump from bonds is wearing off fast. That and the recession are bring costs down dramatically. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

      1. Wait, Sound Transit didn’t exist in 1991, it wasn’t even voted on until 1995, and it wasn’t approved until 1996. Get your facts straight!

  3. Raising the gas tax can help transit in the following ways without spending a dime of gas tax money on transit:

    1. free up other revenue for transit
    2. increase transit ridership by internalizing more of the costs of driving
    3. maintaining roads that are shared by both automobiles and buses

    We can improve transit by raising the gas tax even with the 18th amendment in place. I’m curious as to what you all think about this.

    1. Make transit agencies pay gas tax on the diesel they use, so that bus riders pay at least a tiny fraction of the cost of the roads buses use.

      1. How many times do we have to explain that the majority of roads buses use (city streets) are paid for almost entirely by property taxes which we all pay into. Do you not believe facts or do you just refuse to listen?

      2. Annual parking revenue in Seattle alone is higher than the amount Seattle spends on pavement each year.

        Do you not believe the facts, or do you just refuse to listen?

      3. “Make the government pay taxes, great idea as usual Norman.”

        Not my idea at all. My idea is to have transit riders pay for their transit, so it would be transit riders paying the gas tax for buses, just as drivers pay gas taxes for their cars.

        For a start, add the gas tax cost for Metro and ST directly to the fares, so it would be the riders paying the gas tax — not “governement.”

      4. Transit riders cause only a tiny fraction of road deterioration per person compared to drivers. They’re being part of the solution, and waiting for the bus is already a kind of “tax” or sacrifice.

      5. Actually, buses cause far more damage to roads than cars, even though there are fewer buses. A bus exerts thousands of times the pressure on pavement that an SUV does, according to Doug McDonald. So, you are wrong about that, Mike Orr, but nice try.

      6. Hate to say it guys, but Norman has a point here. Check out the sidebar on page 3-17 of the draft TMP. A fully-loaded Breda actually exceeds legal axle limits and causes four times as much damage as a vehicle that meets axle limits.

        I just see that as a good argument to incur the cost of building rail systems on corridors where buses are frequently overloaded.

      7. Matt,

        It’s interesting to note that the number of arterials on which buses run is a tiny fraction of the number of arterials on which buses do not run.

        On streets like 3rd Ave downtown, Eastlake, and 15th Ave NE, Norman’s right that buses are probably doing the most damage. But what about 12th Ave? N/NE 50th? Boren? Those arterials are heavily-used by cars and trucks, and don’t have a single bus on them (excluding a few peak expresses on Boren).

        Anyway, I’m surprised you didn’t include the full quote:

        A study* conducted by the University of Washington and the City of Seattle determined that a fully loaded Metro Breda bus exceeds legal axle loads would exert four times as much damage on pavement as a
        similar bus that met legal axle loads but that over time these impacts accounted for less than a quarter of pavement damage on a given street

        Finally, the “thousands of times” figure comes from a firm called “Pavement Engineering, Inc”, which says that a bus exerts 7,774 times the pavement stress as an SUV. No methodology is given for how they came up with this figure. Thus, in the absence of a better explanation, I’m inclined to treat this the same way that I treat any number with an inexplicably high number of significant figures — that is, to ignore it, since someone probably pulled it out of thin air.

      8. a bus exerts 7,774 times the pavement stress as an SUV

        An SUV is defined by the feds as having a GVWR of 6,000 to 14,000 pounds. The pavement stress is the weight of the vehicle divided by the size of the contact patch where “the rubber meets the road”. I think the GVWR for a bus is around 66,000 pounds. So even if the contact patch was the same a bus could only exert 11 times the pavement stress of the lightest SUV. A rough estimate of contact patch size is weight divided by tire pressure. If you divide the GVWR by contact patch size you get stress which would make stress equal to the inflation pressure. So, the pavement stress of a Metro bus is about the same as that of me on my bicycle. Of course road damage is far more complicated but the real culprit is the strain create by the stress. Driving our Subaru to work is responsible for 160,000 times more road damage than when I ride my bike! Driving our van is 5 times more damaging than the Subaru.

      9. Bernie,

        You sound like you actually know what you’re talking about. :) So in your estimate, how much damage is a bus with 60 people actually doing, compared to if those 60 people each drove SUVs over the same road? (Assume the SUV weighs 6000 lbs + 150 lb passenger, and the bus weighs 30000 lbs + 60*150=9000 lbs of passengers, or 39000 total.)

      10. I’m not a highway engineer and I don’t play one on television ;-) For the SUV the Load Equivalence Factor would be 10E-3 per axle if symmetrically loaded. For the bus assuming two single axles equally loaded the LEF would be 1.38 per axle. That’s 1,785 times the road damage. Divide by 60 for 30 times the road damage per passenger. I don’t really know how meaningful that comparison is though because as long as the loading is within the design limits for the road other factors, such as the effect of weather might have more to do with how long the pavement lasts. OTOH, if you’re running local buses on chip seal roads it will probably destroy them in short order. Also, it think it’s important to emphasis:

        A 30,000 lb single axle does about 11 times more damage than a 30,000 lb tandem axle

        So, if I’m doing the math right that same bus with duelly rear axle would only be 18 times the damage per passenger.

      11. I did say less impact per passenger, not the total weight of the bus. And there would be even less impact if we could build more rail, because rails don’t wear down and have potholes like asphalt does.

      12. All this math wizardry on the damage different vehicles cause to roads brings up another question (since Norman started this thread): How much damage does the light rail cause to pavement?

  4. Why even cover this event if you are going to jack up the ONE statistic given about women in the local transit sector last night.

    I would think the whole reason this was organized is because women ARE underrepresented (there is not even a SINGLE women blogger on this site). Then the reporting about it makes everything look all fine and dandy.

    I suppose this was all about crossing off the “do an event with women” box, instead of actually trying to facilitate dialogue.

    But next time maybe have a cup of coffee before you have to delve into such a unmemorable subject.

    1. Wow, such negativity… While I don’t know the story of how people come to be appointed official site bloggers on this site, I do know that they will publish interesting articles from others outside their circle. I imagine if one adds consistent value to the site you just might get asked to be part of the inner circle so to speak.

      I saw last night as a resounding success and these two women are an inspiration to this middle aged male! My fear for the future of our state is that either one of them get snatched away by the Federal government to run Federal programs.

    2. Is there any background information for this claim? Have any women expressed interest in contributing? Or is there an actual case of someone being turned down as a contributor for some obscure reason? Reading a website is simply looking at an end result; there’s a lot more going on than just the finished product.

      Wow, if only this could’ve been the Summer Meetup I attended. :) I can tell this was a good event from just looking at the picture on the thread.

      Demographic makeup of people involved in planning in general (especially transportation planning) is something I hear about all the time. Fortunately, it’s a topic of discussion in the planning program I attend. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of such recruitment efforts is debatable. I once suggested that we try to go further than we normally would to recruit traditionally underrepresented groups for project feedback and planning in general, which led to a very contentious discussion afterwards (some responded with ‘certain groups/people won’t participate, just check off the public involvement box and move on’).

      (BTW, I’m a different ‘Jason’ than the earlier comment on this thread.)

      1. I can tell you for a fact Moran doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. Both Martin and myself have tried multiple times to get women to join the blog. The purpose of this event was to blast into the minds of our women readers that we want them to be more involved and engaged in the blog, and to create an event that does that.

        As for posting that statistic I’m sure Morgan did not know that before he read it here, I know i didn’t.

      2. I know I’ve asked Martin and Ben (when he was more actively involved in the site) about this in the past. They’ve approached various people about doing guest posts and with the exception of a couple of elected officials they’ve gotten nothing. It isn’t as if there aren’t women who write about transportation and land use locally either on their blogs or professionally, but so far none have been interested in posting here on STB.

        Nobody is being exclusionary and the regulars here have gone out of their way to try to find people from unrepresented groups to contribute. However the demographics of who chooses to participate is what it is.

    3. I don’t even know what to say, besides you’re totally out of line and I find your comment extremely insulting.

      1. I’d like to express also that the event was a good one, and that both of the speakers were great and kept it positive however the COVERAGE was lacking.

        Instead of taking umbrage, perhaps you could have considered that I bring up a valid point. That instead of generating some discussion about what this was supposed to be about–women in transportation–the issue was glossed over. The ‘75%’ slip-up just made it more obvious.

        As far as the issue of female bloggers, that wasn’t my main point but rather a supporting statement about the underrepresentation of women in this industry.

      2. Morgan if you have a problem with us glossing over something you can add whatever you would like to in the comment section as always, rather than critiquing us. Not only did you only critique then you accused us of just “checking off the box”. Our reporting might not be perfect all the time, but your comment is much more offensive.

      3. I did know the statistic that Joni gave because I was there and I was listening and discussing it afterwards last night.

        I am critiquing this post to bring up issues and speak my mind. Perhaps I could do it without offending anyone but frankly I was put off by the coverage and your reaction to a bit of direct criticism.

      4. So what exactly was I glossing over? Should I have lamented the terrible tragedy of underrepresentation of women in transit? Do you think that was the point of this post?

      5. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t believe one STB person used the Q&A session to ask even one question concerning women in transportation.

        If there were any questions in my mind about the views of the seattle transit blog towards women, this defensive, reactionary and altogether uncalled for response speaks volumes. Much more than organizing a cute little meet up ever could.

        For one, mocking the ‘terrible tragedy of underrepresentation of women in transit’ and then calling it a personal concern that I should write about myself.

      6. Morgan, is it STB’s responsibility to try and undo the gender imbalance in transportation? Moreover, is it our fault that there is such an imbalance? Because it sure sounds like that’s what you’re accusing us for.

        The Q&A was open to the audience. If you wanted to ask our guests about women in transportation, you certainly were at liberty to do so. And to be clear, it would have been pretty asinine for us to limit questions and topics only to those about women. Both Paula and Joni spent most of their time talking about other issues, so how can you blame us for allowing attendees to ask questions about those issues?

    4. There are a lot of women working in transit. I’d say that except in the engineering area there are as many women as men. There are curiously fewer women who I’d call transit nerds (I mean that in the nicest way), and the meet-up’s I’ve been to before have been almost exclusively male.

      I got a note from the Women’s Transportation Seminar that suggested they were co-sponsoring this event, but I haven’t seen any mention of that. Was this a co-sponsored event? I wasn’t able to make it, but I hope that happens again.

  5. “Hammond iterated her support for a more user-based fee,”

    User-based fees for transit are transit fares. Therefore, Hammond supports using transit fares to pay for transit. I agree with her.

      1. I certainly agree that users, including bus riders, should pay tolls on toll bridges, of course. I have paid tolls over the 520 bridge in the 70’s and on the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River and the bridge over the Columbia River at Longview. I have also paid tolls on freeways in the Midwest. I have no problem paying tolls that go to pay for the construction of the roads or bridges I use.

        And I believe that bus riders should pay the same toll, per person, to cross a toll bridge as motorists pay. Don’t you agree? Why shouldn’t bus riders help pay for toll bridges which they cross on buses?

        I think gas tax is better than VMT for now. When there are a significant number of electric vehicles on roads, then there will have to be a way to tax electric vehicles that is something other than a gas tax, obviously.

        However, the U.S. should stop using 20% of federal gas tax revenues for transit, and use all of the federal gas tax for highways.

        Transit should be paid for with transit fares.

      2. No, I don’t agree. Tolls are priced by vehicle. You don’t toll every person in a carpool, do you?

      3. Put it in perspective. The greatest problem facing humanity is global climate change. So the most important re-balancing that needs to happen vis-a-vis transportation costs is all users relying on fossil fuel-powered transportation paying for their share of the carbon footprint of that transportation. That is, pay the externalized costs. These costs are massive, at least on the order of $10/gal of gas. Bus riders absolutely ought to pay these costs, and the costs of building roads (road building is a big pollution source, too), proportional to their actual per-person impact — if we don’t subsidize the bus system the system can figure out how to charge its riders to be most cost-effective, or to meet whatever goals it has.

        Once we get the cost structure correct (here I mean scientifically correct, not politically correct), then the people can decide through their elected representatives what they want money to be spent on. My prediction: instead of spending money on long-distance transportation (in all forms) we’ll find it more useful to improve local mobility (read: within a few miles and mostly self-powered) and instead make our neighborhoods more resilient. “Congestion charges” won’t enter our minds. We’ll let 520 fall into the lake and dismantle the viaduct without replacement, and we’ll be glad to do it.

    1. “Put it in perspective. The greatest problem facing humanity is global climate change.”

      Actually, a more pressing and immediate concern is population growth, land use, and resource consumption. But both are addressed by transit.

    1. I cannot remember precisely if they did, but the general idea they conveyed was that many federal regulations were out of date or not helpful. I think one said, “Where to begin. . .” Someone else may remember better than me. They did like the federal money, implying that at least there was a reward for all the effort.

    2. There have been many costly environmental standards introduced over the past couple of decades, including increased detention and treatment of stormwater and runoff, fish protection, etc. Whether that’s burdensome is an ideologically loaded discussion, but it’s fair to say environmental standards have been part of cost increases for transportation construction projects.

  6. “Hammond iterated her support for a more user-based fee, like a VMT tax…”

    Excellent. That is a much better idea than the flat fee proposed for electric cars. Why should I, as a prospective electric car owner, be able to buy an “all you can eat” ticket to drive everywhere I want?

    1. Yes. that was excellent. I was hugely impressed by this, and hugely impressed in general by both of them.

    2. Yes, user-based fees for transit is a great idea. We should start that immediately. Transit users should pay for their transit with their transit fares.

      1. Get off your rocker, Norman. Even if you considered gas tax a user fee (which it isn’t), drivers still pay far less of their share than transit users do.

      2. “Transit users should pay for their transit with their transit fares.”

        It won’t work. You raise fares, fewer people will ride. Since the cost of operating a full bus is the same as the cost of operating an empty bus, you have to raise fares further and/or cut service if fare revenues are going to pay for the service. So, yet fewer people ride. So you raise fares are cut service yet again. And still fewer people ride. Until you’re eventually left with a system where you have no transit at all.

        Now, one could make a free market argument that this logic means that transit is inherently inefficient and shouldn’t exist. However, you have to consider the costs of operating transit vs. the external costs of everyone that was riding transit everywhere instead. Pollution, shortage of parking and road capacity, increased obesity (transit riders get more exercise than the average American just by walking to and from bus stops!). The list goes on and on. These external costs and not currently paid for directly by drivers, and the expense of subsidizing a bus system is more than justified by reducing them.

        You also have to consider the value of people’s time. Take away a functional transit system and everyone who can’t drive is dependent on friends and relatives to drive them every time they need to go somewhere. This imposes a tremendous burden. A parent making a 15 minute drive to take a kid to school each day means 60 minutes in the car every day, doing two round trips. It adds up.

      3. Thank you Eric because the only way I’d support that is the Toby Nixon way: Subsidize the truly needy such as disabled, working poor and seniors.

        Even then, the Toby plan has its problems.

        Full disclosure: I consider Toby a good fellow and a friend.

      4. “Even if you considered gas tax a user fee (which it isn’t), drivers still pay far less of their share than transit users do.”

        I expect that Paula Hammond considers the gas tax a user fee, because that is what it is.

        Drivers pay the full cost of their transportation.

        Transit users in our area pay about 20% of the operating cost and zero of the capital costs of their transportation via user fees (transit fares).

      5. I pay a fare to ride the bus. Don’t pay fare, no bus ride. Fares are a user fee.

        I pay a toll to cross a bridge. Don’t pay toll, no bridge crossing. Tolls are a user fee.

        I pay gas tax on gas. I still can use the roads with an electric car and never pay gas tax. Gas tax is not a user fee.

        I cross the border to fill gas in Oregon but most of my driving is in Washington. Gas tax goes to Oregon, not Washington. Gas tax is not a user fee.

      6. ““Transit users should pay for their transit with their transit fares.”

        It won’t work.”

        It works for taxis. It works for Greyhound and other private bus services. It works for airlines (over time — they do lose money for stretches). Supposedly it works for some train routes in the world.

        What this would do, for one thing, is force the absurd pay and benefits for transit workers down to realisitic levels, if they wanted to have jobs. It would also eliminate routes, and times when buses and trains are mostly empty. You would have fewer buses and trains, and they would always be mostly full. And they would operate mostly in peak travel hours, when demand is greatest, and they serve the best purpose. You would not have empty trains and buses running around late at night when there is no traffic congestion.

        Absolutely, it would work.

      7. “Drivers pay the full cost of their transportation.”

        The lies you tell yourself are awfully quaint. What else do you lie to yourself about?

      8. @Norman Your analysis has a few faults.

        The first problem is that it has no consideration for historical realities of transportation infrastructure in this country. During the 20th century the federal government (and state governments) subsidized massive amounts of freeway construction. The vast majority of this construction was subsidized by general tax payers not auto users. This construction and the absence of investment in other modes of transportation created the mostly suburban land use city that Seattle is today. In this sort of environment it is impossible to run a profitable (or even close to profitable) public transportation system. However, with all the infrastructure in place for cars it is very easy to run a profitable roadway system.

        There are several points that can be drawn from this. First, drivers aren’t paying for the full cost of roads in Seattle because they rarely paid for their construction. Second, had public transportation been funded like freeways were then it could be a profitable system. Third, heavy investment in freeways and suburban land use patterns makes all other forms of transportation (walking, cycling, mass transit) more costly.

        Now one could argue that because we already have these roads we shouldn’t fund any transit that can’t be more revenue neutral but that denies all the positive externalities of public transportation and negative externalities of auto travel and freeways. Maintaining a good transit system benefits Seattle as a whole, a benefit that cannot be added to the cost of an individual fare. Consider the following lists:

        Positive externalities of public transit:
        Reduces congestion
        Reduces fossil fuel consumption and emissions
        Cheaply provides mobility to those who CAN’T drive (kids, elderly, disabled)
        Cheaply provides mobility to those who can’t afford to own a car
        Promotes more sustainable land use patterns
        Improves the pedestrian environment of areas it serves

        Negative externalities of auto usage:
        Fossil fuel consumption
        Requires infrastructure that makes other forms of transit more costly
        Injuries to non-drivers due to accidents

        To not subsidize public transit is to not only be ignorant to the costs of not funding it, but to also basically say: “It is OK for the government to create a transportation system that only some people can use.” The government has provided and continues to provide transportation infrastructure* and being a good government it should provide it equitably. Not maintaining a bus system would mean that the government would not be providing ANY transportation to a significant chunk of its citizens.

        The main conclusions of all this are:
        Drivers don’t pay all the costs of their driving
        Public transit should be subsidized because of its large positive externalities
        Public transit infrastructure should be funded by tax payers to make it better and (net) cheaper to maintain

        *It could be argued that all transportation infrastructures (roads, sidewalks, buses, cars, gas etc.) should be privately run, but that argument runs into two problems. First transportation has huge affects on third parties, effects that would still need to be regulated. Second, since the government has already controls so much of the transit market and has invested (not necessarily rationally) in certain modes over others, suddenly making it private would not make the transportation market free or fair. Just like how a sports franchise whose stadium is built by tax payer dollars isn’t surviving the rigors of a free market.

      9. “You would have fewer buses and trains, and they would always be mostly full. And they would operate mostly in peak travel hours, when demand is greatest, and they serve the best purpose. You would not have empty trains and buses running around late at night when there is no traffic congestion.”

        That would lead to most routes being peak only, and a few routes running midday. But people can’t plan all their trips around those hours, and it forces them to have a car in the off-hours. Billions of dollars and millions of barrels of oil are wasted in this country because people don’t have sufficient public transportation to make a car unnecessary, and you want to make it more so.

  7. “Other topics of the night also included State involvement in transit…”

    This was key for me. Ms. Hammond impressed me with her passion for overturning, slowly but surely, Olympia’s painfully regressive and anti-urban bias, which considers the most remote state road of great communal importance but deems the ability to move around the state’s major economic and cultural engine a “local matter.”

    As she said, we may be one of only a handful of states that continue to operate that way (calling us “46th or 47th, if not last” in state funding for urban transportation works).

    Not that there’s any state money to go around at the moment (general-revenue sourcing is a whole other can of worms). But cheers to her for her good work in changing hearts, minds, and future realities!

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