News Roundup

Pierce Transit #409
Pierce Transit #409

Some news today besides the inauguration:

  • Sumner gets a new bus route (409) serving its Sounder station on February 9.  There will be no stops; riders can board the bus at the point of their choosing.  It’s nice to see that the budget crisis hasn’t put every transit agency in a defensive crouch.
  • More tolling is being considered on both SR 167 and the SR 99 tunnel.
  • The infrastructure lobby is disappointed in the composition of the stimulus proposals.
  • Congress may bribe you to get rid of your gas guzzler and replace it with an efficient car or transit pass.
  • New Yorkers dream of a transit-heavy stimulus.

(H/Ts: Andrew, Monica)

News Roundup: Stimulus, Stimulus, Stimulus

Crowded Westlake
I don’t have time to write a real post on the stimulus, but here’s some noise from around the internet.

  • Thomas Friedman took a trip to China and is depressed at the state of our transportation infrastructure. Going abroad is usually the best way to notice just how bad it’s become here. Friedman also wants to raise the gas tax, which I think is a great idea with gas prices so low; average gallon price across the county is now less than half of its peak a few months ago. The money could be used to pay for alternative energy projects, or even just pay for the stimulus package.
  • Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wants the stimulus money given to states, arguing that an increase in federal spending won’t do much if it’s accompanied by a matching decrease in state spending. The states do need some help with medicaid and budget gaps – our state government is going to have to cut $5 billion – but I would be very disappointed if the final call for infrastructure spending ends up going through the state capitols first. As Erica Barnett points out, to states, “infrastructure” means roads.
  • At the same time, some members of Congress are pushing to increase mass transit’s share of the stimulus cash. James Oberstar, who heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants to increase the transit share for the $85 billion or so that will be spent on transportation in the stimulus package. Chuck Schumer wants $20 billion for MTA in his state, and John Kerry has been calling for spending on high-speed rail.
  • Capitol Hill is getting set for light rail construction to start.
  • Light Rail openned in Phoenix over the weekend, and things went smoothly. I look forward to the same thing happening this summer.

I am less worried that the stimulus money will all go to highway projects than I was last time I wrote about the topic. The $12 billion number the Oberstar article states could be spent on transit would be a massive increase, since currently only about $2 billion a year is spent on by the FTA capital projects. For a comparison, the capital costs of all light rail in Prop. 1 package passed in November was about $7 billion. Still, there’s no way to know how much will get spent here, so it’s worth letting your congressional delegation know that you want transit in the stimulus package.

Photo by Oran, from the STB flickr pool.

News Roundup

Not much going on today!

  • The California High-Speed Rail project thinks they’re going to get some of that stimulus dough – maybe $15 to $20 billion.  Good.
  • In what reads like an extended real estate ad, the Seattle Times notes that Northgate is growing up.
  • Gov. Gregoire is supposed to decide on the Viaduct by Jan. 1, and the lobbying is in full force.
  • Weather is bad, Metro in disarray, blah blah blah.
  • 18 volunteers from my neighborhood shoveled out perhaps a quarter mile of a hilly side street this afternoon.  Self-reliance, people.

I would like to know what the hell is still wrong with the Streetcar.

UPDATE: We have numerous reports in the comments that the Streetcar is running, but on Saturday morning the Metro website still reports it as down.  In a way that’s almost worse.

UPDATE 2: As of 1 PM the Streetcar is no longer reported as out of service.

News Roundup

  • Kitsap Transit raises fares, cuts service, including all buses on Sunday.
  • Bellevue is getting a free downtown bus shuttle in 2010 with 10 minute headways.  It’ll be branded as a Bellevue shuttle, so add it to Metro, ST, and RapidRide that’ll be serving that area.
  • In case you hadn’t heard, snow is comingChains on buses, snow routes, the whole nine yards.  Given how the bus system is likely to do tonight, light rail really can’t come soon enough.
  • Hertz launches a car-sharing service in New York, London, and Paris, to compete with Zipcar, Enterprise, and U-Haul, of which only Zipcar operates here.  Competition is a good thing.
  • Local Democrats are trying to nudge Ron Sims out of running for a fourth term.  We’ve had many problems with Sims over the years, but the man is committing to delivering the maximum amount of bus service.
  • Not really news, but Matt Yglesias continues his war on free parking:

    Here in DC, for example, we turn our parking meters off and have free parking downtown on Saturdays. People like convenient parking spaces. They’re valuable. And when you set the price of a valuable commodity at zero, you get parking shortages. Which is what we have on Saturdays in key retail corridors. Perversely, the stated reason for this policy of guaranteed shortages is that it’s supposed to encourage people to come downtown to shop.

    Same goes for Sounder Parking, by the way.

Image from Flickr contributor Chris Moucha.

News Roundup

News Roundup

The SR 167 high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane, the P-I reports, is collecting about $25,000 a month from a $1 average toll.  I don’t know how applicable these results are to future congestion pricing projects, but $25K a month doesn’t seem like the big bucks various transportation constituencies have been hoping for.

The article says engineers hope that volume will roughly sextuple in four years, which would start to get us into serious money.

In other news, the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration announced that passing I-985 could threaten millions of dollars of federal funding.  Given that this comes from a Bush administration whose pro-transit record isn’t exactly spotless, it just goes to show how reckless and extreme this initiative is.

The Totem Lake Transit Center opens today.  As some one who used to live near there, I can testify that it’s a traditionally underserved area.  Bravo.

News Roundup

In today’s P-I, Water Taxi ridership is up 9 percent.  That’s actually small potatoes compared to other transit ridership increases, but good for the water taxi.  There are only so many ways out of West Seattle, so adding another one is a big deal.

And if you have the dead-tree edition of the P-I, open it to page 2 of the local section and take a careful look at the photo caption.  You won’t be disappointed.

News Roundup

  • Yesterday’s Seattle Times had a front page article about the cost of gas making people think twice about living in the suburbs. We’ve covered this in the past.
  • Over this past weekend, the Times had another article about how americans are driving less and using public transit more. Includes a nice chart.
  • Yesterday’s PI had a story about streetcars. There are a few things I’d like to point out:
    • “The South Lake Union Streetcar reportedly costs $180 per hour to operate, compared with about $120 for a Metro bus.” This is an intentionally misleading figure. Trains of any kind generally have a higher capacity than a bus, encourage dense transit-oriented development, and are usually much more enjoyable to ride (no potholes in steel rails!). A streetcar will almost always have higher ridership when compared to a bus with the same service, and will always encourage more people to try transit. The measly $60 difference is insignificant.
    • “About 30 people boarded the purple streetcar between 12:30 and 1:30.” Anti-rail advocates are always quick to mention the SLUT’s “light” ridership, ignoring the fact that the South Lake Union area is under heavy redevelopment. The city’s 20 year grown target for the area is to add 8,000 new residential units, and we’re already 19% of the way there in just over three years! And don’t forget that Amazon.com is planning to move to the area, which will bring thousands of jobs. I also heard that on the 4th of July, every train from Westlake to SLU Park was completely packed for a good three hours.
  • The average price of gasoline is holding at $4.35 in Washington state. A $2 bus ride isn’t sounding bad at all, especially with a transfer!

Transit News Roundup

The PI endorsed the surface and transit option … well the study of it at least. In this op-ed piece, the paper “strong encourages” the council to “approve the $8 million study”. They also seem to support amendments to the proposal that would keep improvements that would lead to replacement from being started.

They also sort of come out against the streetcar, saying that its usefulness is suspect and that funding it will get in the way of expanding bus service in the city. I agree that the city can’t afford to lose any bus improvements, but the street car could become part of a larger network of cars that will cross the city and improve mobility dramatically. San Francisco’s Muni cars are a huge part of it’s transportation system, though I have to concede in some places they resemble Link more than the streetcars Seattle is building.

King-5 had a piece about how transit ridership is up. All the major transportation agencies in the region have seen year-over-year increases of about 8-10%.

Metro Transit

– Boardings were up 8.9 percent in April 2007 compared to April 2006, translating to about 30,000 more weekday riders.

Pierce Transit

– Boardings were up 8.7 percent in April 2007 compared to April 2006.

Sound Transit

– Bus boardings were up 10 percent overall in April 2007 compared to April 2006.

– Sounder commuter train boardings were up 27 percent in the same period.

Community Transit – … double digit increases in April 2007 compared to April 2006. That’s similar to the jump from the same time last year.

Apparently, gas prices, traffic fatigue and new employment is the cause. But as more people take transit, the demand for more transit will grow, and the political movement behind building more will grow.

Finally USA today discussed the 100 million more people who will live in America by 2040 (a couple million of which will live in the Seattle region), and how transit projects are being approved all over the country.