Sunday, May 4, 2008

Transportation Forum at the Festival

Cary Moon of the People's Waterfront Coalition presented the surface street option.

Presentation will be available later at their website.

Monday, February 25, 2008

national surface transportation policy commission report

the national surface transportation policy commission released a study that calls for a holistic approach to infrastructure that includes roads, rails and mass transit. currently the government is spending less than 40% of the amount that is needed to sustain our transportation infrastructure. click the following link for the final report followed by an excerpt of the recoomendations.

recommendations from final report

"The first half of our Nation’s history saw that economic development was directly tied to infrastructure development. The creation of roads for vehicles and the transcontinental railroad led to trade and prosperity across the vast continent. This in turn vaulted the Nation into a position of significance in the world. The second half of our history has been dominated by the move from an agrarian society, through the Industrial Revolution, into a largely urban society and the world’s primary economic and military superpower. All of this was facilitated by the foresight of private and public sector leaders who further developed the country’s infrastructure including the Interstate highway system, the Nation’s freight rail system, and urban mass transit. Now we have outgrown this system and it is time for new leadership to step up with a vision for the next 50 years that will ensure U.S. prosperity and global preeminence for generations to come.

The U.S. now has incredible economic potential and significant transportation needs. We need to invest at least $225 billion annually from all sources for the next 50 years to upgrade our existing system to a state of good repair and create a more advanced surface transportation system to sustain and ensure strong economic growth for our families. We are spending less than 40 percent of this amount today."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Towards Carfree Cities VIII

portland, again, is one step ahead of us. it is hosting the first ever north american carfree conference in june.

Towards Carfree Cities VIII:
Rethinking Mobility, Rediscovering Proximity

    June 16-20, 2008
    Portland, Oregon, USA
Registration is Open!
Find details and register online on their registration page.

The Towards Carfree Cities conference series brings together people from around the world who work to promote practical alternatives to car dependence. The conference attracts professionals, advocates, and community leaders who focus on the creation of sustainable transportation systems and on the transformation of cities, towns, and villages into human-scaled environments rich in public space and community life. The fundamental role of the conference is to share knowledge and assist the practical work of conference participants, whether it be organizing community events, promoting urban cycling, or building the carfree cities of the future.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Seattle Transit

Seattle Transit

Seattle’s current transit capacity is far below what is needed to serve its population. As population increases our current system will fall even farther behind what is needed. But since Seattle doesn’t currently control its transit future, we are unable to grow the system to meet our needs.

I propose that Seattle take control of transit, in corporation with larger entities like Metro and Sound Transit, by directing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to include transit planning. SDOT would consider what transit opportunities existed and make proposals to the city council to improve transit. These proposals could include re-purposing roads (e.g. 3rd avenue as bus only), funding increased Metro bus or passenger-ferry service, or building and operating a monorail or trolley.

This proposal doesn’t call out any particular transit solution or funding mechanism. Those will need to come out of study by professional transportation planners and elected officials. All this proposal does is knowledge that the current system can’t work, and create a mechanism for Seattle better meet her needs.

Why Metro Alone Won’t Work
King County is one of the most diverse in the country, ranging from nearly Manhattan densities in downtown and Belltown to rural land in the east (see Table 1). This complicates transit planning due to the equity arrangement: when Metro increases service, 20% of the new service is in the Seattle area and 80% to the rest of the county. This leads to two problems for Seattle: we can only increase the total service to the amount that the whole county is willing to pay for and for every $1 that Seattle increases its tax burden only 67 cents is spent in Seattle.

Every transit line has an ideal amount of service, which depends on many factors, but the single best predictor of how much transit an area needs is the density. Seattle’s density is nearly twice that of Bellevue’s and nearly 10 times the rest of the county. The ideal amount of transit is higher in Seattle than in the rest of the county. But the current funding formula does not give Metro the flexibility of putting the resources where there is demand. In addition Seattle voters have shown a much greater interest in funding transit, but transit proposals need to be watered down to win enough votes outside of Seattle.

So Metro alone can’t provide Seattle with the transit options it needs. Even if the funding levels were changed to represent the population, Metro would still be unable to provide Seattleites the transit options they want and need.

Seattle Bellevue Woodinville King Count King Count minus Seattle
Population (thousand people) 582 117 9 1737 1155
% of population 33 7 0.5 0.8 67
Density (thousand people per sq mile) 6.9 3.8 1.6 0.8 0.6

Table 1 Demographics for King County (for 2006 from the Census Bureau)

Principles of Seattle Transit

My vision is that the city of Seattle work towards a transit system that meets the needs of its citizens. This work is in corporation with other transit agencies, not in competition. The vision would follow certain principals:

• Goal of SDOT is to move goods and people, not vehicles.

• Another goal is to reduce the number of vehicle miles driven in Seattle even as the population grows.

• A third goal is that no one should have to watch full buses drive past. If a line is that popular more resources need to be quickly added. The extra buses will lead to shorter wait times, which may induce greater usage and more full buses.

• A fourth goal is that from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. you should be able to get from any urban village in Seattle to UW and downtown in no more than one hour.

• If transit is getting stuck in auto traffic, then a grade-separated solution should be sought.

• When doing cost-benefit analysis include all costs, including the cost of driving incurred by the driver and pollution.

• If we fund extra service on a Metro route, the fare box on that route is shared as a percentage of funding (i.e. if Seattle pays for 1 bus on a route and King County pays for 4 buses, then Seattle gets a credit of 20% of the fare collected by all buses on that route).

Future Water Taxi, Rapid Ride and improved Metro service

Many of you (or all) will have read about the King County Ferry District and the increase in local real estate and other taxes which will fund a longer-term run of the popular West Seattle Water Taxi, moving it to at least hourly service every day for the entire year beginning roughly in 2009. That same new Ferry District will also run some experimental taxis between some or all of these new water-accessible Seattle-area points: Ballard (Shilshoal/Pier 91 or both) to downtown; the UW boat dock area to Kirkland; Des Moines to downtown; Renton-ish to downtown via some area in Madrona-Lechi area; and possibly even an Everett/Shoreline to downtown run.

At the same time, a tax which was voted for in the Transit Now initiative will pay for the planning, development and implementation of five RapidRide routes - RapidRide being the brand which King County Metro is giving to their upcoming Bus Rapid Transit service. The West Seattle RapidRide service will begin in 2011 (two years after the more-permanent, year-round Water Taxi service begins). This service will provide a new generation of greener and cleaner/leaner double-articulated buses running every 10 minutes (plus or minus probably 4 minutes - busier routes more, less busy less) 18 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week. This new BRT service will serve (at this point in the planning) mostly the southwest and central areas of West Seattle. The expanded Water Taxi service will serve mostly the central and north-northeast areas of West Seattle.

The transit service to the southeast and east and central-east areas of West Seattle was recently improved by the same Transit Now initiative by making the Route 120 15-minute service Monday through Saturday (30-minute service on Sunday). West Seattle transit service has been and is being improved substantially. What is still missing are local circulator routes and the time and service level requirements.

It is time for us to begin thinking of what one or more circulator bus systems could be like here in West Seattle. There are significant barriers between the ridges on the west side of Longfellow Creek and the ridges on the east side, but these are not insurmountable. Where should these circulator buses go - i.e., what neighborhoods should they connect and should there be one single figure-eight style route, two or more intersecting circle or oval routes around particular geographic sections of West Seattle. What kind of bus and what frequency of service.

If it takes four buses in each direction to accomplish a four-or-five square-mile area of West Seattle, that would make that circulator service require either eight buses for bi-directional travel or only four for single-direction travel. Do we want bi-directional routes. This question gets to the root of how to define our circulator systems. Where do the 60-30-10 percent of us want to go here in West Seattle. Are there three loops and three frequencies.

Lots of questions to begin to ponder, but, with the activity happening around us with respect to improved transit and the definite and near-term reality of the Viaduct, First Avenue South and portions of 99 being unavailable to us for years on end, it's important to create a useful, logically planned and implemented West Seattle-specific transit system - and by system I mean the "plan" which King County implements here on the peninsula for our use.

Ideally, it should take no more than 20 minutes from anywhere in West Seattle to reach the Water Taxi dock, or the Fauntleroy dock. That's what it takes in West Seattle morning or evening rush hour by car, with all the traffic and lights. The advantage of West Seattle is that our grid - the surface transit network we have as streets and sidewalks and stairways, is more than adequate for the present and reasonable future population of West Seattle in terms of allowing the local residents to get from and to anywhere on the peninsula in a short time - but it's by car.

For public transit to be effective it should take no more than half-again the amount of time it takes by car. Otherwise our use of cars will never be trumped because the one thing we don't have is time. Am I willing to waste an hour just to use public transit to get somewhere that if I drove would take 15 to 25 minutes? The logical answer is no. And that's what we need to work on - planning a public transit system here on the peninsula that connects us with ourselves and all of us with the rest of Seattle and especially the other neighborhoods and areas where we have friends or destinations and visit. Now, we do this with our cars because it's still easier than by transit (mostly!). Here in West Seattle we have an opportunity to look at our own transit future and help design it ourselves based on our needs and requirements and - yes - wants.

Getting downtown is only going to get easier and faster. That's never been an issue. It's the rest of the city and particularly West Seattle. Start throwing ideas on the table. One new advantage King County Metro has, through a Council amendment, is that individual service areas can self-tax (or use general funds) to partner for additional individual area service which is outside of the jurisdiction of the equal area parity funding. It wouldn't be Seattle Transit, or even West Seattle Transit, but areas which can provide either the infrastructure improvement (quid pro quo) or the funding can get additional service. So, even outside of the county funding constraints, there are opportunities. There is also a fund pool for Viaduct-99 out-of-service mitigation and it's conceivable that a form of mitigation could be the funding for a frequent shuttle service between West Seattle's docks, its business centers and recreation/cultural/educational assets and its neighborhoods.

Go for it!

Transit Riders' Union

Here is an interesting article from the Stranger regarding a transit riders' union:

Drivers Needed

Last week's column calling for Metro bus riders to form a transit riders' union prompted a massive, supportive response from an unexpected place—bus drivers.

Metro drivers and customers, I pointed out last week, are natural allies—both have an interest in making the system better. However, given that I also said riding the bus "can seriously suck," I was surprised by the deluge of letters from Metro drivers who wanted to know how they could help. "Metro feels the 'right to ride' is more important than the 'right to ride right,'" one wrote. "Do you have the pleasure of smelling shit, vomit, malt liquor, piss, and Old Spice in your workplace? I don't even have the privilege of stepping off the bus by choice."

Riders, like drivers, aren't demanding that buses be as convenient as driving or as private as taking a taxi. All we want is a bus system that's reliable, safe, and clean—one where we aren't subjected to harassment, aren't forced into confront-ations we didn't ask for, and aren't shoved up against people who smell like shit. A system, in other words, where the rules are actually enforced—and where drivers and passengers are comfortable and safe. But adding security, installing ticketing kiosks, and buying more buses requires funding. A transit riders' union could advocate for that funding.

One of the largest and oldest transit riders' unions in the nation is the Labor/Community Strategy Center's Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles, which formed in 1992 in response to proposals by the L.A. Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to raise fares and eliminate discount monthly bus passes. The union sued the transit agency in 1996 on behalf of 350,000 riders. To nearly everyone's surprise, they won. The MTA agreed to freeze or lower fares, cut the price of weekly and monthly bus passes, hire additional transit police, and add new buses to its fleet. In 2001, a federal court ruled that the agency had failed to live up to that agreement—spending 90 percent of its money on commuter rail to wealthy suburbs while urban commuters sweated on overcrowded buses—and forced the agency to buy hundreds of new buses to make up the discrepancy.

None of this would have been possible if there hadn't been a strong, independent, and loud riders union pushing for improvements to the system. In Seattle, bus riders have as much of a need in 2007 to improve our system as L.A. riders did in 1992. I'd love to see some smart, organized, ambitious folks get together and make it happen. recommended

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hopefully, all members of the Transportation Action group will have received an invitation to join the listserve. Join and use the simple address to contact all members of the group.

Also, our next SWS main meeting, this coming Monday, October 15, will feature two speakers addressing (one each) the pro and con aspects of the pending RTID (Proposition 1) on this November's ballot. Transportation Choices Coalition's Rob Johnson will present the "pro" side. The Sierra Club will present the "con" side (as of today, Sierra Club had not identified a speaker by name). Join the rest of us at Camp Long Monday evening to get better informed on one-half of the Proposition 1 issue.

The legislature tied the ST2 and RTID together as a single vote for Proposition 1. It's a tough call but this Monday's forum should help you decide.