Thursday, August 31, 2006

San Diego's High-Tech Dashboard

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Those of us who follow transportation agencies like Sound Transit and WSDOT during the past few years have seen a remarkable enhancement in their financial transparency and efficiency with the public's dollars. In San Diego, state and regional agencies are taking that accountability one step further, making it real-time.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and Caltrans have launched the innovative, interactive TransNet Dashboard, an online reporting tool intended to provide the public with up-to-date information on transportation projects underway in the San Diego region that are funded by the TransNet half-cent sales tax. The state-of-the-art site is a Web-based connection to current schedule, budget, and expenditure information for highly anticipated projects underway on the I-5, I-15, I-805, SR 52, SR 76, and Mid-Coast corridors. The backbone of the site is programming that merges construction, finance, and schedule data from SANDAG and Caltrans databases for easier access.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Rising Ride?

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Riding in cars with boys--and others--in Tacoma may soon be more pleasant but also more costly. Last evening, members of the Tacoma City Council unanimously passed Resolution 36958 to put a six-year, $48 million street maintenance levy on the Nov. 7 ballot.

According to the resolution, Tacoma's city limits include 8,800 blocks of residential streets but current funding levels support maintenance each year for no more than 25 blocks. If approved by voters, the levy will provide $8 million additional each year for six years.

The City Council's action just gets the ball rolling, however. Bad streets are a big issue for Tacoma's residents, but they will want the City to answer questions about where the money will go and why taxes they’re already paying aren’t enough to fix the streets. RAMP will provide a forum for airing the issues at an upcoming meeting.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Through the Looking Glass

Submitted by Paul Ellis

To some observers (most notably Mary Margaret Haugen, current chair for the WA Senate's Transportation Committee), the only list longer than that of the critical transportation projects awaiting funding is the list of agencies empowered to direct transportation funds. Senator Haugen and other leading Legislators believe that this is no coincidence; in other words, that the plethora of agencies (from FMSIB to TIB) with their own funding "silos" and separate agendas is a big share of the problem. We can probably all agree that entering the world of transportation funding can resemble entering Alice's side of the looking glass, a place where alphabet letters conspire to upset the Mad Hatter's tea--it's part of the rationale behind starting this blog, in fact.
The WA Legislature's solution to this modern voyage through the looking glass is the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), which was formed last Session to "develop a proposal for a regional transportation governing entity more directly accountable to the public, and to develop a comprehensive regional transportation finance plan for the citizens of the Puget Sound metropolitan region.” Norm Rice and John Stanton have been appointed to co-chair the commission. Dan McDonald and Mary Gates from King County, and Gigi Burke from Snohomish County were also appointed to the commission; an appointee from Kitsap County has yet to be confirmed. Dave Johnson and RAMP Co-chair Tim Farrell are representing Pierce County on the RTC.

The RTC's mission is multi-faceted, including goals to:
  • Consolidate governance among agencies, including changes in institutional powers, structures, and relationships and governance needed to improve accountability for transportation decisions, while enhancing the regional focus for transportation decisions and maintaining equity among citizens in the region;
  • Improve coordination in the planning of transportation investments and services;
  • Improve investment strategies
Thus far, most press coverage and public interest has been focused on the first goal listed above.
Expectations for positive change are running high in Olympia. “This commission needs to be forward thinking--I want them to consider our transportation needs in 2030, not only 2010,” said Governor Christine Gregoire in announcing formation of the RTC. “I know that these recommendations will get mixed reviews, but I hope that everyone, including transit providers, local governments and the Department of Transportation will work with the commission to reach a solution that helps to fight traffic congestion in the Puget Sound region.”

The Commission is meeting with and hearing from transportation agencies in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The proposal to create a single transportation agency designed to make it easier to build roads and mass transit is getting a cool reception in Snohomish County. Pierce County jurisdictions and agencies will get a chance to have their say at a hearing beginning at 9:00 this Thursday in the Port Business Center (3600 Port of Tacoma Rd.).

The Commission is scheduled to release its report and recommendations by November 15, which will be forwarded to the WA State Legislature for its next Session beginning in January, 2007.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Road Behind

RAMP was formed in 2003 as a recommendation of the Growth Strategies Organization (GSO) report that provided a blueprint for the Pierce County area’s coordinated economic development. The partnership seeks to engage all local jurisdictions in a consensus-building process to develop and support regional priorities while recognizing local interests.

RAMP uses its consensus to facilitate project funding from Central Puget Sound, state and federal sources. In just the past year, RAMP has provided consensus on priorities for federal funding, identified and prioritized projects for the second round of Sound Transit funding (ST2), supported maintenance of the funding set aside through the Transportation Partnership Program, and begun mobilizing broad support for a regional funding vote in 2007.

RAMP enjoys support and participation from every jurisdiction and agency in Pierce County, comprising a regional coalition including business, labor, public and private organizations and citizens working to ensure a healthy regional economy associated with the development of an effective, efficient transportation system--and the resources to sustain it.

RAMP is co-chaired by Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, Port of Tacoma Executive Director Timothy Farrell and Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President & CEO David Graybill.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Easing Into Traffic

Welcome to On RAMP, the blog for Pierce County's Regional Access Mobility Partnership (RAMP).

There's probably never been a time in recent history when so much was happening in the area of transportation funding and governance. As the consensus organization for regional transportation issues and projects, RAMP brings together city and county officials, business leaders and other local citizens who have interest in Pierce County's future. Since transportation funding and governance is a complex and often obscure object for study (despite the fact that our public agencies are pledged to, and generally practice, financial and operational transparency), we felt it is time to provide a community focal point for information and informed opinions.

This blog will be authored on an ongoing basis by Paul Ellis, RAMP's lead staff member from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, along with George Walk from the Pierce County Executive's Office (George was formerly chair of the WA House Transportation Committee) and Sean Eagan from the Port of Tacoma (Sean is a former aide to U.S. Congressman Adam Smith). Joining us from time to time will be authorities and opinion leaders with something to add to this ongoing discussion. Our paramount goal is to leave our visitors not only more informed about the current progress on enhancing regional, state and federal projects, but to give you an effective "road map" to how decisions are made and funding is secured.