Wednesday, October 31, 2007

South Tacoma Tagged for Non-Attainment

As reported in an earlier post, the Washington Department of Ecology is considering designation of most of the Pierce County metropolitan area non-attainment area. The proposed area includes the entire Pierce County Comprehensive Urban Growth area (CUGA), except for areas to the south and southwest (including Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base), and areas to the east of the Puyallup River-White River valleys (including Sumner, Auburn, Pacific, Bonney Lake, and Orting).

Cities within the proposed non-attainment boundary include Tacoma, Lakewood, Steilacoom, Fircrest, University Place, Ruston, Milton, Edgewood, Puyallup, and Fife, as well as the unincorprated areas of Frederickson, Parkland, Spanaway and South Hill.

Ecology will hold a hearing to receive public comment on the draft PM2.5 recommendations and the proposed non-attainment area boundary on Wednesday, December 5th, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Pierce County Library & Administrative Center (3005 112th St. E.) in Parkland. Comments can also be sent by mail, e-mail or FAX until 5:00 p.m. on December 10th; comments should be directed to:

Doug Schneider
Department of Ecology
P.O. Box 4700
Olympia, WA 98504-7600
FAX: (360) 407-7534

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Prop 1 Maintains Narrow Lead in Polling

The Washington Poll, a non-partisan, academic survey research project tied to the University of Washington, shows Proposition 1 still ahead with Puget Sound voters.

Some 51 percent of those who said they’ve already voted say they supported the measure and 49 percent of those who are yet to vote are certain or likely to approve the package. 36 percent of those who have sent in their absentee ballots claim to have voted against Roads & Transit, while 38 percent who have yet to vote report that they are likely to vote the plan down.

Voices for Proposition 1

From the chorus of voices raised over Proposition 1, here are excerpts from some statements that bring both light and heat to the subject:
As to the zealotry in our community, the salvation-in-cycling cult has been joined by the cars-are-evil crowd in implacable opposition to improving the roadways, the down-with-light-rail adherents who insist more buses are the answer to our needs, the anti-tax disciples who decry anything that costs money and the global-warming prophets who denounce the whole business as an effort that will simply hasten the day of ecological doom. It's hard to hear any dispassionate voices in what ought to be an intense but levelheaded discussion about our region's future...

A decade ago, Sound Transit was considered a disaster. Currently, it is hailed as a public enterprise that gets things done. Much of the credit, even Sound Transit critics acknowledge, goes to Joni Earl, Sound Transit's CEO, who took over an agency with "a lousy reputation" and is credited with its near complete turnaround. Earl happens to be a public servant who turned down a raise five years ago based on her exceptional performance because Sound Transit had not achieved two major milestones it had set for itself....

She points out...two unarguable facts in all of this: Droves of people continue to move into our midst every year and we've delayed coming to grips with our transportation needs for far too long. No plan is perfect but now is the time, she says, to get on with it; "It's only going to get more expensive
if we delay."

Hubert G. Locke, The Seattle P-I

Prop 1 certainly moves us in the right direction, adding long overdue regional funding for transit and roads. Without "some for each" this effort would fail. As the primary source for Sound Transit, the regional funding in "Prop 1" will dedicate $10.8 billion toward a solution and as a secondary funding source for roads, this measure will add $7 billion toward long overdue progress.

Some of these projects have been "on the books" for a very long time. If not now, when? It took leadership this long to agree on this proposition. If we don't fund it with a yes vote, how do we expect our Puget Sound traffic nightmare to ever end?

Pat Maddock, Tacoma-Pierce County Association of REALTORS

There's a reality for business owners across the central Puget Sound: More than $1.4 billion a year is being sucked out of this region as we idle in a traffic morass judged the nation's 19th worst by the Texas Transportation Institute. And things could get much worse.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag's performance audit of the Washington State Department of Transportation clearly predicts what happens if this November's Roads and Transit package (Proposition 1) is rejected: The measure's failure would "far more than double the current level of congestion" on our roadways.

Far more than double the current level of congestion. That's why after thoroughly examining the $17.8 billion Roads and Transit package, Washington Roundtable members and a broad spectrum of other businesses are confident that, dollar for dollar, its benefits far outweigh its costs.

Confidence is an important concept here. First, we are confident in our region's long-term economic prospects. We are confident that our businesses can continue to produce jobs that pay family wages and grow a tax base that pays for essential services like transportation. But we must make key investments to our aging transportation infrastructure.

Steve Mullin, Washington Roundtable

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two New Transportation Blogs

While blogs like On RAMP have been active in other regions across the nation--offering informed insights on transportation issues from places like Portland, Houston, the Bay Area and Connecticut--similar sites in the Puget Sound region have been few and far between.

Or so it seemed. Recently, the authors of this blog have become aware of one blog that focuses on regional transportation, trade and technology issues, and have noted the debut of another blog offering to provide a citizen's forum on transportation issues:

Cascadia Prospectus, the group blog of the Cascadia Center aims for "the sweet spot between vision, accountability and investment" and offers to provide news, commentary and insight on transportation, trade and technology. The Center supports development of a balanced, integrated, and expanded transportation system for people & goods in the central Puget Sound and beyond: Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon.

Let's Improve Transportation (LIT) is "an experiment in participatory democracy" through which residents of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties are invited to join an online experiment via the Internet at their own convenience. The purpose of this experiment is "to evaluate a new and potentially more meaningful way to involve citizens in the process of regional transportation decision-making."

Note: RAMP provides the links above for informational purposes only; links do not imply endorsement or recommendation by RAMP or its participants, and RAMP is not responsible for the contents of any "off-site" web page referenced from this server.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Level of Attainment?

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) is in the process of developing an action plan implementing new federal standards for clean air, incorporating such factors as ozone and particulate matter (2.5 microns or smaller).

The federal Clean Air Act requires “transportation conformity”--assuring that local and regional transportation plans, improvements and projects conform to the federal regulations. Current data locally indicates that the implementation plan's new emphasis will no longer be on stationary sources (plants), but rather on transportation conformity (trucks, locomotives, ships) for diesel engines.

Currently, the Tacoma area exceeds the new federal limit on particulate matter in an area centered on S. 78th & 'L' St. This level of pollution has been determined by its characteristics and timing to be the result of residential wood smoke; a study is underway to determine whether or not other sources may contribute to this problem.

This seemingly obscure decision to designate the boundaries of a non-attainment area, separated by a few years from potential effects, carries real consequences. A non-attainment designation can adversely affect economic development, transportation infrastructure development and growth in military installations.

The timeline for this process is as follows:

  1. October 26th
    PSCAA completes initial analyses for designation and informal consultation with Tacoma/Pierce County stakeholders
  2. November-December
    WA DOE holds public comment sessions, then sends draft recommendations to Governor
  3. December 1st
    Legislative Workgroup to recommend wood smoke reduction plan
  4. December 18th
    Governor submits designation areas to EPA based upon monitoring data from 2004 - 2006
  5. December 18th, 2008
    EPA designates final areas--could consider data from 2005 – 2007
States have three years after designation to develop a plan and two or more years longer to meet the standards.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Roads & Transit Coverage Accelerates

The past several days have evidenced a flurry of newspaper stories and editorials throughout the Central Puget Sound regarding the impending Roads & Transit vote. While the official polling date is November 6th, many voters already have their absentee ballots in hand.

Sunday's edition of The News Tribune offered extensive coverage, including a slightly negative feature by Joe Turner (sort of a cost/benefit analysis minus the benefit part), a pro/con pitting former state senator and former state Supreme Court justice Phil Talmadge (is there no credible Pierce County spokesperson?) against RAMP Co-Chair David Graybill and Patty Rose, Secretary-Treasurer for the Pierce County Central Labor Council. The coverage was capped by a second endorsement by the editorial board, stating:

Much of the opposition to Proposition 1 is rooted in the region’s old, tiresome roads-vs.-transit dispute....In reality, the region cannot get enough of either.

For a wrap-up of other media coverage of the debate over the Roads & Transit package, check out the campaign website.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Does Parking Need to Be the 'Ugly Stepsister' of Transportation?

Parking--the endpoint for any vehicle trip--tends to be the "ugly stepsister" of the transportation world. New technology and a new paradigm for how that service is delivered is changing parking systems across America.

Typically, cities use parking regulations as a weapon to discourage people from parking downtown, as an incentive to use mass transportation, as a means to raise municipal revenue, or all three. New devices offer ways to increase customer choice, transforming that paradigm.

Portland Transport, the Rose City's version of On RAMP, recently posted a piece that reveals the experience of cities that have moved away from the old pay-for-space approach to a smarter parking system. New devices allow customers to buy parking anywhere they can within a specific district for the exact time they choose, and drivers also have payment options: cash, credit or even a prepaid gift card.

Boulder has recently deployed a Downtown Gift Card that can be used to pay for shopping, movies, and dining as well as municipal parking. Such cards are a way to make parking an integral part of the whole experience of visiting downtown.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Invitation to RAMP Participants

If approved, will the Roads & Transit package (increasingly now known around Pierce County as Proposition 1), be built on time and on budget?

Is there enough in the proposal for Pierce County to justify the resulting tax increases? Is it the right mix of roads and transit? What are the alternatives if this proposal is rejected by voters?

Next Wednesday, The News Tribune is hosting a forum with five experts representing the pro and con positions on the measure :

When: Wednesday, October 10th, 7:00 -9:00 p.m.

Where: Baker Community Room, The News Tribune (1950 S. State St.)

What: Panelists will present their perspectives and answer audience-generated questions

Who: The panelists are Shawn Bunney, Pierce County councilman and chair for the Regional Transportation Investment District; John Ladenburg, Pierce County executive and chair of Sound Transit; Tim Gould, chair of the Sierra Club’s transportation committee; Jim Horn, chair of the Eastside Transportation Association board; and David Graybill, president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber; the discussion will be moderated by Hunter George, The News Tribune’s politics editor

Also: Doors open at 6:30; cookies and coffee will be provided.