Thank you for meeting with City Councilmember Dean Randall, City Manager Larry Bauman and me in your Capitol office on February 13. We appreciate your continued interest in the Eastside Rail Corridor’s potential for improvements that will make public passenger services feasible as well as help to preserve the corridor for freight use and trail development.
It's been a tough time with a double dose of funding challenges for transit. Local agencies like Community and Everett Transit have reduced services because of the enduring economic downturn. And Congress eliminated "earmarking" for special projects and tightened transit funding in new, two-year legislation
Stronger batteries, lightweight carbon-fiber components and mass production will help electric cars replace the gasoline engine by 2050, technologists said at a conference Friday in Seattle.
Washington state's Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations held a hearing in Seattle to examine the future of high-speed rail in the state of Washington as well as the Northwest. Cascadia Center's testimony, done jointly with All Aboard Washington, can be watched in the clip above. Video of the entire hearing can be found at TVW.
Last year's Connecting Cascadia workshop in Portland, Ore., spent two days examining how high-speed rail can be implemented in the Cascadia Megaregion. The workshop report provides a great overview of the conference and the issue in general.
Cascadia Center sponsored and participated in the Pacific Northwest Supply Chain and Competitiveness Exchange, an outreach event of the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Transportation. The focus of the forum, organized locally by the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, was to identify elements of a national freight policy critical to the competitiveness of the Northwest.
The wrap-up of the forum can be found here.
A bipartisan group of legislators led by state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, took center stage Monday (Jan. 24) in the ongoing debate over the remake of Washington State Ferries (WSF), when they rolled out a package of bills designed to trim the ferry system's costs. The reforms would adopt new operating efficiencies and bring employee compensation into line with that of other state workers....
Bruce Agnew...agrees that a new taxing district has no chance in the current legislature, but adds nonetheless that “we are well on our way to higher taxes or user fees for transportation users that directly benefit in the Puget Sound region.”
He envisions “a regional district for extraordinary enhancements to the environment and transportation — including county ferry districts and passenger-only ferries, regional rail and transit, and regional electrification efforts for next-generation vehicles. It could partner with tribes to leverage resources for transportation links to gaming venues and clean-up.” ...
Washington state on Thursday (Dec. 9) received a new award of $161 million in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail (HSR). The award represented part of a $1.19 billion pot of funds returned to the U.S. Department of Transportation by Wisconsin and Ohio, whose governors-elect have decided to kill their states' HSR programs....
“Future efforts will be broken between true HSR corridors and emerging intercity rail corridors,” comments Ray Chambers, transportation fellow at Seattle's Cascadia Center for Regional Development. Chambers feels that the Pacific Northwest corridor, which runs from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C., will get top priority among the so-called emerging corridors.
(Amtrak Cascades corridor map, left)
VANCOUVER - The second Amtrak train running between Vancouver and Seattle will get a one-year extension without a proposed fee being imposed, the federal government announced Thursday.
Vancouver risks being isolated from a high- speed rail corridor on the West Coast of North America, along with its business and tourism benefits, as efforts to build U.S. portions of the corridor progress faster than any initiatives on this side of the border.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson signed a pact with the mayors of Seattle and Portland on June 9 to push to secure a high-speed railway service through the Pacific Northwest, but the plan still faces many obstacles – physically, financially and politically – before it will be realized.
The daily commute is going to change from the pavement up, and it will be for the better if we have the imagination and wit not to go with the traffic flow.
Changes great and small are coming.
In May, the 42-mile Eastside rail corridor, which the Port of Seattle recently bought from BNSF Railway, will be parsed out and resold to King County, Sound Transit, the City of Redmond and two regional utilities.
All those entities will help the Port recover its $81 million purchase price as they acquire ownership and easements to maintain freight service in the corridor, develop passenger rail and bicycles trails, and plan water and power lines.
Ever since Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, there has been a strong effort to market the event as “Canada’s Games.” It’s only natural, of course: the federal government wants to use the Olympics to enhance our national identity, and VANOC wants to gain a national scope to raise the commercial value of Olympic sponsorships.
But still, when international visitors get their first glimpses of Vancouver as they pass the stunning Haida and Coast Salish art at YVR’s international terminal, when they catch their first whiff of ocean air outside the arrivals doors, when the SkyTrain crests that first ridge on the trip downtown, revealing the dramatic cut of the North Shore mountains, is it really Canada our guests will see?
The centre of Canada, after all – not just geographically but also in terms of culture, commerce, industry and politics – is far from here. Vancouver has much more in common, on all those fronts, with our neighbours in Seattle and Portland than we do with our counterparts in Calgary and Montreal. And there’s little doubt that, as far as the Olympics is concerned, Seattle has much more to gain than Saskatoon – or even Kelowna.
That is why there’s an equally strong effort, on the part of many people in the Pacific northwest, to claim these 2010 Games as their own and to use the 16-day event as a springboard for advancing what has, to this point, been a rather abstract notion of cross-border regional unity. That notion is called Cascadia.
Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute's Bruce Agnew recently became the chair a NAFTA-chartered commission focused on the issue of sustainable freight transportation.
The federal government will spend $590 million in stimulus money to improve rail travel times from Blaine to Portland.
The money represents the Northwest's piece of an $8 billion stimulus package for high-speed rail, to be announced Thursday in Florida by President Obama.
Only two-thirds of passenger trains run on time on the 3 ½-hour trip between Seattle and Portland, and the state is trying to boost that number to 90 percent. A series of small projects throughout Western Washington — some but not all of which the stimulus money would pay for — would save an estimated 833 hours of delays annually, according to the state. Ridership peaked in 2008 with 775,000 riders.
"Anybody who travels the I-5 corridor in our state knows that we need to find new, efficient options to get commuters and commerce moving. And anybody interested in boosting our state's economy knows that now is a great time to take action," said a statement from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, has talked at least four times with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding the Pacific Northwest Cascades corridor — stressing that rail could reduce congestion on nearby Interstate 5, a spokesman for the senator said Wednesday.
Thirteen high-speed-rail lines serving 31 states will receive money, including $8 million for Oregon to improve trackways and Portland's Union Station.
Five round-trip Amtrak trains run between Seattle and Portland each day. Only two go between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., so buses fill out the route. Delays caused by freight-train traffic, and various accidents or obstructions, are common.
Washington state had sought $1.3 billion to fund 26 rail projects from border to border, to prepare for eventually running eight round-trip trains to Oregon. Several projects already include at least partial funding from state tax increases in the 2000s.
Newly-elected Bellevue City Council member Kevin Wallace has released plans for a light-rail route that would utilize the BNSF rail corridor and keep trains out of the city's central business district.
Wallace's plan, dubbed the "Vision Line," would place Sound Transit's East Link tracks along the BNSF corridor through South Bellevue and along 114th Avenue Northeast to serve downtown.
The Vision Line aims to protect residential homes and downtown businesses. But it adds another option to a growing list of alternatives for Sound Transit's East Link light rail project.
Wallace is asking that Sound Transit consider his plan as part of the East Link environmental-review process.
"What I've come up with will provide as good a ridership as any other alternative at a much lower cost," he told The Reporter.
The city council already recommended a route that would run along Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast before moving through a downtown tunnel below 108th Avenue Northeast.
Sound Transit voted in May to focus on those same routes, along with a highly controversial downtown surface line along 108th Avenue Northeast and 110th Avenue Northeast that critics say would disrupt business and increase traffic congestion.
The agency recently added another downtown option: one that would place surface tracks or a tunnel along 110th Avenue.
Wallace contends that all tunnel options will be too expensive.
After years of hype, it looks like the mass-produced, all-electric car is really on its way.
Puget Sound is poised to become one of the key markets for the initial wave of electric cars, in part because of plans to begin building next year a network of more than 2,000 charging stations throughout the region.
Funded by part of a $100 million federal Department of Energy (DOE) economic-stimulus grant, the charging stations are to the electric car what the cellphone-tower network was to the cellphone. Just as the phones needed towers to make them functional, the network of charging stations will make it practical to own a car that does not use gas.
By December 2010, drivers in our area should be able to buy mass-produced, plug-in electrics that create no emissions and run for pennies a mile.
"It's going to blow people's doors off how fast this transition is going to happen," predicted U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, who took a spin around the Microsoft campus Friday in an all-electric Ford Focus.
As part of the DOE grant, the Puget Sound area has been promised 1,000 Nissan LEAF all-electric cars, which will be sold here beginning in December 2010.
But that's only the start.
Because of the charging network, the Seattle area will be one of the major markets for other brands of electric cars, said Steve Marshall, a senior fellow at Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center, a Seattle-based transportation think tank. Ford, for example, plans to bring an electric commercial van to the area in 2010, one that will run for about 3 cents a mile and is designed for small-business owners and package-delivery fleets.
The electric Focus will hit the market in 2011, as will the Chevy Volt, a car that can drive the first 40 miles on electricity before a gasoline-powered engine kicks in, driving a generator that provides electric power beyond 40 miles.
Inslee predicts that within a decade, a significant portion of the American car fleet will be made up of electric cars, and "we're trying to make Washington the epicenter of this revolution," he said.
The car companies know it. "Washington is a lot more aggressive and more hep on this than any part of the country," said David Berdish, manager of sustainable business development for Ford Motor Co.
Meeting at Microsoft
On Friday, state and federal officials and business leaders gathered at the Microsoft campus for a Cascadia-sponsored conference called "Beyond Oil." They talked about building sustainable communities and ensuring the electrical grid could handle the power draw if thousands of people all tried to recharge their cars at the same time.
Outside, a half-dozen Tesla roadsters — all-electric sports cars that cost about $100,000 — were lined up in the parking area. But it was the somewhat homely Ford Focus, which arrived on a flatbed truck after an overnight trip from San Francisco, that attracted the buzz, in part because it's price is expected to be within the reach of the average family when it comes to market in 2011.
The Seattle area is expected to be a leader in electric cars for a couple of reasons. (More)
The Northwest will soon see a growing number of plug-in cars along with the public charging stations that Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford, emphasizes are key. Tesla, Nissan, Chevy, Fisker, Toyota, among others, have all committed to producing plug-in vehicles. This transformative technology forms a foundation for the Sustainable Communities Initiative recently launched by the U.S. Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Northwest has received several competitive federal grant awards that will help establish the charging and information infrastructure for plug-in cars. Our conference will explore how these grants will be implemented. This year the U.S. Department of Energy announced $2.4 billion in grants for plug-in technologies. Nissan and eTec received a $100 million federal grant with help from Idaho National Laboratory to install charging stations for owners of the all-electric Nissan Leaf in several regions, including Seattle, Portland and the Willamette Valley. The Puget Sound region also received a grant of $15 million for the Clean Cities petroleum-reduction project. These and other competitive federal grant awards will help establish the charging and information infrastructure for plug-in cars.
This year’s Cascadia Center TransTech Energy conference, to be held at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., campus will be hosted with co-sponsors Microsoft, Clean Cities, Ford and Idaho National Laboratory. This will be the sixth conference focusing on the combination of transportation, technology and energy. Three years ago, Cascadia Center hosted a pioneering session to examine the potential of plug-in electric vehicles, and the conferences have continued to grow in scope and influence. On the first morning of this year’s conference Clean Cities will host panels with biofuel and electricity experts to discuss the future of local, sustainable alternative fuel in our region in the context of a “100 Mile Fuel Diet.” Sessions this year will also cover upcoming legislation and the potential impact to fleets in Washington State, and an introduction to the Evergreen Fleets certification program to help reach emission reduction goals.
Cars that run on electricity have made it to prime time. The new Jay Leno Show featured an all-electric Ford Focus in a challenge race. Drew Barrymore drove the battery-powered Ford around a track next to the NBC studio setting the pace for others to come.
For most viewers, this was the first time they saw an all-electric car in action. And instead of a tiny, underpowered car, they saw a normal-looking, five-passenger car speed through turns.
Leno has, in effect, made a public-service announcement: Cars that run on electricity are real and will help the economy, national security and the environment.
The Northwest is also getting ready to take a prime-time role in helping to accelerate and integrate this technology. Environmental and business leaders will gather next month in Redmond to think through the infrastructure needs to support it.
Last year the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, in part because we were spending over a billion dollars a day to buy foreign oil. Although the recession slashed oil prices, they are creeping back up. In August, the U.S. spent more than $25 billion to buy foreign oil.
In his first week in office, President Obama said, "America's dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced. It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation, and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism."
Replacing oil with electricity in transportation may be the best solution reasonably at hand.
Amtrak Cascades will start a second daily round-trip train from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 19th.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced the start date Wednesday. The long-awaited service will run at least through the 2010 Winter Olympics in February in Vancouver.
Amtrak was ready to begin the second round-trip train about a year ago, but Canada's insistence that the railway cover $1,500 (Canadian) a day in costs for customs staff in Vancouver derailed the plan.
That fee has now been waived, at least for the next seven months, by the Canada Border Services Agency after pressure from train supporters and officials on both sides of the border.
The new train will make it easier for business travelers and vacationers from Western Washington to take quick trips to Vancouver. It will be especially convenient for travelers to B.C. during the Feb. 12-28, 2010, Winter Olympics, since vehicle border crossings will be busy and private vehicles will be restricted in much of downtown Vancouver.
It also will be convenient for travelers from Portland who will be able to get to Vancouver on one train (the new train originates in Portland). Previously there was a lengthy delay and train change in Seattle.
The new service will begin the evening of Aug. 19th with a northbound train from Seattle.
Trains will leave from Seattle for Vancouver at 7.40 a.m. (current train) and 6.50 p.m. (the new train) daily.
Trains will depart Vancouver at 6.40 a.m. (new train) and 5.45 p.m. (current train). The trip takes about four hours one-way.
Amtrak Cascades is operated by Amtrak in partnership with the Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation.
More: WashDOT press release;
Amtrak Cascades Web site