Vision 2040 Workshop

by Chuck Shank

The Workshop was given on Thursday, October 8 at the Seattle offices of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), wherein the representatives of Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties are deliberating on the Transportation Vision 2040. 

This Vision 2040 prepares the way today for what the regional transportation system will become by year 2040.   Our progeny will inherit a highway system designed to alleviate the overwhelming pressure from two developing changes in our region, namely population growth of 1.4 million more persons, and global warming.

That’s right. The four counties will grow that much and the greenhouse gas emissions from that growth will affect the entire Earth’s climate.   These premises are inviolable.   No planning is allowable under any other circumstances.   Therefore the transportation system must accommodate all the persons trying to get around in 2040 as well as trying to save the climate. 

Up to this point, 5 Alternatives were analyzed -– KAPO prepared comments about these Alternatives which are available from our website.  The Alternatives used varying mixes of transit, capacity, and management techniques to achieve the Vision 2040 policies. 

I cannot include all 80 pages of material, but can give you highlights from each handout.  First is the “Workshop”.   Next is ‘Getting to a Preliminary Preferred Alternative”.   Third is the “Public Opinion Survey” preliminary top line report, and last is the “Kitsap County Break-out Group”. 

Workshop 

As you go through this – and it will no doubt be beyond most reader’s endurance – ask yourself “what do these terms mean?   Also, if you think you know what these terms mean, ask yourself how you know.  Most of the terms below are specific to the language of The Planner

Members of the various counties sit at a large conference table where they are given presentations and asked to comment.  Members of the public and other interest groups sit in arranged seating within sight and hearing of the main conference table. 

Before the workshop begins, public comments are given.  A couple people say that due to the inflation of the dollar coming up in 2010, there will be no money for achieving Vision 2040, and that Visionaries should be aware that all the goods, food and services the public receives come by trucks, and trucks are largely left unaccounted for in Vision 2040. 

As the meeting begins, the status of the process is described by the Chair, this under the points covered in Attachments A, B, and C.  Attachment A basically says that Transportation 2040 is guided by policy direction derived from the Vision 2040 multicounty planning policies. 

The overarching goal is: The region will have a safe, cleaner, integrated, sustainable, and highly efficient Multimodal transportation system that supports the regional growth strategy and promotes economic and environmental vitality and better public health. The plan should emphasize that it’s a new era for transportation, and that fundamental change will be necessary to achieve our goals.  Does this sound familiar?

Attachment A is fleshed out as follows:

  1. Challenges, Opportunities, Mandates
  2. Connecting Land Use, Transportation, and the Economy
  3. Air Quality
  4. Climate Change (what used to be called Global Warming – but, it’s still due to greenhouse gases)
  5. Health
  6. Plan Development & Structure
  7. Financial Strategy
  8. Regional Transportation Strategy 

Part 1: Maintain and Preserve What We Have

  • Maintenance, Preservation and Operations (attachment C)
  • Safety and Security (attachment C)
  • Transportation Demand Management
  • Transportation System Management & Operations 

Part 2: Support the Regional Growth Strategy

  • PSRC’s role
  • Serving and connecting Centers, compact communities, via transit oriented development
  • Regional Freight Strategy that will be adopted as an appendix
  • Regional economic strategy 

Part 3: Greater Options and Mobility

  • Completion of Sound Move and Sound Transit 2 projects and extend Light Rail to Everett, Tacoma and Redmond
  • Local Transit service as defined in Alternative 1, with core service – that is, all day every 15 minutes
  • State highway strategic investments with tolling
  1. improve US 2 and SR 3
  2. I-5 managed lane capacity
  3. selected SR 9 widening
  4. SR 16 and I-90 HOV
  5. SR 99 AWV replacement and HOV/BAT lanes
  6. SR 509 extension
  7. I-405 projects
  8. SR 167 extension and HOV
  9. SR 520 bridge replacement

10.  SR 522 improve

11.  SR 704 Cross-Base Hwy (attachment B)

  • Local Roads – focus on Transit support and efficiency
  • Non-motorized Transportation
  1. Bicycle and pedestrian improvements from Alternative 5
  2. Facilities terminating in at least one Center
  3. Missing links over barriers
  • Park and Ride (under development)
  • Special Needs Transportation (aging baby boomers)
  • Automobile Ferries
  1. Preserve and maintain existing through 2040
  2. Replace Seattle, Mukilteo, and Edmonds terminals
  • Passenger Ferries – continue existing service
  • Aviation – carry forward Vision 2030
  • Intercity passenger rail – improve Amtrak
  • Admission: concept-  un-programmed -constrained
  • Regional action strategy
  • Regional project selection and prioritization
  • Vision 2040 guidance to local plans including plan certification
  • Regional actions from Vision 2040
  • Future visions & technology
  • Relationship to Congestion Management Process
  • Plan monitoring measures
  • Plan assessment – how does Transportation 2040 perform?
  1. Implementation – how projects are admitted into the Plan
  1. Plan monitoring and assessment

 

Getting to a Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA) 

This handout follows the PowerPoint presentation given to the attendees.  It is the result of defining the PPA, getting committee input, doing a first run modeling analysis, having the committees check on the criteria results and handing it off to the Transportation Policy Board for review for changes they may suggest.  Indeed they did have some changes as follows:

  1. Add US 2 tolled from I-5 to Monroe including the trestle to the constrained plan.
  2. 2.      Expand parking surcharges to include more areas, such as employment centers and ferry terminals
  3. 3.      Implement tolling earlier, being necessary both for raising revenues to fund improvements and for achieving benefits, including reduction in greenhouse gases
  4. 4.      SR-167, SR 509, and SR 704 were supported and not supported by the committee
  5. 5.      Move all Passenger Ferries to the Constrained projects part of the PPA
  6. 6.      Take SR 303 off the freeway tolling map
  7. 7.      Re-examine transit costs and show increased service amounting to $9 BILLION
  8. 8.      Add transit for special needs populations 

For the “un-programmed” portion

  1. 1.      add bus transit

Issues needing more info or discussion

  1. since the PPA has more road projects than Alt 5 it needs to be discussed more
  2. it must be stated upfront how the PPA reduces greenhouse gasses
  3. since the analysis shows lower benefits to lower wage earners, the equity issue needs discussion 

Page 7 (already) shows a way to describe the plan’s intent. 

It’s an equilateral triangle with Environment along the left leg, Funding along the right leg, and Congestion & Mobility along the bottom leg.  Within the triangle there are four levels partitioned, with Strategic Capacity uppermost, Efficiency underneath, Safety & Security underneath, and Preservation, Maintenance & Operations as the base.  Under all that is a highlighted color continuance of the triangle’s base which says, “Vision 2040 – the foundation for T2040 Sustainable Growth and Economic Development.  

The next 39 pages cover the ‘constrained’ part of the plan in the categories of Preservation, Maintenance, Operations, Safety, and Security, all with necessary subcategories. 

Beginning on page 12 the potential Greenhouse House Gas (GHG) strategy takes off, highlighting Land Use.  Land use is developing Centers, Transit Oriented Growth, and Efficient Communities.  This means everyone lives in large urban centers and takes the bus, serving the State selflessly.  User fees are implemented for those roadway users to support Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and vehicle emissions reductions. Provide transportation choices that reduce GHG emissions.  Support technology that reduces tailpipe emissions (i.e. Van Jones’ Green Cars).  This through a partnership with the Dept of Ecology (DOE) aiming at up to 45% plug-in electric vehicles, up to 50 MPG vehicles remaining, up to 25% carbon intensity reduction, and up to 10% diesel truck emissions.

After applying these GHG assumptions, take a look at the 2040 benefits, and collaborate with DOE to refine them and prepare a report for the Final Plan.  

Beginning with page 15 the PPA gets into funding.  Over time user fees are about 25% of the mix, but by 2040, user fees are 80% of the mix. 

Page 21 gets into the nitty-gritty.  Increased reliance on tolls, phased in over time, but not fast enough for the TPB, remember?  Tax financing plays a big role early – remember Light Rail financing?

The ‘nexus’ between tax, fee, and toll and what the revenue is spent on is an important consideration.  That means in effect, how can the region use the revenue from tolls to pay for the mass transit improvements?  They say, ‘the use of toll revenues should also evolve over time: toward increasingly broader uses (mode-location)”.  Mode is what you’re in – car, BUS, truck, so the tolls have to be spread out into Transit since Transit does not collect any appreciable fee for its use. 

Page 22 gets into the Evolution of User Fees over time, in the Constrained plan and the Full Un-programmed Plan.  Brief note:  “constrained” are all those projects that made it through into the PPA,”u-nprogrammed” are all the projects on the wish list – and stop thinking the “projects” are roadway construction.

Constrained

The Hot Lane Network by 2020;

Highway tolls by 2020 on SR 520, I-90, I-5 exp, SR 509, SR 167, SR 522, Croos Base Hwy, AWV;

VMT tax – 1 cent per mile by 2020, and 2 cents per mile by 2030;

Highway system tolling by 2030;

Parking surcharge – 5% above market forecast

Transit and ferry fare increases – 10% by 2015, and 20% by 2030

Fuel tax increases – 10cents per gallon plus by 2020;

Full Plan – Un-programmed

Parking surcharge 20% above market

VMT Tax same as above

Full system tolling by 2030 the map of this is truly amazing on page 25 – all Freeways in all four counties are all tolled from beginning to end, also tolled are all the local arterials in case you want to go around the freeways.

It was brought out in the discussion that all populations and employment must be herded into existing urban centers in order to achieve the revenue goals.  However when one gazes at the map it comes to mind that there will be no one dumb enough to willingly live and work in their Centers.  Someone asked if there was anywhere in the world where this exists today, and the answer was no, BUT, many countries have significant parts up and running. (These countries are socialist or dictatorships). 

Page 26 says that modeling the Tolling in the PPA produced:

  • lower average toll rates – spread the pain all over
  • increased total user benefits, termed ‘a good thing’, but what does it refer to? Better health and safety as more people walk or ride bicycles and the reduced traffic decreases the dreaded GHG’s
  • less delay on the arterials – termed a ‘good thing’ but why? No one can afford to drive so there’s less congestion.
  • Slightly decreased roadway speeds (bicyclists can’t go as fast as cars) 

As the pages roll on there are various charts comparing costs with benefits.  This was preparatory for the ‘breakout groups’, our local KRCC representatives being Kitsap’s and the other counties’ equivalents.  Before this however a very interesting report was presented. 

The Preliminary Top line Report of the Transportation 2040 Public Opinion Survey.  This was given to gauge the level of support for the PPA.  Some 1206 persons were interviewed by telephone from the 4 counties as follows:

  • King Co – 602
  • Kitsap Co – 200
  • Pierce County – 200
  • Snohomish Co – 204 

They were randomly sorted, not taken strictly from registered voters.  The margin of error is 6.9%. The questions were designed to find out from the respondent what he thought was extremely important down to not knowing and refusing to answer.

Number 8 is a good example – it says,”The Puget Sound Region is expected to grow by approximately 1.5 million ‘people’ in the next 30 years.”  About half of these ‘people’ will be our children and grandchildren.  Considering this growth, how important is it that long range planning address . . .? 

  1. The environment? 

Of course we all know exactly what the questionnaire is asking for when it asks us about ‘the environment” don’t we.  Regardless, 88% the respondents said that it was important and extremely important (extremely/important).  In fact, only 2.6% said they didn’t know or didn’t think it was important. 

Question 11 asks about ‘focusing’ new growth into existing cities and towns.  That is, all 1.5 million new residents into cities or towns – not in rural areas.  76% said extremely important and important.  The indoctrination has worked.  In summary, the environment, jobs, transportation, and everyone in cities and towns was supported by Extremely/Important 88%, 93%, 94%, and 76% respectively. This says that everyone will live in cities and towns and jobs will also be there only, and as such the primary transportation mode will be mass transit.   This is exactly what Stalin had in mind for the Soviet Union. 

On Question 12, 26% felt that improving traffic flow was the most important objective, while 35% believed that transit, walkways, bikeways, and telecommuting were most important, and 15% believed that growth should be focused in developed areas to minimize travel between home and work.  See any confusion here?   Actually, if everyone takes the bus and lives in urban enclaves, “traffic” will definitely improve. 

Question 13 asks how important it is for cities and towns to coordinate their growth and transportation.  Needless to say, extremely/important got 92% of the vote.  This is a mandate for Central Planning via the PSRC.  

It goes on through 66 questions.  Question 24 says it is extremely/important to provide alternatives to driving by 71% of respondents.   Question 26 says that 71% of respondents believed it was extremely/important to maintain the current transportation system.   These two responses reveal how confused the respondents really are. 

On question 28, 70% said it was extremely/important to complete the existing road, bridge and highway system.   Planners think it’s the green light to do the HOV lanes and respondents think it means they’ll finally fix that road they have to drive on every day. 

Fully 84% of respondents on question 30 said they wanted expansion of roads, bridges, and highways.  Then on question 32, 86% said they wanted more buses, rail, and vanpools.  Did they think the new roads would be for the buses?  On question 38,  84% want to finish the regional carpool and bus lanes.  Do they realize this leads right into HOT lane implementation? 

Question 42 asks what is the region’s top priority?, and 28% said moving freight and goods to market, 20% said expanding mass transit, and 10% said reducing traffic congestion.   How much traffic congestion will there be with everyone on the bus? 

Under the Funding Alternatives category, Tolls were described as “pay as you go fees based on distance traveled”.   Seems less threatening doesn’t it.   On question 57, 68% believe it’s OK to use collected tolls to pay for ‘transportation alternatives” such as transit.   By the way, one of the speakers was a State Senator who asserted that the MVET was going to soon be re-enacted in order to help pay for transit.   

The Demographics section was last.   Of the 1206 respondents, 63% were female.   Of the respondents, 66% had zero children under the age of 18 living at home.   Respondents from age 25 to age 54, constituted 72% of the total.  About 54% of the totals were employed.  About 70% of the total drove alone to get to work or school.  

It seems clear that the majority clearly wants to embrace sweeping changes in the way they live, work and travel.  PSRC’s agenda is just what the region wants.  Are you surprised?  Do you see why we should have gotten out of the PSRC long ago?  I will write up what our KRCC group decided in the breakout session another day.  Did you know Dick Hayes is head of Kitsap Transit?  As said by Commissioner Bauer at a recent Policy Board meeting, “It’s our Policy to get them out of their cars.”  Through all of this, one question keeps coming to mind, “Why?” 

Although I’m not sure, the documents cited above should be available online from the PSRC’s website.  Please check it out if you want more info.  There’s a lot to wade through, and acronyms galore and if asked I’ll also try to explain more of what The Planners are really saying.

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