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Friday, April 29, 2011

A Good Way To Kill Some Time On Friday

It's Friday, there's not a lot going on in transportation news, and it's snowing outside. To cheer us (and by 'us' I mean 'me' of course) up, let's go to my happy place: Mexico. That's right, I'm fortunate enough to have friends with a place in Puerto Vallarta, so I just got back from a cheap vacation there. So that it doesn't sound like I'm talking about myself though, and because this is a transportation blog, let's talk about transportation in Mexico.

To start with, we made a point to get everywhere by bus if possible. See those people huddled against the rock wall in the picture? That was the bus stop across from our hotel. Standing on 95 waiting for the bus isn't looking so bad anymore is it?

Once you got on the bus (assuming you lived to do so), there was lots to see. Many bus drivers decorate their buses with curtains, decals, fuzzy dice, etc. and they also provide you with music at high decibels; usually traditional Mexican mariachi music or techno. I've never been a techno fan but there's one beat I just can't get out of my head now.

Some buses even had live music. These were two musicians who jumped on at our stop and played and sang all the way downtown. When they got to the transfer point, they jumped off our bus and got on another, presumably to sing and make more money.

Many of the bus stops weren't even marked, you just had to know where they were. This one was marked with this shrine though. I'm not sure if that's to show that someone died there (probably because it was right next to a high speed two-lane highway) or if it's just a convenient place to worship while you wait for the bus.

While the buses were very popular there, many people created their own mass transit.

This one is hard to see because it was taken from a moving vehicle, but that's a man and woman on a motorcyle with a baby between them. I also saw pregnant women in the back of pickup trucks and people lying on top of loads to keep them from blowing out. Apparently bungee cords aren't popular in Mexico.

The pedestrian 'walk' signs there were really cool. They were animated and actually showed someone walking, although it looked more like he was doing the electric slide.

Okay, I'm done talking about myself- I mean transportation in Mexico- now. Don't we all feel better now?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kootenai County Construction Map Available

I'm assigning you a goal for this year; beat road construction by being prepared for it. That's right, no more waiting in congestion caused by road construction projects. Instead, you'll finding an alternate route and getting where you're going on time. So how are you going to do that? With the 2011 Kootenai Area Construction Map that KMPO just completed.

The map shows major construction projects that will impact traffic countywide this year. It includes descriptions and the timeframe for each project. You can even print it and keep it in your car if you like.

Here's the link to it.

Buy A Home- Get A Free Car

Everyone knows the real estate market, along with the economy, is in the dumps right now. But one Chicago builder has found a way to move his inventory of homes; by giving a free car with purchase. The New York Times has the story.

While the home buyers in that community are loving that deal, others are calling it a way to promote urban sprawl and criticizing the builder for creating 'life-draining commutes.' Here's an article from Grist that references the 'empty, angry hours spent on the road and in traffic.'

So what's your take on this? If you were looking for a home, would you buy one far from home because a car was being thrown in?

Why Do YOU Walk?

It seems to be survey week here at SRTC. This latest survey is to help the group 'America Walk' learn more about who walks, and why we walk. America Walks is a national resource which fosters walkable communities by engaging, educating, and connecting walking advocates.

The survey only takes 5 minutes to complete and results are anonymous. This national survey will help walking advocates understand what motivates walkers and what keeps others from walking more. When the data is analyzed, America Walks will use the results to help promote walking in America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Megaloads Lead To Some Funny Looking Trees

For the most part, I've shied away from blogging about the moving of the Megaloads, just because we were so inundated with it for so long. Will they be allowed to move or won't they? They're on the move but will they be forced to stop? Will they change routes now? It just got old hearing about Megaloads and the legal battle every day. I saw this picture today though and thought I'd share. That tree is a victim of Megaloads. It had to be trimmed to get the giant loads past and it's not exactly your everyday way to trim a tree.

The Spokesman's Eye on Boise blog has the story.

Federal Highways Approves Green Bike Lanes

Here's something cool; the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued an Interim Approval for the use of green coloring in bike lanes, much like the one in the picture from San Francisco.

Citing multiple experiments that demonstrated positive operational effects for both bicycle riders and other road users, with no notable negative effects, this approval allows states to apply for approval to use coloring in bike lanes. This Interim Approval does not make the use of green-colored pavement mandatory however.

Here's more info on this decision from FHWA, including the research that went into making it.

What do you think? Is this an improvement for bicyclists in your eyes?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get Your Studs Off By Sunday

It may have snowed in some areas this morning, including at my house, but ITD is sticking to the calendar - studded snow tires must be removed in Idaho before this Sunday, May 1.

If you're caught with them on your vehicle after that, you can be fined $62.

CDA Passes On Phone/Texting While Driving Ban Again

The city of Coeur d'Alene announced Monday it, once again, won't implement a citywide ordinance banning cell phones or texting while driving, but instead give the state Legislature another chance to do it next year. The reason? The city's General Service Committee says it would be a difficult rule to enforce at the city level, as it would be confusing for drivers driving through Coeur d'Alene from neighborhood towns.

The Coeur d'Alene Press has the story.

I90 Drainage Repair Work

State maintenance crews will be performing drainage repair work in the I-90 median between Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls near milepost 10 beginning Monday (May 2) through May 12. The work will be done at night to lessen the impact to drivers.

Crews will be working Monday through Thursday each week, from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
The center lanes in each direction will be closed to traffic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April KCATT Meeting Cancelled

For those of you who attend the monthly Kootenai County Area Transportation Team meetings, the meeting scheduled for tomorrow, April 26, has been cancelled.

The next KCATT meeting is scheduled for May 24, 2011 at 8:00 a.m., so mark your calendars.

Public Transportation Roundtable Meeting This Week

KMPO's Public Transportation Roundtable is this Wednesday, April 27 at 1 p.m. at the Coeur d'Alene Library. Here's a look at the agenda. Feel free to attend, Roundtable meetings are open to everyone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Unintended consequences?

Colorado has already leagalized the use of marijuana for medical purpposes, but now the legislature is grappling with how to regulate "stoned driving." The Denver Post reports the legislature took up the issue yesterday thinking the 5 nanograms of THC, the active drug in marijuana, in the bloodstream was enough to constitute stoned driving, but there is a twist with this drug. Apparently, THC is still detectable in the bloodstream even after the user "sobers up."

The legislature killed the bill on a 6-3 vote, but according to the Denver Post story, this issue is going to take some time to resolve.

Will gas prices impact tourism this summer?

I was just reading this story in the Las Vegas Journal about how the rising cost of gas could eventually hurt tourism this year.

I found that really interesting and I wondered if tourism related businesses around here are worried about it. I don't think they have to worry too much about Canadian tourism because Canadians having been paying higher prices for gas for years, and their dollar is finally on par with our dollar. Still, I bet domestic tourism slows down this summer.

This story got me thinking about my own summer travel costs last year, and I have to say that I may have to consider less travel this summer. Steve Everett (our IT guy), and I are part of a competitive BBQ team and last year we competed all over the Pacific Northwest. We won a number of ribbons & trophies, and a little bit of money, but this year we are going to have scale things back -- unless, of course, we start winning big money out of the gate.

How about you, have you given any thought to your summer travel plans?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gas prices are going to get worse...

Man, my bus was packed today. It usually runs about two-thirds full in the mornings -- unless we get a foot snow. But it was standing room only this morning. I am sure it's the gas prices forcing some of these people to seek alternatives.

It really is starting to hurt. I borrowed my neighbor's truck this past weekend to haul away half the junk that accumulated in my garage over the winter. Before returning it, I usually fill the tank with gas and run it through the car wash as a thank you. I think last time I did that, I spent about $40... this time it cost me $75, and he already had a 1/4 tank of gas in it!

On the bright side, while I was cleaning the garage, I came across a little 80cc motor I bought last year. It looks just like the one in the picture above. I resisted putting on my commuter bike last year, but now I am considering doing it for the summer and riding to work. That baby supposedly gets 70 miles per gallon.

Just a heads up, you might want to take a look at this story. It says that gas prices have topped $4 a gallon in six states and shows no sign of slowing up. I paid $3.58 a gallon at Costco this weekend. according to the story above, that is only 4 cents higher than the cheapest gas in the nation... I guess we should be grateful, but somehow I don't feel all that grateful.

No, government did not shut down...

Staci, has been on vacation, so the blogging falls to me this week. Therefore, you can expect a little less cleverness, and a lot less material (unless of of course Congress decides to set aside partisan politics and fix our budget problems this week), but I'll do my best to keep you up to speed. In the meantime, here is something you probably haven't seen yet. It's the newest edition of the > KMPO Newsletter.

Good to see attention paid to distracted driving

An anonymous poster linked this video to a comment on a post below. As a commuter, I am glad to see organizations like this offering scholarships to raise the awareness of distracted driving. I realize it's not just cell phones distracting drivers, but 9 times out 10 when I pass an inattentive driver, they are texting or talking. What's worse is it not just kids doing this either. I'm starting to see senior citizens doing it too.

I read a news story a couple of months ago about research that is underway to prevent distracted drivers. I think it was the USDOT that was considering new regulations that require cell phone jamming devices in cars that are moving over 15 mph. You would essentially have to pull off the road to take a call or check a text message. Personally, I'd be fine with that. Nevertheless, until our society decides to resolve this issue, try and be careful out there...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stepping Out For A Little While

I'm taking some time off to rest up and get rid of this pesky facial tic so you will be in the hands of Jeff Selle for a while when it comes to blogging. He's got other duties as well so let's just say he probably won't be as 'prolific' of a blogger as I am. Talk amongst yourselves while I pack my stuff.

Gas Prices Not Dropping Anytime Soon

Dust off that bike or invest in a bus pass, gas prices will jump 40% for the summer driving season compared to 2010, according to federal projections released Tuesday.

Retail prices for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline will average $3.86 from April through September, up from $2.76 for the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistics arm of the Energy Department.

The average U.S. household's vehicle fueling costs will be about $825 greater this year than last year, hitting $3,360 in 2011, according to EIA.

The catalyst for the increase, according to EIA, will be continuing strength in worldwide liquid fuels consumption.

WA Studded Tire Deadline Extended Again

If you're one of the folks who commutes to Washington, or just visits, you can keep your studded tires on a little longer. The deadline to remove studs has been extended again. You now have through April 25 to remove them in Washington.

The Washington State Department of Transportation made the extention because forecasts call for possible winter driving conditions across the mountain passes and in the state’s higher elevations.

Today’s announcement marks the third extension this year, and WSDOT officials don’t anticipate any further extensions beyond April 25.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Moose Lands On Car

Holy cow, make that moose, here's a crazy story! A 600-pound bull moose walked onto U.S. 95 Monday morning and collapsed on the trunk of a woman's car after being shot by a tranquilizer dart!

Can you imagine being behind the wheel at a stoplight when that happened? The Coeur d'Alene Press has the story. Ever have something unusual land on your car? Someone threw a bottle out of a hotel room window one time and guess who's car it hit several stories below? Yep, mine. Not nearly as cool as a moose.

App Prevents Texting & Driving

I posted yesterday about it being Distracted Driving Awareness Week and a blogger sent me a tip on an app you can download that prevents you from texting or web browsing while driving.

StopTxting® is a speed regulated texting application that uses the built-in GPS sensor in smartphones to prevent users from texting, emailing or web browsing when traveling over 10 mph.

Yes, there's an override button so you COULD cheat if you're that determined, but it's billed as a way for passengers in a vehicle to continue to use their phones.

Here's a link to StopTxting if you want to check it out. Maybe for your teenage drivers?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gas Prices Compared To Other Liquids

I couldn't actually find it in the magazine, but the person who sent me the info below claimed to have gotten it from Auto Week Magazine.

With gas prices at a national average of $3.73, up 12 cents in the past week, there's been a lot of complaining about how much people are paying to fill their tanks.

In the scehme of things though, is gasoline really that expensive? Not when you compare it to the prices for other liquids. Here are some comparisons that Auto Week supposedly did. What if you were to fill your tank with...

- Diet Snapple- 16 oz for $1.29 = $10.32 per gallon

- Lipton Ice Tea 16 oz for $1.19 = $9.52 per gallon

- Gatorade 20 oz for $1.59 = $10.17 per gallon

- Ocean Spray 16 oz for $1.25 = $10.00 per gallon

- Quart of Milk 16 oz for $1.59 = $6.32 per gallon

- Evian (water) 9 oz for $1.49 = $21.19 per gallon

- STP Brake Fluid 12 oz for $3.15 = $33.60 per gallon

- Vicks Nyquil 6 oz for $8.35 = $178.13 per gallon

- Pepto Bismol 4 oz for $3.85 = $123.20 per gallon

- Whiteout 7 oz for $1.39 = $254.17 per gallon

- Scope 1.5 oz for $0.99 = $84.84 per gallon

Not looking so bad now is it? Now I just have to figure out where I can get a car that runs on Pepto Bismol...

April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Hey, pay attention! April is distracted driving awareness month.

According to the Idaho State Police, teenagers make up the greatest number of distracted drivers and 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

According to the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08.

Okay, those are just a couple factoids I thought I'd throw out there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

CDA Bike To Work Week Events

The Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Blog wants to remind you that May 16-21 is National Bike to Work Week.

This year's events for Coeur d'Alene include a Corporate Commuter Challenge, a kickoff ride, a moonlight ride and a 'Root's Pursuit.'

Check the blog for more info.

WA Studded Tire Deadline Extended

If you're one of the many people who commutes to Spokane and you have studded tires on your car, you're safe for another week. Officials have extended the studded tire deadline to Thursday, April 14.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) extended the deadline because forecasts call for continued winter driving conditions across the mountain passes and higher-elevation areas in eastern Washington.

Studded tires are legal in Idaho until April 30.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Phase 2 of Sherman Water Main Project

The second phase of a two-phase Coeur d'Alene Water Department project on Sherman Avenue starts next Monday, April 11th. The second phase involves extending a water main from the alley south of Sherman and 5th Street, north to the water main in Sherman Avenue.

Sherman Avenue at 5th Street will be closed during the first portion of the project. Signage and detours will be provided. Once the water main has been laid across Sherman and the street patched, Sherman will be reopened to traffic. Fifth Street north of the alley will remain closed during the entire phase. Phase II will take approximately two weeks. Alley access will be maintained throughout the project.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

I'm getting a late start on it, but this week is National Work Zone Awareness Week.
This special week is observed across the country by state, local and federal transportation officials in an effort to get people to drive safely through construction zones, for their own safety, and the safety of the construction workers out there.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood blogged about the number of accidents and deaths in work zones this week. Check it out here. It's more than I would have expected.

New Funding Initiative Emphasizes Local Self-Help

Yesterday I blogged about the need for alternative sources of funding for transportation and how being taxed by the amount of miles you drive is a very real posibility in the future.

Today we're going to talk about another proposal for financing the future of transportation; an initiative called America Fast Forward (AFF). AFF basically takes existing initiatives such as Build America Bonds and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and revises them to provide funding for the next generation of infrastructure projects, while detangling financing from earmarks and appropriations.

A key component of AFF is creating Transportation & Regional Infrastructure Project (TRIP) bonds. A Transportation Finance Corporation would be created that would control the issuing of $50 billion in bonds over six years, and the repayment process. At least 1% of would go to qualified projects in every state, with the remaining funding competitive for larger qualified projects.

The Brookings Institution website has more information. Read the article and let me know what you think of AFF.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Council Expected To Approve Trail Construction

The Post Falls City Council tonight is expected to pave the way for a bike trail along Highway 41. Construction of the $725,000 trail is expected to start late this year or early next year.

So how will the trail be paid for in this time of tight budgets? This Coeur d'Alene Press article has the answer.

Driver's Ed Bill Goes Back For More Work

A bill to eliminate state funding for public driver’s education classes was pulled from the Idaho House floor after several lawmakers debated in opposition.

The House voted yesterday to send the legislation back to the House Education Committee for more work.

Emmett Republican Rep. Steve Thayn says the state should end a $125 per student subsidy for public driver’s ed programs and redirect that money back to the state. That would force either students or schools to pick up the slack for the courses, which cost roughly $325. The schools have their own problems so it's doubtful they're going to take the burden.

Supporters of the bill contend state support for public driver’s ed creates an uneven playing field with private driver’s ed businesses. But the debate on the House floor was that many families can't afford the increased cost.

Mapquest Now Offers Traffic Reports

Do you ever Mapquest a location, jump in your vehicle and start heading the direction the mapping website provided, only to end up stuck in a traffic jam? Well, not anymore. Mapquest is now including traffic reports on their site. Just enter your start and end addresses, click 'Get Directions,' then click the 'live traffic' button in the upper right hand corner of the map that's provided. I just tried it for the Coeur d'Alene area and it didn't show any traffic problems. The traffic report is updated every five minutes on mapquest though so I'll try again in a while. Or maybe around commute time on Highway 95.

Pros And Cons Of Taxing Vehicle Miles Travelled

I've been trying to get this article that @Charles gave me posted for a week now. Times are busy here at SRTC.

The article, from the AccountingToday website (yes, even accountants have a tie to transportation. It affects everyone), talks about the pros and cons of possibly imposing taxes on vehicle miles travelled, instead of raising gas taxes to raise the money needed to keep our transportation system going. The biggest pro: you only pay when you drive so if you can't afford it, drive less. The biggest con: The way the program is proposed in this article, it would require expensive metering devices in every car to measure miles driven.

The biggest pro for me about this article: The comments that follow. Especially the one from 'Bob' who suggests putting Americans back to work by hiring more government workers. Instead of putting a metering device in each car, a government worker would be placed in every car to mark your mileage.

While that comment is funny, there are some pretty thought-provoking ideas and statements posted, so check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts that weren't already covered.

Monday, April 4, 2011

10 Kootenai County Bridges Considered Deficient

Okay, so we've been hearing for a while now that the nation's bridges aren't in the best shape. A new report confirms that, saying ten of Kootenai County's 136 bridges are considered structurally deficient.

The Coeur d'Alene Press has the story.

Longtime Road Supervisor Retiring

Longtime KMPO Kootenai County Area Transportation Team (KCATT) member Joe Wuest is calling it a career. After 30 years as road supervisor at Lakes Highway District, Joe is retiring. And while Joe is looking forward to more leisure time, he sounds like he's going to miss the job too.

The Coeur d'Alene Press talked to Joe about his work at the Highway District and his plans for the future.

Older Folks Have Trouble Crossing Roads, Multitasking

I've never been a coordinated person. I've always had trouble walking and chewing gum, and now the 'experts' are telling me it's just going to get worse?? That's right, this article from NPR's Health Blog says individuals over age 59 face an increased risk of injury when crossing busy complicated streets while multitasking. By 'multitasking' they mean listening to music or talking on a cell phone. Younger folks though don't seem to have the same problem.

Snoqualmie Construction Starting Again

For those of you planning to make a trip to Seattle or the west side of Washington anytime between now and next fall, the Washington State Department of Transportation wants you to know construction is kicking off again on Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

In fact, they're dubbing it 'one of our largest construction seasons in memory' for the pass. Delays associated with detours, lane closures, slowdowns, and rock blasting operations may all add to your travel time so take that into consideration when planning your trip.