Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Metro Joins The 21st Century

In order to gather and provide a better representation of Metro’s routes during adverse weather, Metro has teamed up with KCNews to use Twitter and blogging in an attempt to let passengers know if/when their bus is running, and to find out from passengers what is really going on out there. All I have to say is: it’s about freaking time.

Twitter KCNews
KCNews blog

WSDOT: Embracing technology

Remember a few months ago when we wrote about the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Twitter feed?

If you follow them on Twitter, they’ll follow you right back. But why? Do they really care that I’m about to down my 4th cup of coffee, or wonder what you’re making for dinner tonight? Well, probably not. However there is one key reason why they always follow back. Once they follow you, they can send you direct messages.

Now I hear the groans now. “I don’t need any more spam!” But these messages are absolutely not spam. In fact, they’re only sent when you request them and they are sent for great reasons. You can send the WSDOT a direct message via Twitter and they’ll send back pass information or border wait times.

How does it work?

Just send them a direct message via your favorite twitter client or SMS. Include the pass code, and they’ll send you a direct message right back with status information. The same format applies for border crossings. A direct message of border 5 will give you the wait time at the Canadian border at I-5.

Bikes, Beers and Pirate-Themed Hijinks on Bainbridge

Seattle’s drinking club with a biking problem (.83) is hosting its 4th-annual “FUCKING HLLS RACE” Feb. 22  on Bainbridge Island.

This premier cycling event draws cyclists from all over the region to compete for cash and  liquid prizes as well as some decent biking gear donated by top-of-the line companies.

The course is a knee-crushing, 33-mile ride around Bainbridge Island, but there’s an all-you-can eat chili feed (vegan and meat) at the end so it’s totally worth it. The race is $7 and it will also cost you $8 to ride the ferry to the starting line. Meet at Alaskan and Washington under the Viaduct at 8:30 a.m. (look for riders sporting the home-made, Elvis-themed pirate bibs).

“It’s really about the spirit of cycling and promoting unity within the community,” lied an extremely belligerent and noticeably intoxicated Derrick Ito, FHR Organizer.

“The prize lists includes cash, booze and a ton of great bike schwag from our great sponsors,” Ito said, while trying hard to maintain his balance and hide the fact that he was slurring his words.

Ito has a an expanding prize list that includes a lap dance from a local stripper, liquid prizes from Cafe Metropolitan and a complete Hammerhead 7 bicycle from Dahon. The bicycle will be raffled off with proceeds to benefit a locally-owned bike company.

For more information, visit point83.com.

Fuck the Hills Race Flyer

Fuck the Hills Race Flyer

SeaTac airport no fun for birds

Apparently, birds that want to take down airplanes at SeaTac airport have got a big job ahead of them. The airport has a wildlife biologist on staff who not only plants things that birds don’t want to land on and covers the water with nets, but actively goes out of the way to harass any intrepid birds out of the immediate airspace:

Osmek uses a laser with a scope on it to shine a green light near birds. The light flashing near the birds mimics a predator stalking them, Osmek says, and usually causes them to take flight. For more persistent opponents, Osmek reaches into the deep arsenal of what he calls his “pyrotechnics.”

They are explosive shells that he uses to ward off birds — sometimes large flocks of them — entering airspace near the airport’s three runways. Osmek fires the shells with a variety of pistols or a shotgun. Some boom loudly, and others scream into the sky before blowing up into puffs of smoke.

One projectile travels up to 1,200 feet before exploding like a thunderclap. It is intended to ward off high-flying birds like hawks or eagles. Osmek says the pyrotechnics only scare the birds and do not harm them [CNN].

In all the time I’ve spent at the airport, I’ve never heard any gunshots or explosions, and this may be the first time in my life I’ve ever been disappointed by a lack of gunfire. On top of all of that, the airport has a fancy radar that helps figure out exactly where and what sort the birds are and how high they’re flying.

Of course, none of this is very helpful once the airplane gets a little ways away from the airport, but as a person who is terrified of birds anyway I am very pleased to find that SeaTac is doing their best to make sure that the awful things don’t cause my untimely death on their watch.

zipcar moves in downtown

zipcar.jpg
the zipcar reservations interface

Zipcar, the car-sharing service that merged with Flexcar last year, is opening a real life office in downtown Seattle. In an interesting twist of fate, they’re taking over the storefront formerly occupied by the Department of Licensing office on Union Street (below 4th Avenue).

The grand opening is today and in addition to free snacks they’re also rewarding drop-in visitors with free Zipcar memberships. If you’ve been intrigued by short-term car rental but have been weary of the $50 annual fee, this is a great time to take the plunge. When you sign-up you’ll get a chance to spin a prize wheel for a chance to earn “driving credit, ski passes and other goodies.”

Today also marks a new partnership with the City of Seattle granting all city employees access to Zipcar. In their press release, they cite survey data showing that about half of Zipcar users increased their public transit usage and that membership is associated with reducing vehicle miles traveled by nearly 40 percent. When they extrapolate this data to Seattle, this represents an annual reduction of 2,623,620 gallons of gas and 25,449 tons of carbon dioxide.

I’ve been a member since they were Flexcar, and while my use has been infrequent it has always been convenient enough to reduce temptation to buy a car to occupy my parking space.

Previously in car sharing:

  • “I Like Zipcar, too” [mb]
  • Flexcar 101 [mb]


Keeping Tabs On Our Infrastructure

I know this has been done a ton for other subjects, but this one really made me laugh. http://hastheviaductcollapsedyet.com/

Canadian money no good on our ferries

Canadians, the Washington State Ferry System would like you to get the rest of the way off their lawn. Starting on February 25th, Canadian currency will no longer be accepted for payment. Checks, too, are going away. (People pay to get on the ferries with checks? Apparently, not many of them do–“Checks accounted for less than 4.5 percent of all forms of payment collected by WSF in 2008. Eliminating checks will save as much as $50,000 annually in processing fees.”)

As it stand, the Anacortes ferry terminal is the only one that accepts Canadian currency these days anyhow, but no more of that. You also won’t be able to buy senior, disabled, or youth fares at the kiosks or online anymore. Starting February 25th, you’ll have to go to the tollbooth and show some sort of senior, disabled, or youth ID, to make sure that the discounts are only going to the people who deserve them.

How low can we go?

Alaskan Way by Slightly North from our photo pool

Alaskan Way by Slightly North from our photo pool

Once again, the combined forces of state and municipal government have come up with a solution that pleases no one, costs more than any other option, is wildly complicated, and will take eons to complete. This time the subject isn’t mass transit or athletic stadiums, it’s what will replace our decrepit, old Alaskan Way Viaduct. Elected leaders have looked deep into their hearts and managed to wrest failure out of the ashes of consensus.

The current plan, to be announced tomorrow at an 8:30 AM news conference at the waterfront Trade Center, calls for a deep bore tunnel that will connect the stadium area to Aurora, with access at Royal Brougham and north of the Battery Street Tunnel. Transportation officials supported either another elevated highway or improving existing surface routes: there are a number of current surface routes that are now nearly unusable. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, among others, supported the tunnel option. I wonder how many of the business owners currently members of the Chamber commute daily between downtown Seattle and points south.

About 100,000 cars travel the viaduct daily. Large commercial vehicles have been off-limits for years, diverting along Marginal Way, due to the frailty of the current structure. Other alternate routes include 1st Avenue South, 4th Avenue South, and I-5. I-5 is a parking lot, and quite a detour for those who live and work along the west edge of the city, while 1st and 4th need major surface and traffic management improvements. Western Avenue and Alaskan Way are also being offered as alternate routes for surface traffic. Both are also overdue for serious maintenance, even overhaul.


With all of these “alternate routes,” why do we need a tunnel at all? Apparently, so that sports fans in Shoreline can get to and from football games without ever having to actually see the downtown. The city might as well name the new tunnel the Seahawk Express Chute and ban actual Seattle residents from using it.

Tune in tomorrow to find out how our fearless leaders plan to pay for this white elephant. The deep bore tunnel is projected to cost about $4 billion. The state has $2.8 billion allocated for a replacement to the viaduct, leaving a $1.2 billion shortfall, minimum. Anyone who was around from the beginning of the bus tunnel project can recall how well projected costs actually line up with observable reality. In Seattle’s case, a big part of the bus tunnels’ problems came from the fact that Seattle is built largely on three things: old Seattle, sand, and garbage. Not really stable materials for tunneling through, but maybe the “deep bore tunnel” is really, really deep. Like, Iceland to Italy deep.

Kudos to WSDOT

My plan for this weekend involved two friends flying into Seattle, and four more friends driving up from Portland for a weekend of revelry (well, as much revelry as one can have when two of the six guests are under six months old). Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for my weekend, and now my four friends in Oregon are not likely to be able to join the Seattle contingent.

As disappointing as this was, I’ve been extremely impressed with the communications and use of technology from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Between their blog, their Twitter feed, their Flickr photos, and their constantly updated maps, I’m feeling incredibly informed, and very happy that they’re so communicative.

If more governmental units were as open and helpful as WSDOT (who even replied to one of my Twitter questions about alternate routes), I think we’d benefit tremendously. Keep up the good work, guys!

Snowmageddon: The Epilogue – Update

If, like me, the street you live on is still an iced-over death trap, you haven’t received mail for a week and a half, and Santa didn’t visit this year, you can call the city at 206-386-1218, to ask (beg, plead, barter your first born child) that they send a snow plow your way. I spent an hour on auto-speed-dial, trying to get through, before giving up, so I can’t tell you whether you get to speak to a real, live human, but if you manage it, please do share. And let us know what happens! I’m a bit skeptical that a plow will arrive in my ‘hood (east of White Center), before our climate steps in to take care of it.

Update: I got through on the DOT line at 11:50 AM on Saturday. At 3:45 PM, a truck with a scraper attached to the front puttered up my street, scraping off just enough snow and ice that we were able to get the car out. We stood on the front porch and cheered – groceries!

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