Wednesday, February 15, 2012

letter to the senator


Thanks for the canned response. Let me reiterate my point. I agree that freight is important and we do need to continue to make investments necessary so we can properly maintain our deteriorating network of roads, bridges, etc. No one wants a repeat of what happened in Minnesota nor do we like interruptions like the South Park Bridge.

But, as I stated in my original correspondence, I am most concerned about the elimination/restructuring of funding for transit. By transit, I mean BUSES, SUBWAYS, etc. It seems like with the current bill we fund roads but forget about how transit makes our road investments more efficient.

Let me illustrate my point with an example that's near and dear to those who make the ~250k trips (WSDOT annual traffic report numbers via across Lake Washington each day. I'm sure you're familiar with the SR-520 floating bridge. It has four lanes and is an essential artery for commuters. During peak times, it serves ~7000 vehicles per hour (2010 data from WSDOT). That's essentially full capacity for the lanes in both directions with each lane carrying 1750 vehicles per hour. Of these 7000 vehicles, there are six 545 buses in each direction carrying about 80-100 people each (yes, I've been counting). That's about 1100 cars/voters off the road because of the 545. Add in the other buses (167, 242, 243, 250, 252, 255, 260, 265, 268, 271, 277, 280, 311, 424, 540, 542, 555, 556, 982, 986) and you have at least another 40 buses (assuming a needlessly conservative one bus an hour at peak) carrying another 600 riders (using another needlessly conservative 15 riders per bus).

All this leads to the conclusion that if we cut back bus funding, as proposed in the transportation bill, we'll need to build another lane of bridge in both directions. It'll likely cost a couple billion dollars (ignoring the fact that we would need the state to purchase addition ROW in uber-wealthy areas by Medina and Montlake). This isn't likely to happen. Rather, it's more likely that both SR-520 and I-90 will be backed up causing both voters and truck drivers alike to become really angry.

Alternatively, YOU, Maria Cantwell, as our elected Senator, could help make sure we continue to get our $324 million in federal transit funding.

By the way, I see you are up for re-election this November. Taking a strong stand on this would mean something to us. Last I checked, there are more regular voters in Washington than people who worked in the freight/shipping industry. I think we all want the same thing, but you could really tailor your message and your proposed solution differently. Less cars on the road mean more space for trucks. We all win.

And for reference, a image that I think makes it seem more real:

A picture says a thousand words. Some of those words might say that for each peak hour 545 taken off the road because of budget cuts, there's an additional 800' of cars parked bumper to bumper on 520 during rush hour (or since the toll started, 800' of cars parked on I-90 surrounding a trapped truck driver wondering if this backup would jeopardize his shipment, his job, and the jobs of thousands of others in the industry trying to compete with the Panama Canal).

Paul Ip

On Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM, <> wrote:

Dear Mr. Ip,

Thank you for contacting me regarding reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

Efficient transportation systems are critically important to Washingtonians. In our state, we need to preserve and renew our existing surface transportation infrastructure, improve freight mobility, increase transit opportunities for commuters statewide, update the nation's largest commuter ferry system, replace bridges that have surpassed their usable lifespan, and make numerous upgrades to enhance safety for motorists. In addition to adding capacity to our road systems, we must enhance the transportation choices for commuters where that is feasible. We must also improve traffic systems using new technologies that help achieve greater efficiency and allow us to yield more capacity from the systems that we already have.

As you may know, Congress reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs every few years. This reauthorization sets funding levels for a variety of surface transportation programs including new highway construction, infrastructure repairs, public transit projects, high-speed passenger rail programs, and many others. The most recent reauthorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was passed in 2005 and expired in September of 2009. However, Congress passed a series of short-term extensions of the reauthorization, with the most recent extension lasting through March 31, 2012. Four Senate committees have been working on new legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs. The bill is now being considered, with amendments, on the Senate floor. I am hopeful a permanent reauthorization will pass the Senate and will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers the details of the surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

You may also be interested to learn I introduced the FREIGHT Act (S. 371) on February 16, 2011. If enacted, this legislation would establish the nation's first strategic plan for freight and would identify bottlenecks to reduce delays and increase reliability. More than one million jobs in our state are in freight-dependent industries. In 2010, over 533 million tons of freight moved in Washington and by 2040, that number is expected to grow by up to 86 percent. The FREIGHT Act would help Washington state grow its robust trade economy by making investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of Washington's intermodal freight network, which includes ports, freight railways, air cargo infrastructure, highways, and pipelines. It would reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030 and reduce the impact of transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution on the ecosystem and local communities.

In addition, the FREIGHT Act would create a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure projects, such as port infrastructure improvements, freight rail capacity expansion projects, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities. A new Office of Freight Planning and Development would be created within the Department of Transportation that would coordinate efforts to improve the efficiency and operation of all modes of the national freight transportation system. On December 14, 2011, the Senate Commerce Committee approved, by a voice vote, an amendment I introduced to include provisions of the FREIGHT Act in surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Sunday, February 12, 2012

bike death

Here's a list of various (often popular) bike set ups that I think would cause death. IMHO, there's quite a common tradeoff between weight/efficiency and catastrophic equipment failure that would lead to death.

Carbon fork

Fancy boy cyclist would think: It costs a lot more and saves a WHOLE POUND! Awesome!

I think: Say theoretically I hit a pothole while going down a hill (theoretically Pine St.)... does the carbon fork fail? If it does, the front of the bike crumples and I fly face first into the pavement ahead of me at full speed. If I'm (un)lucky the pointy shards of the carbon fork may impale me on the way down, either taking me out of my misery or adding to it. No thanks, but I do not need nor want your fancy carbon fork. I'll take the cheapo steel fork that would just bend if something terrible like this were to happen.

700c x 23 tyres

Fancy boy cyclist would think: Wow, these skinny tires weight 10g less and have less rolling resistance! I must have these!

I think: Failure scenario 1: 25mm tires can easily be gobbled up by the seams between concrete slabs, like those on the downhill on Pine St or along Airport Way. 700 x 25 tires are already bad enough, but 23mm is even worse. The best case scenario is what happened to my "wide" 25mm on Airport Way and it just damaged my tire. Cost: $24. The more likely scenario is that you get thrown off your bike at full speed, smash into the pavement, and then get run over by the car that was next to you. Ouch! Cost: Way more than $24.

Fixed Gear Bikes

Fancy boy cyclist would think: I am a cool hipster! Look at me and my minimal bike!

I think: You live in Seattle. There are hills. You can't go down hills because you can't pedal fast enough. You can't go up hills because you aren't strong enough. You are an idiot.

Fixed Gear Bikes with No Brakes

Fancy boy cyclist would think: I am a cool hipster! Look at me and my minimal bike!

I think: You live in Seattle. There are hills. You can't go down hills because you can't pedal fast enough. You can't go up hills because you aren't strong enough. Some of these bikes don't have brakes so the only way to stop is to slow down the pedaling and rely on the rear wheel to bring you to a stop. This is like engine braking on trucks or downshifting to slow down in your car. There are two problems here. First, I wonder how easy it is to control the amount of braking this way. Second, under the best of circumstances, braking with only the rear wheel is very ineffective. Just like a car, most of the braking power is applied to the front. The harder you brake, the less weight on the rear wheel. For a hard stop, almost all of the braking is done by the front wheel and the rear wheel may be lifted off the ground. In this setup there is no front. The best bet is to lock up the rear wheel and keep sliding for a very long time. At least you will look like a cool hipster when you are doing it.