Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gregiore's Climate Action Plan: Where's the rail?

I'm late posting this, because after my last Global Warming post, my cred might seem suspect. But Gregoire's plan seems even more suspect. Fast action for climate change, huh? Where's the rail then? Diesel buses sitting in congestion aren't going to get us back to 1990 levels very quickly. Light rail could help.

What's Gregoire's plan? Uh, it's shared rides. I'm all for that, but if you're talking about climate change in a region where most of the electricity comes from zero-emission hydro, you had better start talking about rail, because transportation is the majority of the GHG emissions here.

This is a serious issue. Look at what Jon Talton about Seattle's future, in particular, how lack of transit could break Seattle over the next 30 years:

Muro also looked at his hometown and worries about innovation and productivity growth. According to Brookings data, productivity per job has been weak since the 2001 crash. "Are you keeping up with Helsinki, Frankfurt and Barcelona, your real competitors? It's a tough game now."

How that game will be influenced by Seattle's "way" may be another question. It's not just that Portland builds popular light rail while Seattle dithers and argues or that leaders were apparently reluctant to rock the boat at the Port of Seattle.

It's that top-drawer competitors such as Singapore and Ireland are fast, efficient and agile in drawing capital, building infrastructure and embracing the next waves of wealth-creation.

So it's more than just, climate change, it's a question of our future prosperity. What kind of city will this be in 50 years? Are we really better situated than climate-change-averse cities like Phoenix and Dallas? For all Seattle's "green" cred, I see a lot of enviro-mind people driving SOVs (and SUVs) each day.

What do you think? Am I off base? Is Gregoire right on this and I'm wrong? Let me know in the comments, and let Gregoire know that light rail needs to be a part of any climate change solution in our area.

Update: There's a meeting of the Climate Advisory Team in Olympia on Friday starting at 8:30 am in that is open to the public. There will be a public comment period mid-morning. If you care about rail, will be in Olympia mid-morning Friday with nothing to do, go there and make your voice heard.


Michael said...

You don't seem very into the solution sometimes, daimajin. If you consider the folks getting out of their cars for shared rides, you would think Gregoire is onto something.

Not everyone can take transit.

Brian Bundridge said...

This is true that not all can take transit simply because it doesn't work into their schedule which is perfectly fine, it sometimes doesn't work for me when I do contract jobs and have to take a car or use Flexcar..erm, Zipcar. But, rail needs to be more included, not just light-rail but more commuter rail and more service on the weekdays and weekdays, even if it is just 2 trains a day.

Commuter rail or light-rail to the Eastside and Streetcars where is it economically viable to run them.

Personally I wouldn't mind seeing Sounder serve Monroe or Goldbar/Sultan and up to Stanwood and as far South as at least Dupont since that would still be in Pierce County.

Mark said...

Car-sharing isn't mass transit.

It IS a very Olympia-centric approach to transportation. It's also an approach which allows politicians to say they are doing "something" when they are indeed doing virtually nothing.

From what I can derive from this draft version (comments deadline is tomorrow??) Gregoire's 'climate team' acknowledges that compact, walkable communities (with good transit connections) are key to reducing our carbon footprints over the long run. So, maybe somebody can explain to me how buses, vanpools and car-sharing will achieve the Climate Action Team's goals?

The land-use language appears to have been lifted that section from Portland - a city which made the connection between climate change and land use/ transportation in the early 1990's. Then they (with a lot of help from the state) funded and built electric light rail to achieve their targets.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Olympia would try to solve the carbon emissions problem with...more cars. When I used to visit the area in the late 1980's, it was fairly charming. Now, the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, Yelm and Lacey have all become morphed together as one big strip mall. Thanks to the automobile. The idea of Oly coming up with a real, progressive plan (one which includes carbon-neutral light rail) might put them on the hook for helping to fund it someday. Oly's gotta build its freeways first.

One more reason this weak plan does not surprise me: the local Sierra Club chapter, which supposedly watchdogs this issue, also has not been able to connect the dots between light rail and sustainable communities. Indeed, they appear to be drawing their lines between diesel buses and sprawl: witholding light rail from communities which need it the most to reverse decades of terrible planning; instead, Sierra wants light rail delivered to their own elite north Seattle neighborhoods, which - when comparing auto miles traveled and cost/challenges of building in-city rail - could actually be less justifiable. Possibly.

Climate change is a real, looming threat. I wish our state leaders would have considered using a King County approach to meet that threat, rather than a Thurston County "solution." Im that spirit, I offer up an idea: the Governor's Climate Action Team can distribute gun racks with the "1-800-RIDESHARE" number printed right on there. Quite a bit cheaper than Lake Washingtonopolis' light rail dream.

Ryan said...

Although announcing tolls for 520 was a big step, it seems that Washington is not ready to limit SOV commuter trips at the state level. People love to give lipservice to carpooling, but most of the people in carpools are those who could just as easily have used park-and-ride style transit: light rail, express bus, or Sounder. This is because the carpool must have some kind of common schedule (just like transit) so if you don't fit that schedule you will probably take your car alone.

As for Thurston County, they seem to love their cars, and do not really see the long-term effects of sprawl on their community. This is why they are not part of our regional transit district, and were found to be in violation of GMA in 2005.

I like how they say that they "went to work immediately." What did they do? Appeal the decision of the Hearing Board that found them in violation.

Martin said...

Too many employers decide to put their workers out the in the middle of nowhere.

In the evenings I often catch a ride home with a co-worker because it's so much faster than taking the bus.

mark said...

Martin raises a good point. We need as many options available as possible. Car sharing (and even annoying vanpools) will always provide an option for some. And some people will take the bus or train in to work...and share a ride home. But when mass transit opponents and lazy Olympia politicians try to pretend carpooling is going to do the heavy lifting (on land-use, too) - that is just totally unrealistic.

Martin said...

...Not that I need a government program, diverting resources from true mass transit, for me to do that.