Category Archives: Modes

Eastside light rail: What will it bring?

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By Joshua Adam Hicks
Reporter Newspapers
Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1 last November, setting the stage for bringing Link Light Rail to the Eastside.
Planning is now under way for East Link, an 18-mile extension of the system that would connect downtown Seattle with Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond.
Along with light rail comes transit-oriented development, which means increased density for targeted areas like the Bel-Red corridor and Overlake.
The cities of Bellevue and Redmond are working with Sound Transit to coordinate plans for their areas.
“Light rail around the country has proven to be a real catalyst for development,” said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray.
Sound Transit opened the light-rail routing discussions in December, asking the public where and how its tracks should be laid.
The agency’s board of directors chose a set of preferred alternatives in May, but the committee isn’t expected to make a final decision on alignments until after an environmental impact study is completed in 2010.
Mercer Island makes for perhaps the easiest call, with only one proposed line running along Interstate 90 and stopping once at a station between 77th and 80th Avenues.
The other cities are a different story.

Bellevue
A myriad of options become available once light rail jumps into Bellevue off of I-90.
The board’s preferred alternative for south Bellevue would run on elevated tracks along the east side of Bellevue Way Southeast, before touching down near the South Bellevue Park-and-Ride. It would then travel at-grade to 112th Avenue Southeast and continue downtown.
Residents from neighborhoods adjacent to Bellevue Way have opposed this plan in favor of a line that would run along the abandoned Burlington Northern Sante Fe tracks near 118th Avenue Southeast.
Efforts are still under way to get Sound Transit to choose a modified route along that right of way, although those plans have met with opposition from nearby condo-dwellers.
The Sound Transit board approved two options for downtown Bellevue: one that uses a tunnel and another that runs at-grade. Both the city and the Bellevue Downtown Association are opposed to the surface alternative.
“It would be a nightmare to lose any part of Bellevue Way during construction,” said Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger.
The board’s preferred tunnel option would travel beneath 108th Avenue Northeast, stop at the Bellevue Transit Center, and then turn up Northeast 12th Street toward a station near the hospital district.
The surface route would run along Main Street before heading one way in each direction along 110th Avenue Northeast and 108th Avenue Northeast with a stop at the Bellevue Transit Center. It would then turn onto Northeast 12th Street and stop again in the hospital district.
Sound Transit estimates that the tunnel option would cost an additional $500 million – money not covered as part of the ballot measure that voters approved in November.
It’s up to the city of Bellevue to find the means for financing the underground alternative. Degginger says the city is confident it can find cost savings in the proposed Sound Transit routes, for instance by running surface rather than elevated tracks along the Bel-Red corridor.
Degginger also suggested that Sound Transit’s cost estimates for building a tunnel are high. Nonetheless, the city is working to identify potential funding sources for the underground alternative.

Redmond
The Sound Transit Board chose a preferred route from downtown Bellevue to Overlake Transit Center that serves the Bel-Red corridor, Overlake Village and the Microsoft campus.
The tracks would run elevated and at-grade to the north of Bel-Red Road, mainly along a newly expanded Northeast 16th Street that Bellevue plans to build.
The route then turns up 136th Place Northeast and connects with SR 520 before crossing to the north side of Northeast 24th Street and then hooking into a station at 152nd Place Northeast.
From there the tracks would run along 520 to reach Overlake Transit Center.
Sound Transit is already making plans to extend East Link to downtown Redmond, although it would take another voter-approved initiative to bring that concept to fruition.
The board has identified a preferred alternative in the event that this happens. The route would run along the south side of 520, touching the edge of Marymoor Park, before turning onto the BNSF right of way for a stop at the Redmond Town Center.
From there the tracks would travel to 161st Avenue Northeast and then stop.
The original plan called for the route to move up 161st Avenue, but there was opposition to that idea because of the number of homes and business that would be displaced.

Board representation
Degginger has suggested that Bellevue should have a representative on the seven-member Sound Transit Board.
“It’s been a huge handicap not having a Bellevue representative,” he said. “So much of East Link runs through Bellevue.”
King County executive candidate Susan Hutchison has seconded that notion, mentioning it several times during her primary campaign.
Redmond Mayor John Marchione, one of three Eastside representatives on the board, says the committee works fine the way it is.
“If a representative comes from Bellevue only to represent the city, that would be disappointing,” he said. “It needs to reflect what the global light-rail system looks like.”
The other Eastside board members include Mary-Alyce Burleigh of Kirkland and Fred Butler of Issaquah.
Joshua Adam Hicks is a writer for the Bellevue Reporter. He can be reached at jhicks@bellevuereporter.com.

Vanpools offer attractive and cost-effective option to commuters

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By Michael Ennis
Vanpooling is a little known public transit option that turns out to be the most efficient, flexible and effective in reducing traffic congestion.
How much do you pay to commute to work? If you drive, as most of us do, then it is probably close to the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) average of .16 cents per mile. If you ride public transit, then you probably pay less.
An average commute from Tacoma to Seattle would cost a driver about $2,688 per year. The same trip on a bus would cost about $1,440 per year. Taking the Sounder Commuter Rail would cost almost $2,000 per year.
Most commuters prefer their car and accept the higher cost of driving because of the freedom of mobility, speed and flexibility it affords. This freedom possesses both tangible and intangible benefits which are a greater value than the monetary savings of taking public transit. Indeed, more than 90 percent of people in the region choose to drive a car, despite the eighth worse traffic congestion in the country.
For some people, public transit works best in the dense urban areas of downtown Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue, where the share of daily commuters using public transit is highest.
Research shows that the biggest influence on ridership is density. Transit ridership is less than 1 percent of all commuters in areas with less than 10,000 people per square mile. Transit ridership rises to 3 percent with densities between 10,000 and 25,000 people per square mile; and 8 percent when the density is above 25,000 people per square mile.
Vanpools---Michael-EnnisWhile transit use in the Puget Sound region is slightly higher than the national average, the density of Seattle is only about 7,000 people per square mile and Bellevue is about 3,200 people per square mile.
This concept becomes clear with the region’s plan for light rail, connecting the less dense suburbs of Federal Way, Tukwila, Lynnwood and across the I-90 bridge to Bellevue. Despite spending more than thirty years and $40 billion, officials estimate it would serve only about 2.4 percent of all trips in the region.
Light rail proponents say shifting 2.4 percent of people off the roadway by 2030 is a good start. But Sound Transit reports that two-thirds of these riders are coming from buses and are already being served by existing public transportation. This means light rail will actually only shift less than one percent of drivers from the roads.
All this means the region’s traffic congestion will continue to grow. It is estimated that the Puget Sound area will see the same congestion as present day Los Angeles within 20 years.
One transit option however costs less, provides flexibility, convenience and mobility and reduces the number of cars on the road. It is vanpooling.
There are six vanpool programs around the Puget Sound with about 1,700 vans on the road every day. King County’s program alone carries more people than Sound Transit’s entire Sounder Commuter Rail and for about 1/7th the cost.
In 2003, the Washington State Department of Transportation conducted a study on vanpool use and found a significant undeveloped market in the Puget Sound region. The study showed greater awareness by the public could result in a 600 percent increase in vanpool use.
For a fraction of the cost, vanpools have the potential to carry about 20 percent more trips than Sound Transit’s $22.8 billion light rail expansion.
Unlike light rail however, where two-thirds of riders are drawn from existing buses, the growth in vanpools would come almost exclusively from motorists. If the WSDOT analysis is correct, vanpools could shift about 72,000 single occupant vehicles from the roadway every day.
Vanpools also require significantly less capital and operating costs than fixed route buses and rail programs and vanpool passengers cover most of these expenses.
To run a vanpool program, users pay about 70 percent of the cost, while taxpayers cover the remaining 30 percent. Rail and bus programs collect only about 20 percent from users and 80 percent from public taxes.
High farebox recovery ratios might lead someone to believe that riding in a vanpool would cost a lot.
Remember the daily commute between Tacoma and Seattle?
A passenger in an average vanpool would only pay about $1,044 per year. That is 28 percent cheaper than taking a bus, 48 percent cheaper than using the Sounder Commuter Rail, and 61 percent cheaper than driving.

Michael Ennis is transportation director at Washington Policy Center, a non-partisan independent policy research organization in Seattle and Olympia. For more information contact WPC at 206-937-9691 or washingtonpolicy.org.

R-Trip gives Redmond workers incentives to try transit options

Left to right, Kim Keeling, Jill Smith and Erika Vandenbrande are members of the R-Trip (Redmond Trip Resource & Incentive Program) team which helps city employees and residents find alternatives to driving alone. Satisfied participants say they save money, improve their physical fitness, have less stress and are happy to help the environment by walking, biking, carpooling or using public transportation whenever possible. Photo by Mary Stevens Decker.

Left to right, Kim Keeling, Jill Smith and Erika Vandenbrande are members of the R-Trip (Redmond Trip Resource & Incentive Program) team which helps city employees and residents find alternatives to driving alone. Satisfied participants say they save money, improve their physical fitness, have less stress and are happy to help the environment by walking, biking, carpooling or using public transportation whenever possible. Photo by Mary Stevens Decker.

By Mary Stevens Decker
Reporter Newspapers
In burgeoning Eastside cities such as Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland and Sammamish, there are better ways to get to work, school or the grocery store than driving alone.
Most people know there are alternatives — walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus. And most understand the benefits, such as saving money, getting more exercise and reducing carbon emissions. But frankly, many are too intimidated by the logistical planning.
Meet R-Trip (Redmond Trip Resource & Incentive Program).
This comprehensive city of Redmond program helps both workers and residents zip through the process of identifying modes of transportation that suit their personal needs, yet benefit the entire region.
Through partnerships with the Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association (GRTMA), Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit, R-Trip staff members incentivize employers to promote trip reduction. Giving employees free or discounted transit passes, flexible work schedules, increased bicycle parking or even bicycle jerseys can reduce workers’ tension, which in turn, increases productivity, lowers health care costs and improves the environment for everyone.
“The set menu is, ‘Try it, you’ll like it. Then you’ll want to do it more,’” explained Erika Vandenbrande, transportation demand manager for the city of Redmond.
R-Trip offers subsidies for vanpool riders, cash rewards for workers or residents who bike or walk as often as possible and grants to employers who want to initiate or enhance trip reduction programs.
“Typically, when employees see parking issues, that’s where the light bulb goes on for employers,” said Vandenbrande. “Do we build more parking or offer employees a transit pass?”
R-Trip literature can be found online, at www.GOrtrip.com.
“And we do lots of transportation events, in company cafeterias at lunch hour,” said Jill Smith, business commute program coordinator for the city of Redmond.
“This is free to employers,” Smith noted. “There’s nothing to lose. And we literally walk the streets to talk to people about the trip reduction programs. Downtown Redmond and Willows Road were our big push this summer. Employees wished for more bus service there, more car and vanpools.”
Vandenbrande agreed, “It’s a multi-tiered approach. Large employers are subject to state trip reduction laws.”
Thus, Microsoft is on-board with its own fleet of buses and vans. Other big corporations such as Honeywell, Aerojet, Astronics and PhysioControl also help workers consolidate or eliminate driving trips.
But trip reduction has to go beyond that.
“Now, smaller businesses are hearing people say they hate their commute, they’re late because of the traffic,” said Vandenbrande.
She said Redmond Mayor John Marchione and the current Redmond City Council have been staunchly supportive of trip reduction measures first introduced during former Mayor Rosemarie Ives administration, in line with the strategic vision of linking two thriving urban neighborhoods, Downtown and Overlake.
“To have two vital urban centers, you can’t have a patchwork of parking cars superimposed on top of it,” said Vandenbrande. “By 2021, we hope to have light rail in Overlake and the city is pushing to bring that to Downtown.”
That’s not fast enough for the legions of frustrated commuters who need to get across Redmond or the Eastside today.
Determined to set the pace, the city of Redmond encourages its own employees to use alternative means of transportation and has hired a new part-time R-Trip coordinator, Kim Keeling, to educate colleagues about ride shares, loaner bikes and walking routes.
R-Trip’s Bicycling Guide and Transit Map takes guess work out of how to get around Redmond and neighboring cities. And R-Trip staff members are producing videos and other educational materials to address the most basic questions such as “how to ride the bus” or “how to put your bike on the bus,” said Smith. “It’s easier than people think.”
Another misconception is that once you commit to an alternative commute plan, you have to stick with it 100 percent of the time.
Not true, said Smith.
Walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus even one day a week makes a difference.
Mary Stevens Decker is a reporter for the Redmond Reporter. She can be contacted at mdecker@redmond-reporter.com.

520: A bridge and so much more

520 is more than just a bridge. It’s a major corridor between job centers and growing communities around Lake Washington. Built in 1963, today’s 520 bridge is vulnerable to earthquakes and windstorms. In addition, the existing corridor is carrying twice as many vehicles as originally planned and is heavily congested during morning and afternoon commute times. Congestion makes the bridge and its approaches a bottleneck between these economic engines of our region.
When 520 was opened to drivers in 1963, traditional tollbooths were used and it was an immediate success with commuters. This popularity meant that bonds used to pay for the bridge were paid off ahead of schedule. When the last toll was collected in 1979, four times as many vehicles were crossing the bridge each day, compared to when it first opened.
It’s time to replace the aging bridge with a safer, more reliable structure, people say. It’s time to build a new corridor that moves more people around the lake and provides better access to the highway. Construction of bridge pontoons will begin in 2009.
The new 520 bridge is scheduled to open in 2014. When the corridor is complete, it will include six lanes, with two general-purpose lanes and one carpool lane in each direction, spanning Lake Washington from I-5 in Seattle to just west of I-405 in Bellevue. The bridge will be designed to withstand major earthquakes and windstorms up to 95 mph.
The new 520 will have carpool lanes and increased transit service that will make bus trips more frequent and reliable. It also will have space for walking or riding a bike across the lake, shoulder lanes to keep traffic flowing when something goes wrong, and new interchanges to reduce traffic impacts and improve communities near the corridor.

Light rail: Checking out the ride (and more) on Central Link

A Central Link light rail train glides across an elevated platform. Photo by Chad Coleman.

A Central Link light rail train glides across an elevated platform. Photo by Chad Coleman.

By Lindsay Larin
Reporter Newspapers
The sights of Seattle flash by the windows of the Central Link light rail during the 13.9-mile stretch from the Westlake Station to Tukwila International Boulevard Station.
Central Link runs with two-car trains that hold a maximum of 400 people and eight bikes. A 1.7-mile extension to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will open in December 2009.
For now, eleven stations line the stretch of tracks between Westlake and Tukwila. The stations are split between outdoor platforms and underground tunnels, all with covered areas, benches and route information. Glass artwork and vibrant metal designs distinguish the stations from one another, paying tribute to the small sub-communities within the Greater Seattle area.
Capturing the beauty of modern technology, there are 35 new pieces of art appearing up and down the new light rail line.
While riding through the SODO district, a giant red “R” sits on the rail sign on the new brick-faced Operations and Maintenance building. The “R” was once the distinctive first letter on the old Rainier beer sign from the brewery that once stood at the same location.
Trans_Light_Rail_file4Soft purple lighting welcomes riders to the Beacon Hill Station and a glass painted wall partially stretches across the outdoor platform of the Mt. Baker Station.
The Tukwila International Boulevard Station offers a two story, covered waiting area with free parking and public restrooms. Artwork titled, Confluence, by Clark Wiegman sits on the parking level of the station. The Link art program, STart, worked closely with the local communities to find artists and artworks that matched the unique history and spirit of each neighborhood.
Beyond the aesthetic reasons, the assurance of frequent, reliable operation is a major attraction for some riders. Tickets are purchased by cash or card using self-serve kiosks at the stations. Commuters are asked to show their pass during random checks by Sound Transit personal. Although the payment system is based on a “proof of payment” method, Sound Transit has begun issuing $124 citations to people who ride light-rail trains without paying.
According to spokesman Bruce Gray, about 60 citations have been issued since Aug. 24 by transit police and unarmed security guards.
Another method of payment for light rail is the new ORCA smart card, a rechargeable pass accepted on Sound Transit buses and trains. Electronic card readers are located on and near Link platforms. Riders using ORCA, tap the card on the reader when entering and exiting the train. The correct fairs are automatically deducted each time the card is used.
Ridership for light rail is expected to reach 21,000 riders every weekday by the end of 2009. By 2010, the average weekday ridership from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport is expected to total 26,600 riders.
The electric-powered light rail trains run on exclusive tracks, arriving at the 11 current stops, every 5 to 10 minutes. The trains run 20 hours a day, from 5 a.m. to nearly 1 a.m.
Link also offers easy connections to trains, buses and other transit options.
Sound Transit is working to extend light rail in the near future. University Link is a 3.15 mile light rail extension that will run from Downtown Seattle north to the University of Washington. The design work on North Link, East Link, and the First Hill Streetcar is under way.
To learn more about Central Link light rail, visit www.soundtransit.org or call 1.888.889.6368.
Lindsay Larin is a writer for the Bellevue Reporter. She can be reached at llarin@bellevuereporter.com.

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Fare increases, service cuts possible for King County Metro in 2011

Metro buses are still the most widely used mode of public transportation, but a gaping budget hole is likely to see fares increase over the next few years. Photo by Andy Nystrom.

Metro buses are still the most widely used mode of public transportation, but a gaping budget hole is likely to see fares increase over the next few years. Photo by Andy Nystrom.

By Tom Corrigan
Reporter Newspapers

Standing at the Metro Transit stop on Northeast Bothell Way near the Kenmore Park-and-Ride, Carrie Hood said she rides the bus everyday to and from the downtown Seattle bank where she works as a teller.
Hood added she wouldn’t drive to work even if she could somehow afford the price of parking downtown. Still, Hood said she has a few complaints regarding Metro, complaints echoed by some of the riders waiting with her.
For the most part, riders agreed Metro’s buses are fairly dependable, but Hood and others stated they’ve been late for work or appointments because a bus was behind schedule more often than they would like.
And, probably predictably, none of the riders were happy with the fare increases that may be heading their way. While he declined to give his name, one rider said his employer currently provides staff with bus passes. But that employer already has announced that if the price of bus rides increase, those free passes may disappear.
Like so many other public and private entities, budget problems are by far the biggest issues currently facing the King County Metro Transit System, according to several sources, including Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond.
Tossing out a number that has been widely advertised, Desmond said the system is looking at a $214 million shortfall in its next two-year budget.
As the Seattle area struggles with recession, sales tax collections have “plummeted,” Desmond said, and those taxes make up 71 percent of Metro’s revenue. Desmond added that, overall, revenues are coming in some 20 percent lower than expected.
MetroBaseFare_ChartWith all that and other factors in mind, King County Executive Kurt Triplett has proposed a nine-point plan to close Metro’s budget gap, a plan that includes fare increases, service cuts and deferred expansion.
According to information released by Triplett’s office, county officials don’t expect Metro’s tax revenues to return to even 2008 levels until at least 2014. Triplett and others also have talked about implementing changes suggested by a recent service audit of Metro’s operations.
As of this writing, only some of those recommendations had been made public.
In the end, any proposal put forth by Triplett ultimately must earn the approval of the King County Council. According to Metro spokesperson Linda Thielke, Triplett will present his full budget – which includes Metro’s budget – to the council by the end of this month, with adoption coming in November.
Moving away from budget issues and touching on service improvements, Desmond and others said if money were no object, their top priority would be to add more Metro buses and bus lines.
According to David Hull, service planning supervisor for Metro, the whole point of public transportation is getting people out of their cars and using alternative means to get around, in this case, buses. Hull said the way you do that is by adding more connections to more locations and keeping the wait time between connections to less than five minutes. He added that the latter long has been Metro’s goal. But Hull also stated any public bus line faces one issue over which most transit officials have little or no say.
“We operate on roads we don’t control,” he said.
Both he and Desmond talked about how improving and extending HOV lanes throughout the Seattle area would greatly aid transit. They also mentioned electronics that could give approaching buses priority at stop lights. Hull said communities and developers need to keep transit in mind as they build up residential areas, allowing pedestrian access to streets and, obviously, bus lines.
Even if the county council adopts Triplett’s proposed cuts in service – which run to 310,000 hours over the next two years – some newer bus lines apparently won’t be affected. Desmond said Sound Transit’s light rail obviously has been getting a lot of publicity recently and Metro plans to shift routes to feed into the light rail system. Desmond described those feeder routes as “absolutely critical,” claiming that the Puget Sound region has been waiting 40 years, in one way or another, for light rail. He doesn’t want that effort sabotaged by Metro’s budget concerns. Apparently, neither does Triplett. His proposal exempts from service cuts “already approved service partnerships.”
According to Desmond, even if Sound and its new trains have been getting all the attention lately, there is no doubt that buses are still the back bone of the overall transit system. While he said Sound and Metro are operated separately, there is no antagonism between the two, that they are not rivals.
“We don’t compete,” Desmond said.
If there is no competition between Sound and Metro, there is competition connected with another aspect of Metro’s operations. Kenmore Mayor David Baker is one of several suburban officials who serve on the Regional Transit Committee, a sub-committee of the county council. The committee includes Seattle representatives as well.
Baker said while Seattle’s suburbs contribute 64 percent of the sales taxes that pay for Metro operations, they receive a disproportionate share of Metro’s buses and services. He added there was a plan in place to try and equalize the service between Seattle and the suburbs.
“Seattle now wants to get rid of that, they don’t think its fair,” Baker said.
He added Seattle’s representatives to the regional committee also are worried the city could see the lion’s share of any budget balancing service reductions.
A Seattle representative to the regional transit committee did not return a phone call.
For his part, Baker insists bus service between Seattle and the suburbs has never really been balanced. He said it’s easy to hop a bus to downtown Seattle. But he said riding a bus from one suburb to another can be a lot tougher. Baker contends lines running north and south are particularly poor.
“Because of the mess, it forces people into cars,” Baker said.
For his part, Hull agreed with Baker to a certain extent.
“There is not enough service out in the suburbs,” he said. He further talked about the possible need for more Park-and-Ride spots.
But Hull also noted the bus system naturally grew up around Seattle and it only makes the area’s epicenter would have, historically, the most routes. He said what is needed is more buses, but those aren’t going to be arriving anytime soon thanks to Metro’s money woes.
“It’s not that Seattle has too many buses,” Hull continued. “It’s more that the overall pie is not big enough.”

Tom Corrigan is a writer for the Bothell Reporter. He can be contacted at tcorrigan@bothell-reporter.com.

Highway 167 HOT lanes ‘going pretty good’

An electronic sign over Highway 167 tells drivers the cost of using the carpool lane as a single-occupancy vehicle. The cost goes up or down throughout the day as congestion increases or decreases in the carpool lane. HOT stands for High Occupancy Toll lanes. Photo by Charles Cortez.

An electronic sign over Highway 167 tells drivers the cost of using the carpool lane as a single-occupancy vehicle. The cost goes up or down throughout the day as congestion increases or decreases in the carpool lane. HOT stands for High Occupancy Toll lanes. Photo by Charles Cortez.

By Robert Whale
Reporter Newspapers
The Washington Department of Transportation’s decision to open nine miles of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes in May of 2008 between Auburn and Renton was aimed at giving the solo driver a choice, an opt-out from a too-often congested State Route 167 in south King County.
More than a year later, some like it HOT, some don’t.
Yes, there is room for improvement, Craig Stone, deputy administrator of the Urban Corridors program of Washington State Department of Transportation, told the Auburn City Council at the one-year mark last spring, but added that “in overall terms of technology, driver expectations and safety, it seems to be going pretty good.
“…people who are making a long trip between Sumner and Bellevue come in and give us great reviews,” Stone said. “The ones who don’t like it are the ones who got onto 167, went a couple interchanges and got back off. They say, ‘You restricted me, I had to wait to get into that lane, then I had to get back out again.’”
HOT-lanes-mapA single HOT lane runs in each direction of SR 167 between the Auburn and Renton. Two general-purpose lanes in each direction are open to all vehicles and toll free. Solo drivers pay a variable, electronically collected toll using the Good to Go! transponder to drive in the HOT lane when space is available. Carpools of two or more vehicles, van pools, buses and motorcycles use the lanes Toll tree without a transponder.
Here is some of the most recent program data as compiled in the SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot Project First Annual Performance Summary, May 2008-April 2009:

  • More than 30,000 Good to Go! transponder users had paid to use the HOT lanes during that one-year period
  • The program generated $316,000 in gross revenue in that time.
  • The average number of total tolled trips continued to increase — from 1,050 trips per weekday in May 2008 to 1,710 trips per weekday by April 2009.
  • The average number of peak-hour tolled trips also continued to increase – 140 northbound trips in May 2008 compared to 270 trips in April 2009, and 100 southbound trips in May 2009 compared to 160 trips in April 2009.
  • Variable tolling makes better use of carpool lanes and improves traffic flow in the corridor without affecting service for carpools and buses.
  • Traffic conditions on 167 in the general purpose and HOT lanes has improved, and in both directions, vehicle speeds and overall volumes have noticeably increased during the peak period.

The lanes operate daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Toll rates automatically rise and fall with the level of congestion so that traffic in the lane always moves smoothly.
Since opening day, the Washington State Patrol has made more than 4,300 HOT-lane-related traffic stops, citing more than 2,000 drivers for HOV/HOT violations and more than 300 drivers for crossing the double white line that separates the HOT lane from the general purpose lanes. According to the report, however, the compliance rate is estimated at 95-97 percent.
Auburn City Councilman Bill Peloza finds the HOT lanes “extremely convenient.”
Three vehicles in the city of Auburn’s fleet are equipped with Good to Go! transponders, and when Peloza checks one of these cars out to get to a regional meeting, he uses the HOT lanes at least up to Kent where he makes the turn to get to I-5.
“I think it’s well spent taxpayers’ money,” said Peloza. “I think also that the payment for the leg between Auburn and Renton, which can vary from 50 cents to a $1.50 depending on the traffic conditions, is reasonable. It could even warrant more money for the convenience of people saving time because, let’s face it, time is worth a lot more than 50 cents or $1.50.”
“By implementation of the HOT lane program, the state was trying to make the carpool lane more efficient by opening that space for general use that would often go underused as an HOV lane, even when the general purpose lanes were heavily congested,” said Chris Hankins, a transportation planner with the City of Auburn. “The other element was managing the flow of the additional traffic of the carpool lane when that space was actually available.”
The four-year pilot program covers the years of 2008-2012, and the state Legislature will decide whether it continues beyond 2012.
Robert Whale is a writer for the Auburn Reporter. He can be contacted at rwhale@auburn-reporter.com.