The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for October, 2010

Why Are Old Accords So Hot?

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Got one of those press releases that comes every year, telling the most commonly stolen cars. In 2009, the most recent data, more 1992 Honda Accords were stolen in Washington than any other vehicle. My first reaction? Why?

I mean, sure, they’re reliable cars and all, but why not steal a newer one? Are the alarms a lot better now or something. These are 18-year-old cars. Even my Accord is four years newer than that, and it has 230,000 miles on it.

Strangely enough, it was stolen several years ago when it was my wife’s car. She left it at an airport parking lot at Sea-Tac. When she came back, it was gone. Fortunately, somebody abandoned it not too far away, in Renton, I think. All they too were the airbags, plus they screwed up the ignition getting it started. Can somebody explain what’s the deal with the airbags?

Some of her work buddies said it was the Russian mafia. I don’t know if that was a joke or there really is such a thing. Sounds kind of silly. The Russian mafia stealing airbags.

Here’s the top 10 list for 2009:

2. 1995 Honda Civic

3. 1990 Toyota Camry

4. 1995 Acura Integra

5. 1993 Subaru Legacy

6. 1994 Nissan Sentra

7. 1993 Dodge Caravan

8. 1998 Saturn SL

9. 1995 Ford Explorer

10. 1995 Nissan Pathfinder

So it’s not just the 1992 Accord. They’re targeting all early 1990s cars. I don’t know if it’s because they’re easy to steal, there’s lots of demand for the cars or their parts, or what. Can one of you in the know fill me in.

A few more facts form this Northwest Insurance Council press release. Yakima is ranked sixth in the nation for theft rates, down from third in 2008. Spokane jumped from 35th to 18th and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area fell from 26th to 37th.

In Washington, 73 vehicles are stolen each day, or three per hour.

Go lock your doors.


Trains Get Bucks From D.C.

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

I’ve only ridden a train once, and that was just for the experience, not to really get anywhere. But it was pretty cool. The ride was nice and smooth and the seats were big and soft. I could get used to that, but obviously it won’t be on this side of the water. For what strikes me as transportation that had its heyday 100 years ago, trains seem to be making a comeback.

My pal Josh took one up to Vancouver, B.C., recently for a hockey game. I knew people who like to hop a train to Portland for a weekend getaway or event. Today I got a press release about Washington getting $31 million from the feds for high-speed rail improvements. The bulk of the money will go to updating the old King Street Station in Seattle. They’ll also spend $9 million to convert Sound Transit’s Tukwila station from a temporary platform to a full-service station.

This comes on top of $590 million in federal stimulus funds that were awarded to the state earlier in the year.

Growing up here, it was a novelty to ever see a train. I remember hiking way to the back of my friend’s property off the Old Belfair Highway to some tracks. That was the first time I’d ever seen tracks in person. We put pennies on them. They probably corroded away before the next train came.

It’s still neat on the rare occasion there’s a train running between Highway 3 and Sinclair Inlet. I don’t know what you’d do with them, but the tracks seem like they’re not being put to good use. They were used to ship warheads to Bangor at one point. There were too many protesters so they switched to nondescript semi trucks. They also tried to get a tourist train going several years ago between Bremerton and parts south, like Shelton’s Oysterfest. That seemed like a cool idea that never lasted.

What do you suppose we can do with the those tracks that cut through the middle of Kitsap and Mason counties and wind up either at Grays Harbor or the I-5 corridor, depending on which way you turn?


Delayed Fare Hike Will Cost Ferries Half a Million

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Nowadays, Washington State Ferries raises fares in October. It used to happen in the spring, but not anymore. The assumption included in WSF’s long-range plan and backed by the Legislature is that there will be a 2.5 percent inflationary increase each year. This year, however, that’s being delayed until Jan. 1 so the toll-setting state Transportation Commission could look at reports from the state auditor and the Passenger Vessel Association. Three months of not collecting that extra 2.5 percent will cost the ferries system $550,000, said WSF spokeswoman Joy Goldenberg.

Fare collections had been running ahead of projections, and WSF hoped that would make up the deficit. A drop in September forecasts eliminated the cushion, Goldenberg said. There will be two more forecasts, in November and March, before the Legislature writes a budget. Lawmakers will be able to see if another cushion will build up or if they’ll have to cover the loss.

The ferries system didn’t think a delay was necessary in the first place, and urged the commission not to do it, Goldenberg said. But there was a frenzy going on about WSF wasting money and the Legislature and commission were uneasy about raising fares in that environment.

A 2.5 percent fare increase seems reasonable to me. The problem was the 80 percent hike that happened the first six or seven years after the car tab money was taken away in 2000. Fares were actually too low back then — $3.70 for a passenger and $6.50 for car/driver. What a deal that sounds like today. Fares went from too low to too high in less than a decade. Now it’ll be $12.15 each way for car/driver, or $24.30 for a round trip. That’s too much for me and I think too much for most people.


Lights, Cameras, Rolling Slowdowns on Narrows Bridge

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I stole that headline from the DOT’s Kelly Stowe. I’m sure she won’t mind.

It was from a press release I just got. Toyota will be filming a commercial on both the new and old Tacoma Narrows Bridges Saturday.

From 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., the Washington State Patrol will briefly stop cars while production crews film the bridges as a backdrop for the commercial. The rolling slowdowns are necessary to separate traffic from the filming crew.

Delays, if any, will be less than five minutes.

So is it going to be a Toyota Tacoma commecial?