The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for October, 2011

Texting and driving as bad as drinking and driving

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Rob McKenna, our state’s attorney general, sent out a press release today warning of the dangers of texting and driving, and announcing a public service advertising campaign to try to curb it. I have to applaud the effort, but I don’t know how they came up with some of the stats they threw in there.

Here’s the best one. “Research has shown that using a cell phone delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.” That’s from Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, which is also in on the campaign. That would be some interesting research. You could have a drunk guy driving one car and a person on a phone driving the other, then run out in front of them and see who stops the fastest. I suppose it would hurt about the same no matter who hit you. If drunk driving and cell phone driving are equally dangerous, I would think texting and driving would be worse than drunk driving.

Here are some more stats from the press release. Eighty-two percent of young adult drivers have read a text message while driving. They consider young to be 16 to 24 years old. Seventy-five percent have sent a text message while driving and 49 percent have done it many times.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is also participating in the campaign, says distracted driving is the No. 1 killer of American teens. Sixteen percent of drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

Here’s another one I wonder how they figured out. A texting driver, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, is 23 times more likely to be in a crash than a non-texting driver. Their message is clear: “Stop the tests and stop the wrecks.”

They have set up a website at www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org where teens can find facts about the impact of texting while driving, see tips for how to curb the behavior and share their thoughts.

 


Seas the day

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

That saying’s on front of T-shirts Washington State Ferries is selling to celebrate its 60th anniversary and help pay operating costs. There’s also a shirt that shows all the different kinds of boatss in the fleet. I can’t believe they didn’t start hawking stuff years ago. All the stores do it, but not WSF itself.

WSF and its advertising and marketing company, Trans4media, have launched FerryGear.com where official ferry merchandise is for sale. Besides T-shirts, there’s a glass mug, lapel pin, aluminum water bottle and baseball caps, all with WSF logos. And, one I don’t quite get, spice rub from famed restauranteur Tom Douglas. They say its one state icon getting together with another.

It looks like decent-quality stuff, not touristy trinkets, but I’m going to wait for the bobble-head dolls.


DOT wins award for improving congestion near Army base

Monday, October 17th, 2011

A Washington State Department of Transportation project won the People’s Choice Award in a national competition by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. It got the most clicks out of 40 projects. The award comes with $10,000 for charity or an academic scholarship program of the agency’s choice. It’s pretty timely considering my kid will be heading off to college soon and I’m sure they’d like to help me out a little.

A Florida interchange rebuild won the Grand Prize voted on by a panel of transportation experts. The projects had to finish ahead of schedule, under budget and use innovative strategies.

In the I-5 project, the state worked with federal, state, military and local leaders to improve congestion through the area. It seems like in five years that stretch went from free-flowing to guaranteed bumper-to-bumper. There’s not really anything there to cause it, either. I guess there’s just too many cars for the amount of pavement, in no small part because of the growth of Fort Lewis.

Interchanges at the military gates were improved with better alignment and better-timed traffic signals, gates that weren’t being used were opened, and they started deploying incident-response units more quickly.

Guess who’s the executive director of AASHTO. Five-term Kitsap County commissioner John Horsley.

 


Don’t be running into deer

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Do you know that every year more than 1,100 vehicle-wildlife collisions are reported in Washington state, and that now is prime deer-hitting season?

That’s according to a press release from the NW Insurance Council, which would really like for you to buy some comprehensive coverage. That way, if your car sustains some of the annual $3.6 billion nationally in deer damage, you’ll only have to pay the deductible. Deer-damage claims average $3,100.

It says as the weather gets colder, deer migrate from the mountains and dart across roads. More deer-vehicle accidents happen between October and December than any other time of year. Not only does hitting deer mar your car, it can hurt you. The collisions injure nearly 1,200 people annually in the state and kill two. There are 200 deaths nationwide.

The press release says to be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and just before and after sunrise when the critters move around the most. And that if you see one, there are probably others nearby.

I’ve never hit a deer, though one jumped over the hood of my car once. My brother did, but that was in the wilds of Jefferson County. A big buck put a licking on his Suburban. Put the beast out of commission. The Suburban, I mean. The deer ran into the woods.

I have seen several deer along the road the past few months, dead and alive. I was just reading that the Department of Transportation removes 3,500 deer and elk carcasses from Washington state highways every year. In western Washington, the busiest places are Whidbey Island, the Packwood-Randle area and North Bend. Most of the time, they’re buried in designated disposal sites. Sometimes freshly killed animals are given to local Indian tribes.

 

 

 


Newest ferry going to Port Townsend, not Point Defiance

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Boat builders are about ready to turn over the third and final new 64-car ferry to Washington State Ferries.

The Kennewick, built by a consortium led by Vigor Shipyards, is at Everett Shipyard this week for final outfitting and testing. It began sea trials late last week. Vigor will demonstrate the vessel to Washington State Ferries and the Coast Guard on Wednesday through Friday, and the state is tentatively scheduled to accept it from Vigor by the end of the month.

Then there’ll be several weeks of post-delivery sea trials and crew familiarization before the Kennewick goes into service in January. It will be assigned to the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, not Point Defiance-Tahlequah, as many expected. The Chetzemoka and Salish had both been assigned to Port Townsend through the peak season, which ends Monday (Oct. 10). The Salish will stay while the Chetzemoka, which has been operating since November 2010,  goes into dry dock for maintenance, repairs and modifications.

When the Kennewick stars running in January, the Salish will become the backup boat. The Chetzemoka will replace the 48-car, 64-year-old Rhododendron at Point Defiance. They’re doing it that way because the Salish and Kennewick are more identical with parts and crews easily interchangeable. In particular, they both have variable-pitch propulsion systems that make it easier to get into Keystone Harbor while the Chetzemoka doesn’t.

That makes some sense. The only thing that seems weird is Port Townsend pushed so hard to get the Chetzemoka named for a famous Indian chief there, and now the boat won’t be there.

Washington State Ferries said the 64-car ferries are coming in ahead of schedule and under budget. The budget is $213.2 million for the three of them.

WSF and Vigor should also be close to finishing negotiations on the price of the first 144-car ferry.

 

 


Transit riders make more than car drivers

Monday, October 10th, 2011

People who ride public transportation tend to have lower incomes than those who commute by car, but not here and in a few other places around the country.

The publication Atlantic Cities slogged through 2010 American Community Survey data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau and found five metro areas, including Bremerton-Silverdale, where transit riders make a lot more. Here, the median income for those who use public transportation is $52,946 compared to $35,371 for those who drive.

It’s easy to see why. Kitsap Transit bus service is largely geared toward serving riders of Washington State Ferries and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employees. That’s where the most demand is. People who ride ferries to the east side of Puget Sound for work generally make more than those who stay on this side. Shipyard workers also earn above-average pay. They could get to the yard in a half hour instead of an hour if they drove, but the bus ride is free. The federal government pays. Many prefer to ride the bus for nothing instead of driving in traffic, finding a parking spot, paying for parking and walking to their shops. The buses drop them off inside the shipyard.

Other metro areas where public transit riders earn more than car drivers are like Bremerton-Silverdale in that many people commute to bigger cities for high-paying jobs. They are Torrington Conn. ($82,431 vs. $41,450), Kingston, N.Y. ($60,748 vs. $35,289) and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, N.Y. ($56,351 vs. $41,462).

Just the opposite is true in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Workers there travel away from the city. That’s because the Idaho National Laboratory, with 4,000 workers, is outside the town of Idaho Falls. The lab has its own fleet of 103 buses. They haul about 2,750 passengers to the site and back each day.

 


Washington celebrates Walk to School Month

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

It’s October, and that can only mean International Walk to School Month. About 15,000 Washington students, parents, teachers and community leaders from our state will participate. Many of the events are part of the Safe Routes to School program. Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Suquamish and I think Brownsville all got money for sidewalks and paths. The grant program has awarded nearly $29 million to 90 communities since 2005.

Fifty-four Washington schools have events planned, though I didn’t see any from our area. Nationwide, they’re expecting 3,200 schools from all 50 states to participate, joining walkers from 40 countries.

After a day of people watching at the Puyallup Fair, there’s no secret we need to do more walking and riding. I don’t know what the rules are, but they should be that anybody who lives within a mile of their school needs to hoof it. No buses. Parents should only drive them if the weather makes it unsafe.

I’m one to talk. It didn’t take my kid long to get tired of walking to the bus stop, which was maybe 400 yards away, and I wound up driving him to school most of the time. Everybody did it. The parking lot was jam packed. People created a traffic jam every day trying to get in there.

I lived so far away from school I never had a chance to walk. Would’ve taken me hours, except for a few months when we moved to Bellevue. Then the school, Tillicum Junior High, was half a block up the street. Pretty sweet. Most of the time I lived in the lone house up a half-mile dirt driveway, so just getting back and forth to the bus stop was pretty good exercise. In the winter when it was dark in the morning and dark at night it could also be pretty spooky.

So get out and walk, and I’ll try to do the same.