Monthly Archives: September 2012

People behaving better on the roads

Last year Washington drivers crashed their vehicles less than at any time in the past decade. Airbags and seat belts can reduce fatalities, but drivers themselves get credit for cutting down on collisions.

” … A reduction in collisions means there has been a marked improvement in driver behavior,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission., which co-authored a press release with the Washington State Patrol and Washington Department of Transportation.

There were fewer than 99,000 collisions in 2011, down from a peak of 123,000 in 2005. The state’s Target Zero program, traffic safety experts focused on finding out what causes collisions and how to prevent them, has a goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injures.

Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said highway safety features such as rumble strips and cable guardrail prevent collisions, reduce injuries and save lives.

Collisions are down across the board. Injury decisions down about 20 percent from a peak in 2005, DUI-related collisions down about 21 percent, and fatal collisions down by about 30 percent, also from ’05.

State Patrol Chief John Batiste says there are no such things as accidents in traffic. Everybody has the power to reduce them by making better choices. The three most important choices, he said, are slowing down, paying attention to the road and driving sober.

 

Ferries often faster, cheaper, always cooler than driving

Drive or sail?
Washington State Ferries released a report this month comparing the time, cost and greenhouse gas emissions of commuting on a ferry versus driving around. Boats, not surprisingly, won in every case.
Some of the scenarios aren’t realistic, though, like Bainbridge Island to Seattle and Hansville to Everett. You’d have to be out of your mind to drive around via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from those places — and probably even Poulsbo, which was in the report. Yet the biggest tossup — South Kitsap are to Seattle — isn’t examined.
Most Kitsap folks have performed similar calculations, and they can fine-tune them to their own sites and gas mileage.
Here’s one I’ve done. Say I want to go to a Mariners game. Should I drive around from my Gig Harbor home or take the Bremerton ferry?
It takes 63 minutes to drive the 45.9 miles to Safeco Field on a good day, according to Google Maps, but when was the last good day? It takes 32 minutes to drive to Bremerton and 60 minutes for the ferry to cross, for a total of 92 minutes. So it’s about a half-hour faster to drive around, though traffic slowdowns could eat up a chunk of that.
What about cost? My 1996 Honda Accord, at 25 miles per gallon, can get to the ballpark on 1.8 gallons. At $4 per gallon, the cost is $7.20, $14.40 for the round trip. I generally park way south where it’s free, and walk.
Gas to get the 48.2 miles to and from Bremerton would run $8. Full fare to walk on to the ferry is $7.70 for the round trip. I’ll park at my office. Total cost: $15.70.
I’d save $1.30 and a half-hour by driving around, an hour if you count the return trip.
Easy decision? Not for me. Most times I’ll go against the numbers and take the ferry.
Driving Interstate 5 is terrorizing; Highway 16 a stroll. And traveling by ferry is cool. It’s surreal to get on at little Bremerton and walk into the big city. The No. 1 determining factor is whether there’ll be a boat when I need it, which isn’t always the case.
Since WSF didn’t do it, let’s take a look at South Kitsap. To make it easy, say the commuter lives within walking distance of the Southworth ferry dock and works downtown.
The round-trip drive across the Narrows would be 150 miles, take nearly three hours, not counting traffic slowdowns, and suck up $24 in gas. Taking the ferry to Fauntleroy and driving downtown would cost $2.84 for gas and $16.42 for a ticket for a total of $19.26. It would take about two hours of travel time.
This would be no-brainer, provided there’s room on the boat, because taking it would save the commuter about $5 and an hour a day.
Calculations can get complicated, because Southworth ferry riders can drive or walk, go downtown or down south, catch the passenger-only ferry on Vashon or the Metro bus in West Seattle, or use Kitsap Transit’s park-and ride lots and buses.
Mitchell Brown, an Olympic High grad now attending the University of Washington, occasionally rides the ferry home to visit. He says it’s faster, cheaper, more convenient, and he can work during the crossing.
Mark Moshay of Bremerton catches the ferry in Bremerton and drives to his job in Tukwila as a contract administrator. When the day is done, he returns home via the Narrows Bridge, which doesn’t collect tolls in that direction. It costs him about $12 a day for gas and $9 for the ferry ticket. The trip to work takes about 90 minutes. Coming back varies from an hour to two hours, depending on traffic.
“I would have to agree that for most folks it’s faster, cheaper and less polluting,” he said of riding the ferry. “For me it’s not necessarily faster or cheaper, but I definitely use less gas going by ferry. But there’s one more really important factor. I challenge anyone, anywhere to tell me they have a more beautiful morning commute than I do.”
Washington State Ferries compared six commutes. Those not mentioned earlier are Bremerton to Seattle, Port Townsend to Seattle and Langley to the Everett Boeing plant. To see the results, visit http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/B3B58BAB-C98A-4A74-820B-1B659EDC9066/0/Drive_Or_Sail_Folio_091212.pdf.

New, higher licensing fees kick in Oct. 1

Several driver and vehicle license fees will increase on Oct. 1, so get into the DOL by the end of next week and save yourself a few bucks.

For example, the price to get a new or renew an old driver’s license will jump from $25 for five years to $45. A vehicle title that costs just 5 bucks now will triple to $15. The cost of a driver’s exam will be bumped up from $20 to $35. Car owners will pay a new $10 fee for their vehicle’s first set of license plates while motorcycle owners will shell out $4 for their first plates. And there are a bunch of others.

One I don’t mind seeing skyrocket is the cost for a DUI hearing. It’ll go from $200 to $375. They should’ve jacked it to $1,000 and not raised the other fees, at least not as much.

The Legislature passed all these increases in March to raise $57 million the rest of this biennium and $185 million in 2013-15 for transportation.

Toll skippers looking for trouble renewing car tabs

Drivers who skip out on Tacoma Narrows and 520 floating bridge tolls could get a big surprise when they go to renew their license tabs.

The Department of Licensing is putting holds on 7,900 vehicles. They’ll be sent this week to car owners whose tabs expire in December. Those who get them won’t be able to renew their registration until all tolls, fees and penalties are paid.

They will have had more than three months to take care of it. A toll bill comes in the mail about 14 days after crossing the bridge. Drivers who don’t pay within 15 days after receiving the bill get a second notice with a $5 reprocessing fee. Civil penalty notices with a $40 per transaction penalty are issued more than 80 days after the bridge crossing, and vehicle owners have up to 20 days to respond.

This isn’t a new practice. Currently, 156 agencies across the state use registration holds to enforce unpaid bills.

For more on veehicle registration holds, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/registrationholds.