Monthly Archives: April 2013

It’ll be illegal to part in electric vehicle charging space

This summer, you’ll get the same $124 ticket for parking in an electric car recharging space as in a disabled space. Gov. Jay Inslee signed Sen. Rodney Tom’s bill Tuesday that’ll make it happen, beginning July 28. The vehicle using the space must be connected to the charging equipment. The parking infraction applies to both public and private electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill requires that a vertical sign identifies the space as an electric-charging station and to provide notice that the space is only for electric vehicles that are charging.

“There has been a great deal of planning and a lot of infrastructure costs put into creating these spaces, so we need to make sure they are being used for their intended purposes,” said Tom. “Washington has been a leader in preparing for the deployment of electric-charging technology and this bill will help make sure that those who want to use them can do so.”

The bill is Senate Bill 5849.

No fines from L&I in Walla Walla ferry incident

The second of three investigations into an incident aboard the ferry Walla Walla on Nov. 4 is complete. The first, by Washington State Ferries itself, found that human error caused an electric drive motor to heat up and melt, knocking the vessel from service for five months and costing $3 million to repair. The boat just recently returned to service.
The second, a safety and health inspection by the state Department of Labor and Industries, was released today. It assessed no penalties, which doesn’t make much sense anyway for one state agency to fine another. It found one violation that WSF must correct.
WSF didn’t ensure there was a written procedure for the lockout/tags-plus system while servicing machinery, equipment or systems with hazardous energy as required by the shipyard code. Lockout/tagout systems allow workers to physically lock out machinery and equipment before servicing it, and attach an identification tag.
The violation must be corrected by May 21.
When the ferry’s crew and Eagle Harbor electricians were stoning (machining) one of the Walla Walla’s four drive motors, there was an “uncontrolled release of hazardous energy.”
The Coast Guard is still working on its investigation.

Ferry terminals earn highest EnviroStars rating

Washington State Ferries celebrated Earth Day on Monday by earning five-star certification — the highest you can get — from the EnviroStars program at 10 ferry terminals, including all four in Kitsap County. They are at Anacortes, Bainbridge Island, Fauntleroy, Kingston, Point Defiance/Tahlequah, Port Townsend, Seattle, Southworth and Vashon Island.

They were cited for buying the least hazardous products, avoiding the use of pesticides, using Green Seal cleaning products, monitoring contract work to prevent pollution, protective storage, posting spill procedures and cleanup materials, and carefully managing waste.

Each terminal facility provided documentation of its practices, procedures and policies, and on-site visits were conducted for verification.

“The certification process was rigorous and thorough, and we learned some new things for our facilities, and for the vessels, too,” said Sheila Helgath, WSF environmental program manager.

EnviroStars was created in King County in 1995 and has expanded to include seven counties.



New team formed to watch new ferries

Washington State Ferries has formed an improvement team to keep an eye on its three new 64-car boats.
On Thursday, ferries director David Moseley met with Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, WSF leaders and fleet members, and ferry advisory committee members to discuss the maligned Kwa-di Tabil class.
The boats, which were built in a hurry after the 80-year-old Steel-Electrics were yanked from service as unsafe, are most noted for their list. They lean 3 degrees when empty because they were built to make more room for big trucks. The list restricts loading to one lane at a time instead of the former two, which can put the ferries behind schedule. Then they speed up and use extra fuel.
Outside of that, WSF says the list doesn’t cause any problems. It bugged people enough and they bugged WSF enough that they’re going to “fix” it for no real reason, they say.
“The U.S. Coast Guard confirms that the Kwa-di Tabil vessels are stable and safe to operate in all conditions of loading,” WSF communications director Marta Coursey said in early March when the fix was announced. “However, we recognize that some of our customers, staff and legislators are uncomfortable with the list.”
The fix was to add about 80 tons of ballast, costing around $300,000. Officials said the extra weight wouldn’t affect fuel efficiency.
On Thursday, Moseley said the Salish would go first. During the winter it’s generally a backup boat. Now, it’s at Eagle Harbor and free until May 12 when it will join the Kennewick on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route. The Chetzemoka is serving Point Defiance-Tahlequah. WSF will assess the Salish’s performance before modifying the other two boats, Moseley said.
Some, led by Smith and Seaquist, have concerns about the boats’ fuel consumption and vibrations, and what effect they will have on maintenance and longevity. And the vessels cost too much to begin with, they say. Smith and Seaquist were among 15 legislators who in January requested an audit on the three ferries by the state auditor.

Passengers could get bigger breaks on ferry fares

Washington State Ferries, realizing its boats and terminals won’t be getting much bigger, has for the past few years been plotting to make better use of the ones it has. Some of that can be done with pricing, and we can expect to see signs of it in the fare proposal WSF presents to the state Transportation Commission May 22 in Port Townsend.
The beneficiaries could be walk-on passengers and owners of small cars, longtime planning director Ray Deardorf, a Central Kitsap native, indicated during a briefing to the commission Wednesday.
Deardorf and his pals at WSF have been talking fare philosophy with the ferry advisory committee tariff advisors since February. They haven’t gotten it all figured out yet, but there are hints.
In 2007, a ferry bill passed by the Legislature directed WSF to encourage more walk-ons. There’s almost always room for more people, but boats often fill up with cars during commute times and at the beginning and end of weekends. Presuming the system was set up to move vehicles, it only costs 18 percent more to accommodate passengers, yet they provide 25 percent of revenue.
“That gives you the latitude to make these shifts to spreading the distance between vehicle and passenger fares,” Deardorf said.
That means walk-ons could legitimately pay less than they are now relative to drivers. For decades, drivers have paid 3.5 times as much.
Changes that could spread that distance are increasing the youth (6-18 years old) discount from 20 percent to 50 percent to line up with most transit agencies and match the WSF deal given to seniors and people of disability, and bigger discounts for 90-day and monthly passenger passes.
There’d be more incentive for walk-ons if they had good bus connections, commissioners said. Deardorf said WSF hasn’t put much pressure on transit agencies to make more ferry connections because they’ve been in financial straits the last couple years.
In 2011, WSF started giving discounts to little cars, those under 14 feet long, to try to get more vehicles on a boat. They got another 10 percent off last year. There was planned to be a final 10 percent cut this year. It sounds like they want to figure it a different way that I don’t understand, but the end result would be about the same.
It’s working, by the way. There’s been more than a 5 percent increase in small cars. Bremerton has the highest percentage, followed by the triangle route.
“They tend to bunch up in commute times at commute directions, so it is having the effect we needed,” Deardorf said.
A growth of little cars and weird motorcycles has caused some problems in trying to figure out what to charge. Motorcycles have long been charged one-fifth the cost of a full-size car, presuming you could fit five of them in a car spot, which has never been the case. But now there are more motorcycles with two front tires or two back tires that take up more space. WSF is trying to figure out what to do with them, but ultimately it sounds like it’ll be based on the volume they take up on the car deck. They just can’t afford the measuring devices for such a system at this point.
House and Senate transportation budget proposals are expecting $328 million in fares, up from $309 last biennium. Part of that could come from increased ridership, which is projected to grow 0.3 percent in fiscal 2014 and 1.3 percent in 2015. The first three months of this year it was up about 3 percent.
The proposals assumed fare increases of 2.5 percent in October and 2.5 percent in May 2014.

More comments from transit meeting on fast ferries

There were lots of interesting comments about fast ferries at Tuesday’s Kitsap Transit meeting that I couldn’t fit in my story. I’ll add some of them here. One of the agency’s goals for the year, by the way, is to develop an approach to future cross-Sound passenger-ferry operations. That includes developing financial options that won’t hurt bus operations and developing an updated passenger-only ferry business plan. The board was being asked whether transit should use up to $300,000 in federal money from the Rich Passage 1 research to have a consultant develop the business plan.

County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said that’s the only way some of the board’s questions will be answered. A business plan would determine if offering POF service is feasible, and if so, who should do it. It wouldn’t necessarily be Kitsap Transit. “I think we’re losing an opportunity if we don’t do the business plan,” she said. “We had a dilemma in Kitsap County for a number of years with wake damage and we’ve come a long way in addressing that dilemma. We have an obligation to finish that off.” A business plan “makes total sense,” she said. She knows there’s a lot of community support for it and a need to get people timely across the water.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent: We know there’s not a wake problem, that this design works. Now we need to close that by having a business plan, whether Kitsap Transit operates it or not. This cannot be ignored.

Port Orchard City Councilman Rob Putaansuu: I think it’s imperative to develop a business plan before we take the next big step.”

County Commissioner Josh Brown: I think it’s really important that we highlight having improved servcie on the south end of the county. Look at it holistically, at the whole county.” Brown was also quoted in the story, as was Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes.

Ann Blair, Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman: “This is  research project and we’ve only done part of it. I do not hear a foregone conclusion what we will find out. We may not learn it’s a sound decision. This is another piece of the research project.”

John Witte, nonvoting, labor-representing board member: He said his wallet is only so deep and the middle class is feeling a pinch. “Having said that, I also understand this community must diversity or it will die. … We need this. We need to take care of our own, and the only way to do that is to diversity.”

Nine of 10 members of the public spoke for conducting the business plan. Roger Gay of rural South Kitsap was the only one opposed. He often calls the agency “Kitsap Commuter Transit” because it mostly goes to the ferries and shipyard and not in the country where he lives. He asked whether it’s Kitsap commuter transit or Kitsap public transit. It takes 3 to 5 hours to get around the county. A requirement to shift buses to alternative fuels and the agency’s bus replacement plan will cost a lot and that’s where its attention should be. The Port of Bremerton, Bremerton and Port Orchard are paying for Sunday ferry service because the agency doesn’t operate on Sunday. “You’re not serving the public,” he said.

Walt Draper of the Marine Transportation Association of Kitsap, which was set up to support passenger ferries: The next hurdle is to get over how to pay for it. It seems there’s no shortage of possible ways. You’ve got the funding to develop a business plan and it’d be a good expenditure to study it in detail and see which one will work best. Lets see if we can solve the last big problem between us and reliable fast ferry service.”

Developer Mark Goldberg: “This is the greatest opportunity this town has seen. Vote for it.”

Kitsap Economic Development Alliance executive director John Powers: He said Kitsap is part of the Central Puget Sound regional economy. Goods and workers migrate every day. Any way you can enhance that connectivity is a positive to employees and the community. “Sometimes you have to build it before they come,” he said, using South Lake Union trolley cars as an example. “Sometimes you have to prime the pump to get people to see it.”

Dino Davis of Kitsap County Association of Realtors: He said each fast ferry venture turned people away. “Why is this? it’s a quality of life issue. A grater base of transportation options benefits you, me and this community, and I hope you see a big groundswell of support for it.”

Jaime Forsyth: She said its bigger than a transportation issue, it’s an economic development opportunity. A chance to balance the economy, to reduce traffic on Highway 305. A lot of people being pushed out of Seattle would move here, and the key is where they live, not where they work.

Grant Griffin of MKAT: “The most important thing we can do now is have a sound business plan so we can move forward.

Holly James of MKAT and Kitsap Entrepreneurial Center: She said one of her customers has 20 people coming from Seattle to work in Bremerton, and the number could grow to 100. They are bringing money to our community.”

Beverly Kincaid of MKAT: “Economic vitality is what I believe the proposed fast ferry service is all about.” If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Commuters wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit. People would move here, improve their properties and increase the tax base. “Starting with a business plan is imperative.”









Kitsap getting transportation it pays for

Kitsap is the only county in the state getting its fair share of transportation dollars, according to cool research by Chuck Taylor of the (Everett) Herald. For every dollar residents spend in taxes and fees, we get $1 back in transportation spending. Taylor bases it on state transportation budgets from 2004 through 2012, and includes federal spending. Mason is getting the shaft, receiving 65 cents for every dollar it contributes.

You might think the populous, westside counties are subsidizing the farmers on the other side of the mountains, but Taylor found a mixed bag. At the extremes are southeastern counties Garfield and Franklin. Garfield receives $3.60 for every $1 and Franklin gets 59 cents of transportation investment for every dollar it gives.

The big counties of Pierce (99 cents), Snohomish (96) and King (95) are right in the middle, just below Kitsap.

There’s a cool graphic. Check it out.

It costs $9,122 per year to own and operate car

The annual “Your Driving Costs” study by AAA shows the cost of owning and operating a sedan in the U.S. rose $1.2 cents to 60.8 cents per mile, or a total of $9,122 a year based on 15,000 miles of driving.

Maintenance costs were the biggest driver, increasing by 11.3 percent to 5 cents per mile because of significant increases in labor and part costs and a major increase in the price of extended warranties.

Fuel costs increased 1.9 percent to 14.5 centers per mile. The average price of regular fuel rose 3.8 percent, from $3.36 to $3.49 per gallon.

Insurance costs rose 2.8 percent ($28) to $1,029 a year. Tire costs remained unchanged at one cent per mile.

AAA has published “Your Driving Costs” since 1950, when driving a car cost 9 cents per mile and gas sold for 27 cents per gallon. You can determine your won cost by going to the brochure and plugging in your particular area, driver and vehicle.

I’m sure my costs have gone up way more than average, trying to keep my 17-year-old Honda running. It has been a reliable car and I’ve kept it pretty well maintained, but there comes a time when we all wear out. I’ve just been too lazy and cheap to find something else.



North Cascades Highway opens early

Lighter snowfall this past winter helped crews reopen the North Cascades Highway Tuesday, almost a month earlier than last year.

State Department of Transportation crews began clearing the highway on March 25, a day earlier than last year. Generally it takes four to six weeks to clear the highway, but they did it in three weeks. The snow was as deep as 35 feet, about half as much as last year.

The highway was closed on Nov. 20.

The latest reopening was on June 14, 1974. In 1980 it remained open all winter because of a drought.


Belfair Bypass shows up in tax revenue package

Among the list of projects that would be funded by a $8.4 billion, 12-year tax revenue package approved by the House Tuesday is the long-awaited Belfair Bypass. It would get $63 million.

There are no Kitsap County projects, but money for ferries would benefit the county. Washington State Ferries would receive $611 million for operating/capital maintenance and preservation. It would also get $84 million for debt service on a third 144-car ferry.

The revised Connecting Washington package is $1.4 billion less than the original proposal released earlier this session. The changes will be offered as an amendment to the existing revenue package. A revenue package would have to be passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate or by a majority of the public.