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Public Transportation Features

The work done in the Public Transportation Division extends to a broad variety of aspects of life in Washington state: sustainability, congestion relief, traffic demand management, and air and water quality, to name just a few. The division also partners with organizations statewide on an array of projects and programs. This collection of stories represents this work. If you have a story idea for us, we'd love to hear it. Send your ideas to

Updated April 6, 2017

2016 Washington State Public Transportation Conference, Vendor Expo and Roadeo
Community Engagement – Local Solutions – Statewide Investments

2016 PT Conference logoThanks to everyone who attended the 2016 Public Transportation Conference in Wenatchee! Your participation made it a tremendous success. Thanks also to our partners at the Washington State Transit Association and the Community Transportation Association of the Northwest for hosting the Roadeo and the Vendor Expo, respectively.

Conference summary
The conference got underway Sunday, Sept. 18, with the annual Roadeo and awards banquet, hosted by WSTA. On Monday, we opened the vendor expo—hosted by CTANW—and kicked off the first day of conference sessions (pdf 103 kb).

Monday's presentations

We had more sessions Tuesday, followed by the Wall of Fame banquet.

Tuesday's presentations

We wrapped up Wednesday with our final sessions.

Wednesday's presentations

We hope to see you at the 2017 conference! For more information, contact the Washington State Transit Association.  

Posted Nov. 3, 2015

A 20-year vision for public transportation in Washington

Photo of transit passengers. Quick pop quiz: name five things that help create a community. What springs to mind? Very likely, things like friends, family and neighborhoods, as well as places to shop, learn, come together, work and have fun.

The communities across our state thrive when our residents have access to the very things that comprise them. Indeed, just the ability to get to our jobs and schools, to our appointments and errands, and home to our loved ones is fundamental to keeping our communities flourishing.

And public transportation helps connect all of us with our communities.
With so many cars already on the road—not to mention a projected population growth of 25 percent over the next 20 years—the ways we integrate, plan for and use public transportation need to change.

In order to address issues of congestion and access, we and our partners have drafted the Washington State Public Transportation Plan . We want this plan to serve as a roadmap for the next generation of efficient and effective public transportation, and that’s why we’re counting on the public’s input to help make it so.

We work closely with local transit agencies and service providers throughout the state to draft this plan. Our goal: improve public transportation for everyone. These improvements will not only help people get where they want to go, they will also support economic growth, new jobs, and clean air and water .

As we plan ahead to 2035, we invite you to re-imagine the future of our public transportation system. Together, we can change public transportation to get you to a more efficient, accessible and healthier future.

We’re asking for feedback on the plan from the public until Jan. 6, 2016. We will also be talking about the plan at several community meetings statewide through the end of the year. Your feedback will be vital to the plan’s development and the future of our state’s public transportation system.

For more information, to read the plan and to find out when it will be coming to your community, visit

Posted June 16, 2015  

Mason Transit Authority honored as 2015’s best rural transportation system in America

Photo of an MTA bus making a flag stop for two riders on its route along the Puget Sound. It’s been a banner year for Mason Transit Authority – and the year’s not even half-over yet.

Less than two months after Gov. Inslee and a host of national and state legislators helped MTA celebrate the grand opening of the nation’s first rural transit-community center, the agency was named the 2015 Rural Community Transportation System of the Year by the Community Transportation Association of America. It’s the first time CTAA has honored a transit agency in Washington state with one of its national system-of-the-year awards . Gov. Inslee was quick to offer his congratulations .

The opening of the transit-community center is a noteworthy milestone not just for the communities of the county it serves, but for Washington’s entire network of public transportation providers. Originally a National Guard armory in downtown Shelton, the building was redesigned in a responsible, cost-effective manner by leveraging local and state commitments into much broader federal support and funding. And by repurposing the armory into the transit-community center, MTA created a new landmark that honors both Shelton’s civic history and its commitment to environmental sustainability.
Not only can Mason County residents catch the bus at their new transit-community center, they can take a class, attend a meeting, or receive help through the county’s social-and-human-service programs, some of which are now housed in the former armory. Folks can even shoot some hoops or play some pickleball in the gym if they’re so inclined.

The innovative facility played a part in helping secure the award, to be sure, but it’s far from the lone reason MTA brought home the hardware. Before handing the award over to MTA General Manager Brad Patterson, CTAA executives lauded the agency for its after-school activities bus service, volunteer driver program for seniors, partnerships with local tribal governments and its vanpool service, which transports more than 150 workers daily to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyards in Bremerton.

The award is a special source of pride, both for MTA and the communities the agency serves, said Patterson. He’s also quick to point to MTA’s partnership with us, saying the award has as much to do with the relationships they’ve built with their partners over the years as it does with anything else. According to Patterson, the people in our Public Transportation Division aren’t just helpful; they’re truly dedicated to MTA’s success.

While MTA’s award marks the first time one of our state’s transit agencies has been honored by CTAA, national awards aren’t unprecedented in Washington . Pierce Transit was named one the nation’s three most outstanding transit agencies by the American Public Transportation Association in 1984. Before the agency was rechristened King County Metro, Seattle Metro was honored with APTA’s Innovation Award in 1985, then claimed APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation System award in 1991. Most recently, Intercity Transit won the same award in 2009.

We have been happy to partner with MTA on a number of projects over the past several years, and helps administer grant programs that sustain many of the services MTA provides to communities across Mason County.

Indeed, the first six months of 2015 have been good for the Mason Transit Authority. Here’s to six more!  

Posted Jan. 5, 2015

WSDOT, Yakima Transit celebrate completion of Regional Mobility Grant program's 50th project

Selah Firing Center park and ride

Two years ago, the park and ride facility near the Selah Firing Center off Interstate 82 outside Yakima was a shadow of its current self: unpaved, under-improved and too small to adequately serve the needs of nearby residents and commuters.

That all changed when Yakima Transit was awarded a Regional Mobility Grant by the Legislature to be used toward upgrading (and just plain grading) a cracked and graveled lot into a fully paved, lighted and landscaped park and ride facility. In the process, the new facility nearly tripled in capacity, going from around 40 gravel-pocked parking spots to 114 freshly striped stalls. And there’s room for further expansion down the road, which could bring capacity to around 150 stalls.

WSDOT and Yakima Transit formally cut the ribbon on the new facility in October, marking the completion of the Regional Mobility Grant program’s 50th project to date. The overall cost of the $240,000 project was greatly reduced by making use of WSDOT-owned right of way. Since the park and ride serves highway-related purposes, Yakima Transit is able to utilize the right of way for free, saving taxpayers money.

Carpoolers, vanpoolers and passengers catching a ride on the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter —mostly students, commuters, shoppers and people seeking outpatient medical services—have kept the facility at or near its capacity since it opened.

Created and enacted into law by the Legislature in 2005, WSDOT’s Regional Mobility Grant program supports local efforts to improve transit mobility and reduce congestion on our most heavily traveled roadways, including enhancements to the statewide network of park and ride lots . The RMG program also bears this important characteristic: Each project must expressly align with the state’s goals for greenhouse-gas-emission reductions.

Funded in statute through the state multimodal transportation fund , the program has provided $184 million to support local and regional projects since 2006. Historically, the Legislature has set aside up to $40 million every two years for RMG projects, but that amount is scheduled to increase by 25 percent in 2015.

With 50 projects completed in the past nine years, the program now turns its attention toward the 26 ongoing projects around the state. The Legislature will review a list of additional project proposals during its upcoming session, awarding as much as $50 million in grants to projects selected for funding.

Posted May 21, 2014

New Greyhound terminal opens near Seattle stadiums

Brian Lagerberg and Greyhound officials cut the ribbon on new Seattle terminal
Public Transportation Director Brian Lagerberg (center) celebrates with Greyhound officials, including District Manager Brad Chatterton (shaking hands), after cutting the ribbon on Greyhound's new Seattle terminal.
Dungeness Line service provider Jack Heckman stands at the newly relocated Dungeness Line stop.

Beginning May 21, Greyhound bus service has a brand new home next to CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The day before it opened to the public, WSDOT Public Transportation Director Brian Lagerberg joined Greyhound officials to cut the ribbon on the new terminal, which now sits at the heart of the city’s public transportation network.

Lagerberg said he and his staff went to work as soon as they heard Greyhound lost the lease on its long-time terminal at Stewart Street and Eighth Avenue. They began scouring the agency’s property in Seattle area for a possible new location. It wasn’t long before they found one due east of CenturyLink Field, near where I-5, I-90, Sound Transit light rail and commuter rail, and a bevy of local bus routes all converge.

“This location has great access,” Lagerberg said. “This truly is an intermodal facility with access to light rail, passenger rail, local buses and the stadiums.”

The new terminal at 503 S. Royal Brougham Way sits in the shade of Edgard Martinez Way overhead. WSDOT previously used the property for staging the southern portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct project. This week, it also became a relocated stop for WSDOT’s Dungeness Line, part of the Travel Washington Intercity Bus Program serving the Olympic Peninsula. The Dungeness Line now makes stops in Seattle at both the Amtrak station and the new Greyhound terminal.

At the ribbon cutting, Greyhound District Manager Brad Chatterton thanked WSDOT for its help in securing the location. “Greyhound has been in the Seattle community for 75 years,” he said, “and we’re excited to continue serving the community from our brand new terminal.”

Posted May 1, 2014

Nation’s most ‘Bicycle-Friendly State,’ a 7-year reign

The start of Bike Month is especially sweet here Washington, and it keeps getting sweeter as the state once again has been named the nation’s No. 1 “Bicycle-Friendly State” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Washington pedaled away with the honor for the seventh year in a row. WSDOT couldn't be prouder, because we support bicycling by including bike facilities in our transportation planning and design and collaborating with commuties to make it safer and easier to save gas, reduce vehicle emissions and enjoy a fun workout on two wheels.

The League of American Bicyclists annually ranks all 50 states on bikeability and grades each state’s cycling success in categories, including legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education, and planning.

Gov. Inslee has proclaimed May as Bike Month (pdf 64 kb) in Washington in support of the national campaign. This is a great opportunity to dust off the bicycle that’s been sitting in your garage and give cycling for transportation a try.

You’ll feel better knowing that you’re helping to reduce carbon emissions, getting some exercise and saving money on fuel and parking, as well as reducing wear and tear on your vehicle.

There are Bike Month activities taking place all across the state. Our partners at Washington Bikes have a list of bicycle commuter challenges in communities statewide. Here is a list of key dates you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • May 1-31: National Bike Month
  • May 7: Bike to School Day – keep an eye out for children on bikes
  • May 12-16: Bike to Work Week
  • May 16: Bike to Work Day

If you happen to be in the Olympia area on Friday, May 16, consider joining WSDOT employees for the eighth annual Interagency Bike Ride. Cyclists will meet in the plaza in front of the WSDOT headquarters building at 11:15 a.m., we’ll have a WSDOT photo and then ride to the General Administration Building’s parking lot and meet other state agency bicyclists at 11:30 a.m. From there we’ll ride to the Tumwater Historical Park for a brown bag lunch and be back by 1 p.m. This is a voluntary wellness event, so you’ll need to adjust your lunch schedule and/or take leave for any additional time away from work. As always – check with your supervisor first. Be sure to RSVP by May 14.

Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, you’ll want to check out WSDOT’s bike webpage for tips on bicycle commuting, rules of the road, safety tips, maps and other resources.

Posted May 1, 2014

Lease agreement negotiated with Nissan for Leafs deliver another first for WSDOT

Once again WSDOT is setting the standard and defining the future of sustainable transportation with its vehicle fleet. With the deal signed and sealed this week, WSDOT is the first state agency in the nation to negotiate a leasing agreement to acquire a number of all-electric Nissan Leaf cars for official state use.

Later this week, five brand new plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) will start humming softly at WSDOT offices from Shoreline to Vancouver. According to WSDOT Fleet Administrator Greg Hansen, Northwest Region headquarters in Shoreline will receive two Leaf EVs, and one each will go to Headquarters in Olympia, Olympic Region in Tumwater, and Southwest Region in Vancouver.

To keep all those state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries charged and ready for their full 75-mile average range, WSDOT is installing 220-volt, Level-2 EV chargers at all four offices. Level-2s deliver medium-speed charging in four to eight hours. Headquarters already has the agency’s only DC fast charging station, which charges in about a half hour.

In 2012, WSDOT became the first state agency in Washington to acquire a Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. It’s an extended-range electric vehicle with a gasoline engine that kicks in when it exceeds its 40-mile range on electricity alone.

To help advance EV technology, WSDOT this year purchased the first Washington state-owned all-electric vehicle and began a pilot project to negotiate a state contract to lease Nissan Leafs, paving the way for other state agencies to lease Leafs too. The lease agreement allows WSDOT to take advantage of the zero-emission vehicle technology early and set the standard for more efficient government and sustainable transportation.

WSDOT Fleet Operations expects to save $2,500 in annual operating cost for each EV. The fleet is gradually transitioning its gas vehicles to all-electric, plug-in hybrids and biodiesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its sustainability goals. All fleet sedans that are not yet electric or hybrid are compatible with up to 85 percent ethanol (E85) flexible fuel.

Posted April 18, 2014

1 million gallons of biodiesel fuels WSDOT on road to greener, more sustainable transportation

Ferry  and excavators running on biodiesel
Biodiesel fuels WSF’s fleet of ferries and many of WSDOT's large trucks, excavators and other construction equipment.
Into the green fleet first
Since 2009, use of biodiesel and other alternative fuels, such as propane and electricity, has helped WSDOT’s fleet cut greenhouse gas emissions by 263 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Since 2008 WSDOT also:
  • Reduced employee travel by 2.2 million miles
  • Cut fuel consumption by 10% or about 400,000 gallons
  • Purchased plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and charging stations

WSDOT’s fleet of trucks and ferries recently realized a seven-digit milestone on the road to sustainability. For the first time, the agency’s fuel purchases in 2013 included more than 1 million gallons of biodiesel for ferries and mid-to-large-size trucks and equipment.

That means a net savings of more than 1 million gallons of regular diesel, including 687,741 gallons used for ferries and 318,775 purchased by the land fleet to fuel work trucks and other heavy equipment. It’s big news for Washington, where transportation ranks the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s the latest green thumbs up for WSDOT’s award-winning fleet.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, substituting biodiesel, which is derived from vegetable oils and animal fat-based oils, for petroleum-based diesel can reduce smog-forming emissions from particulate matter by 10 percent, hydrocarbons by 21 percent and carbon monoxide by 11 percent for highway vehicles. Hydrocarbons are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Increasing the use of biofuels, such as biodiesel, is a widely accepted strategy for slowing climate change.

Since biodiesel is derived from plant matter, it is not a fossil fuel, so it’s renewable. Biofuels come from plants and trees, which need CO2 to grow. Using biofuels doesn’t add as much CO2 to the atmosphere; it recycles it.

Considering these factors and other, a 2006 study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that biodiesel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 41 percent.

The benefits of biodiesel are clear, and WSDOT plans to continue growing its use as an alternative fuel, said WSDOT energy policy manager Tim Sexton. Washington State Ferries uses biodiesel made primarily from recycled canola oils. WSF is preparing for a pilot project to evaluate increasing the percentage of biodiesel it uses to fuel vessels.

 Posted March 11, 2014

Secretary turns over a new LEAF for WSDOT

Secretary Peterson with WSDOT's new LEAF

A day in the life of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson is measured in numbers – billion-dollar budgets, materials by the ton and schedules into the 2020s.

Of all the numbers that cross her desk in Olympia, the ones she enjoys seeing most come in kilowatts, such as the 24 kwh lithium ion batteries that charge WSDOT’s new all-electric vehicle, and zeros, the amount of gas it uses and carbon it emits.

The secretary recently took her first spin around the Capitol Campus in Headquarters’ new Nissan LEAF, the first of six plug-in electric vehicles coming to WSDOT. With a push of a button, she took an efficient step toward meeting legislative directive to switch the state’s fleet of vehicles to hybrids, EVs and other low- or no-emission alternatives.

EVs are coming to three of WSDOT’s regional offices. Headquarters in Olympia and Northwest Region in Shoreline each will have two EVs. Olympic Region headquarters in Tumwater and Southwest Region in Vancouver are getting one each. Plans for additional EVs are dependent on lease negotiations.

WSDOT’s Fleet Administrator Greg Hansen said the agency is obtaining the six EVs, using a streamlined contracting process for state agencies through the state Department of Enterprise Services. The arrangement allows agencies to choose from a number of manufacturers and models. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, WSDOT is turning to electric vehicles to save at the pump too. It costs nearly $4 to drive a gas-fueled Ford Taurus 25 miles. A LEAF will travel the same distance for about 90 cents worth of electricity. That means initial costs will be offset with 75-80 percent savings in fuel costs. And electric vehicles likely require less maintenance, too, because they have fewer moving parts.

Secretary Peterson says WSDOT’s move toward zero-emission transportation is an indication of her vision for the agency. And the opportunity to lead the state toward wider use of alternative fuels continues a trajectory she been on for decades.

In the late 1990s, she and her husband converted their red 1987 Fiat Spider to run on electricity alone. That’s when she realized that technology would be the key to efficient transportation in the future. Over the years she tried a number of hybrids and EVs, each of which expanded her version of transportation for the 21st century.

Peterson said she’s proud to be at the helm of an agency with a vehicle fleet recognized five years in a row as one of the most sustainable and efficient government fleets in North America. And she’s eager to see how transportation continues to evolve as WSDOT continues in its leading role in laying the groundwork for new infrastructure to support the wide use of EVs and other alternative-fuel vehicles with the West Coast Green Highway.

The changes are obvious to visitors at Headquarters. Before they even walk through the door, they notice motion-activated LED lights and a DC Fast-Charge station in the garage and now a brand new LEAF. “This is just the beginning,” Peterson said.

Posted March 4, 2014

New tool INVEST-igates sustainability, demand


The results are in from a study assessing sustainability in corridor planning and project development, using an innovative online tool. WSDOT collaborated with the Federal Highway Administration to evaluate a new assessment tool called INVEST – Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool. It provided insight to better integrate demand management and public health strategies into planning and project development.

FHWA developed the tool to help transportation agencies evaluate and improve the sustainability of their planning, project development, and operations and maintenance programs and processes.

WSDOT used INVEST to assess the unfunded portion of the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program and three central Puget Sound corridor studies for US Highway 2, State Route 520 and State Route 516. WSDOT will use the results to improve its sustainability practices and provide constructive feedback to FHWA.

Download the INVEST report (pdf 1.6 mb)

Posted Dec. 17, 2013

Gov. Inslee and LEAF owner Steve Marsh
Gov. Jay Inslee presents Steve Marsh with the Governor’s Recognition Award, naming him Washingtonian of the Day.
More photos from the event available on flickr .

By the Numbers

Steve Marsh purchased a plug-in, all-electric car in May 2011 for his 130-mile roundtrip commute. After 100,000 miles, here are the numbers.
Marsh’s daily commute in freeway miles each way, depending on route
Freeway miles he can drive on a single charge; 75+ when EV was new
His cost in electricity per one-way commute
His savings in gas he didn’t purchase over the last 2½ years (based on his previous 2006 Honda Accord EX)
Total net saving, counting out changes


Metric tons of CO 2 equivalent Marsh would have released if he kept his 30-mpg Accord ( EPA greenhouse gas calculator ).

100K miles on the West Coast Electric Highway

TUMWATER – WSDOT’s charge to the future of electric travel passed milestone 100,000 Monday, as a Kent man stopped in Tumwater on the West Coast Electric Highway .

Range anxiety? What range anxiety? Steve Marsh shrugged the notion, “…so long as I get to my destination I don’t even think about.” The D.C. fast-charge station at a Shell station in Tumwater is a regular stop for Marsh on his way to work at Taylor Shellfish in Shelton – a 130-mile daily roundtrip commute.
When he stopped for a quick charge on Dec. 16, he was a VIP in an EV, the first Nissan LEAF owner in the state to reach 100,000 all-electric miles.

“This is a signal of achievement,” Gov. Jay Inslee told Marsh and a celebratory audience who came to mark the six-digit milestone, “because we know one thing for certain – the world needs to move towards cleaner sources of energy.”

After presenting Marsh with the Washingtonian of the Day Award, Inslee said his administration is focused on reducing use of fossil fuels in Washington. One strategy will be extending a network of electric charging stations west-to-east across the state, he said.

Already the West Coast Electric Highway has enabled EV travel between British Columbia and Oregon with a network of 12 fast-charge stations along Interstate 5 and parts of U.S. Highway 2. It provides a full charge in about 30 minutes for most plug-in EVs. WSDOT is working with Oregon and California on the West Coast Green Highway to extend the charging network to Baja, Mexico.

Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said she looks forward to a future when electric vehicles are ubiquitous on Washington highways. “These vehicles are not just about commuting,” she said. “They are about seeing other parts of the state, so we’re working to extend the network of charging stations.”

Marsh’s experience demonstrates the value of providing infrastructure for electric vehicles to encourage more people to make the switch to zero-emission electric transportation. “It’s a revolution that is happening one driver, one car and one charging station at a time,” Inslee said.

Perhaps, but Marsh said his decision to be among the first in the state to buy a LEAF was more about dollars and cents. He figures the car has saved him more than $9,000 since he bought it in 2011 for his commute between Kent and Shelton.

"I've had to take a lot of ribbing from my coworkers," Marsh said. "They tell me they have an extra flashlight battery if I need it. And then they wonder if I bring Lizzie, our Irish wolfhound, to help pull me the last quarter mile into the office. But I think they're just jealous because now my car is paying off and they can see it."

His employer was surprised by Marsh’s purchase, too, even more so when Marsh suggested the company install public-use charging station at the office. But that’s exactly what they did.

Posted Oct. 17, 2013

WSDOT fleet gets another green award – the fourth this year

WSDOT’s commitment to energy conservation and air quality in managing its fleet of vehicles and equipment is paying off. For the fifth year running, the agency’s fleet was among the top 40 most sustainable and efficient government fleets in North America at the 2013 Government Green Fleet Awards. At a recent awards ceremony in Phoenix, Ariz., WSDOT was recognized for sustainably managing a mixed fleet that includes conventional, hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles. The fleet was one of the largest and most diverse to be recognized by these annual awards.

One of the WSDOT fleet's new Chevy Volts gets charged up at the Capital Facilities office in Tumwater.

WSDOT conserves fuel and cuts emissions by operating and maintaining its fleet for efficiency. The fleet reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 263 MT CO2e from 2009 levels by implementing aggressive right-sizing, utilization and anti-idling policies; purchasing hybrid vehicles; and using alternative fuels, such biodiesel, propane.
For fiscal years 2008-2013 WSDOT:

  • Cut passenger-vehicle inventory by 18%
  • Reduced employee travel by 2.2 million miles
  • Cut fuel consumption by 10% (approx. 400,000 gals)
  • Purchased plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations
  • Displaced petroleum by approx. 1.7 million gallons
  • Launched a plan to minimize emissions, conserve fuel and improve fleet efficiency

Fleets were evaluated on their success in reducing fuel consumption and emissions, increasing vehicle efficiency, using sustainable and biodegradable products and recycling. The honor puts another spotlight on WSDOT’s efforts to advance environmental sustainability in transportation.

Earlier this year, WSDOT’s fleet also was named one the “100 Best Public Sector Fleets in North America” for its excellence in government fleet management. The 100 Best Fleet Awards recognizes peak performing public-sector fleet operations and honors government fleets that effectively increase use of alternative fuels, save significant money by improving fleet management and reduce maintenance turnaround time to increase productivity.

“I am proud our fleet continues to be recognized as one of the most advanced and efficient fleets in the nation,” said Greg Hansen, WSDOT Fleet Administrator. This year, WSDOT’s fleet also took home the Alternative

Fuels Sustainable Commitment Award. Presented by the Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition, the award acknowledged WSDOT’s efforts to reduce use of petroleum-based fuel in transportation and its success in promoting electric vehicles, propane trucks and use of biodiesel.

But wait. There’s more... WSDOT’s fleet is one of three finalists for the National Association of Fleet Administrators’ Excellence in Public Fleet Sustainability Award. In its debut of the award, NAFA will honor public-sector fleets that operate on business practices committed to sustainability of the environment for future generations.

NAFA is the world’s largest fleet management association with more than 3,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. Members represent every segment of fleet management. Those invited to apply, include private companies, utilities, government agencies and nonprofits organizations.

From hybrids to, WSDOT’s fleet includes 4,800 vehicles and 10,000 pieces of supporting equipment. WSDOT Fleet Operation’s continues to seek new methods for efficient, effective fleet operations that cut fuel costs, improve air quality, keeping Washington’s residents, communities and environment at the heart of its mission.

Posted Sept. 25, 2013

Washington now home to nation's first renewable natural gas-powered transit fleet

A Pierce Transit bus makes its way along its route.
Pierce Transit's move to renewable natural gas is another in a long line of innovative smart transportation ideas hatched in Washington state.

Pierce Transit's big move means cleaner air, taxpayer savings

TACOMA – Washington state's spot on the cutting edge of transportation choices-related innovation is well-documented. We've been named America's most bicycle-friendly state six years in a row . We count both the country's largest vanpool fleet and most comprehensive ferry system among our stable of standout modes . Our state's commute trip reduction and telework programs are among the nation's most robust.

And now, our state can add another piece to the already impressive mantle: Pierce Transit just became the first transit system in the country to make the fleet-wide switch to renewable natural gas as its fuel source. The change will reduce Pierce Transit's fleet greenhouse-gas emissions rate by over 80 percent.

Pierce Transit started using compressed natural gas in 1986. That form is derived from underground rock formations. Renewable natural gas is derived from the decomposition of organic waste at a local landfill.

Prior to the switch, Pierce Transit reports it saved about $2.4 million in its 2013 budget by purchasing compressed natural gas compared to an equivalent amount of diesel. The cost of compressed and renewable natural gas is nearly the same.

Greenhouse-gas emissions reductions of over 80 percent. Annual savings of about $2.4 million. Kudos to Pierce Transit for improving our air quality while saving taxpayers millions!

Posted May 22, 2013

Tumwater WSDOT office buzzing over new Volt and EV chargers

WSDOT operations and inventory manager Steve Holloway charges up his Tumwater office's new Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid.

Tumwater office buzzing over new Volt and EV chargers

TUMWATER – Anyone who recently visited WSDOT’s Headquarters Capital Facilities office in Tumwater has seen the future – and the future is electric.

Three brand new electric vehicle pedestal chargers seem to sprout up naturally in the parking lot of the LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Edna Lucille Goodrich building. They arrived just in time to charge the office’s new Chevy Volt, a royal blue plug-in hybrid that offers the best of both worlds – zero-emission transportation and the ability to switch to gas for long-range travel.

According Steve Holloway, WSDOT’s operations and inventory manager, his office, the first in the agency to have a Volt and a row of free charges for employees and visitors, is a glimpse into the future of what many other WSDOT facilities might look like in a few years.

“Now folks who may be on the verge of thinking about buying an EV can see how it could fit their lives,” Holloway said. “It might give them the nudge to go ahead and buy an EV.”

The opportunity to obtain the new Level-2 Blink charges was a bit serendipitous, he said. He learned the state Department of Enterprise Services was offering a number of chargers that remained from the first two phases of its effort to place 45 chargers in the state's fleet parking and maintenance facilities. The equipment is federally funded through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The 220-volt, Level-2 chargers provide "medium-speed charging" in four to eight hours, depending on the battery size and how depleted it is. It’s a perfect charge time for anyone inclined to drive an EV to work. Level-2 charging equipment is compatible with most electric cars including the Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf and the Volt.

Holloway and the Capital Facilities office, which is the contact for any WSDOT office interested EVs and electric vehicle supply equipment, demonstrate the sustainable vision  shared by WSDOT and The West Coast Electric Highway , Washington’s network of EV fast charging along the I-5 corridor. It's our state's part in a partnership with Oregon, California and British Columbia to provide infrastructure for vehicles that run on low- or no-emission alternative-fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foreign-oil dependence.

In addition to the latest generation plug-ins, such as the Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, nearly two dozen other auto manufacturers are gearing up to release more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to major markets over the next few years. Experts predict up to 300,000 EVs could be driving on Washington roads over the next decade.

Posted May 1, 2013

6-time champ Washington leads pack again as ‘Bicycle-Friendly State’

As the nation celebrates Bike Month in May, Washington state has one more reason to cheer: For the sixth consecutive year, the League of American Bicyclists has named Washington No. 1 “Bicycle-Friendly State” in the country.

Strong partnerships among the state’s cities, counties, advocacy organizations, state agencies and transportation providers form the foundation of Washington’s success in improving conditions for bicycling and walking.

“This title confirms that Washington is on the right path in recognizing bicycling as part of a sustainable, multimodal transportation system,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Bicycling is embraced by Washingtonians as a form of transportation that enhances our quality of life and honors our environment.”

The League of American Bicyclists evaluated the state’s cycling success in categories, including legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement and evaluation and planning.

“We’ve made significant gains in improving the conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in our state, but there much more that we can do through partnerships and low-cost enhancements,” said Washington’s Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. “The League’s evaluation reinforces the need to include bicycle facilities as part of our transportation programs.”

WSDOT supports bicycling  through a number of efforts including:

Posted Feb. 22, 2012

LED highway lighting a bright idea

Travelers on US 101 west of Olympia see the Black Lake Boulevard interchange in a whole new light.

WSDOT is replacing the high-pressure sodium highway lighting with the state's first light-emitting diode (LED) lighting system .

The system allows operators to remotely adjust light levels and turn on or off individual lights when traffic is light. It should decrease costs and use less energy while maintaining just the right amount of light. With 88 light poles planned for retrofit, the system is expected to save 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and more than $75,000 in maintenance and operating costs compared to an HPS system.

LED lighting installations along US 101 should be complete by March 1 and in full energy-saving operation by mid-April.

Posted Nov. 5, 2012

Governor’s awards honor innovators in traffic reduction

2012 Commute Smart Award Winners

Voluntary employers/worksites

Employer Champion Award
  • Community Food Co-op
  • Kitsap Public Health District
  • Spokane Regional Transportation Council
Employer Leadership Award
  • Del Monte Foods Inc.
Commute Smart Legacy Award
  • Mike Harbour
  • Microsoft Corporation
Commute Smart Leadership Award -
The WSRO Award for Excellence
  • Maggi Lubov

CTR-affected employers/worksites

Employer Champion Award
  • Administrative Office of the Courts
  • Anvil Corporation
  • Boeing Employees Credit Union
  • Charter Communications
  • Jubilant HollisterStier LLC
  • Snohomish County Government
  • Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific
  • Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital
Employer Leadership Award
  • University of Washington at Tacoma
ETC Champion Award
  • Cindi Gyselinck - AT&T Bothell
  • Christine Rawlings - Washington State Department of Enterprise Services
  • Gwen Weerts - S.P.I.E.
  • Kevin Harding - Hewlett Packard
  • Lori Barschig - Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence
  • Holy Family Hospital
  • Trudy Sprinkle - Franciscan Health Systems
ETC Leadership Award
  • Deric Gruen - Bellevue College

Easing traffic congestion is just part of the work they do. For the recipients of the 2012 Governor’s Commute Smart Awards, leadership goes beyond a normal day’s work; it makes Washington state a better place to live and work for everyone.

This year’s 22 honorees represent a growing movement in transportation leadership in the workplace. Employers and individuals, such as Bellevue College sustainability coordinator Deric Gruen and Bellingham’s Community Food Co-op, represent the essence of smart commuting. They, and the rest of those awarded Monday, use innovation and initiative to encourage workers to drive less often and adjust their commutes in ways that support communities, strengthen the state’s economy and help ease the stress of transportation on the environment.

“You are making our entire transportation system work better, and you are reducing the burden that traffic congestion puts on our environment, economy and communities,” Keith Cotton, demand management programs manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, told the honorees Monday during an awards ceremony at the state Legislative Building in Olympia.

Gruen commissioned a parking study at Bellevue College and established a transportation management taskforce of student and employee stakeholders. He led outreach efforts for at the school and developed a program to use parking fees to offset the rising cost of the school’s transit pass program for students and employees. Participation in the program soon increased by 30 percent.

Known for its commitment to sustainability in Bellingham, Community Food Co-op offers its employees $1 for every day that they forego driving alone to work. Bus riders receive a $5 subsidy for their $25 monthly passes.

Each year the Governor’s Commute Smart Awards recognizes communities, businesses, agencies and workplace transportation coordinators for their creative efforts to promote ridesharing and other alternatives to driving alone, such as bicycling and teleworking. Their work improves traffic flow, strengthens the economy by empowering more than 570,000 commuters across the state to drive 160 million fewer vehicle miles annually, saving 8 million gallons of fuel. It also cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than 71,500 metric tons. That's the weight of eight Space Needles.

The awards highlight the benefits of commute trip reduction (CTR) – like better traffic flow and cleaner air – felt by everyone who lives or works in Washington. It’s a celebration of efficient transportation as much as it is a demonstration in efficient public spending. For every taxpayer dollar that goes to these programs, businesses invest $18. And their returns are substantial in employee satisfaction, cost savings and community appreciation. Passed by the state Legislature in 1991, the Commute Trip Reduction Law  calls on employers to encourage their workers to choose transportation options that reduce the number of vehicles on the road. For two decades, CTR has proven an effective tool that eases congestion and helps our transportation system operate more efficiently. By encouraging people to ride the bus, vanpool, carpool, walk, bike, work at home or compress their work week, CTR makes transportation better for everyone in the state.

posted May 24, 2012

Telework pilot brings home sustainable practice

These days technology makes it possible to carry your desk with you, which begs the question: Why spend 30 minutes to an hour each day going back and forth to the office?

A pilot project is acquainting WSDOT workers with an option that saves them time and money, cuts fuel emissions and, for many, heightens productivity. It’s called telework , and it’s bringing home the idea of efficiency in the workplace.

In its second phase, WSDOT’s Telework Pilot Project is now expanding to WSDOT employees at our Mt. Baker-area offices.

“For the right employee with the right kind of work, telework offers a surprising range of benefits,” said WSDOT’s Telework Pilot manager Brooke Hamilton. “What we’re finding is much like what other private and public employers across the country already know – a well-designed and thoughtfully managed program saves time and money for workers and employers; it creates a more satisfied and efficient workforce; it supports continued operations during major emergencies, such as a storm or earthquake; and it reduces transportation emissions.”

Hamilton, who works on WSDOT’s Sustainable Transportation team, launched the first of three phases of the pilot in August to test whether an expanded telework program can fit with the agency culture, foster a more satisfied and efficient workforce and reduce energy consumption and employee travel.

The pilot builds on existing WSDOT telework policies with a new standardized telework-approval process designed to promote and effectively manage telework as an option for eligible employees. It also assesses new tools for workflow accountability and determining needs for training, information technology and performance measurement.

Phase-1 results
Phase one recruited 21 of 34 employees in eligible positions with planning-related jobs in the Public Transportation Division’s Olympia and Seattle offices. All employees who applied were eligible to participate. Participation for the pilot was on a volunteer basis. For six months, 62 percent of participants teleworked at least once a week. Full-time telework was not included in the pilot. At the beginning of each telework day, participants emailed their supervisors a list of task they planned to complete, and at the end of the day they followed up with a list of tasks they actually completed. The division exceeded its participation goal and almost tripled its number of employees that telework weekly.

Surveys and interviews with the employees and supervisors revealed increases in work performance and job satisfaction, reductions in commute trips and a positive shift in their opinion of teleworking. Results also revealed a noticeable boost in office morale, as well as improvements in participant’s home-work balance.

“My productivity rose noticeably when I began teleworking,” said Steve Abernathy, Public Transportation Division’s intercity bus planner. He started the pilot program teleworking two days a week and later increased to three days a week after he and his manager realized how it allowed him to concentrate better on almost every part of his job.

“I was getting more done teleworking than I was here in the office,” he said. “I didn’t have as many distractions, you know, hallway conversations, things like that. The only thing I can’t do from home is review and sign invoices.”

Skipping the 18-mile commute each way not only allows him more time to work, Abernathy said, he also has time to run in the morning and have dinner with his family, a rare treat in the past. He said he’s happy to do something positive for the environment, as well, not to mention his wallet. He used to fill his gas tank twice a week; these days he’s down to once about every six weeks. At $4.30 per gallon and rising, well, you do the math.

The pilot launched its second phase in February in a larger division – the Strategic Planning Division – with less telework experience and some non-planning-related job functions. This month Mt. Baker-area employees in the Northwest Region are expanding phase two to test telework among employees with even more diverse types of work. More details and results on phase two will be available later in the year. Depending on the pilot’s success, a third phase could make the enhanced telework program available to eligible WSDOT employees throughout the state.

State law requires WSDOT to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and telework is a key strategy in the department’s emissions reduction plan. The pilot was designed to support that plan, which aims to make teleworking at least one day per week part of the work schedule of at least 30 percent of employees in eligible positions.

“So far the pilot is showing real success,” said Public Transportation Director Brian Lagerberg. “Not only has it been good for morale and productivity, but it’s proving to be one of several effective tools we can use to support our employees and make transportation more sustainable.”

March 30, 2012

Halfway to 24/7 HOV lanes Seattle to Bellevue

I-90 Two-Way Transit/HOV ribbon cutting
Steady rain couldn't dampen the celebration on Mercer Island Thursday, March 29, as state and local officials cut the ribbon on Stage 2 of a 15-year collaboration between Sound Transit and WSDOT -- the I-90 Two-Way Transit & HOV Operations  project.

Pictured in front, left to right: Issaquah City Council Dep. President/Sound Transit Board member Fred Butler; ST CEO Join Earl, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee, Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Basset, Pierce County Executive/ST Board Chair Pat McCarthy, and Dep. Transportation Secretary Dave Dye.
See some photos from the March 29 ribbon cutting here  and here .

MERCER ISLAND – If you ride a bus, a carpool or a vanpool across Lake Washington, you probably know how express lanes can take the edge off a tough commute. Just make sure your commute goes the express direction.

Take the I-90 reversible express lanes between Seattle and Bellevue, for example. If you live on the Eastside of King County and work a regular 9-5 in Seattle, you’re golden. If you go the other way... well, not so much.

We’re phasing out go-with-the-flow reversible express lanes on I-90 and replacing them with full-time HOV lanes in both directions for around-the-clock express trips for carpools and buses in either direction, save for the unexpected crash or clog. A new eastbound HOV lane opened March 29 from 80th Avenue Southeast to Bellevue Way, and the second phase of the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations  project is complete.

In 1990, a year after WSDOT completed westbound I-90’s Homer Hadley Bridge and the reversible express lanes, traffic levels eastbound and westbound differed greatly depending on the time of day. Typically traffic was nearly 50 percent heavier headed to Seattle in the morning and back to the Eastside in the evening. Today there’s more traffic, rush hours last about an hour longer and the difference between the number of vehicles heading east and west is relatively minimal. On average about 135,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day in either direction of the mainline and about 15,000 in the express lanes.

With stage 2 now complete, commuters enjoy an I-90 generally clear of barriers and hardhats as our engineers work in the office on final design for the project’s third and final stage, which will start construction next year on new HOV lanes in both directions between 80th Avenue Southeast and Seattle.

As soon as the final stage is finished and the I-90 project is complete, Sound Transit will take the reins of the center express lanes and close them to traffic forever to begin building East Link light rail. By 2023 light rail will be an added travel option between Seattle and the Eastside and I-90 will begin to carry more people more efficiently and with less greenhouse gas emissions than ever before.

According to its final environmental impact statement, East Link will be equipped to carry as many as 800 people in each four-car train. It would give the center roadway a peak-hour capacity of up to 24,000 people per hour, about the same as a busy freeway with seven to 10 lanes of traffic. And it more than doubles I-90’s existing capacity while preserving existing lane space for freight trucks, passenger vehicles, carpools and buses.

Posted March 5, 2012

Retrofitted fleet vehicles run cleaner, cheaper on propane autogas

Dan Dollar, WSDOT’s Southwest Region fleet superintendent, fuels up a Ford Taurus, one of 21 WSDOT fleet vehicles being retrofitted to run on propane autogas and regular gasoline. Each $5,000 retrofit includes installing a propane tank in the trunk if it’s a passenger vehicle.

VANCOUVER – Propane is already saving the state on fuel cost and fleet vehicle maintenance just two months after WSDOT launched a pilot project to retrofit 21 sedans, vans and work trucks to run on cleaner-burning propane.

Halfway through the 21 conversions, the agency's Southwest Region fleet now includes cars, vans and trucks that run on both propane and gasoline. It’s a first for WSDOT’s fleet and an innovative step toward sustainable transportation that could spread to other regions.

It’s the latest in a variety of ways WSDOT is making its fleet more sustainable, including the use of biofuel as an alternative to diesel, purchasing only hybrids for new passenger vehicles and cutting the agency’s overall fuel consumption with fewer trips and other strategies.

Joe Stinton, WSDOT’s equipment specification and procurement specialist in Tumwater, said he and his team were looking for a sustainable and cheaper alternative to gasoline for the fleet. He went to Southwest Region with an idea for a dual-fuel solution – gasoline and propane autogas. Southwest Region was interested immediately because the benefits are clear, said Dan Dollar, superintendent of the region’s Transportation Equipment Fund (TEF). Propane is cheaper than gas by about a $1 per gallon historically; it provides nearly equal performance; reduces vehicle maintenance; and it cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

“I save the region about $17 every time I fill the tank up, and it runs as good or better than it ever did on gasoline alone,” Dollar said of his experience driving a Ford Expedition Incident Response Team (IRT) vehicle since it was retrofitted about two months ago for propane and gasoline.

More commonly used IRT vehicles, such as the V8-powered Ford F-350 pickup, save about $15 at the pump, he said. Some fleet vehicles used daily can rack up enough savings to cover the cost of conversion kits – about $5,000 per vehicle – in about 18 months. The dual fuel system clears a major roadblock for fueling fleet vehicles with propane, Stinton said. Propane autogas hasn’t yet reached mass markets in the United States, so finding a station that pumps it isn’t always easy, especially in remote parts of the state, where WSDOT trucks often go.

Automotive trade organizations estimate more than 15 million vehicles worldwide today run on propane autogas, making it the third most commonly used fuel for vehicles behind gasoline and diesel. While it’s produced in abundance in the U.S., most is exported. Propane fuels only about 270,000 vehicles in the U.S. with about 2,500 stations that offer it.

For the pilot, Blue Star Gas of Oregon trained six TEF employees at WSDOT to retrofit the vehicles with computerized propane autogas fueling systems, including propane tanks in the trunk of sedans or the spare tire well of vans, SUV's and pickups.

“This isn’t your father’s propane conversion kit for an older carbureted vehicle,” said assistant fleet manager Chris Case. Advanced technology synchs with the vehicle’s computerized fueling system to use propane autogas more efficiently than previously possible. “The vehicle starts on gasoline. As soon as it gets up to operating temperature, it runs on propane.”

Blue Star Gas also provided refueling equipment for the vehicles at the region’s maintenance facility in downtown Vancouver.

Propane autogas is a byproduct natural gas processing and petroleum refining. It’s 270 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, making it cheaper to store and transport. In combination with gasoline, propane provides a driving range of up to 600 miles between fill ups. It substantially cuts fuel and maintenance costs.

Best of all, it burns cleaner than gasoline, which means less maintenance and less greenhouse gas emissions. Each retrofitted vehicle is expected to reduce WSDOT’s emissions by more than a ton of carbon dioxide (approximately 1 MtCO2e) annually.

Stinton said he’s optimistic that in six months or so, propane autogas will prove its worth to WSDOT’s bottom line, as well as the air we breathe. His team hopes then to install another propane fueling station – with tank and pump paid for by the vendor – in Chehalis. In a few years, fleets at other WSDOT regions around the state could be pro-propane, too.

Posted Jan. 4, 2012

New Yakima-Ellensburg transit service quickly becoming the talk of two towns

Passengers prepare to board the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter, a new transit service connecting the two cities.

One rider is heading to the hospital for her daily outpatient appointment, thankful that her husband doesn’t have to take time off from work to drive her there. Another is a soldier in the 53rd Ordnance Company, on his way to the training and firing center just outside Selah. Behind him sit two students - one enrolled at Perry Technical College, the other at Yakima Valley Community College, both making their way home after class. The return trip will deliver three students and two professors to the Central Washington University campus. And there’s the rider that just booked a dialysis appointment - he’d been waitlisted at his regular doctor’s office in Ellensburg, but can get in today at a Yakima clinic.

These are just a few of the people enjoying a new option that wasn’t available a month ago, thanks to a brand new commuter transit service between Yakima and Ellensburg. The service is fast becoming a reliable option, meeting the needs of many in two communities not previously connected by public transportation.

On November 25, Yakima Transit  and HopeSource  unveiled the Yakima Ellensburg Commuter, filling an essential transportation need for both communities. Making eight round trips daily, the service makes five stops between the Yakima airport and the Central Washington campus. According to Yakima Transit Manager Ken Mehin, students and faculty at the three colleges between the two cities favor the morning and late afternoon runs; shoppers shuttling between towns prefer the midday service.

But, Mehin adds, ride along on a given day and you’re likely to share the trip with a number of different people on their way to a wide range of personal and professional business. "As word has spread of the service, the community hasn’t just taken notice," says Mehin, "they’ve responded." In fact, ridership has gone up so fast that Yakima Transit will purchase new, larger vehicles in early 2012 to accommodate the increasing demand.

Because Yakima Transit’s authority extends just past its city limits, so too does its service area. But a strong public-private partnership with HopeSource allowed the idea to move forward. With HopeSource providing drivers and route operation and Yakima Transit providing the vehicles - and with the help of local, state and federal grant funding and investments - the service took flight. Or more accurately, it took to the road.

That level of partnership is one of the things that makes this endeavor so distinct, says HopeSource project manager Geoff Crump. The broad, cooperative approach fostered by a local transit agency and a non-profit organization has caught on fast. “We’re hearing from our drivers almost every day about passengers saying how grateful they are for this service. It means a lot to both of these communities.”

WSDOT’s public transportation grants  help provide access, mobility and independence to Washington residents. Made possible by state and federal funds, these grants provide transit services within and between cities, purchase new buses and other equipment, provide public transportation service for the elderly and people with disabilities, and improve public transportation in and between rural communities.

Posted Nov. 22, 2011

Roundabout benefits come full circle

SR 548 roundabout  
This 1-year-old roundabout on SR 548 near Kickerville in Whatcom County was a sustainable solution that eased traffic through this industrial area.

Believe it or not, driving in circles can actually save fuel and reduce harmful emissions. Though it may sound counterintuitive, roundabouts actually have many environmental benefits – on top of all their safety benefits – that should put them at the top any intersection improvement list.

The safety benefits behind roundabouts are jaw dropping - reducing deaths by 90 percent, injuries by 76 percent and all crashes by 40 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety . But did you know that the efficiency and emissions statistics behind roundabouts are equally impressive?

The emissions and gas-savings stats have been less publicized, but they’re no less stunning from a sustainable transportation standpoint. In a day and age when we’re counting every last pound of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, these numbers will become even more important in future projects.

A Kansas State University study found that replacing four-way stops with roundabouts reduced carbon monoxide emissions by 38-45 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 55-61 percent. Nitrogen oxides dropped 44-51 percent, and hydrocarbons fell 62-68 percent.

The number and size of vehicles plays a big role in emissions, says Brian Walsh, WSDOT state traffic design and operations engineer.

“Roundabouts can have even greater environmental benefits at busier intersections,” Walsh said. “When more vehicles use the roundabout, especially large vehicles like semis, the greater the benefits.”

Other studies show that when roundabouts replace intersections with or without signals, there’s a 30 percent reduction in carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and a 30 percent drop in fuel consumption.

“The bulk of emissions don’t come from idling,” said Walsh. “Every time we accelerate from that stop sign or red light, that’s when we really pump the emissions into the atmosphere.”

In fall 2005, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied 10 intersections where traffic signals were built instead of roundabouts. The study estimated vehicle delays and fuel consumption at the signaled intersections and then compared the results to what they would have been if roundabouts had been built instead. For those 10 intersections, roundabouts would have:

  • Reduced delays by 62-74 percent, saving 325,000 hours (37 years) of motorists’ time annually.
  • Decreased fuel consumption by about 235,000 gallons per year, for an annual savings of $587,000 (assuming an average cost of $2.50 per gallon of regular gas).
  • Caused fewer emissions and pollutants to be released into the atmosphere.

Installing signals has been common practice for the last seven decades all across the country. In the last three decades, signals became so prevalent that national requirements were established to help slow down their unsustainable proliferation and the unnecessary traffic delays.

Even with national standards in place, the systemic pattern of simply installing signals has proven difficult to overcome because of a combination of engineering training and public perception.

“Many drivers believe traffic signals are the better choice simply because that’s what they’re used to,” said Dina Swires, WSDOT traffic engineer. “But from safety, societal cost and environmental standpoints, the roundabout wins hands down. The roundabout is a viable option that needs to be considered for projects.”

Proponents are not pushing for roundabouts everywhere; they just want them considered as a serious option and not easily dismissed for fear of public dismay.

According to Walsh, “It’s important to evaluate all options and select the safest, most efficient and sustainable one. And if that’s a roundabout, then so be it. We don’t want future generations inheriting infrastructure – like signals – that increasingly cost more money yet deliver less value than a more sustainable choice.”

The annual cost to run and maintain a signal is assumed to be about $8,000 a year. That’s $5,000 for basic electricity and routine signal maintenance and $3,000 to retime and optimize for traffic. Plus, signals get a rebuilt after 20 years – new guts and software – which costs about 30 percent of the initial cost. There are none of these costs when you build and maintain a roundabout.

“How often do you see signals getting removed?” asked Walsh. “They rarely get removed and are around for quite a while. The annual costs really add up.”

In the last four years, 14 signals have been removed and replaced with roundabouts at intersections in Washington. Today, there are 220 roundabouts total across the state, and 58 of those are on state highways.

It’s the safety stats alone that have usually propelled projects through the planning and design phases and into construction. In the years to come, though, the environment will not take a back seat. More sustainable options will eventually help get projects approved for construction. And roundabouts deliver sustainable results.

“If roundabouts reduce pollutants and save gas, why would anyone prefer to sit and wait at stoplight or stop sign?” said Chris Damitio, WSDOT project engineer.

Posted Nov. 22, 2011

Viable ideas for viaduct recycling

Chunk of viaduct sold on eBay   
This chunk of Seattle viaduct history sold on eBay for $16.50, but we have better ideas for recycling.

Demolition started Oct. 27 on the southern mile of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct , which will be replaced by the SR 99 Tunnel in 2015.

Turns out there's more than one way to recycle a 60-year-old viaduct.

When WSDOT razed the southern portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct last month, several shrewd spectators turned to eBay to recycle their pieces of Seattle history into cold hard cash. One chunk of concrete went for at least $16.50, minus shipping.

WSDOT and viaduct contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) saw opportunity in recycling too; they turned viaduct rubble into cold hard building materials. WSDOT transportation engineer Amjad Omar said nearly 100 percent of the old concrete and rebar from this portion of the viaduct in Seattle will be recycled and reused.

From October’s demolition alone – about 25 percent of the total viaduct structure – crews hauled 3,500 truckloads of concrete rubble to Terminal 25. There, the concrete was crushed to be reused for the new SR 99 Tunnel that will replace the viaduct, and the rebar is being prepared for transfer to a local recycler.

“Recycling is a big plus for everybody,” Omar said. Not only does it save WSDOT on the cost of materials, but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from hauling rubble to a far-off disposal site, producing new materials and hauling it to the work site. Recycling old bridges and other transportation structure is nothing new at WSDOT. Last spring we recycled 100 percent of the NE 12th Street Bridge that spanned I-405 in Bellevue.

The state does not require recycling in bridge demolition, but it is becoming the norm as the market for recycled materials grows. Our engineers routinely write construction specifications to ease the future recycling of materials.

Posted Nov. 17, 2011

Grape Line celebrates 4 years of transit service

WALLA WALLA – Some things just get better with age. Take the Grape Line – a reliable way to travel the so-called Napa Valley of Washington.

On Nov. 18, the Grape Line marks its fourth anniversary as a popular choice that goes well with anything from Walla Walla to Pasco. Ridership continues to grow, from 448 passengers in 2007 to more than 8,800 passengers in 2010. To date, the Grape Line has served more than 27,700 passengers.

The Grape Line is the premier intercity bus line of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Travel Washington  program. Since launching in November 2007, the Grape Line has provided south central Washington with an affordable and accessible travel option.

Each of the line’s 20-passenger buses, operated under contract by the Central Washington Airporter, is equipped with high-back reclining passenger seats, a wheelchair lift, two wheelchair stations, a bike rack for two bicycles and luggage storage areas. Grape Line buses make three round trips daily between Walla Walla and Pasco with connections to Greyhound, Amtrak, Ben Franklin Transit, Valley Transit and Pasco Airport.

Since the Grape Line began service, Travel Washington has grown to include four intercity bus lines across the state, each named for a defining local resource – the Apple Line  running Omak-Ellensburg; the Gold Line  on the Kettle Falls-Spokane run; and the Dungeness Line  traveling the Port Angeles-Seattle route. 

Posted Nov. 10, 2011

Grants expand and improve transit services with funding for 124 projects across state

Nearly $40 million in public transportation grants  will provide vital connections for people who live in rural areas or have special needs. WSDOT recently awarded the grants to 124 projects across Washington, bringing some good news to communities facing tough cuts in the state budget.

The grants improve public transportation in rural communities, connecting people to medical centers and major transit hubs. The money will help purchase new buses and other equipment and provide transit services for seniors and people with disabilities. Administering grants such as these is an important role for WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division .

One grant provides $264,000 to help HopeSource, a nonprofit social service agency in partnership with Yakima Transit, add a new bus route between Ellensburg and Yakima. It will provide a needed connection for rural residents to jobs and colleges, such as Central Washington University. Service begins later in November with eight roundtrips each weekday.

Grant awards for the 2011-2013 biennium also help fund a dozen projects that provide and improve access to public transportation for Native American tribes across the state.

San Juan County received nearly $127,000 in grant funding to purchase a new ADA-accessible minivan and two ADA-accessible minibuses. The vehicles will provide access for the islands’ seniors and people with disabilities.

Grant recipients competed for state and Federal Transit Administration funds through WSDOT's consolidated grant program. State funds of about $13.7 million will be matched with $25.8 million in federal funds.

See the complete list of grant-recipient projects .

Posted Nov. 1, 2011

WSDOT brings Quick Charge for electric vehicles to Capitol Campus

The Specs

Eaton Pow-R-Station DC Quick Charger

Compatible vehicles:
Plug-in, all-electrics with fast-charging capability, including Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i and others coming soon.

Future WSDOT fleet electric vehicles, business visitor vehicles and employee commuter vehicles. Not available for public use. Public EV charging locations available on the Web .

Other agencies going electric:
This year agencies purchased 48 Nissan Leafs through a state contract. King County Metro bought 20 of those for Metropool , the nation’s first all-electric car-sharing program. State departments of Commerce, Ecology and Enterprise Services have Level 2 electric vehicle charging available for employees in Olympia.

OLYMPIA – There’s a new way for employees and visitors to say “fill’er-up” at our headquarters – “Charge it!”

Always ahead of the curve when it comes to transportation, WSDOT Tuesday unveiled the first DC Quick Charger for electric vehicles on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. It’s a sign of new transportation infrastructure to come and a glimpse of how you might be refueling your ride in the not-so-distant future.

Forget all you think you know about electric vehicles, this refrigerator-sized “wall socket” can juice your Nissan Leaf and other plug-ins, 0-80 percent charged, in less than 30 minutes. Typical Level 2 chargers – there are four on campus – take four to six hours. Great for the environment, yes, but not so good for quick getaways.

“We did this project because it’s the future of sustainable transportation,” said project manager Tony Trask, senior planner for WSDOT facilities. “WSDOT visitors who are driving electric vehicles can’t wait all day for a regular recharge, they need a quick charge so they can get back on the road.”

It’s about walking the walk – not just talking the talk. WSDOT is leading the transportation industry with electric vehicle charging infrastructure from Canada to Oregon with the state’s Electric Highways  project, and we’re leading the nation toward cleaner-burning, more efficient travel with the West Coast Green Highway  partnership.

Someday a seamless network of charging stations along Interstate 5 will make road trips from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Baja, Mexico, as simple as plugging in your hair dryer. No extension cord required.

“Bill Ford (recently-retired assistant secretary for administrative operations) was the driving force behind this (new charger),” said facilities operations manager Larry Dittloff. “He understood that we need to be in the forefront of transportation innovations.”

The future of transportation – and life on this planet, some might argue – depends on renewable energy for transportation, which is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas in the state and the nation. Infrastructure for charging the market-fresh electric cars might be the biggest hurdle for drivers and car manufacturers and dealers to make the switch, so we’re starting the groundwork now. Who knows? You, too, could be turning over a new Leaf soon.

Posted Nov. 1, 2011

Green purchasing saves environment and other 'green$'

Office Depot's 2011 award for "Special Recognition for Recycled Paper Purchasing" was presented in late October to WSDOT's Purchasing and Materials Management Office.

Sustainable transportation doesn’t stop at reducing vehicle emissions on the roads and bridges WSDOT operates. It reaches all the way into the back office, where we make decisions, draft plans and schedule teleconferences.

WSDOT’s Purchasing and Materials Management Office recently attracted attention for its business-as-usual approach to sustainable purchasing. It’s nothing new; it’s another way WSDOT supports the economy and stays efficient, effective and healthy for communities and the environment. But we’ll accept the award, thank you very much.

Office Depot, the state’s contract vendor for office supplies, picked WSDOT for “Special Recognition for Recycled Paper Purchasing.” In fact, 96 percent of the paper we bought in the last fiscal year was 100 percent post-consumer recycled. WSDOT was the first state agency in Washington to adopt a policy for using recycled paper.

Presented late October at the state Department of Enterprise Services’ Annual Training and Trade Show in Tacoma, the recognition also commended strategies in the purchasing office to conserve, reduce and reuse office supplies and equipment – all part of the office’s sustainability program that started more than a decade ago.

The purchasing office also reduces carbon emissions from deliveries by consolidating orders. At last count, less than 3 percent of our agency’s office purchases were small orders less than $50, the lowest rate for an agency in the state. Procurement and Materials Manager Dave Davis said his statewide team of supply-management professionals helped offices consolidate their orders to reach the current average amount of $250 per order. The entire state government average is $162.

They didn’t stop there. Davis’ office is testing Office Depot’s Green Smart Cart initiative. Among other ways that make buying green easier and, well, greener, it drastically reduces the packaging on orders by delivering off-the-shelf products in recycled paper bags only. Delivery drivers carry the bagged merchandise in reusable plastic crates called totes.

“Sustainability is part of my strategic vision,” Davis said. “We find efficient ways to redistribute surplus furniture and equipment instead of sending it into landfill. We train purchasers throughout the agency how to buy green and manage a sustainable office.

“The things we don’t buy are just as important to our sustainability program as the things we do.”

Posted Oct. 28, 2011

WSDOT fleet wins Green Fleet Award

3rd award in 3 years and still getting greener

WSDOT's vehicle and equipment fleet just climbed seven levels closer to
being the biggest loser – in fuel consumption and emissions, that is. WSDOT recently took home a Government Green Fleet Award for the third year in a row.

Excavatror working Prius hybrid
Snow blower Incident Response Team truck
WSDOT's fleet includes hybrid Prius passenger cars for employees traveling between offices and work sites, as well as many of the maintenance and work vehicles and equipment you see on state roads.

Changing the way we do business from the office to the road and the work site seems to be paying off. At the 2011 Green Fleet Awards  in Grapevine, Texas, on Oct. 4, WSDOT’s Transportation Equipment Fund (TEF) fleet of highway maintenance vehicles and equipment came in 31st, a rewarding hop from last year’s ranking of 38 of the 40 most sustainable and efficient government fleets in North America.

Government Fleet magazine conducts the annual awards to recognize federal, state, and local government fleet management for advancements in environmental sustainability, including:

  • fleet composition (conventional fuel versus hybrid, electric and/or alternative fuel vehicles)
  • use of renewable and alternative fuels
  • planning for a sustainable future

From hybrids to backhoes, TEF manages 4,800 vehicles and 10,000 pieces of supporting equipment.

TEF Fleet Administrator Greg Hansen said WSDOT conserves fuel and reduces fleet emissions by operating and maintaining fleet vehicles and equipment for efficiency. The agency saves more than 14,500 gallons of motor oil each year through effective maintenance that are scheduled by fuel usage rather than time. We Save gas by installing gear-shift lights in heavy trucks that let our drivers know when it’s the best time to shift gears for the most efficient fuel use and best vehicle performance.

For fiscal years 2008 to 2010 WSDOT:

  • Reduced fuel consumption by 10 percent (by 2.5 percent in 2011, due to added roadwork from a prolonged winter)
  • Used 50 percent more biofuel (80 percent in 2011)
  • Purchased 43 percent more hybrid vehicles
  • Cut passenger-vehicle inventory by 9 percent
  • Reduced employee-owned vehicle miles travelled for work by 27 percent (34 percent in 2011)
  • Drafted sustainability plan to minimize emissions, cut fuel consumption and make the fleet even more efficient

WSDOT was recognized for managing a mixed fleet that includes conventional, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, and was honored for using alternative fuels and planning for a sustainable future. In fact, ours was one of the largest and most diverse fleets to make the cut and one of just two state fleets among the 40 winners.

In June our fleet also was named one of the “ 100 Best Fleets in North America ” at the national Fleet Conference. TEF was one of only four state fleets to make the list, and it came in 83rd out of 38,000 eligible public fleets to make Government Fleet magazine’s top 100.

Posted Oct. 11, 2011

Commute Smart Awards celebrates ideas for environment, traffic and economy

Sec. Hammond and Gov's Chief of Staff Loesch award Ted Horobiowski
State Transportation Secretary Paula
Hammond and Governor's Chief of Staff Marty Loesch present CTR Board Vice President Ted Horobiowski with the Commute Smart Legacy Award.

More photos on Flickr.

For two decades the unsung heroes of smart commuting have been the employers, employee transportation coordinators (ETC) and communities that put efficient transportation choices within reach for more than 810,000 commuters across the state. Some of the most dedicated advocates for efficient commuting received the recognition they deserve at the Governor's Mansion in Olympia Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the 2011 Governor’s Commute Smart Awards.

Among the recipients of this year’s awards, Todd Badham and Nicole Mulhausen, ETCs at the University of Puget Sound, received the Commute Smart ETC Leadership Award for their creative initiative that fostered a sustainable transportation culture at the university. Among other achievements, they worked with Zipcar to bring car sharing to Tacoma.

Leaders like Badham and Mulhausen aren't just saving commuters money with innovative trip-reduction programs; they're also helping commuters curb air pollution, conserve fuel and ease traffic congestion.

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, WSDOT's Public Transportation Division Director Brian Lagerberg and Gov. Gregoire's Chief of Staff Marty Loesch joined award winners to celebrate 20 years of smart commuting through workplace programs that empower commuters to reduce their driving by about 170 million vehicle miles traveled per year.

“When more people choose to join a carpool or vanpool, ride bikes or hop on a bus, everyone wins with lower greenhouse gas emissions, less fuel consumption and better traffic flow,” Lagerberg said. “These award winners and nominees make a difference.”

The awards spotlight the latest examples of how commute trip reduction (CTR) improves commutes, as well as the environment and energy efficiency. The key is partnership; for every taxpayer dollar that goes to these programs, businesses invest $18. Passed by the state Legislature in 1991, the Commute Trip Reduction Law  calls on employers to encourage their workers to choose transportation options that reduce the number of vehicles on the road. At the awards ceremony, The Downtown Transportation Alliance (DTA) of Seattle took high honors, as well, with the Commute Smart Legacy Award for going above and beyond the CTR Law.

This public-private partnership of the Downtown Seattle Association, King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation leveraged their resources to form Commute Seattle, a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of CTR to workplaces not required by law to offer the program to employees. The partnership surpassed its goal of reducing drive-alone trips by 9 percent four years ahead of schedule.

Special recognition at this year’s awards went to a long-time stalwart for efficient commuting. Recipient of this year's Commute Smart Legacy Award, Ted Horobiowski has served on the state Commute Trip Reduction Board since it began, today serving as vice president. Horobiowski and the rest of this year's award winners are the heart and soul of CTR, helping to make the transportation system work better for everyone. Vehicle emissions account for nearly half the greenhouse gas (GHG) released in our state.

By driving 154 million fewer vehicle miles since 2007, CTR participants have prevented about 69,000 metric tons of GHG from entering the atmosphere each year. That's the weight of eight Space Needles.

2011 Commute Smart Award Winners

Voluntary employers/worksites
Employer Champion Award
  • City of Bellingham
  • City of Tumwater
  • Esterline Control Systems, Korry Electronics, Everett
  • Northwest Orthopedic Specialists, Spokane
  • Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Bremerton
  • Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community
  • Wells Fargo Bank – Vancouver Collection Center
Employer Leadership Award
  • Seattle Children’s
Commute Smart Legacy Award
  • Ted Horobiowski, CTR Board vice president of The Downtown Transportation Alliance (DTA)
Governor's Leadership Award
  • Ron Kusler, Commute Options Specialist, Spokane County
WSRO Award for Excellence
  • Ron Kusler, Commute Options Specialist, Spokane County
CTR-affected employers/worksites
Employer Champion Award
  • A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio, Bellingham
  • Gordon Thomas Honeywell, Tacoma
ETC Champion Award
  • Catherine Bowden - Avista Corporation, Spokane
  • Bob Eden and Joannie Foltz - Snohomish County PUD
  • Annette Gavette - Washington State Department of Licensing, Olympia
  • Karen Hollingsworth - Bellingham Cold Storage
  • Microsoft Commute Team: Lynn Frosch, Jeff Aumell, Daniel Heldring, Fred Martin, Randall Williams, Wendy Scholtz - Microsoft Corporation, Redmond
  • Anne Marie Murphy - Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Vancouver Campus
  • Lee Reyes - Kitsap County
Employer Leadership Award
  • Amgen Inc., Bothell Campus
ETC Leadership Award
  • Todd Badham and Nicole Mulhausen - University of Puget Sound

Posted Sept. 30, 2011

Little town makes big leap toward smart travel

Mike Etzell finishing the transit portion of his morning commute.
Mike Etzell takes a bus for part of his commute to work at Island County Human Services.
Julie Grove riding her unique electric bicycle.
Coupeville dentist Julie Grove commutes to work on her electric bicycle.
Coupeville's year-1 results
    Population: 1,800
    Recorded commute trips:
    • By bus: 8,034
    • By carpool: 2,090
    • By vanpool: 322
    • Walking: 1,156
    • Bicycling: 1,100
    Gasoline saved: 39,493 gallons
    CO2 emissions reduced: 379 tons
    Total monetary savings: $281,644

    COUPEVILLE – If you find yourself passing through the small town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island, try not to stare when you see someone picking flowers or counting mountain peaks on their way to work. And don’t be startled if a lady riding an odd, yellow bicycle stops and says, “...What a wonderful morning.”

    Funny thing about the people of Coupeville – they seem to actually enjoy their daily commutes, even on Mondays. And ever since the town launched a unique community-based trip reduction program to help curb greenhouse gas emissions a year ago, witnesses have reported spotting folks in Coupeville smiling on their way work.

    “Mostly I use my leg power, but when I need a boost on the big hills I can use the electric power,” Coupeville Dentist Julie Grove is happy to tell just about anybody who asks about her electric bicycle, which she rides to work four days a week.

    “I’m a busy guy with a growing family, and time to get a bit of exercise is hard to fit in,” says Mike Etzell, who combines a half-mile walk with a bus ride for his daily commute to Island County Human Services. “I call it the best commute around. I can see the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Rainer on a good day.”

    Smiling Coupevillians are catching the bus, sharing a ride, working at home instead of the office, walking and biking, perhaps more than ever before. They’re raising the bar for trip reduction in Island County.

    A year after this town with a population of 1,800 launched its “community trip reduction” program, more than 160 people – 9 percent of the town – have signed up on, and they are finding it’s easier than they thought to leave their cars at home and save a whopping 39,493 gallons of gas and more than $281,600 in commute costs.

    “The savings in gasoline alone can be pretty significant,” said Cathy d'Almeida, the town’s Sustainable Community Coordinator.

    Back in July of 2008 the town hired d’Almeida to find new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect Coupeville’s gorgeous natural setting. D’Almeida rolled up her sleeves and joined forces with Sustainable Whidbey Coalition; Island Transit; local employers, such as Island County and Whidbey General Hospital; the Washington State Department of Transportation; and  to develop a plan that would target the biggest source of greenhouse gas – transportation.

    “Coupeville has definitely been a leader in the island’s sustainability movement,” said Donna Keeler, an Island County transportation planner. “Other jurisdictions were relying on volunteers to make a difference.” Following Coupeville’s lead, the county obtained a health grant to implement a similar incentive program countywide. Every month four RideshareOnline users are selected to win a $50 gift certificate from a local business. D’Almeida said her town’s determination to make a difference put trip reduction in reach. She said she had great support from the mayor and town council along the way.

    Mayor Nancy Conard agrees it takes a village or a town in this case. And having a town sustainability guru on staff doesn’t hurt either. Trip reduction is just one part of d’Almeida’s work, the mayor said. She’s also been busy making the town government, small businesses and residents more energy efficient. “Every vehicle trip we eliminate brings us closer to our goal of reducing greenhouse gas,” Conard said. “It’s been wonderful to see people really getting into this idea of trip reduction.”

    Trip reduction programs have been targeting emissions, fuel consumption and congestion in urban areas across the state for nearly two decades with the statewide Commute Trip Reduction  (CTR) program. It focuses on large employers in urban centers to encourage workers to drive alone less often. While Washington State is considered a national leader in trip reduction, the state’s existing programs didn’t extend to small towns like Coupeville.

    Unlike the urban parts of state where hours of traffic congestion every day is motivation enough for many people to join a vanpool or take the bus, Coupeville’s small-town rush hour lasts only about 15 minutes, d’Almeida said, so she had to get creative. For many, cleaner air, energy conservation and cost savings made an effective call to action. For others incentives of a different kind – the chance to win a $50 gift certificate to a local business – did the trick.

    “Island Transit’s fare-free policy and strong support has been a huge factor in our success,” she said. “The overall culture they create makes it fun for employees and riders to be on the bus.”

    When Coupeville’s rideshare program celebrated its first anniversary in August, the numbers indicated those incentives – personal, environmental or foldable – are paying off. In just one year it prevented more than 347 metric tons of C02, a greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere. For WSDOT this small town’s big success means investing in programs that ease the demand on our transportation systems and protect the air we breathe make sense not just for the state’s congested and urbanized cities but in every community where people travel.

    “Coupeville demonstrates that transportation demand management (TDM) isn’t just for large congested urban areas anymore, trip reduction programs can help smaller rural areas achieve local goals, in this case greenhouse gas emissions reduction, while contributing to regional and state transportation system efficiency,” said WSDOT planner Christopher Aiken, who supports the state’s CTR program. “Trip reduction can work for Washington’s citizens and help support a healthier environment in every community from our largest cities to our smallest towns.”

    Posted Sept. 21, 2011 upgrades your commute

    A man meeting his carpool passenger Recent upgrades to  make it more rewarding than ever for people across Washington state and the Pacific Northwest to create carpools and vanpools, find ideas and incentives to improve their commutes and track their progress. Now users can log their trips in their  calendar, instantly see their cost saving, gas usage and environmental benefits and compare their achievements to the cumulative savings of their entire network.

    By providing one-stop-shopping for efficient transportation options and ridematching, the free online service helps WSDOT and dozens of transportation partners in Idaho, Oregon and Washington better manage congestion and reduce vehicle emissions. RideshareOnline is now more than 40,000 commuting members strong with more than 1,000 worksite networks.

    Over the last month, nearly 2,500 people logged on to RideshareOnline for the first time to try out upgraded tools that make it easier to find vanpool or carpool, catch a bus, ride bike or walk to work, even find a last-minute ride to a special event. Efficient commute choices like these reduced the amount they drove alone less often – 2.2 million miles less. In addition to helping ease traffic congestion, offering easier access to better, more efficient commuting helped participants save nearly $500,000 in commute costs and conserve nearly 71,000 gallons of gasoline. The program helped users cut their greenhouse emissions by 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

    Sign up today .

    Posted Sept. 20, 2011

    Workplace bike amenities open door for two-wheel commuters

    WSDOT employees enjoying a ride At WSDOT headquarters in Olympia, you see them every morning rain or shine, plastic helmet strapped under chin, messenger bag slung high and tight and those shoes click, click, clicking up the concrete stairs.

    Day after day, hill after hill, legs pumping like a Swiss watch, WSDOT bike commuters measure fuel in mileage in calories. It's a mindset that makes an automatic door or a covered bike rack so important for encouraging people to ride more and drive less to make transportation more sustainable .

    WSDOT planner Pam Tyler used grant dollars to turn what was once a smokers’ corner in the basement of our Northwest Region headquarters in Shoreline into a bike station with amenities that appeal to cyclists, such as electronic key-card entry, hooks to suspend and protect bikes, lockers, a message board and a daily mingling spot for bike enthusiasts. Two years on, the station is nearly full with hanging bikes on clear days.

    The Federal Highway Administration says transportation is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas in the nation, with an average car spewing 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gas.

    That means just one person riding a bike for their 6-mile weekday round-trip commute can prevent more than 65 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Estimate based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s calculation of typical passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions .

    People who pedal to work might be on to something. Not only do they save money on parking, gas and vehicle maintenance, but they’re easing congestion and cutting greenhouse gas emissions for a healthy environment, strong economy and vibrant communities.

    Posted Aug. 11, 2011

    What do RAP and HIP have in common? Not what you’re thinking

    Reduce, reuse, recycle. We’ve all heard it before; some of us hear it in our sleep. But what does it really mean at WSDOT?

    A good place to start looking for answers is inside a two-story government building in Tumwater, where engineers and technicians are experimenting with ways to make the materials that go into bridges and highways last longer and live multiple lives. At WSDOT’s State Materials Lab, a concrete panel that was part of I-5 in a former life could soon become part of a new highway ramp or a custom culvert to help eager salmon get to – ahem, wherever they want to go.

    Reduce, reuse and recycle add up to sustainability, said State Materials Engineer Tom Baker. He oversees the lab and its search for the most effective ways to make pavements and other building materials stronger and longer lasting with less production, consumption, transportation and investment.

    “It’s not that sustainability costs more money,” Baker said. It actually saves money.”

    It’s nothing new around here. WSDOT has been recycling and reusing asphalt for nearly 35 years. Today, the agency is a leader in an industry that now recycles nearly 100 percent of asphalt pavement nationwide.

    Sustainability isn’t only about the environment and reducing the greenhouse gas that pollutes the air we breathe, said Jeff Uhlmeyer, the lab’s pavement design engineer. “It’s making pavement last longer, so you don’t need to resurface as much. How can we do it better for less money?”

    WSDOT maintains more than 18,500 lane miles on state highways and another 2,000 miles on ramps and special-use lanes, almost enough to wrap a road around the globe. About 63 percent of those lane miles are topped with asphalt.

    In addition to studying climate change and counting the greenhouse gas that our transportation system produces – we’ll get to that in a future story – Baker and his team take a basic dollars-and-common-sense approach to their work. Simply put, the lab uses chemistry and physics to get bigger bangs for dwindling bucks.

    “If you haul asphalt to a dump you’re wasting about $430 a ton,” Baker said.

    In today’s climate, sustainability is just as important to the bottom line as it is to the environment. Innovations being refined and enhanced in the Materials Lab aim to trim the price of pavement by making it stronger.

    Other DOTs design and build asphalt pavement to last 20 years; then they replace it completely, Baker said. WSDOT does it differently. Take I-90, for instance; that pavement is 43 years old, 3-4 inches thicker than the 20-year stuff and still going strong with resurfacing every 10-15 years.

    “We recover the pavement just like the roof on a house,” Baker said. "We design asphalt pavements to limit the wear and tear to the surface, so we only have to replace the top layer. The rest of the pavement structure stays in place and remains strong for a very long time."

    Focus on lifecycle is one difference that has made WSDOT a leader in the industry. The agency’s pavement management system is recognized as one of the best in the nation.

    “One of the toughest concepts for people to wrap their head around is lowest lifecycle cost,” Baker said. “Your upfront cost might be more, but the cost savings over the lifecycle is substantial.”

    The lab is also studying ways to cut cost and greenhouse gas on new pavement when it’s necessary, by refining the technology behind recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and testing new methods like hot-in-place (HIP), which recycles old asphalt and reuses it without ever leaving the work zone.

    “We’ve been implementing sustainability in pavement for years,” Uhlmeyer said. “The difference today is that we’re facing a much greater need for pavements that cost less, last longer and use less material. That’s why we’re looking for ways to increase the use of pavements like RAP and warm mix.”

    Better ways to pave

    Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP): Coffee cups made with recycled material pale in comparison. The most widely reused material in the nation is asphalt pavement. More than 72 million tons of RAP go into the nation’s roadways each year. (Coincidentally, according to the Environmental Protection Agency that’s about the same weight of all the packaging materials and containers that were trashed in this country in 2009, or 30 percent of all our trash.) In addition to used pavement, other recycled materials used by WSDOT include flyash, recycled concrete aggregate and ground granulated blast furnace slag (say that five times fast).

    Old pavement gets milled from the road, crushed and sent to an asphalt plant to be mixed with new material and binder (the glue); then it goes back to the road as new pavement, and eventually to be reused again. WSDOT allows up to 20 percent RAP in the asphalt mix to ensure its strength and durability. Using RAP saves the agency as much a $26 million per year. The environmental benefits are huge, considering the greenhouse gas from producing and trucking new asphalt. It saves projects 15 to 20 percent on their bottom line. The lab is studying ways to up the percentages. Hot-In-Place (HIP) Recycling: Still in the testing phase, HIP reuses the pavement right on the work site, while it's still on the road. Huge machines heat the old roadway, grind the surface and mix it with more asphalt; then crews compact the stuff back onto the existing pavement. HIP cuts costs, greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption from trucking the old stuff out and new asphalt back in.

    So far, WSDOT has used HIP recycling on two projects – SR 97 near Yakima vicinity and more recently SR 542 east of Bellingham. Crews resurfaced SR 542 by reusing the existing pavement and added very little new material.

    Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA): To make asphalt, you must first heat up some rock and binder to get rid of the moisture and make it pliable on the road. The most widely used method for busy highways, hot-mix asphalt (HMA) cooks the soup to 300 degrees or more. Warm mix asphalt uses new technology to mix asphalt up to 50 degrees cooler. Less heat means less fuel and greenhouse gas emissions. WSDOT tested WMA on highways roads in 2008 and 2009. Last year WMA went into wide use for our asphalt pavement.

    Cold-In-Place Recycling: Inexpensive and perfect for low-volume roadways, cold-in-place recycling turns worn out pavement into sound new base. Crews mill the pavement onsite, treat it with a binding agent and compact it. The strong new base is overlaid with either new asphalt pavement or a chip seal (sprayed liquid asphalt with rock chips embedded).

    Asphalt Shingle Recycling: Asphalt shingles -- that's right, the kind you sleep under -- are good for roads too. The lab is studying ways to use the asphalt binder in roof shingles to make new asphalt pavement. Using shingles for asphalt is relatively new, and only a few states allow it, typically no more than about 3 percent of the mix. WSDOT doesn’t allow RAS in asphalt mix yet, but the State Materials Lab worked closely with King County on a test project in Enumclaw. That leaky roof could soon help you get to work on time – so you can afford to repair that leaky roof.

    Posted July 6, 2011

    I-90 team recognized for conservation, sustainability

    Interstate 90 through Snoqualmie Pass can be a transportation challenge, to say the least. But WSDOT employees are trying to keep the pass safe and efficient by finding new ways to make necessary highway improvements more sustainable, even under the toughest conditions.

    From recycling rock-blasting materials to working with other agencies to reduce the distance dump trucks travel, South Central Region is earning recognition for innovative ideas, such as new ways to share resources with other agencies, and construction methods that improve I-90 over the pass for truckers and travelers, while easing damage to the area’s pristine forests and clean mountain air.

    Take the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project  for example. WSDOT’s team for this project recently took home a Cascade Land Conservancy award for Innovative Conservation Project. Their work is an impressive example of how WSDOT is using sustainable construction methods, materials and ideas to save money and resources, while keeping roads safe and protecting the environment.

    The ongoing, first phase of the project is improving five miles of I-90 in both directions from Hyak to Keechelus Dam with an added lane and fresh concrete pavement, as well as replacing bridges and culverts and upgrading avalanche protection to reduce highway closures. Native vegetation and trees removed during construction will be reused to make lake-side road banks more stable and improve habitats for fish and wildlife. And a wider I-90 will reduce traffic delays and cut harmful carbon emissions.

    “We tried to design the project in a way that would both reduce project costs and increase efficiency in many ways,” said Jason Smith, WSDOT’s environmental manager for the project.

    “By working with 12 other agencies, we managed to reduce the miles our dump trucks travel by storing material close to where we’ll reuse it on the project. Collaborations also allowed us to identify material we could salvage and use for environmental restoration, so we didn’t have to buy and haul in new material from another site. It all adds up to less fuel burned, emissions reduced and money saved.”

    Snoqualmie Pass is a critical link in our state’s highway system. It connects people on both sides of the Central Cascades, and it’s indispensable to our economy for delivering goods and doing business efficiently. The pass got about 500 inches of snow this year, and it carries more than 35 million tons of freight and 10 million vehicles annually. When it closes, freight can be delayed for days and travelers sometimes must drive an additional 200 miles or more to cross the Cascades.

    Since the I-90 Project’s planning phase a dozen years ago, Smith and his team have focused on win-win solutions, finding ways to get the work done right for both traffic and the environment. They also investigated how their work could be valuable to other agencies and properties in the area – potential motivation for sharing resources.

    The project team worked closely with the state Department of Ecology and State Parks, reaching an agreement to store 350,000 cubic yards of excavated lake material at a nearby location to reuse later in the project. It saved fuel, emissions and costs from 35,000 truckloads of material that would have been hauled 20 additional miles and later returned to the pass for reuse – that’s two round trips for each truck or about 1.4 million miles. At about seven miles per gallon of diesel, those trucks would’ve consumed at least 200,000 gallons.

    They also teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to extend WSDOT’s geotechnical and environmental studies to include Forest Service property, share costing and resources.

    Two universities helped them study local habitats early in the project. The I-90 team used the data to develop the best approach to reduce collisions with new highway-crossing features for animals, reuse natural materials and protect fish and wildlife. WSDOT preserved 310 acres of habitat in the Gold Creek valley. Crews are reusing large trees for aquatic habitat and small trees for land-based wildlife habitat.

    The team’s innovative approach earned WSDOT awards and recognition by industry publications. It also inspired organizers of the International Conference on Ecology & Transportation to select Seattle as the location for their 2011 conference in August.

    “We’re on time and within budget,” Smith said. “We pushed ourselves, and we learned a lot. When we leave this project site, the land will be better than it was when we started.”

    Hyak to Keechelus Dam, the currently funded $551 million, five-mile portion of the I-90 Project, is scheduled to be complete in 2017.

    Posted June 29, 2011

    WSDOT among best public fleets

    WSDOT’s Transportation Equipment Fund (TEF)  fleet of highway maintenance vehicles and equipment was recognized as one the “100 Best Fleets in North America” at the national Fleet Conference. There are 38,000 public fleets eligible for the award and TEF is one of only four state fleets to make the list.

    “Many on the list are smaller fleets, managing fewer vehicles and less variety” said Greg Hansen, TEF Administrator. “We manage a large diverse fleet with everything from dump trucks and snow blowers to passenger vehicles and boats. Being recognized is a great honor for the entire TEF staff statewide.”

    WSDOT also received the Government Green Fleet award for the second year in a row for advancements in environmental sustainability, including:

    • fleet composition (conventional fuel versus hybrid, electric and/or alternative fuel vehicles)
    • use of renewable and alternative fuels
    • planning for a sustainable future

    The awards, judged by a panel of fleet experts with 100 years combined experience, were announced at a national Fleet Conference in San Diego. The 100 Best Fleets award program recognizes peak performing public-sector fleet operations. Judging on 12 criteria, the ‘Drivers of Excellence’ in the fleet management community includes: accountability, use of technology and information, trust and collaboration, performance recognition and good resource stewardship of human, capital and natural resources.

    Here are some ways WSDOT met these 12 Drivers of Excellence:

    WSDOT works to reduce fleet emissions and improve fleet efficiency with new methods and technology. An example of this is adjusting preventative maintenance schedules using fuel usage as a basis, rather than a period of time. This reduced the department use of petroleum products (engine oil) by more than 14,500 gallons each year. Another operational technique is installing shift lights in heavy trucks’ dash, letting drivers know the optimum time to shift gears to operate the truck at its best fuel economy and performance.

    From fiscal year 2008 to 2010, WSDOT:

    • reduced its fuel use by 10 percent
    • purchased 50 percent more biofuel
    • purchased 43 percent more hybrid vehicles
    • reduced its passenger vehicle inventory by 9 percent
    • reduced privately-owned vehicle miles travelled for state business by 27 percent
    • Developed and implemented a strategic sustainability plan to minimize emissions, reduce fuel consumption; improve the efficiency of the fleet and to identify strategies to operate the fleet more efficiently.

    Accountability, we do it right the first time

    WSDOT’s electronic Fleet and Equipment Management System, FleetFocus M5, is an effective tool for scheduling, monitoring and analyzing equipment repair and downtime and employees’ time spent per unit. FleetFocus M5 records repairs, services, inspections, tests, costs and actions relating to fleet vehicles and equipment. This information is critical for fleet management decision making regarding planning and budgets and equipment utilization and replacement.

    Trust, Creativity and Collaboration

    WSDOT TEF established a TEF SharePoint site to facilitate communications between equipment personnel statewide. Shops are equipped with computers and Internet, allowing employees to communicate with their colleagues, customers and suppliers.

    Statewide equipment evaluation teams involve the end users and field test prior to ordering new equipment. Uniform equipment standards also reduce fuel consumption and minimize emissions.

    Quick, Efficient Turnaround

    WSDOT maintains its vehicles and equipment to the highest standards. A well-timed preventative maintenance program reduces wear and tear, increases vehicle and maintains optimal fuel economy.

    Posted June 3, 2011

    Ferries takes a tip from crew to conserve fuel, save money

    Sometimes making transportation more sustainable is as simple as easing off the gas pedal or, in the case of Washington State Ferries, adjusting a throttle setting to use less diesel fuel.

    Take the Puyallup and Spokane, for instance. The 202-car and 188-car vessels reduced fuel consumption on the Kingston/Edmonds route by 6 percent per ship earlier this year after the Puyallup’s chief engineer and masters recommended easing off the throttle during off-peak hours to save fuel, carbon emissions and money.

    That simple change saved about 7,000 gallons of diesel per month per boat without affecting safety or on-time performance. A trial period has been extended to the end of June to see if similar throttle adjustments could work on other routes.

    Ferries also is helping passengers conserve fuel when traveling to and from ferry terminals with a rideshare program that recently earned top honors. Ferries won a Commuter Challenge Diamond Award for its program that offers fare discounts to vanpoolers and sends them – and carpoolers too – to the front of the line.

    Vanpools that pay a $20 annual registration fee are exempt from vehicle fares, and drivers sail free too when accompanied by four paying passengers. Both registered vanpools and carpools carrying three people or more also skip the line when boarding and disembarking, saving them about 10 minutes each trip.

    The program’s seven Puget Sound ferry routes now carry about 172 vanpools and 67 carpools each weekday. “For example,” explains Assistant Secretary David Moseley, “19 vanpools travel on the 4:20 p.m. weekday sailing from Fauntleroy – that’s 22 percent of the ferry!”

    Stay tuned because ferries is thinking and working on more ways to provide a reliable, responsible and sustainable transportation system.

    Posted April 27, 2011

    Recycling bridges the gap between cost and environment

    You recycle those paper cups, bottles and old documents to keep them out of the landfill. Curious to find out how much landfill space a 300-foot-long, four-lane bridge would take?

    Neither was WSDOT’s I-405 project team. That’s why they recycled 100 percent of the NE 12th Street bridge that spanned I-405 in downtown Bellevue. Crews demolished it in March after completing a longer, wider bridge to connect new ramps to I-405 and SR 520.

    Workers hauled off to recyclers nearly 4,000 tons of concrete, 225 tons of rebar and truck loads of wood. In addition to cutting carbon emissions from production, recycling construction materials saves money.

    “In the old days it would’ve been taken to a landfill,” said Seema Javeri, project engineer for the bridge demolition and replacement. “Now we’re recycling road and bridge materials and even going back and restoring DOT property that was used for dumping 25 years ago.”

    The state does not require recycling in bridge demolition, but it is becoming the norm as the market for recycled materials grows. Today our engineers routinely write construction specifications that make it easier to recycle materials.

    “It’s one thing to recycle material,” said Steve Mader, an environmental manager for I-405 Corridor Design-Builders, “but it’s better to upcycle” or preserve materials during demolition to keep them in good condition for reuse. His firm routinely crumbles concrete on site for use as base rock. And his crews take care not to twist and mangle used rebar, which can increase its market value as much as five times.

    Starting back in the 2002 with its Record of Decision, the I-405 program team has followed a guiding principle to leave the environment better then they found it, Javeri said. That means building better drainage and filtration systems, planting more vegetation and recycling more materials.