1. The Spokesman-Review reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is having trouble reconciling its limited study of the impacts coal trains will have on the communities directly around the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, near Bellingham, and a far broader study planned by the state of Washington.
The latter study would look at the environmental impacts of the terminal—from coal mining in Wyoming, to transferring coal across the state, to shipping the coal to China, where it will be burned and contribute to global warming.
The Corps canceled a press conference to explain their environmental review plans this morning, the paper reports.
2. Although the Washington Post has counted U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) among 19 House Democrats opposed to military action in Syria, her office tells the Seattle Times she remains undecided.
President Obama has proposed "limited and targeted" military strikes against the Assad regime and has asked for Congress' approval. (Josh's conspiracy theory: Obama is tricking everyone, including a very gullible press that's breathless about his "gamble." The President handed this off to Congress, pretending to be a hawk, but is hoping to lose.)
(If you aren't up to speed on what's going on in Syria, check out the Post's handy FAQ, titled "Nine Questions About Syria You Were too Embarrassed to Ask." The first question: "What is Syria?")
3. I know we give Sightline a lot of love around here, but their series on parking is absolutely must-read stuff.
Last week, Sightline director Alan Durning wrote about the "weird" marketplace for parking—a place where the price of the asset in question is high, but completely hidden; where the costs are externalized (that is, users don't pay for them); where people will cruise endlessly for free parking while nearby paid lots sit empty; and where people are shocked when they learn the true cost of "free" parking.
It's a marketplace, in short, where the laws of supply and demand don't apply.
“My sister has great food karma. She finds great food, and she never pays.” If you heard someone say that, you’d just scratch your head. What could that mean? Does she dumpster dive?
If you substitute the “parking” for “food,” though, it makes sense. Indeed, a friend said those exact words to me recently, so I started asking others about their parking karma. Everyone I asked knew exactly what I was talking about: no confused expressions or blank stares.
4. In his press conference about the possibility of a special session to pass a transportation funding package this morning, Gov. Jay Inslee noted that if the legislature doesn't approve new transportation revenue, 71 bridges across the state will become structurally deficient; meanwhile, according to King County, only seven miles of deteriorated roadway will be repaved this year.
But, hey, it could be worse: According to Planetizen, the state of Texas, which has the 40th-lowest gas tax in the nation (it hasn't been raised since 1991), is now un-paving many asphalt state roads and replacing them with gravel—gravel!—to save money. Speed limits on many farm-to-market highways will be decreased from 70 mph to 30 mph. A look at Washington state's future? Let's hope not.
5. On his blog, city council member Richard Conlin writes about the results of a study of a city pilot project to collect trash once every two weeks in four single-family neighborhoods (Wedgwood, Leschi, Dunlap, and Highland Park), as opposed to the current once-a-week schedule. What did they find? According to Conlin, 63 percent of participants said they were satisfied with the new twice-weekly pickups—nearly twice the 33 percent who said they expected to be satisfied with the reduced service.
Whether they liked the new schedule or not, the single-family households in the pilot, on average, created 15 percent less garbage, and increased recycling and composting—the equivalent of 9,000 tons a year.
Two suggestions, if the city decides to expand the experiment: First, they should include apartment and condo dwellers, not just homeowners in single-family neighborhoods. And second, instead of providing monetary rewards to encourage people to recycle (customers in the pilot study got discounts if they recycled more, and received money from the city), they should consider increasing recycling service to once every week; often, particularly in dense urban neighborhoods, recycling bins fill up long before the twice-weekly recycling truck shows up.