Transition Whatcom

A week or two I started a thread with the same title in the Whatcom 2020 Initiative group, and it has been suggested that this discussion be wider than just that group, which I agree with. Here is part of the original thread, plus more from me:

If we want to reduce our carbon output 80% by 2020, one thing that needs to go soon are cars. I'm starting this discussion thread dedicated to ideas for future transportation options and improvements in Bellingham and Whatcom County, and hopefully together we can come up with some viable ideas and eventually take them to the city planners. I like to be ambitious in my goals, because it can be a great way of getting needed changes made.

For some light reading, here's an article from a few months ago or more: The Myth of the Efficient Car

One thing I would love to see is bikes getting top priority on streets, and somehow (this is where ideas are needed!) creating a system where there are less intersections that require stopping at. I believe that needing to follow the rules of the (car) road on a bike, which includes a lot of stopping and restarting, is one thing that prevents more people from going by bike more often.

I should add that, when I'm talking about transportation issues, I am never thinking about things such as electric cars, because in my mind, that is out of the question. I understand that a lot of people are hooked on the idea of keeping their cars in some way, but I see that point of view mostly as a hindrance in making major headway toward sustainability and resilience. I know it is a major undertaking, but what much of the problem today is is the layout of communities, and what we should be doing is figuring out how to restructure our communities so that cars are simply not needed. This means reducing distances to everything and making things far more local (to the neighborhood level).

(I wrote this relatively quickly and these thoughts are not complete, and I will add more later after more of a discussion starts.)

I know that with our collective thoughts, we can figure out a far better way to go in the future. Then we need to take action and make things happen in reality.

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Here's another opportunity for those of you interested in Transportation issues. Are you all familiar with Community Car Share of Bellingham?

Here's their latest email, outlining current needs.

Dear Valued Supporters,

In these trying economic times, our non-profit organizations need us more
than ever. Make Community Car Share a part of your life. Are you searching
for a resolution for the New Year? Would you like to be part of the solution
to our environmental and economic problems? Make a real difference in your

We are looking for several talented, dedicated individuals to join our Board
of Directors beginning January 2010. We also have a variety of volunteer
positions to fit any schedule and level of commitment.

Our Mission: to provide Members with clean, reliable, convenient motor
vehicle transportation while encouraging them to use alternative and public
transportation, reduce their number of car trips, and even get rid of their
personal vehicle altogether.

Benefits: Our presence makes our community a better place by reducing air
and water pollution, vehicle traffic, and the need for parking spaces, while
increasing our communities overall health, connection, and aesthetic.

If you're interested in one of the Board or volunteer positions below,
please contact Lorraine Wilde ( or Natasha
Yeary, General Manager ( as soon as you can.

Elected Positions


We have two Co-Chairs that share in the responsibility of providing overall
direction, help guide decision-making and long-term planning, as well as
supervising our highly capable General Manager and Safety & Maintenance


Approximately 2-3 hours per week on your own schedule, plus about 6 Board
Meetings per year. Will coordinate with one other volunteer to accomplish
book keeping, monthly billing, banking, quarterly taxes (no payroll), and
help develop annual budget. Must have background and/or experience in
accounting, book keeping, finance, or related field. Can work from home or
business on your own schedule so high speed internet connection is helpful.

Directors (several positions available)

This position contributes in a capacity that incorporates that persons
skills and strengths. We are very interested in finding persons with
experience and energy in areas of alternative transportation, environmental
education, law, finance, marketing and promotion, civil service, and
business administration.

Each of the above positions is elected by the car share membership in
December and will serve a term from Jan. 1, 2010 through December 31, 2011.

Or help out behind the scenes with your valuable skills. We can accommodate
any schedule or level of commitment.

Volunteer Positions


Approximately 5 hours per month or less on your own schedule. Must be
familiar with object oriented php and understand web security basics. Will
coordinate with General Manager and Treasurer on content and function.
Prefer background and/or experience and willingness to follow through and
provide consult to aid in decision making and long-term planning.

Community Education and Outreach

We can accommodate any level and angle of interest and commitment. Tailor
your own approach with our General Manager, or assist as you're available.
One of our easiest ways to GET INVOLVED.

Interns or Independent Study

We have sponsored interns and students with independent study credit from
both WWU and Whatcom Community College. Contact the Natasha for a full

Get involved today and help make Bellingham an even better place to live.

Lorraine Wilde

Community Car Share Treasurer

(360) 389-6551
We could meet up this coming Sunday at the "Walk Your Talk" Nov 15th event and brainstorm the mutiple transportation issues that need addressing by our community. Then create a list for each transpo-catagory with name/emails of those who want to stay involved. There will be a lot happening that day, so we could also consider encouraging folks to go to 'bloom' afterwards for a bite to eat around 4:30.

David W - do you want to post anything on the 20/20 group to spread the word beyond those of us on this transpo-discussion thread..
Also, in the future maybe we could gather folks once a month for food at 'bloom' before one of the Weds Solar Meetings or the Weds Native Plant Society meetings....(Although this week is full for me).

David Waugh said:
.....BR>So, I'd like to know, should we wait to see they decide, or should we meet as we had previously planned so that we can get to know each other and start to talk about these issues (perhaps just an informal sort of meeting as we wait to learn more)? I don't know when I will learn more about BSTR (probably soon), or when the first TC meeting will be.
Yes, I was planning on having Transportation being one of the breakout groups and from then on regular meetings of some kind will be happening
"A jitney is defined as a small bus that
carries passengers over a regular route on a
flexible schedule. Another definition of a
jitney is an unlicensed taxicab. Basically,
a jitney is a form of mass transit using
cars and vans, not passenger buses. Jitneys
typically are not required to travel specific
routes on a specific schedule as are trains,
buses and street cars. They are both ancient
and contemporary." Quote from Pat Murphy in David M. reference below.

Could someone else take a turn in further summarizing the link David posted on the article 'The Smart Jitney: Rapid, Realistic Transport'?
Or providing summary of other countries human & environmental transportation systems they have experienced in their travels?

David MacLeod said:
Here's another resource to examine as we think about alternative Transporation. From Pat Murhpy's "New Solutions" report on "The Smart Jitney: Rapid, Realistic Transport." This is a chapter in Pat Murphy's book, "Plan C," but is also available as a pdf download.

"....A Smart Jitney ridesharing system could be developed rapidly, and provide for a very sizable (50-75%) reduction of gasoline consumed and greenhouse gases generated by transportation."
The Sustainable Transportation group has been formed, find it on the groups page and join in. In early December I will be organizing an event/meeting of everyone with interest in biking, making it more safe, more inviting to use as legitimate transportation instead of a car, and infrastructure as we have been discussing here in this thread. I will contact groups within the county and see if any bike shops would like to be involved. Is there anything in early to mid December that may create a schedule conflict with anyone, and are there any preferred days for a meeting like this to happen?
A large percent of WTA funding comes from the WTA sales tax district. It's a percent of sales tax collected within the areas covered.

It's a dilemma that selling products is what supports bus service. This means that when consumption slows down there is less money available for bus service.

I don't think much property tax money goes to buses, but I could be wrong. Possibly more of the burden could be shifted to other taxes, like property tax or if we had an income tax in this state. Fare box collects a small percent of revenue, but it could go up if cars were more inconvenient to drive so people would pay more to ride the bus and save by not owning a car.

Heather K said:
Next WTA meeting may possibly be this Thursday Oct 22nd.

I read in the Herald that our sales taxes funded the WTA...My family pays a large amount of property tax and it amazes me that our community still does not fund a county-wide bus system that is run on renewable energy....I surely don't want property taxes to be raised, but I do want the priorities of how resources are used changed for the good of the earth & people....Whatcom county was on the cutting edge back in the 80's with having recycleables be part of our 'waste' system; we are way behind on the transportation issue.

Here is a cut & paste from what I found online.
Whatcom Transportation Authority Board Composition Review
Thursday, Oct 22 10:00a
at Whatcom Transporation Authority Administation Office, , Bellingham, WA
Representatives from Whatcom County and each City within the County will meet for a review of WTA's Board Composition. This review is required by law every four years.
Phone: 715-4501
Representatives from Whatcom County and each City within the County will meet for a review of WTA's Board Composition. This review is required by law every four years.

Comment by Tristan Jens Bach in 20/20 group. We need to transform our bus system to run on sustainble energy (algae oil?) and make it 24 hours so no one would have to worry about commuting and noone would have to drive their car within the county again. If we could make the bus system free, then that would be another milestone.

Comment by David Waugh in 20/20 group. Instead it looks like they will be cutting bus service and the fares have gone up. In the end, what I really believe we need to do is, instead of changing the way, or the fuel for how we go from point A to point B, we eliminate the need to go from point A to point B (and back). It's all a part of permaculture. However, in the short term during transition, it would be best to fuel buses (and more of them) with the least polluting of fuels.
I sometimes bicycle to Vancouver, BC. They have some good examples of bike friendly streets and also a lot of bike paths.

Ontario Street is real interesting. It's a quiet residential street that goes through a long ways.

Normally a quiet street has problems crossing major arterials because the street isn't big enough to provide a stoplight. Ontario Street is designated in the bike plan so it stops the big arterials that it crosses even though it isn't a major street. Light is still provided and there is even a button to activate the light (like the pedestrian push button) that's out in the street and easy to reach on a bike.

I do like big arterials as long as they have the shoulder or bike lane. Problem with minor streets is the fact that they often don't go through, especially in hilly areas where there isn't a grid iron street pattern. Minor streets dead end at places like Sehome Hill in Bellingham leaving only the arterials like Samish Way to go around. Samish isn't good, but it does have the wide sidewalk.

Ontario Street in Vancouver is one of those great exceptions. A small street, but goes through. As an added bonus, it goes past some neat bike art in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Bellingham transportation planning honored with state award

Posted: November 17, 2009 09:40:12 PST

Bellingham's progressive multimodal transportation planning program received top honors last week, winning the 2009 American Planning Association/Planning Association of Washington award for Transportation Planning in Washington State, for the City's Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, adopted by City Council in December 2008. The award was presented Friday, Nov. 13 at the APA/PAW annual conference in Vancouver, WA.

Transportation concurrency is a part of Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA), requiring cities to adopt level of service standards and performance measures to ensure that the transportation system can keep up with growth in the community. If there is too much growth for the transportation system to handle, then development permits cannot be issued. Most cities have adopted standards based on traffic counts that focus only on automobile transportation. In 2009, Bellingham adopted new level of service standards and performance measures that include sidewalks, bike lanes and transit riders, as well as automobiles.

The Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program is designed to help Bellingham achieve comprehensive plan goals directing growth to urban villages and to complete sidewalks and bicycle lanes throughout the City. Bellingham's innovative program has been profiled in several transportation publications and the City has received inquiries from planners all over North America who are interested in adopting similar programs.

"Providing mobility and connectivity options for all users is priority for the City of Bellingham, and we are honored to be recognized as a leader in transportation planning," Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike said. "This innovative work is the result of staff expertise and Council leadership, and will be a model for communities in Washington and across the nation."

APA representatives will visit Bellingham to formally present the award at the Dec. 7 Bellingham City Council regular meeting.


Media Contact:
Chris Comeau, Transportation Planner
City of Bellingham Public Works Department

View this document online
12,892 parking spaces. Looks like just about the entire old GP property would be a parking lot. As my sister once said about a downtown plan in another town, "There would be plenty of parking, but nothing to park for."

David MacLeod said:
The latest issue of Whatcom Watch may be of interest to those of you looking at Transportation issues.

The story is on "The Benefits of Limited Waterfront Parking" by Wes Frysztacki.

"...Unfortunately, the transportation component of the EIS document does not include such words. “Walkability” and “bicycle-friendly” are not to be found. Those EIS pages do mention parking and do identify significant vehicle-related traffic impacts.

One gets the impression that those associated with the port’s EIS process view “walkability” and “bicycle-friendly” as arbitrary urban design attributes, not fundamental modes of transportation. It appears a determination was made that walking is something you do after you drive to the waterfront and park your car. Cycling is something you do after you remove the bungee cords strapping your bicycle to your SUV. Consequently, everyone needs a guaranteed parking space, including pedestrians and cyclists.

Guaranteed parking guarantees driving. Driving guarantees traffic impacts. Traffic impacts guarantee an environment that is not the “walkability” and “bicycle-friendly” environment many of us would like to envision for The Waterfront District.

The function of the transportation component of Bellingham’s Waterfront District EIS became predominantly one where how many parking spaces are needed was calculated. Answer: 12,892 parking spaces.

The negative impacts of all those walkers and cyclists driving to Bellingham’s Waterfront District was determined. Answer: 14 of 18 off-site intersections will be close to or exceeding their capacity.

Next, the mitigation action needed to offset the damage done by all of those walkers and cyclists driving to Bellingham’s Waterfront District was identified. Answer: the mitigation action is to tell the city of Bellingham the “bad news” – mitigating traffic impacts is the city’s responsibility..."

The author of this article is involved in "the newly-formed Bellingham Sustainable Transportation Roundtable. Anyone interested in joining BSTR is welcome to contact Wes at ."
Bicycle Commuting with Pedal-Assisted Electric Motors for long-distances & for special needs, is becoming more common in Canadian & European countries.

"Not everyone in our community is able-bodied enough to ride up our hills or go the long commuting distances from rural home to the urban market on our hilly roads or in our often dark, cold & wet climate.
The new bicycle technology that combines the efficiency of the human powered bicycle with the technology of a power-assisted electric motor & a rechargeable battery extends the population that can bicycle for errands or commuting.

Our family is researching to find a quality electric-assisted bicycle that would be useful to for long distance commutes & for running errands, while getting exercise but not exhausting ourselves with hills & distances. We want to choose something that is first a quality bicycle, and second has a state-of-the-art motor & battery that can allow us to go over 30 miles without a charge. (I have experience as a bicycle mechanic & a commuter)

I know there are many models that can be useful for getting around town if you live & shop & work in the urban zone, but I have so far only found one brand that would be useful for longer distances, steep hills, and be able to put on the buses.
My favorite pedal-assist bicycle so far, is called the Ohm brand.
Electric assisted bicycles in Europe are often called "PedElecs"......

.....Bicycles can be built to last a lifetime with occasional part replacements. (My favorite bike is still my 1980's Univega touring bicycle). One of my concerns environmentally with the electric assisted bicycles is asking what the true environmental & social cost to build them is, how long do the batteries last, and how can they be safely recycled for another use when they no longer function.

That is also 'the question' I ask with anything I'm thinking of bringing home. "

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(For more details on the specific brands I've researched or have done a trial ride,
see my blog post at
(I'll also blog-post any opportunies I know of for doing local trial rides.)

For focussed discusssion on power-assisted bicycles lets start one under our WT Sustainable Transportation group-

(The above post is a partial copy of what is written on my blog post)

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