Transition Whatcom

The WTA Board meeting on July 15th at 8am is open to public comments. The issues to be discussed are proposed service cuts (for example, no Sunday service).

This is great opportunity for TW involvement in something that is vital to the life of our community today and in transition into the future. The Board wants to hear recommendations for creative solutions. 

 

Would members of this group be willing to come to the meeting on the 15th and prior to this either meet or communicate on this site creating potential solutions that will be presented to the Board on the 15th? 

 

What: WTA Board meeting

When: July 15th at 8AM

WHERE:     Whatcom County Council Chambers, at 311 Grand Ave, Bellingham

 

Views: 28

Replies to This Discussion

Dawn Griffin and I attended yesterday the WTA Board of Trustees meeting. On the agenda was the vote for the proposed $2.3MM custs which would include elimintation of ALL Sunday service (refered by the Board and the WTA Staff as Option 2) Out of 9 Board members, 6 were present and with Stan Snapp, Scott Korthus and Jack Weiss voting against elimination of Sunday service (Mel Hansen, Ken Mann and Paul Kremen voted yes), the Board has to go back and relook Option 1, which supposedly has a blend of some Saturday and Sunday cuts but allows for some Sunday service (I can't find this in print anywhere so I am reporting only what I heard at he Board meeting).

Scott Korthus suggested another solution where Option 2 is implemented minus the elimination of Sunday service for which up to $ 1MM from WTA reserves is dedicated to keep the Sunday service as a temporary emergency measure while other possibilities are investigated. Ultimately, WTA says it needs to cut $2.3MM now and there will be future deeper cuts.

Dawn and I had few post meeting conversations with few Councilmen and we learned the following:
- although ridership is important and it has been flat compared to last year (on specialized buses it dropped in June by 8%), it only contributes 1/3 of the revenues
- the majority of revenues for WTA come from sales taxes -even with this temporary measure of allocating up to $1MM from the reserves (assuming it passes), WTA will not be able to ultimately save the Sunday service for long -there is belief that the only way to have workable bus system that includes Sunday service is for City of Bellingham to create its own transportation district out of taxing its residents (remember, Bellingham residents voted 68% yes for the tax levy).

I think TW, specifically this Group, has a great opportunity to be the driving force behind working with Sustainable Connections and other local organizations, influencing the City government to move toward creation of Bellingham's own Transportation District that includes array of creative solutions, not only busses. Through civic engagement and parnership with our local government we can jointly co-create a model transportation system that WTA cannot put in place given their legistaive and funding limitations.

I think TW, specifically this Group, has a great opportunity to be the driving force behind working with Sustainable Connections and other local organizations, influencing the City government to move toward creation of Bellingham's own Transportation District that includes array of creative solutions, not only busses. Through civic engagement and parnership with our local government we can jointly co-create a model transportation system that WTA cannot put in place given their legistaive and funding limitations.
Renata, I agree that opening up and facilitating discussions about issues such as this could be a valuable role for TW.

One approach that invites people in (in a non-combative way) is to center the discussion around a question or questions that encapsulate the issue. Simply articulating which questions are already being asked is also useful, to help assure everyone is addressing the same issue. This helps avoid confusion and conflict.

With important questions as the focus, everyone with ideas, information, concerns, etc. can contribute them in response, and the best solution (or a recombination of the best) can be selected in a transparent and open process, which will have greater political support. Asking the question allows everyone with input to contribute and transforms a yes/no discussion (shall we do this or not) into a creative opportunity for collective intelligence.

Preserving the status quo is always a tempting target as a solution but perhaps this crisis (choice point) gives us an opportunity to rethink local transportation and start reshaping it toward something that would work in Transition terms.

What is the core question that could inform the whole discussion and match transition values? Perhaps this:
How can transportation in this region be most effective for the least energy impact and cost?

Here are some more specific questions in this situation (are there others?):

1. What is the need? Is it worth looking at who and how many people benefit from Sunday service, and exactly what the transportation needs are, including where to where and when? This may allow targeted, efficient service. What exactly are we trying to accomplish?

2. Short term, if Sunday bus service in Bellingham is the ideal outcome, what is the best way to accomplish that?
~~The Bham Transportation District (BTD) is one solution. Are there other possibilities?
~~Can the WTA charter (whatever the founding documents are) be changed to allow more nuanced choices?
~~If a Bellingham Transportation District is the best solution, how would it work and what does it take to create and implement it?

3. With the same money Sunday bus service would cost (assuming a BTD or something allows new flexibility), is there a better way to serve the need than bus service (and maybe move toward a more comprehensive, resilient, adaptive system)? (just asking -
~~Maybe dispatched service of smaller WTA or BTD vehicles as needed? (Dan Pike has some knowledge of how this could work - perhaps this could better serve less mobile residents and avoid empty buses. I know we have some of this type of service. Can we expand the mission, optimize the dispatch service and the range of available vehicles?)
~~Subsidized cab fare with organized, shared rides (a million bucks would provide a lot of cab rides and support local business and workers)
~~Private ride share or van pool arrangements for regular trips like going to church and work.
~~Online ride connections among vetted users? Some such systems exist?
~~Revive Community Car Share with an element of public funding and some dedication to ride share on Sundays?
~~What else?
~~Some flexible combination of the above and others?


To return to the core question suggested near the top of this post, what is the ideal Transition-aware transportation system in Whatcom County/Bellingham? What would have the most results with the least energy impact and overall cost?
~~How integrated or distinct would transportation in WC and Bham ideally be to best serve everyone's needs individually and as a community of linked communities?
~~Does each city need some degree of transportation customization to be optimally efficient?
~~Can we develop a nuanced system adapting to changing needs and circumstances (peak oil, etc.)?
~~How could such a system support people in letting go of their individual vehicles?
~~What funding structures would support this ideal system?

To seed the last question with one possibility: I was at one event sponsored by Sustainable Connections where some people discussed a light rail line up and down the I5 corridor (acting as the spine, with continuous land available and already dedicated to transportation) with buses running East and West (more or less) from stations/nodes at interchanges along the way. This would allow Park & Ride among cities along the freeway and reduce vehicle miles for a large number of people.

The larger point here is that asking relevant core questions, then seeking and assembling the full range of possibilities and integrating them into the best available answer can result in better outcomes that any individual or small group could create. The outcome can have greater acceptance and help build the sense of community through undertaking a shared project with the aim of the best outcome for everyone. Developing this approach is something TW could do, and this is a good opportunity.
Lates news from WTA Board: There will be a special meeting of the Whatcom Transportation Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday, July 21 at 8 a.m. at the Whatcom County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave, Bellingham, to discuss service reduction options.
Daimon and all, thank you for saring and propsoing this process. I can see it working very nicely in complement with Open Space Technology, used by Transition movement.

There is a little DVD I just saw "B-town: How Burien Came into its OWN" showing the results produced in Burien, WA by incorporating large scale civic engagement...Very inspiring.

http://socialcapitalreview.org/how-burien-came-into-its-own-the-doc...

http://www.b-townblog.com/

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