Passengers hurt as train derails onto highway near Tacoma | Breitbart

Passengers hurt as train derails onto highway in Washington state

Source:  Breitbart

 

 

Amtrak confirmed the accident involving Train 501, which was heading south from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.

“Injuries and casualties reported,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet, but offered no details. Amtrak also offered no further information.

Photographs posted online from the scene showed a long passenger car dangling down onto the highway from an overpass, and other cars also off the rails.

The accident took place between Tacoma and Olympia, the capital of Washington state. Service on the line has been recently upgraded and was meant to be quicker, with improvements in tracks and signalling systems.

 

Time for mileage tax supporters to put their cards on the table: Constitutional protection or not? | Washington Policy Center

Source: Time for mileage tax supporters to put their cards on the table: Constitutional protection or not?

 

 

Transit agnosticism: “the idea that when it comes to getting around, everything from bikesharing to the subway will do.”

This is the term USA Today used to describe an open, flexible approach to mass transit. It means that mass transit isn’t confined to rail or buses. In 2017, it “can be anything that gets you where you’re going – whether it’s on rails or hailed through an app.”

Randal O’Toole, transportation expert at Cato Institute, makes this distinction as well when he refers to public transit, clarifying that “public in public transit doesn’t refer to ownership; it refers to transport that is available to all of the public.”

As expected, some government officials and transit boosters are not fond of this progressive redefinition of mass transit, and prefer the older, outdated approach. They see ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft as “first-last” mile tools that should connect people to traditional mass transit.

Much to their chagrin, Uber and Lyft are many people’s preferred travel mode for their entire trip. This trend makes sense. Why would anyone disembark from Uber in the first mile, adding additional legs to their trip, when they could take one vehicle the whole way directly to their destination?

As a result of this shift, Uber and Lyft are no longer transportation choices government officials and transit boosters can support. Ridesharing services are, instead, treated as competitors and opponents that must be pushed out of business. As O’Toole puts it, government then regulates “privately owned transit to save publicly subsidized transit, because for some reason, subsidzed transit deserves to be ‘saved’ from private competition.”

This does not serve people or increase mobility – it serves traditional mass transit, even when it doesn’t work for all commuters. Most disappointing is that this approach reduces transportation choices and hurts people’s freedom to choose the travel mode that best works for them. Unfortunately, this is a growing sentiment in cities throughout the country.

In a recent New York Times article, author Emily Badger asks, “Is Uber helping or hurting mass transit?” She cites results from a UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies survey of 2,000 people, which “suggest that ride-hailing draws people away from public transit.” According to the study, after people in major American cities try ride-hailing, there is a 6% decrease in bus use, and a 3% decrease in light rail use. Ridesharing users felt that transit was “too slow or unreliable.”

The question The New York Times should have asked instead was whether Uber is helping or hurting people. In a world where transit is no longer a means to an end – but an end in itself – this question seems to be ignored. Badger concedes that ridesharing might be more efficient for people individually, but says it hurts the city collectively because it encourages riders to switch from transit to cars, and cars are bad for dense cities.

The author seems to understand that people choose to rideshare because it is faster and more reliable, but worries that having more cars on the road will reduce overall transportation efficiency, and therefore ridesharing should be regulated. This assumes, however, that people are not rational. In practice, people will stop choosing to rideshare if it becomes slow and unreliable. They do not need to be told. They already know what is most efficient, and adjust faster than politicians.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken this anti-transportation choices ideology one step further. Emanuel is proposing to increase the current 52-cent tax on all Uber and Lyft Rides in the city by 29%. This would bring the current tax to 67 cents per ride in 2018. The tax would increase to 72 cents per ride by 2019. This represents a near 40% increase in the tax rate in two years.

The tax revenue would go to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Emanuel’s administration does not like that Uber and Lyft compete with traditional mass transit, complaining that “the ride-hailing industry has drained $40 million from city and other local government coffers, in part by shifting some commuters away from the CTA.” In other words, commuters are not making the choice he wants them to make, so they should be punished.

The Chicago mayor is proud of the tax and says, “[Chicago] will be the first city to tap into the ride share industry for resources to modernize our transportation system.” If this statement doesn’t demonstrate that irony is dead, then I don’t know what does.

Rather than hamstring transportation choices that compete with traditional mass transit, government should encourage innovation and allow transportation services to compete with one another.

When we encourage monopolies in mass transit, public transit agencies collect more revenue without any incentive to provide better service, and commuters have fewer transportation choices. On the other hand, when we encourage competition among various mass transit options, we preserve the freedom of commuters to choose the best and most cost-effective mode for their needs. This is the better approach.

Oil, coal train fines in Spokane go to voters | Spokesman Review

On the question of whether Spokane can – or should – fine the owners of rail cars transporting certain crude oil and coal through downtown, both sides say they’re on the right side of the law.

Source: Oil, coal train fines in Spokane go to voters with legal path unclear

Legal certainty is a trait shared by those on both sides of the debate over whether Spokane should impose fines on coal and oil trains rumbling through downtown.

The citizens’ group behind Proposition 2, which would fine the trains, argues that federal inaction has opened a window allowing the city to demand covered coal trains and the removal of combustible gasses from rail-carried oil they say could cause a fiery explosion downtown.

Their conclusion defies the opinions of two legal experts at City Hall, and the railroads and commodities groups have taken notice of the measure, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign to defeat it at the ballot box.

Mayor David Condon, who has contributed his voice to the campaign against the proposal, said although he understands the concerns of citizens about safety, imposing fines ignored federal actions to make the shipments less prone to derailment as well as efforts to improve the emergency response.

“To me, it’s such an unfortunate way of going after concerns that are legitimate that our citizens have,” Condon said. “The effort, in my opinion, is misguided or misdirected.”

Supporters of the initiative, now dogged by allegations of campaign finance violations, insist their proposal is modest and would withstand a likely legal challenge. The union representing hundreds of local firefighters have endorsed their cause, saying a downtown derailment would be catastrophic.

“The initiative was born from what these guys in the community have been warning us about, for at least the past six years that I’ve been here,” said Todd Eklof, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church and the main sponsor and spokesman for Safer Spokane, the committee supporting the initiative.

The question has split the Spokane City Council, seen by critics as an ideological monolith tilted toward the left. The proposal originated before the panel last year, with City Council President Ben Stuckart arguing the fiery explosion in Mosier, Oregon, necessitated local action. He later reversed course and said he preferred to work directly with the railroads and federal regulators to achieve change.

Citizens gathered enough signatures to put the question before voters this November in a subsequent petition campaign.

A total of $151,000 has been raised to defeat Proposition 2. Among the largest donors are Lighthouse Resources, a corporation that owns several coal mines in Wyoming and Montana, and the railroads BNSF and Union Pacific.

The citizen group supporting the ballot initiative have raised just over $6,000, mostly from individual contributions. The largest contributor is Mike Bell, who is also serving as Safer Spokane’s treasurer.

Stuckart said in light of recent rollbacks of some environmental regulations by the Donald Trump administration, including rules on leasing federal land for coal mining, he’s now leaning toward voting for Proposition 2.

“I haven’t seen anybody locally stepping up and doing the work, at the federal and state level, lobbying to try to change the rules,” Stuckart said. “Are we just supposed to sit back and take it?”

City Councilwomen Candace Mumm and Amber Waldref said they had concerns about a protracted legal battle if the measure passes. Both said they likely will vote against the measure. City Councilwoman Karen Stratton wouldn’t comment on how she will vote, but said she, too, expected a legal fight. Councilman Mike Fagan is an outspoken critic of the measure, while his colleague, Breean Beggs, helped draft the ordinance and has been its staunchest defender on the council.

The initiative’s opponents, including Condon, cite legal opinions from the city’s hearing examiner, Brian McGinn, and the City Council’s policy adviser, Brian McClatchey, that the measure would have a slim chance of surviving a legal challenge.

Both men identified different sections of federal law to conclude that an ordinance passed at the local level would be trumped by rulemakers at the national level, opening the city to potential litigation and courtroom costs if the commodities, railroad or someone else filed a lawsuit to block its enforcement.

Condon pointed to efforts underway at the federal level, including legislation introduced in Congress by Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, calling for national standards on cargo volatility and increasing funding for firefighting training. The city also has eliminated vehicular at-grade crossings with trains to reduce the likelihood of collisions within city limits, the mayor said.

“That’s where I think we really need to focus our attention,” Condon said.

The ballot measure would also fine uncovered coal trains over concerns about dust scattering to the tracks and increasing the likelihood of derailments. Opponents, including Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, have seized on the inclusion of coal cars as evidence supporters are seeking to change environmental policy, not protect downtown.

Initiative supporters say their specific requests that coal cars be covered and the oil extracted from the Bakken shale, an oil-rich patch in western North Dakota, be treated to reduce the vapor pressure, haven’t yet been addressed by federal rulemakers. They cite a 2000 case out of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to argue that in the absence of regulation, cities can step in.

Bell, the Safer Spokane organizer and treasurer, said if the legality already was settled, the railroads would have filed a lawsuit before voters weighed in.

“They’re spending thousands of dollars to fight this on the ballot,” Bell said. “Why haven’t they already filed suit?”

BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said the campaign was “an opportunity to educate people about the value of rail.” The railroads have stressed that emergency responders work with the railroads on exercises to respond to a potential derailment, and that track inspections in the Spokane area occur even more frequently than currently required under federal law.

The city didn’t make any pre-ballot challenge because the state values the initiative process, Condon said, and taxpayers may have spent money on legal proceedings that won’t be necessary if the measure is defeated.

“We’re an initiative state. We have a very low threshold for citizen’s initiatives. I think we’re very prideful of that,” the mayor said. “On the flip side, I think the citizens need to be aware of the legal ramifications of this, and the confusion it causes.”

If the ballot measure is successful, it may not be a clear-cut victory for supporters of rail safety, said Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C.-based rail safety consultant who formerly worked for the environmentalist group Friends of the Earth.

“I worry that the proposition, if it actually became enacted, would lead to a lawsuit very quickly from the railroads,” Millar said. “I think the railroads would win on federal preemption” – the legal doctrine that federal law supersedes state law. “I don’t think the city has a chance.”

Millar said that would lead to another legal decision that continues to give Congress and federal rulemakers more authority in regulating rail. Proponents would be better served pushing for additional transparency from railroads on the type of cargo traveling through the city and pushing for explanations of why Bakken oil must be shipped through downtown, Millar said.

Opponents warn that the initiative would have the effect of putting more oil cargo on the highways, where accidents and explosions could be more frequent than on the rails. They point to studies by the Federal Railroad Administration finding that trains are four times as fuel-efficient as trucks and from the Congressional Budget Office showing trains pose a lower accident risk than trucks on the road.

“I think the safety standards that are set by the federal government to our railroad carriers seem to be very high,” Condon said.

Stuckart and the initiative’s sponsors said oil companies are unlikely to abandon rail, because it ignores the higher cost of trucking the commodities compared to lowering the vapor pressure of the oil and covering coal train cars. Oil regulators in North Dakota say stabilizing oil in train cars would cost about $2 a barrel, or around 5 cents per gallon.

They also disputed the threat of legal action should scare voters from supporting the initiative.

“It’s not going to cost any police officers on the street. It’s not going to hurt our budget,” Stuckart said. “We deal with lawsuits all the time.”

Shoreline motorcyclist on ‘terrifying’ traffic stop: Threatened at gunpoint but not ticketed | The Seattle Times

Alex Randall said King County Sheriff John Urquhart called him after seeing the video and said, “This is wrong and everybody feels terrible about it.”

Source: Shoreline motorcyclist on ‘terrifying’ traffic stop: Threatened at gunpoint but not ticketed | The Seattle Times

[Ed.: We believe it’s time for your retirement party Detective. This is a cop who doesn’t know to use his authority with prudence. This is clearly a cowboy cop that shouldn’t have a badge anymore and we are fans of the men and women in blue here at EvergreenStateNews.com, but not this one.]

More proof Seattle is full of passive aggressive people | MyNorthwest.com

Tailgating inspired Linda to get a personalized license plate with the phrase “BACKOFF.”  But someone found the message distasteful and let Linda know with a note on her car.

Source: More proof Seattle is full of passive aggressive people

[Ed.: Yes, Linda is the type of person that camps in the left lane and paces the loaded dump truck on her way to the dog park when the rest of us are trying to get to work on time. It’s a wonder we don’t have more deadly incidents of road rage.]

Traffic backups already forming in Oregon 4 days before eclipse | KOMO News

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Traffic is already a headache in central Oregon as thousands of people arrive before Monday’s total solar eclipse.Traffic was backed up early Thursday on U.S. Highway 26 near of Prineville, the last town before the turnoff for an eclipse-themed festival that’s expected to attract 30,000 people in a remote area with narrow, one-lane roads.

Source: Traffic backups already forming in Oregon 4 days before eclipse

New technology expected to shorten security lines at Sea-Tac | KOMO

SEATAC, Wash. – Travelers can expect shorter lines through security at Sea-Tac Airport within a couple of years following the installation of a new technology to inspect carry-on luggage faster. The new procedure will allow faster passengers to get around slower ones, thus speeding up the security lines for everyone.

Source: New technology expected to shorten security lines at Sea-Tac | KOMO

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