1 is NOT the loneliest number; 31,601 is

   The number of games between World Championships for the Chicago Cubs? Nope.
   The height in feet of Mount Everest? Nope.
   This, in fact, is the figure arrived at by city staff after myriad computations and formulae as the number of new residents arriving in Bellingham betwen the years 2002 and 2022.
   “The reality is the reality. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. The bottom line is people are coming here,” City Planning Director Jorge Vega told the BBJ in May.
   He’s right. Not preparing for growth leads to the worst of all possible outcomes; unprepared-for influxes jam critical infrastructure, overwhelm city services, and promote sprawl.
   But just about every viewpoint throughout the spectrum has taken shots at that number as being either too high or too low. They can’t both be right, and, frankly, we’re willing to give the city planners the benefit of the doubt when to comes to arriving at these numbers.
   So if we proceed along the lines of that figure being approximately correct, how is it impacting policy? The answer to that is legion; perhaps it would be more accurate to say how is that figure NOT affecting city growth policy.
   Infill numbers. Growth of the UGA. Annexation. Wetlands. Budget projections. The list goes on and on — there are precious few items regarding this city’s growth that aren’t, in some way, tied to 31,601.
   How will the city make room?
   This paper will continue to be a strong supporter for the policy of infill; in fact, we believe that infill alone could handle the vast majority of these incoming, Bellingham residents-to-be. Vertical growth (see story, front page) will certainly become a bigger and bigger factor. No, the skyline of Bellingham will not look the same 20 years from now.
   This infill will almost certainly change the face of our city; adding 30-odd-thousand people will do that. The debate on how or if to accomodate these newcomers will continue to rage for years. There is no doubt the current UGA will need some manipulation, as it contains far more wetlands than originally thought.
   So, regardless of the method of getting there, it’s going to happen. How, when and by whom remains to be seen — but for their sake, the city estimate needs to be at least ballpark correct, as too much is at stake for an error in this regard.

by Rik Dalvit


BBJ’s gasoline story right on the mark

   Having been trained in engineering and vehicle design, your September article on rising fuel prices piqued my interest.
   Businesses are often especially hard-hit by rising fuel prices because two of the simplest strategies for saving fuel, driving less and driving more efficient vehicles, often aren’t practical. As your article mentions, however, changing drivers’ habits can have an effect on fuel costs.
   Mr. Johnson’s admonition against aggressive driving is well founded. Following too closely requires much more frequent braking, as does accelerating toward a red light or stop sign. Driving at 80 rather than 60 will often cut fuel economy in half.
   However, it is not advisable for most drivers to accelerate as gradually as possible on a freeway onramp. The gasoline engines in the vast majority of private vehicles are demonstrably more efficient near full throttle than at part throttle, and on an onramp the extra power won’t be going to waste. Getting up to speed with plenty of room to spare also makes for much safer merging, not to mention a quicker trip.

Frank Schmitt

DOT plays expensive game while private sector suffers

   I would like to let you know how disappointed I am to see the startup of public transit service between Whatcom, Skagit and Island County.
   I accept the need, I disagree with the solution.
   Last year I was invited to be the “token” private sector provider on the intercounty panel of the North Sound Connecting Communities Project (Farmhouse Gang) that allegedly studied a solution to the perceived need for intercounty service. Experts from around the country and from the WSDOT were invited and gave evidence of the successful use of private sector providers for this type of service.
   As some of you may know I have been providing intercounty service since the mid 1990s. My existing airporter/intercity service is not the solution to what the public wants for intercity transit service, although I do carry 4,000 intercity passengers per year. What I proposed to the Farmhouse Committee, but was summarily dismissed, was an opportunity to contract for the exact same services that are now being offered by public transit. And every knowledgeable person involved in transportation agrees that private sector contracted services operate for 35-50 percent less than public transit.
   It is evident to me that the WSDOT seeks and supports the private provider in other areas of the state, but because of the influence of Senator Haugen and Island Transit’s Martha Rose to use public transit instead of private providers in this region it was a done deal before the committee ever met. $2 million goes twice as far with the private sector. Are we really concerned about the public having the best service and the best value for their money or is the real issue about public transit getting the glory?
   As someone said to me, I am disgruntled because I have a dog in this race. My dog is your dog. It is the taxes to pay for public-provided service at twice the price that a ready, willing, able and experienced private provider would charge for the same service. Does anyone remember the government paying $500 for a single hammer or a toilet seat? If the government contracted for a service it would be for the lowest priced responsible bidder, but if the grant money goes direct to the government agencies then the taxpayers pay the most expensive price possible.
   Now because of the newly formed Office of Transit Mobility, also formed with Senator Haugen backing, all decisions on where future WSDOT grants go will be decided by the legislators, not WSDOT. Where does that leave the private provider in this state? Again, way behind public transit.
   On another issue as reported to the Board by Richard Walsh, the WTA provided a special event service to the City of Blaine for senior transportation to a 4th of July celebration. That sounds like a private charter opportunity as defined by the FTA, but WTA was happy to provide this service.
   Thank you for your consideration of my thoughts.
As Charles Barkley said, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”

Larry Wickkiser
Airporter Shuttle/Bellair Charters

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