Washington State Traffic Forecast Finally Recognizes Reality

Does Washington's new road forecast spell the end of "build now, pay later"?

This is the single most responsible official traffic forecast I’ve seen from any government agency, ever:

It’s from a new transportation revenue forecast (pdf link, see p. 27) recently published by the Washington State Office of Financial Management. Their previous forecast, in pink, assumed that traffic would grow endlessly, much as it did during the 1950s through 1990s. But the new forecast, in blue, assumes that the modest traffic growth of the past decade will continue, and will then be followed by a modest decline.

There are two reasons why this forecast is the most responsible one I’ve seen to date. First, it reflects the growing evidence that three’s been a long-term slowdown in the growth vehicle travel—a slowdown that has been evident on major roads in Washington, for Washington State roads as a whole, for the US, and for much of the industrialized world. Second, even if the forecast is wrong, a conservative revenue forecast far and away the most fiscally prudent way to plan a transportation budget. Read more »

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Birth Control? There’s an App for That

Planned Parenthood pioneers a new program to improve contraceptive access.

Given that 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended, it should come as no surprise that sexual health advocates are eager to make information and services even easier to access and more appealing to emerging adults. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, which serves Western Washington, Alaska, and Southern Idaho, recently rolled out a telemedicine pilot project that may help to do just that.

The new plan offers virtual office visits via video conference with a trained reproductive health professional.  …  read more »

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Weekend Reading 10/17/14

Portland's awesome Street Books program, best bots, and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.

Editor’s Note: Recently, we invited board members to contribute to weekend reading when they like. Chris Troth took us up on the offer this week! And our fall communications intern, Keiko Budech, also added a couple pieces to this weeks picks—enjoy!

Alan

This article, which filled my heart with happy, is about librarians on cargo bikes in Portland who deliver customized reading piles to people who live outdoors. “Street Books has no return policy at all, except a  …  read more »

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Prediction: Cloud Peak’s Coal Export Division Will Start Losing Money in 2015

There's only so long a coal company can make money betting that coal prices will fall.
Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Cloud Peak Energy—a major coal producer in the Powder River Basin, and one of the top coal exporters in the western US—will release its third quarter financials in a few weeks. And even though international coal prices have been in free-fall for almost three years, I expect that Cloud Peak’s financial reports will show that the company’s export (or “logistics”) division made money from June through September 2014.

Yet I also expect that, just beneath the surface, the firm’s financials will show that Cloud Peak lost money exporting coal to Asia, just as it has for the last four consecutive quarters.

So how is it possible for a coal company to report profits from its export division, but losses from actual export sales? The answer: even though Cloud Peak’s coal export sales are bleeding red ink, the company is still benefiting from big bets the company made years ago on the coal futures market.

But I believe that those lucky bets are poised to run out, starting in 2015. Read more »

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Ebola versus Cars

How we systematically misunderstand risk.

Cap and Trade—In 3 Pictures

Three mental shortcuts for talking about smart climate and energy policy.

Can We Depend on the Money?

What Washington’s carbon revenue stream could look like through 2050.

Weekend Reading 10/10/14

If we cared about climate like we do about sports; oil train backers' desperate moves; and more.

A Fair Share of Streets (Part 2)

What can we learn from Europe's experiences with shared streets?

Seattle Goes Backward on Micro-housing

What will it take to build a power base for inexpensive housing?