Washington Public Colleges Score Well on Value, Quality

Even though college tuition nationwide is rising faster than both inflation and median family income, you can still get a good deal at Washington state public colleges.

uw campus mary gates hall

Mary Gates Hall, University of Washington

In fact, University of Washington ranked 19th out of 1,572 colleges in Washington Monthly magazine’s new “Best Bang for the Buck” rating. Western Washington University was ranked 54th and Washington State University came in 91st.

To get on this list, colleges first had to meet four criteria:

  • A minimum of 20% of students on Pell Grants (typically targeting annual household incomes below $50,000)
  • 50% graduation rate
  • Graduation rate must meet or exceed predicted rate based on income of students
  • Graduates must earn enough to at least cover student loans; student default rate of 10% or less

Colleges that made this first cut were ranked on net price of attendance, which was calculated as the average tuition that first-time, full-time students with an annual income of $75,000 or less actually pay based on the financial aid they receive. Under this calculation, UW came in at $8,334, WWU at $10,814 and WSU at $12,490.

Washington Monthly’s Bang for the Buck rating is especially timely given that our Regional Economic Strategy noted the widening gap between the advanced training employers require and the education that the workforce actually has. As a result, the strategy outlines several action initiatives to meet this challenge.


Region Meets New “Use it or Lose it” Funding Targets for 2013

Regions across the state faced new expectations this year for delivering projects with Federal Highway Administration funds.

PSRC provided $8 million to the Tulalip Tribes' third phase of the I-5 / 116th St NE Interchange Improvement Project.

The Tulalip Tribes’ I-5 / 116th St NE interchange project is moving forward with $8 million in PSRC funds.

Each region had a specific target amount to deliver by the end of the fiscal year, or the region would be at risk of losing these federal dollars.

Over the past several months, PSRC has intensively monitored every project using PSRC’s federal funds to ensure our region delivered fully and on time.

Local agencies across Puget Sound stepped up to the plate and not only met the target, but exceeded it.

Statewide, local agencies delivered approximately $300 million of federal funds to move priority transportation projects forward.

In the PSRC region, we delivered over $130 million to help advance projects such as Phase 3 of the Tulalip Tribes’ I-5/116th Ave. NE Interchange project, the Stewart Road Bridge Replacement project in Sumner, and other projects such as trails, sidewalks and bike lanes, roadway overlays and transit improvements.

This delivery expectation will continue into the future, and agencies across the region are already beginning to work towards the 2014 target.  For more information on PSRC’s project tracking program, click here.

Stay Cool and Green at Sea-Tac Airport

Cooling your jets at Sea-Tac Airport just got a lot cheaper and a lot easier on the environment.

Instead of burning jet fuel to keep passengers cool at the gate, Sea-Tac planes hook into the PCA System saving

Instead of burning jet fuel to keep passengers cool at the gate, Sea-Tac planes hook into the PCA Service.

Instead of burning fuel idling at the gate during boarding, aircraft can now turn off their engines and hook in to the Port of Seattle’s Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) service, saving about $15 million in fuel costs and 40,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.

The port installed over 15 miles of piping within the existing terminal to connect all of the gates to a system of chillers and heaters to provide the pre-conditioned air. A heat exchanger at the gate directs the air through a telescoping duct on the jet bridges, to a ventilation hose and directly into the aircraft’s cabin. Total cost of the project was $43 million, nearly $22 million of which was covered by a federal grant.  Projected payback is less than three years.

It’s all part of the Port of Seattle’s goal to become the cleanest, greenest, most energy efficient port in the nation. And it’s just another example of the innovative ways Puget Sound business and government leaders are working to grow our aerospace, transportation and logistics and clean tech industry clusters.

To learn more about the port’s PCA service, watch this video.

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Addressing the Harbor Maintenance Tax

Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have a plan to fix the Harbor Maintenance Tax  or HMT, which currently adds an average of $109 to the cost of each container imported through a U.S. port and creates multiple disadvantages for the region’s trade industry.

Addressing the Harbor Maintenance Tax will keep Puget Sound Ports competitive.

Addressing the Harbor Maintenance Tax will keep Puget Sound Ports competitive.

Money spent on harbor maintenance from the current tax is mainly used for U.S. port dredging – removing silt that accumulates in ports so that they can continue to handle large ships. Puget Sound ports are naturally deep and don’t require regular dredging, which means local ports are charging a federal tax on incoming goods and it is used improve other U.S. ports with no local return.

Shippers can currently avoid paying the tax by shipping goods through other ports in Canada and Mexico and then transporting the goods into the U.S. via truck and rail. Tay Yoshitani, CEO of the Port of Seattle and incoming head of the American Association of Port Authorities, estimates that hundreds of thousands of containers are being diverted to Canada due to the HMT. Prince Rupert Port in British Columbia has rail connections directly to the Midwest, and shippers from Asia can now easily reroute to Canada and cross into the U.S. by rail, circumventing the HMT. Currently, 70% of the cargo that comes through Prince Rupert is bound for the U.S.

Senators Murray and Cantwell have a solution to level the playing field between U.S., Canadian and Mexican ports – the Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century. This legislation will do the following to benefit our region:

  • It would create an import tax on all U.S. bound cargo, including truck and rail. This would remove a significant incentive to divert business from the Puget Sound to B.C. ports.
  • It sets 15% of funds aside for deep water ports – allowing for other uses like environmental projects and maintenance work. This will create new project options that Puget Sound ports can benefit from.
  • Increases the amount spent on harbor projects. Right now, only half of HMT dollars go to harbor projects, with the other half being diverted to other uses. Under the new law, all taxes collected go directly into improving the competitiveness of U.S. ports.

The Puget Sound region is heavily dependent on the movement of goods, with 40% of jobs in the state tied to international trade and much of the imports through its ports destined for other parts of the country. Addressing the Harbor Maintenance Tax to ensure the continued competitiveness of Puget Sound ports is one of the Prosperity Partnership’s 2013 Action Items. This item helps support the Infrastructure foundation as well as the Transportation & Logistics and Maritime industry clusters.

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New Study Links Economic Development to Transit

Transit has been credited with everything from reducing traffic congestion and pollution to improving public safety.

Bob Drewel has long championed the idea that economic development and transportation are linked.

Bob Drewel has long championed the linkage between economic development and transportation.

But boosting economic growth?

Daniel Chatman, a scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, believes he has found a clear link between transit expansion and economic development.

Speaking to The Atlantic Cities about a study he’s publishing this fall, Chatman says he believes that transit creates economies of agglomeration, a term economists use to describe the benefits of having lots of people in an area. Businesses tend to move to where the people are, bringing jobs and lifting wages and economic productivity.

Chatman analyzed 300 metropolitan areas across the United States, and found that a 10% expansion in transit service resulted in a wage increase of between $53 and $194 per worker per year in a city center. Gross metropolitan product rose between one and two percent.

It’s important to note that Chatman has been a long-time critic of rail as an economic investment strategy; in fact in The Atlantic Cities article he says he “was surprised to see these results so robust.” He also cautions that his statistical model is new and hasn’t been replicated by others yet. However, if his research stands up to scrutiny, this could be great news for city and transit officials seeking to prove the value of public transit expenditures during tight budget times.


Kitsap Attracting Aerospace Firms

When Boeing announced in 2011 it was embarking on a nationwide search for a site to build the 737 MAX, a group of business, labor, government and community leaders in Kitsap County asked themselves, “why not Kitsap?” They launched the Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance and got involved in the Washington Aerospace Partnership.

John Powers working hard for aerospace in Kitsap. Photo courtesy of the Kitsap Economic Development Association.

John Powers working hard for aerospace in Kitsap. Photo courtesy of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.

Kitsap didn’t win the 737 MAX, but now two years later, they have landed a California-based composites manufacturer. Omohundro, a 50-year old company currently based in Tustin, California, has bought a 41,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Port Orchard and has already hired about 10 local workers. The company expects to have 40 full time workers in the state by December.

“Omohundro came to us, and because we already had the Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance in place with its strong team of local government, business, labor, education and community leaders, we were ready to respond immediately,” said John Powers with Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, which is a member of KADA.

“Kitsap has a highly trained workforce and strong technical training programs, access to a multifaceted supply chain, close proximity to rail, deep water ports, airfields, and interstate highway system, and it is home to the region’s  largest MIC (manufacturing Industrial Center) greenfield site  – 3,400 acres surrounding the Bremerton National Airport in the South Kitsap Industrial Area.

For more information see www.kitsapaerospace.com


New Regional TDM Action Plan

PSRC recently completed a Regional TDM Action Plan as part of the current update to Transportation 2040.

Transportation Demand Management helps create mobility options in the region.

Transportation Demand Management offers people choices that make it easier to get around.

Transportation demand management, or TDM, refers to activities that help people use the transportation system more efficiently. How people use the transportation system can significantly affect the need for new investments and can support preservation and maintenance—the region’s top transportation priority.

TDM activities are instrumental in helping to optimize the region’s transportation system, and do so by offering choices that make it easier for people to get around. Many people around the region already receive a discounted transit pass or other incentive to take bus or train from their employer or school. Others carpool or telework, walk or bike to make short trips, and use car-sharing and other options so they don’t need to own a car.

These kinds of travel choices will play an even bigger role as the region grows. By 2040, the region will be home to almost two million more people and 1.2 million more jobs, and will experience a 40% increase in travel demand.

As a result, offering more travel options and easier ways to use them will be key to making the most of the region’s existing transportation system and getting people where they need to go.

The Regional TDM Action Plan highlights current programs throughout the region, like Community Transit’s Curb the Congestion, the University of Washington’s U-PASS, and Kitsap Transit’s Worker/Driver. It also recommends actions to support and augment the work hap­pening at the local level.

The TDM Steering Committee’s next meeting will be on September 17, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at King Street Center, Room 2A.

Due to tenant improvements, no meetings are being held at PSRC’s offices during August, September and October. 


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