day : 22/10/2015 14 results

Metro trip cancellations: Bus system still needs to hire more drivers to handle ‘enormous spike of work’

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Metro hopes its hiring spree will take care of the trip-cancellation problem by the end of this month.

While the bus system has stressed that only a small percentage of trips get canceled – they know it’s a big problem when it’s your trip. And when Metro started tweeting cancellation alerts – while acknowledging that it doesn’t get to send alerts about all the cancellations – it seemed three north West Seattle runs were affected more often than others – routes 55, 56, 57. Three trips from two of those routes were announced as canceled again this morning:

Those weren’t the only Metro trip cancellations tweeted/texted today – there were four others that were NOT on West Seattle routes:

Whichever routes they happen to, the concept of canceling a bus trip seems incomprehensible – you print a timetable, you run buses, you assign drivers, the service goes on, right? So we asked Metro exactly how a trip cancellation happens.

For an expanded, in-person version of the answer, we were shown around the two Metro “bases” at 6th and Royal Brougham one recent weekday afternoon. That’s where the buses are parked and where the drivers are scheduled, assigned, and dispatched. This building houses two of Metro’s seven bases, home to most West Seattle routes, with a few exceptions – for example, Routes 128 and 50 go from the South Base, Route 120 from Atlantic.

It’s where we learned phrases such as “piece of work.” Not what it meant in oldtime slang.

And we heard a lot of numbers.

Example: 1,052 daily trips out of 11,000 system-wide touch West Seattle.

The drivers for those trips are assigned by dispatchers who work in front of screens in what resemble big reception windows (top photo) – inside the 6th/Royal Brougham building, each of the two bases has its own dispatch window. While we watched and observed, we were pointed to a group of drivers waiting in a small lounge-like area down the hall, to see what might come open. Announcements were made from time to time.

In scheduling, some part-time drivers might get a “piece of work” that is very short – the minimum amount of time for which they can be paid, two and a half hours. And that’s where a cancellation might come in. A certain trip on a certain route might be part of that small “piece of work,” and if not everything can be covered, the shortest “piece of work” is what will end up going uncovered.

“What’s usually canceled is the smallest piece of the smallest part time route,” says Sandy Sander (photo above), who is superintendent of Central Base operations.

And even with that, they have policies – “we’re not going to cancel the same route two trips in a row, no first or last trips (of the day, on a route) can be canceled, no school trips.”

Since the addition (or restoration) of service paid for by last year’s Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, she says, “we’ve gone through an enormous spike of work” – so they’ve been going through two dozen new driver candidates every two weeks. There’s attrition in that number, and every two dozen will result in about 18 new hires. (You can get a hint at the hiring challenge by looking at Metro’s fall employee newsletter online:

Already this year (through August) we’ve hired 322 transit operators and more than 300 people for other positions, which meant processing over 1,990 transit operator applications and more than 6,325 applications for other Transit positions. We’ve also promoted 58 employees into new positions.

How long does it take a part-timer to get promoted to full time, if that’s what they want?

“Typically two or three years, but currently, 9 months.” And while you might expect it would be the other way around, the part-timer works the same route every day, while drivers with seniority get to choose.

A driver can work up to 16 hours and then has to have at least eight hours off. Extra work might be assigned on the fly as the dispatchers toil to keep everything filled – a driver might be out finishing up their originally scheduled shift, Sander explains, and on the way in, when a dispatcher finds out they have a spot to fill, they’ll contact the driver and ask “can you become the X route?”

Sander told us, “We’ve gone through a period where it’s like a snowstorm every day” – crazy scheduling and juggling. And until they hire enough people, some trips will be canceled. (Interested in working for Metro? Find out more here.)

High-school football: Chief Sealth IHS wins rematch with West Seattle HS

9:02 PM THURSDAY: Another football game of note tonight – score’s in from Memorial Stadium downtown: Chief Sealth International High School 18, West Seattle High School 13. That means the Seahawks move on to the playoffs; we’re awaiting word of their next game.

8:35 AM FRIDAY: In today’s CSIHS Daily Bulletin, athletic director Ernest Policarpio notes, “Chief Sealth will be playing either Blanchet or Prep next week in the playoffs.” (Those two schools play tonight @ 7 pm at West Seattle Stadium.)

FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Schools announces final list of teacher/staff moves

(WSB photo: October 13th protest outside SPS HQ)

Two weeks after first word that some Seattle Public Schools were getting word of teacher cuts/moves – plans that sparked protests – the district has gone public with a final list of what it says has happened, with nine local schools affected (we’ve marked them with asterisks):

Seattle Public Schools will add certified staff to five schools next week, and reassign only seven certified staff to other schools, out of nearly 1,100 general education staff (elementary, middle, K-8).

As the district shared earlier this month, 52,399 students are enrolled in the district this year, according to the 10-day headcount (9/30). This is an increase of 411 students over last year. However, while we have more students this year, the number is lower than projected by 675. This translates into $4.23 million less in revenue from the state, not including the enrollment decline impact on Special Education, Transportation or Nutrition Services.

Some schools have increased enrollment, some have decreased enrollment. This made it necessary to add more staff at those schools with higher enrollment and to reduce staff at those with lower enrollment, with a couple of unique exceptions based on classroom configuration. SPS district staff have worked closely with school leaders to address the timeline during the reassignment process. This has resulted in a net reduction of 21.5 full-time positions.

Eight start-of-school substitutes were added district-wide and funded centrally in schools where principals believed their enrollment may be higher than the district projection. Principals used this resource to support smooth start of school efforts. The goal was to reduce the number of classes without a teacher, and to mitigate for last minute enrollment changes. Five of the six elementary and middle schools that received a substitute did not qualify to keep this position. One of the schools, Green Lake, will add a full time teacher. The six substitutes pulled were at the following schools: Emerson, John Hay, *Schmitz Park, West Woodland, Washington and Queen Anne. Those staff will be assigned to hard-to-fill positions and assigned to one building rather than different daily assignments across the district. Some schools have enrollment changes at the grade level, as compared to projections, that generated the need to add staff in some schools but also reduce in other schools.

The five schools adding staff members are:
Green Lake – 1.0 addition
Rainier View – 1.0 addition
Viewlands – 1.0 addition
*Madison – 2.0 additions
Hamilton – 1.0 addition

The seven schools who have been impacted by the need to reassign a staff member are:

Jane Addams – .4 partial displacement – 1.1 internal funds, 1 reassigned to Broadview Thomson as part-time building designated substitute
*West Seattle Elementary – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Lafayette
North Beach Elementary – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Bagley
*K-6 Stem @ Boren – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Rainier Beach
*Highland Park Elementary – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Emerson as building designated substitute
Dunlap Elementary – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Kimball
Bryant Elementary – 1.0 displacement – Reassigned to Viewlands

Five schools had individuals choose to slightly reduce their contracts in order to remain at the school:

Sand Point – .5 vacant position closed, .2 reduction, .3 funds restored with internal/external
Wedgwood – .5 vacant position closed, reassigned to Roxhill as .5 building designated sub
Broadview Thomson – Vacant position closed, two staff reduced .5 each to job share
Whitman – Vacant position closed, two employees reduced .2 each, .4 funds identified, .2 to be determined
Madrona K-8 – .5 vacant position closed, two staff reduced .2 and .3 each

The following schools either closed vacant positions or found alternative funding:

*Alki * Retained in position due to community funding
B.F. Day * Grade one combined, vacant position closed
Beacon Hill * Vacant position closed
*Concord * Vacant position closed
Bailey Gatzert * Funds restored with alternative funding
Laurelhurst * Vacant position closed
Lowell * Vacant position closed
Martin Luther King * Vacant position closed
Olympic View * Vacant position closed
Queen Anne * Allocation had not been utilized yet
*Roxhill * Two vacant positions closed
*Denny * Alternate funding identified

Special Education:

Out of 900 staff members, four teachers and eight instructional assistants were reassigned to other schools.

English Language Learners

We added ELL services to 35 schools (all schools now provide ELL services).
Out of 326 ELL teachers, 3.5 positions were reallocated.

We understand families and staff are impacted by these changes. The SPS Human Resources Department staff continues to work closely with every building to ensure clarity and support throughout this process. Those seven staff being reassigned, have been assured that being reassigned has no impact on their contract status, FTE level, pay, benefits or retirement.

As you can see, the SPS news release does not list which schools were affected by special-education and ELL changes – if any are local, please let us know in comments or via e-mail – – thanks!

ROAD-WORK ALERT: City crews at 5-way intersection beneath the bridge next two weekends

(Click image for larger view)
SDOT has just sent word that crews will be working at the five-way intersection under the bridge the next two weekends:

This weekend SDOT is preparing to implement a series of safety improvements at a West Seattle intersection.

The intersection is located below the West Seattle Bridge, where W Marginal Way SW, Chelan Ave SW, SW Spokane St and Delridge Way SW intersect. It is also where the Alki Trail connects with the West Seattle Bridge Trail. The intersection provides freight operators main access to the industrial district in West Seattle and the West Seattle Bridge.

Safety improvements include the restriping of crosswalks; the placement of green pavement markings indicating where people biking and driving cross paths; and the installation of a rapid flashing beacon at the south side of the intersection to increase the visibility of people accessing the trails. Crews have already begun work in the median island between Delridge Way SW and SW Spokane St to add a paved path for people waiting to walk or bike across Delridge Way SW. These safety improvements bring us closer to reaching our Vision Zero goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries, and once they are implemented it will be easier for everyone to travel through this area.

Construction activities are being divided over two weekends to help minimize traffic delays at this busy intersection. Weekend work activities are weather dependent and scheduled to conclude by Nov. 1. Traffic control will be in place both weekends and conducted in cooperation with the Seattle Police Department. Construction impacts include noise, dust, and minor delays due to lane restrictions while crews complete their work tasks. Questions about the project can be directed to 206-684-8105.

Improving this intersection has long been a goal for local transportation advocates; it also was discussed at the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor “action report” meeting back on Monday night – here’s our report.

West Seattle Crime Watch: Pellet shooting; reader reports; SPD’s new Crime Data Dashboard

In West Seattle Crime Watch this afternoon – police are investigating what they believe was a pellet-gun shooting along Alki Avenue SW. The victim was injured around quarter past 1 this afternoon in the 1500 block of Alki SW. Police have no victim or suspect description so far. We’re still checking for more info on this. (Update: We’ve heard from the victim in comments.)

This afternoon we also have reader reports from the WSB inbox, starting with something else in the Alki area:

DIAPER BAG FOUND WITH CAR PROWL LOOT: Althea reports, “A black Marc and Jacobs diaper bag was found this morning in an alley near my house. A bike and wallet were also found. The wallet was taken from my car and returned to me but we are still looking for the owner of the diaper bag. We live near Alki Elementary.”

CARS VANDALIZED: Tuesday night, acid was poured on cars near 47th and Charlestown, according to a neighbor who forwarded the report.

CAR PROWLS: Sara says 48th SW in Seaview was hit on Tuesday:

I saw the burglar at 2:45 am getting into my neighbor’s SUV. He had a silver sedan with curved or slanted back. I’m not a car person, but it looks a bit like either an older Pinto or a mid-’80s Ford Escort. It looked like a man, med build, tall, was wearing knit cap, leather jacket over sweater, and jeans. Couldn’t tell anything else. Had flashlight and was looking around inside my neighbor’s car while he left his own car running. Tapped on glass. He heard something and took off fast, heading south down 48th. Note: I should not have disturbed him. I should have called 911 while he was in car. Called police after and they were quick to respond, but we might have caught him in the act if I hadn’t disturbed him.

CRIME-TREND ‘DASHBOARD’: You might have heard about this in citywide news – announced yesterday, but we didn’t get a chance to mention it. The SPD “Crime Data Dashboard” is a new way to check crime trends and data. It’s explained in this SPD Blotter item; find the dashboard, filterable by neighborhood, here.

TRAFFIC/SAFETY ALERT: Orchard closed north of Dumar

A tree-vs.-power-line situation has led to Seattle Police and City Light blocking off SW Orchard north of Dumar (map) until crews can get there to take care of the problem. They’re not sure how long that’ll take – could be a few hours. No crash involved, just a spontaneous problem, but we recall from past storms that this can be a trouble spot during wind and rain, so damage might have lingered.

Highway 99 tunnel-machine update: Projected restart date now Christmas Eve-Eve

Tunnel update just in from WSDOT: The newest monthly construction schedule from its contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has slid another month. If this one holds, the tunnel machine will resume work on December 23rd, and if all goes well, the tunnel would open in April 2018. Read WSDOT’s update in full – including what’s happening near the access pit along the Viaduct – by going here.

VIDEO: Do you recognize this ‘person of interest’ in West Seattle arsons? Watch both clips

(SCROLL DOWN for additional video that appears to show fire-setting)

Just in from Seattle Police – video showing a “person of interest” in two of the West Seattle arsons, near 35th SW and SW Morgan:

Detectives have obtained video footage of a person of interest in the first two fires on October 12th. In that incident, two fires were set near the 3500 block of SW Morgan Street. The footage, recorded shortly before 2:30 AM on the 12th, shows an individual dressed in black and carrying a black bag walking toward the bus shelter, where the first fire was set. The surveillance camera did not capture the individual’s face, but police believe the person is a white or light-skinned male. Detectives are hoping someone out there will recognize the person’s clothing or may have seen him in West Seattle around the time of the fires.

If you have any information about this person or this case, please contact detectives at 206-684-8980 or call 911.

Screen grab (click image for larger view):

If you’ve missed previous coverage of the arsons, full backstory is in our “where it stands” report from Wednesday, to which we also added our video of what Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis told the Morgan Community Association last night.

5:54 PM UPDATE: In the past hour or so, SPD has substituted in its blotter post a longer clip for the original :12 one you see above. This one shows the actual fire-lighting:

West Seattle scene: Famous former student visits Holy Rosary

The photo is courtesy of Mayor Murray‘s office, forwarded by Holy Rosary School, which wanted to share the news that the former student visited this week:

This week, Mayor Murray paid a visit to Holy Rosary S.T.E.M. (Plus) School! The mayor attended Holy Rosary as a third grader in 1963 before moving to Lacey. While visiting, he was being filmed by a crew from Ireland, who is making a documentary about the Irish in Seattle. Mayor Murray was able to walk the halls and watch many students engaged in exciting activities. He met with a group of junior high students, and was impressed by their maturity and thoughtful questions.

In case you wondered, with the Irish reference – while the president of Ireland is visiting our area right now, the mayor’s HR stop was before his arrival.

P.S. If you’re not part of the HR community, you might notice something new in the school’s name. We asked registrar Kimberly Tish about it: “This year we have fully integrated the STEM approach into all areas of our curriculum. The (Plus) speaks to the focus on our Catholic Identity and our strong arts programs: art, music, foreign language (Spanish).” She adds that the school’s already accepting applications for next year.

West Seattle Thursday: Halloween happenings; ST3 at WSTC…

(Western Grebes, photographed by Mark Wangerin)
With their red eyes, grebes look a little spooky. So the photo’s suitable for the season – which starts with pre-Halloween events tonight! They’re among our highlights from the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar:

HIGH-SCHOOL FOOTBALL: 4:30 pm at Memorial Stadium downtown, West Seattle High School vs. Chief Sealth IHS as the postseason begins. (401 5th Ave. N.)

WINE TASTING: German wines are in the spotlight for the weekly free tasting at West Seattle Cellars, 5:30 pm. (6026 California SW)

FREE FALL FESTIVAL FUN: 6-7:45 pm at High Point Community Center, with bouncy toys and more. Free. (6920 34th SW)

HAUNTED HOUSE: Also 6-7:45 pm at High Point Community Center, $2 admission – details in our calendar listing. (6920 34th SW)

PIANO JAZZ: Chris Kenji: Koto Jazz piano music, live at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), 6-8 pm. (5612 California SW)

TEEN COSTUME CONTEST AND FLASHLIGHT HUNT: 6:30 pm at Hiawatha Community Center, it’s the annual teen Halloween event – details here. (2700 California SW)

SOUND TRANSIT LIGHT RAIL FOR WEST SEATTLE? 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition hears from Sound Transit reps about where things stand looking ahead to next year’s ST3 ballot measure. (6400 SW Sylvan Way)

LOOK AHEAD! Days, weeks, months … we update West Seattle’s only comprehensive event calendar continuously. Click any listing to expand to a preview, and then click “read more” to see the full listing, with location, times, a map, more.

West Seattle Helpline can’t help anybody without you! Here’s something you can do right now.

West Seattle Helpline wants to remind you that its 6th annual “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” dinner and auction is only three weeks away:

This event raises critical awareness, support, and funds to ensure that all of our neighbors have a place to turn when they need help getting back on their feet after a crisis.

This year, we’ll be featuring:
*A cocktail hour with live music, fun activities and a silent auction
*A three-course meal with beer and wine from local breweries and wineries
*A live auction including vacations and one-of-a-kind experiences
*Our famously competitive (and delicious) dessert dash!

It’s 6-9 pm Friday, November 13th, at The Hall at Fauntleroy. You can get your ticket(s) right now by going here.

West Seattle development: Comment time for microhousing at 4122 36th SW

9:24 AM: The major West Seattle item in today’s city Land Use Information Bulletin is the start of a comment period for Early Design Guidance on the four-story, 20-unit, no-offstreet-parking microhousing (Small Efficiency Dwelling Units) building proposed to replace the 95-year-old triplex (above) at 4122 36th SW. We first reported on this project when it turned up in the online files in July. This is going through Streamlined Design Review, so NO public meeting, but the public does have the chance to offer comments on the design via e-mail. Just one thing missing: The design packet is nowhere to be found online. The official notice from today’s bulletin warns that this is your only chance – deadline November 4th – to comment on the project, and explains how to do that, but we’ve checked various spots in the city’s online files (such as the project’s page on the Design Review website) and can’t find the design packet you’re supposed to be able to comment on. We’ve sent the project’s assigned city planner a note asking for it to be made available in hopes of adding it to this story.

9:38 AM: Planner Holly Godard has responded to our e-mail and says it “should be there shortly.”

9:44 AM: And indeed it has just appeared in the places where it should be (here’s the direct link). In some cases, you’ll find a Design Review packet online before the notice – note that the cover page for this one is dated September 30th.

10:13 AM: Added image from packet, by architects Alloy Design Group. Note that the Early Design Guidance stage does not show the final planned look – its focus is on the building’s shape and size, aka “massing.”

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT TODAY: Thursday alerts & updates; then/now ‘Throwback’ view

(Four WS-relevant views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
6:47 AM: No incidents in our area so far today. Metro has tweeted two bus-trip cancellations so far this morning, and one was in West Seattle:

6:51 AM: And two more, this time with some advance warning:

7:33 AM: We’ve skipped Traffic Throwback Thursday for several weeks, for various reasons. This morning, it’s back. We have a then-and-now pair of views that represent a followup of sorts. In a September 29th story, we featured this historic aerial view from the Seattle Municipal Archives, looking west over Luna Park and beyond in 1962:

One commenter asked about a comparable current view from Gatewood pilot/photographer Long Bach Nguyen. He saw that comment and took time to provide this photo:

(Click image to see larger view)
Finally today, on a quiet-so-far Thursday, we have the chance to publish it.

7:52 AM: Back to today’s traffic – heads-up for southeastern West Seattle, from SDOT via Twitter:

8:13 AM: If you are headed this way from the north – you should know that two lanes are blocked on southbound I-5 at the exit to the westbound West Seattle Bridge, so 99 will be a better alternative until that’s cleared up.

8:46 AM: Two more problems: #1, mentioned in comments, there’s a port-truck backup. We heard a bit of that on the scanner but didn’t realize it was on this side – sounded closer to the downtown waterfront. #2, a crash is reported at 42nd/Findlay, and police and fire are heading that way.

9 AM: 42nd/Findlay is currently completely blocked, mostly by emergency vehicles.

No one appears to be seriously hurt.

West Seattle scene: Back to what’s now the past, at The Admiral

Now that it’s October 22nd, 2015, movie fans point out, everything in “Back to the Future II” is “in the past.” 10/21/2015 is the date to which the movie’s heroes traveled, so there were special screenings nationwide on Wednesday, including one at West Seattle’s historic Admiral Theater. That’s where Sherri Chun took the photo, saying, “I ran into Marty McFly and Doc Brown tonight at Back to the Future!”

P.S. Leaping into the near future, The Admiral will be among the theaters showing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and if you’re still looking for early-premiere tickets for December 17th – go here.