News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates.
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Remote work continues to thrive among Seattle commuters
It sounds odd to say, but "remote work" has continued to thrive among Seattle's commuters.
That's according to the results of Commute Seattle's 2022 survey showing how people are getting to and from work. Remote work shot up to 46% of commuters in 2021, amid ongoing pandemic measures. That share held strong through 2022.
RELATED: Can Seattle turn underused office towers into apartment buildings?
The main takeaways from the 2022 survey:
- Remote workers tend to be higher income earners. Lower income workers are more likely to hit the road and work in-person.
- Commuters are more often choosing to work in-office Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Mondays and Fridays are lighter on the roads.
- Before the pandemic, in 2019, public transit had a considerable share of commuters (46%), but this method has not recovered and was 22% in 2022.
- Driving alone into work trended downward during this time. In 2019, driving alone added up to 26% of commuters. In 2022, it was 21%.
- Rideshares took a hit, going from 9% to 3% between 2019 and 2022.
- Walking trended downward, going from 7% in 2019 to 3% in 2022.
- Biking held at a solid 3% all three years.
- 10% of commuting cars were hybrids, and 6% were electric vehicles.
- Preferences for modes of transportation also break down demographically. Women were less likely to take public transit. White commuters were less likely to take public transit, too. Asian and white workers were more likely to telework.
One point that Commute Seattle notes is that while the share of commuters "driving alone" has declined, traffic congestion has still gone up. This has largely been due to people choosing to drive to places other than work. In other words, cars are still hitting the road, causing congestion, they just aren't going to work. They're going other places.
RELATED: With office employees gone, downtown Seattle residents became the neighborhood's economic lifeblood
"...over 75% of the trips that Seattleites take to grocery stores, healthcare, and school pick-up and drop-off are done by driving alone. We also take more of these trips in a week than we do from home to work."
The commuter survey reflects one-tenth of Seattle workers as of fall of 2022. Recent developments could significantly influence next year's survey.Continue reading »
Why Dow Constantine will not run to be Washington's next governor
King County Executive Dow Constantine will not run to be Washington state's next governor in the 2024 gubernatorial election.
According to a Friday email from Constantine:
"Not infrequently, people kindly ask whether I would run for Governor in 2024 if Gov. Jay Inslee chooses not to seek re-election. Governor is an important office, and Jay is doing great work, day-in and day-out, for Washington State — and leading the nation on the critical issue of climate. While I hope he is willing to continue, he should be given the grace to make his own decision on his own timeline.
But I've made my decision. Having given it thorough consideration, I have concluded that the answer is no, I would not run. I'm not willing to set aside all that we're achieving right now — the full-time work that I'm passionate about — in favor of full-time fundraising and campaigning. I am grateful to serve as Executive of one of the nation’s largest, most progressive, most innovative jurisdictions, and I'm committed to seeing my many local, regional, and national initiatives through."
Constantine's statement also notes that the county has a range of challenges ahead, with an "ambitious agenda" that includes securing a budget, modernizing Harborview Medical Center, helping to build Sound Transit 3, and dealing with ongoing issues of mental health. He argues that he would rather put his energy into such challenges than into fundraising for a gubernatorial campaign.
Gov. Inslee's term ends in 2025, meaning the 2024 election season is just around the corner. He is currently serving a rare third term as governor.
Constantine's announcement comes shortly after the results of a poll by the Northwest Progressive Institute, which stated the King County executive got 7% of support from those polled.
The institute asked a pool of 874 likely voters who they would favor out of a "hypothetical field" of 2024 candidates. The poll found that Republican Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier led the pack (35%), with Democrat votes split between state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (21%), Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz (7%), and Constantine (7%). A total of 30% of likely voters weren't sure who they would pick.
The above mentioned names were the only options offered in the poll, therefore only one Republican option was given. Together, the Democrat candidates add up to match Dammeier's 35%.Continue reading »
Sunshine and warm weather arrive in Seattle, along with allergy season
With the sun finally peeking out for St. Patrick's Day, it's starting to feel like spring around Seattle. The days leading up to the start of spring on March 20 are expected to have temps rising into the low 60s.
But perhaps a leprechaun brought a trick with his sun-shining pot of gold. The spring weather also is triggering the beginning of allergy season.
You can’t completely avoid pollen as we go about our lives, but you can take measures to keep it out of your home. The best way to deal with allergies is to avoid pollen, according to Jenny Sun, clinical assistant professor of allergy and immunology at UW Medicine.
Sun recommends taking off your shoes inside the house, and keeping windows closed during peak allergy season. She also notes that the best time to start allergy medications a couple weeks before peak allergy season. In other words, now might be a good time to start your meds.
“Washing the hair before going to bed at night, so you’re not bringing pollen onto your pillowcases. That way not breathing it in throughout the night,” Sun said.
It turns out, all those face masks from the past few pandemic years also come in handy for allergy season, especially if you have nose allergies.
“I think masks can be an avoidance measure, more for the nose than for the eyes,” Sun said, noting this is one way to keep your nose from being physically exposed to the pollen.
Showers are expected to be back in the Seattle area by Sunday. Sun says the rain can help clear the pollen out of the air "very temporarily." But there is also a theory that the rain can hit large chunks of pollen and help it disperse. Therefore, it could "potentially increase pollen season."
According to the Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center, the pollen count for March 17, St. Patrick's Day, remains low.
Allergy season tips
- Take allergy meds two weeks before allergy season is expected to start
- Use face masks to lessen pollen exposure
- Wash hair before going to bed to rinse out pollen
- Keep an eye on local pollen conditions
Are you ready for some cricket?!: Today So Far
- Seattle just got a new professional cricket team.
- How do you recycle in the San Juan Islands?
- When will the cherry blossoms bloom this spring?
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 17, 2023.
Would you go see a cricket game in Seattle? A group of locals are confident enough people will be interested to justify a new cricket team.
The Seattle Orcas is the newest team in town. It's more accurate to say that this team will represent our region. It doesn't have a playfield yet, but organizers are working with King County, Bellevue, and Redmond to build a 6,000-person cricket facility at Marymoor Park. The team is forming now and is slated to play in the 2023 season this summer against a handful of other teams popping up around the USA to create Major League Cricket.
An interesting point about the formation of this team is the group of investors bringing it to town, a veritable who's who of the local tech scene. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is one such investor, so is Sanjay Parthasarathy, former Microsoft and Valara executive.
“We are super excited to bring world class cricket to the Pacific Northwest, which has a vibrant and passionate community of cricket and sports fans," said Soma Somasegar, co-investor in the team and managing director at Madrona Ventures. "The Orcas name and the team’s colors pay tribute to our local community that has helped build that spirit of support."
For the non-sportsy type folks out there (I'm included in this group), our area already has one professional cricket team, the Seattle Thunderbolts, which is a minor league team that practices in Redmond and Issaquah. This team, and the new one, should spur some local curiosity. I look forward to checking out a game, and perhaps finally understanding what a "sticky wicket" is.
The folks living on the San Juan Islands are quite trashy, and I mean that in a very good way (I also mean it in a clickbaity way). Because, do you know how they recycle in the San Juans?
When you toss something into a recycling bin somewhere in the San Juan Islands — a can from San Juan Island Brewing, or a paper bag from the Lopez Island Farmers Market, or a jar from San Juan Sea Salt — that waste generally gets loaded onto a boat and shipped to South Seattle. That's where the processing facility is for much of the region's recyclables. All the materials get mixed up into one heap. But folks around the San Juans got worried that the materials weren't getting sorted well enough. Enter the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, which is a group of volunteers who separate out all the comingled recyclables for a little pre-processing. Plastic gets shredded and compacted. Glass gets ground up. That's a lot more efficient for travel.
Orcas islanders have a similar effort up and running and also have a composting program. They even grind up glass into sand which can be used in construction or landscaping. It's estimated that they have reduced what is shipped off-island by about 50%. You have to admit, this is all quite impressive. I'm a little inspired to get trashy myself. Soundside has the full story here.
If you've been planning your annual spring Instagram photos, then you'll be happy to know when the cherry blossoms will bloom at the University of Washington.
In short, peak bloom is expected in early April. That's when about 70% of the flowers will be on display in the Quad. UW has about 29 Yoshino cherry trees in its Quad, which draw a considerable crowd each year as they put on a flowery show. I'm not joking when I say to expect traffic delays around UW, potentially stretching out onto I-5, during this time. UW recommends folks try to visit during the week or early mornings to avoid the heaviest crowds. That way, you can capture the best family photo, Instagram glamor shot, or pretend like you're the star of your own anime.Continue reading »
'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' is a near mythBy
The 2019 film Shazam! followed on the heels of Wonder Woman (2017) and Aquaman (2018) — two DC superhero movies that had already managed to step out from under the grim-dark era of filmmaker Zack Snyder, with its muddy, grayish-brown color palette and even muddier, brownish-gray emotional palette.
Yet there was something distinctly bright, fresh and colorful about director David F. Sandberg's movie, which starred Asher Angel as lonely foster kid Billy Batson, who gets granted powers by a mysterious wizard (Djimon Hounsou) that transform him into an adult (albeit naggingly unnamed) superhero played, with bracing gusto, by Zachary Levi.
The idea, then and now, is Tom Hanks' Big-meets superheroes: When he says a magic word, young Billy's body transforms, but his mind stays the same. Thus the film unspooled with its every superhero cliché (training montage, random acts of heroism, climactic battles with various villains) inflected with something new: the heedless joy of a kid being granted a wish. Levi played his superhero as an over-enthusiastic try-hard who was desperate to figure things out. Sure, he tossed out the occasional pop culture reference or wincingly dumb joke, but that resultant doofiness was endearing, novel, fun.
That was then. This is now.
More (big red) cheese
It's apparent quite early that the narrative fuel mixture of Shazam: Fury of the Gods is off. This time out, returning director Sandberg attempts to crank the volume on the first film's breezy goofiness, and succeeds. But that increase in volume introduces distortion: We get more of Levi in the red muscle suit and less — startlingly less — of Angel as teen Billy.
That's only an issue because of what Levi chooses to do with his greater share of screen time, which is to make the sweatiest, schtickiest, most effortful choice, again and again. He mugs. He preens. He goggles his eyes. The performance devolves to one level, one joke, over and over: His character makes a pop culture reference that the film's villain du jour — an ancient god named Hespera, played by Helen Mirren — kind of squints quizzically at.
Repeat that bit once per minute, 130 times, and there's your movie.
There's an attempt to leaven Levi's go-for-the-jugular approach with a character arc. When we meet him, he's suffering from imposter syndrome, as his found family of fellow super beings (including Freddy, played by both Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody) fail to embrace his leadership.
That leadership gets further challenged by the appearance of the daughters of the mythical Atlas (Mirren and Lucy Liu), who seek to reclaim the power he and his friends wield. Big fights happen on and above the streets of Philadelphia (played by Atlanta); sundry zappy standoffs occur amid rubble and rebar.Continue reading »
Northern and southern resident orcas hunt differently. New study could help orca numbers
According to a new study from the University of Washington and NOAA Fisheries, northern and southern resident orcas who live in the Salish Sea have different fish hunting patterns.
The northern resident orca’s population has slowly increased. However, southern resident orca numbers are still dangerously low. Both types of killer whales eat salmon and other fish. Their favorite snack is a big chinook because “they’re lipid rich, and they pack the biggest bang for the buck,” according to Jennifer Tennessen, a UW researcher and lead author of the study.
Typically, when killer whales hunt, the group travels to a foraging habitat, individually dive down to capture fish, then share with their family, Tennessen said.
According to the new study in both populations females were the best at catching prey. Female northern resident orcas were also more efficient compared to males as they spent more time foraging. Tennessen says the southern resident orcas had “completely opposite behavior.” Males captured more prey and spent more time foraging compared to females.
When a female has a calf, their ability to capture fish declines, however, Tennessen says this trend was particularly strong among the southern resident orcas. No females who had calves caught prey during the study.
One theory behind the different patterns could be due to the southern resident orcas evolving as they try to feed themselves, Tennessen said.
Females are also more vulnerable to disturbances in the water, especially to frequencies from boats, explained Tennessen. Southern resident male orcas may be trying to catch more fish to provide for their families while the females are feeling the impacts from the disturbances in the habitat.
“Reducing disturbance may be key to recovering these critical female foraging opportunities,” Tennessen said, adding that this new study could help environmental groups create better convocation plans for the killer whales now that they understand their hunting patterns.
Northern resident orcas have tripled their population over the past 50 years. There’s now more than 300 of them. Southern resident orca populations are endangered. Currently, there are 73 known southern Resident Killer Whales.
Continue reading »
When will the cherry blossoms bloom at UW in 2023?
The cold weather through the start of 2023 has stalled the cherry blossom bloom this spring, which means that all your Instagram photos will have to wait a little longer.
According to the University of Washington:
"As of March 15, the cherry trees in the UW Quad are mostly green buds and a few florets, where the folded-up petals are emerging. The trees will likely hit 10% bloom, meaning one in every 10 buds has erupted in pink or white blossoms, the week of March 20."
The university's arborist expects "peak bloom" to be in early April. That's when 70% of the buds have bloomed.
RELATED: Seattle will save cherry blossom trees on Pike Street, but the old ones still have to go
The cherry blossom bloom attracts massive crowds to UW's Quad each year. The university recommends visiting during the week to avoid heavier crowds. Early mornings are good, too.
UW has started a new website for cherry blossom visitors. There is also a live video feed of the campus trees, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The Quad is home to 29 Yoshino cherry trees that are nearly 90 years old.Continue reading »
Seattle is getting a major league cricket team
Seattle sports is getting a lot bigger as the Orcas cricket team enters the mix.
“We are super excited to bring world class cricket to the Pacific Northwest, which has a vibrant and passionate community of cricket and sports fans," said Soma Somasegar, co-investor in the team. "The Orcas name and the team’s colors pay tribute to our local community that has helped build that spirit of support."
While the team's name is the Seattle Orcas, it's more accurate to say the team represents Western Washington, if not the Northwest, among franchises in emerging Major League Cricket. The team is currently forming its roster, yet does not have a home field. Major League Cricket says it is working with King County and the city of Bellevue to build a cricket field at Marymoor Park in Redmond. That proposed field would host up to 6,000 people on 20 acres.
Other investors in the Seattle Orcas include major players in the local tech scene. They include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Icertis CEO Samir Bodas, Ashok Krishnamurthi (GreatPoint Ventures), and former Microsoft and Avalara executive Sanjay Parthasarathy. Somasegar is managing director at Madrona Ventures.
To help get the team going, the Orcas are partnering with the Delhi Capitals to fill its roster.
“We see America as the new frontier for cricket’s growth globally, and the Pacific Northwest provides an incredible opportunity for us to bring the resources of GMR Sports to the region and help the Seattle Orcas build a team competing for championships,” said Kiran Kumar Grandhi, CEO of GMR Group, which co-owns the Delhi Capitals.
The first season for MLC is slated for summer 2023. Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., are also lined up to get cricket teams in the league.
“The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed for American cricket, with a vibrant youth scene and the current reigning Minor League Cricket champions, the Seattle Thunderbolts, hailing from the area. It’s going to be exciting to see the Seattle Orcas build on that platform and compete in the inaugural Major League Cricket championship this summer,” said Justin Geale, MLC tournament director.
The Seattle Thunderbolts is the city's minor league cricket team. It was formed in 2021. It currently practices and plays at Issaquah's Klahanie Park and Marymoor Park.Continue reading »
A 'thriving downtown' Seattle or 'a fentanyl market': Today So Far
- “We can have a revitalized, thriving downtown with retail and restaurants and arts and culture, or we can have a fentanyl market. We can’t have both." — Downtown Seattle Association CEO Jon Scholes
- Things are getting busy over at Boeing.
- Early morning train derailment on the Swinomish Reservation, near Anacortes.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 16, 2023.
The message to downtown Seattle businesses and city leaders was pretty straight forward.
“We can have a revitalized, thriving downtown with retail and restaurants and arts and culture, or we can have a fentanyl market. We can’t have both," Downtown Seattle Association CEO Jon Scholes told a crowd gathered at the Seattle Convention Center recently.
Scholes' State of Downtown address contained a lot of sobering news, but nothing folks have been entirely unaware of. Downtown populations have not recovered from the pandemic. Office workers aren't coming in as much. Hotel stays are down. That means local businesses don't have as much needed foot traffic. Downtown residents aren't enough to make up the difference, and downtown needs more residents in general. Amid all of this, Scholes points out that between 2020 and 2022, Seattle lost more people to overdoses than from the Covid-19 pandemic. Scholes wants city leaders to do a few things, including, improving conditions on the street, and bringing people back into downtown offices.
As KUOW's Joshua McNichols reports, Scholes also wants the city to "do no harm," which he says is code for, "Do all these things without raising taxes on businesses."
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell was present at the event, and said that plans were in the works to fix a lot of downtown's woes. He didn't give a lot of details, however, other than saying, "Bear with me." Right now, he says he is amassing the political and financial backing needed for such plans. Check out the full story here.
Boeing is about to get busy. A Saudi Arabian airline plans to launch its operations with an all-Boeing fleet of 787 Dreamliners.
Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Air will buy 39 Dreamliners, with an option to buy 33 more in the future. Another airline, Saudia Air, is also aiming to buy some 787s for its long-haul fleet. This all adds up to 121 Dreamliners.
"It's the fifth biggest [order] in Boeing's history by theoretical dollar value," aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia told KUOW. "By any metric, it's pretty sizable.”
The good news comes after Air India purchased 200 planes last month. Check out the full story here.
More details are trickling in about the early morning train derailment on the Swinomish Reservation, near Anacortes. At first, it was stated that about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked out as a result, but some folks are scaling back that estimate. The train was carrying diesel, however, the reported leak came from one of the engines that derailed, not the cargo. The state's Department of Ecology says that the spill happened on land, and doesn't seem too concerned about any leaks into local waters.Continue reading »
UW food pantry struggles to meet demand that goes beyond studentsBy
The University of Washington is seeing record numbers of people using its food pantry. It’s trying to keep the shelves stocked as demand grows.
Last fall quarter, the UW Food Pantry served more than 1,600 people who made 3,642 visits to pick up canned food, organic produce, ready-to-eat items and hygiene products — all free of charge. This quarter it’s on track to exceed those numbers. Initially the program was created for students. Now it’s extended to anyone with a Husky ID card, including staff and faculty.
“It became evident that the issue was campuswide,” said Alex Silver, the pantry's student director. Silver estimated that 10% of pantry visitors are non-students. Like many area food pantries, the UW program is trying to keep up with demand.
“We’ve had moments, especially in the past year where the shelves were almost empty,” Silver said. He said this year they continue to need shelf-stable items, especially canned protein.
The pantry started as a pop-up, but demand kept growing. In 2018, it became a permanent program.Continue reading »
Train derails near Anacortes, spills up to 3,100 gallons of diesel
A train derailed on the Swinomish Reservation, near Anacortes, Washington, just after midnight Thursday morning, spilling diesel fuel between the shore of Padilla Bay and an RV park next to the Swinomish Casino and Lodge.
Washington Department of Ecology officials initially estimated that 5,000 gallons of diesel had spilled, then revised that estimate to "up to 5,000 gallons" later Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon, they revised their estimate to "up to 3,100 gallons" and said estimates would be refined as cleanup progresses.
The freight train was operated by BNSF Railway and seven cars long: two locomotives up front, a buffer car to protect the train's two crew members from any hazardous cargo, and four tanker cars, which state officials say were empty.
No injuries—to humans or wildlife—have been reported.
The Washington Department of Ecology initially reported that "most" of the spilled fuel went onto the land side of the waterfront track.
Later Thursday morning, Ecology spokesperson Scarlet Tang said the trains' two locomotives had both tipped over onto the upland side of the tracks. The empty tank cars remained upright and did not spill.
"Luckily, they tipped over onto the land side of the railroad track berm rather than the shore side," Tang said. "If it had tipped over onto the other side, it would've spilled into onto the shore, where there are some really valuable eelgrass beds."
"The train was traveling east. Before reaching the bridge that crosses the Swinomish Channel, both engines and at least one other car left the tracks," according to a Swinomish Tribe press release Thursday morning.
This train was a short stub compared to the mile-long oil trains that frequently rumble along the shores of Puget Sound, with two engine cars pulling at the front and two pushing at the rear. Such a BNSF Railway train derailed and caught fire near Custer, Washington, in 2020, spilling about 7,000 gallons of oil and sending another 22,000 gallons up in smoke.
"BNSF Railway can confirm that two locomotives derailed near Anacortes, Wash. on March 16, at approximately midnight local time," BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent said in an email.
Kent disputed Ecology's estimate of the size of the spill, saying "5,000 [gallons] may have been originally reported, however, it appears to be a minimal amount," she said.Continue reading »
Pizza-sized predators to get federal protectionBy
The world’s fastest sea star could get a little boost from the U.S. government.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed listing the sunflower star as a threatened species, which could lead federal agencies to block projects that would harm its habitats and unlock funding for research on how to save the species.
The pizza-sized predator with up to two dozen arms has been unable to outrun the world’s worst underwater pandemic.
A wasting disease has turned 20 species of sea stars into goo from Alaska to Mexico. None has been hit harder than the sunflower star, a once-dominant predator on Pacific Coast seafloors and in kelp forests.
“Sea star wasting syndrome” — scientists’ placeholder name for what remains a mystery illness — has killed 5 billion sunflower stars, or 90% of their global population, over the past decade.
From the Olympic Peninsula to Baja, 98% of sunflower stars have died. In the inland Salish Sea of Washingon and British Columbia, 92% have died.
“At this point, there is essentially no smoking gun. There is not a specific pathogen that's been identified yet,” said marine biologist Dayv Lowry with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
RELATED: Scientists race to rescue world’s fastest sea star from oblivion
An international panel of scientists declared the sunflower star “critically endangered” in 2020.
The activist Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the government in 2021 to list the sunflower star as threatened or endangered. The group expects a listing would help reduce threats from water pollution, dredging, shoreline armoring, and other coastal development projects that might push the sunflower stars closer to extinction.
“If you can make sure that its habitat is well protected and that it's not having to deal with pollution that can make it more vulnerable to disease, those things can help the sea star become more resilient in the face of disease,” said Center for Biological Diversity attorney Miyoko Sakashita in Oakland, California.Continue reading »