Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Research & Reports’ Category

WA vehicle collisions and fatalities drop notably, ‘02 to ‘10

by Henry Apfel July 1st, 2012

Data from the Washington State Department of Transportation show that over the past decade there’s been a significant downwards trend in The Evergreen State’s total vehicle collisions and fatalities, even with an uptick in vehicle miles travelled. Additionally, the number of accidents per 100 million miles travelled has dropped sharply, as has the death rate. From 2002 to 2010, vehicle miles traveled increased by four percent – less than a fifth of a percent higher than nationally over the same time – while the number of collisions dropped 10.5 percent. Collisions per 100 million miles traveled declined 19.3 percent. There were 43.4 percent fewer driver fatalities in Washington state in 2010 compared to 2002, and given the increase in miles traveled, driver fatalities per 100 million miles in Washington state decreased 53.5 percent from 2002 to 2010. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that his contrasts with a drop in the comparable U.S.-wide rate over the same stretch of 26.5 percent.

We’ve created an original visualization of the data below using the free Tableau Public tool from Seattle-based Tableau Software. We also get an analysis of the data trends from a University of Washington transportation expert.

Data visualization instructions: a) Start with the “Collision and Fatality Trends” tab view, to see color-coded data key. b) Run your mouse along lines to see individual points of data. c) You may also select different tabs for other representations of the information.

(Note: The original data included a category called “Miscellaneous Roadways” that was omitted for the purposes of this article. Consequently, total values are slightly different from the original data. Source: Washington State Department of Transportation Table TT03 on Road Usage and Safety, found in The State of Washington 2011 Databook, January 2012, Office of Financial Management)

A range of factors likely explain the decline in vehicle fatalities and accidents in Washington State, although their relative importance is difficult to determine, said Professor Mark Hallenbeck, Director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. One “has been a big push by USDOT (and consequently the state DOTs) to reduce the number of road fatalities,” he said. Hallenback also cited growing safety improvements to vehicles, “click-it or ticket” programs which enforce the use of seatbelts, and graduated driver licensing laws that allow young drivers to gain experience in a safe environment prior to being fully licensed. He added that many roads have had safety improvements, such as the addition of median barriers where there were none previously.

Public Data Ferret’s Data Visualization+Washington State archive

Other factors figure in, as well. Use of digital devices while driving is a known risk factor but hard to quantify. One study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute suggested that dialing a hand-held wireless device increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost three times.

Related: Q&A with Professor Mark Hallenbeck, Director, Washington State Transportation Center, University of Washington

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Cuba smackdown of rights testifier to U.S. Senate backfires

by Zachariah Bryan June 30th, 2012

Earlier this month in Cuba, peaceful political dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, or “Antunez,” was jailed, beaten and pepper sprayed. This took place just three days after he testified to a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the Cuban government’s repression of citizens’ free speech rights. Though for thousands of Cuban citizens such harassment has long been common, acts of repression in Cuba burgeoned last year, according to the Cuba section of a recent global human rights report from the U.S. Department of State. In 2011, The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation counted a total of 4,123 short-term detentions, a 99 percent increase over 2010, according to the State Department report. This year’s pace is even higher, with documented political arrests in Cuba at more than 2,400 since January; 1,158 in March alone, according to testimony of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) at the subcommittee hearing earlier this month.

State Dept.: Russia badly mistreats LGBTs, and the disabled

by Matt Rosenberg June 26th, 2012

Russia is no walk in the park, according to the recently released survey of global human rights conditions in 2011 by the U.S. Department of State. The report’s Russia section details problematic prison conditions, police corruption, the lack of safeguards to protect witnesses, interference with court cases from the government and military, extra-legal electronic surveillance of government critics, bias in state-controlled media and violence against independent journalists. That’s not all, however. The State Department report – drawn from a careful analysis of news from non-governmental organizations, media and other sources determined to be credible – also maintains that gays and lesbians and persons with disabilities suffer significant discrimination and harassment in Russia.

New report: still 100K fewer jobs in WA now than in 2007

by John Stang June 21st, 2012

Washington has had three recessions since 1990, but the current recession’s recovery has been glacially slow compared to the last two. Roughly 150,000 jobs slower, based on each economic recovery after 50 months. The slight recession in 1990 ended after a few months, and Washington’s employment grew by almost 200,00 extra jobs by the 50-month point. Washington’s recession in 2001 lost about 60,000 jobs, all regained at the 40-month point. Ultimately, Washington had 50,000 more jobs at the 50-month point than it did when that recession began. The 2007 recession has proved much more persistent, as a state report released yesterday again confirmed. Washington had lost almost 200,000 jobs after 30 months, and was still 100,000 jobs in the red at the 50-month mark in May 2012. This was part of the picture painted Wednesday in an Olympia briefing by the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which consists of Republican and Democrat legislative budget leaders, the state budget director, the state treasureer and a support staff of economists. The council released a meeting information packet including data on post-recession jobs recoveries in Washington, and their latest quarterly revenue predictions.

From 6/20/12 meeting packet, WA Economic and Revenue Review Forecast Council

The council’s June report mirrors a similar February report that predicted a very slow economic recovery and an accompanying slow growth in future state government revenue for Washington.

Senate panel raps Boeing over bogus P8-A test model part

by Matt Rosenberg June 10th, 2012

A U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee report sharply critiques Boeing Company for failing to notify the U.S Navy for 17 months after it issued its own internal “suspect discrepancy report” that a key component in an ice detection system to be used on the first P8-A Poseidon “submarine killer” plane test model likely contained “reworked parts” that were “unacceptable for use.” The Navy has committed to take delivery of 117 P8-As from Boeing, with 13 slated for the contract’s first phase. The enhanced 737 is manufactured at Boeing’s Renton, Wash. plant. As the Puget Sound Business Journal reported, the first operational model was delivered in March of this year, after six test models that won’t see battle action. The committee report noted there were suspected false parts originally included on the five other P8-A test models as well.

It was the first P8-A flight test model’s troubled history that raised the hackles of the Senate committee, which stressed in the report that suspected counterfeit parts are a scourge on the U.S. defense supply chain. Investigators found about 1,800 such cases in 2009 and 2010, and only 271 reported to a related and recommended government-industry data exchange program. The total number of suspect parts exceeded one million. “Unvetted independent distributors” primarily in China are the main source of the suspect parts, and the defense industry “routinely” fails to report their use to the government, according to the report.

Three subcontractors and a shady Hong Kong supplier
The supply chain for the questionable part on the P8-A flight test model involved three subcontractors plus a shady Hong Kong supplier, and false assurances of close inspection. There was a “significant reliability risk” involving increased likelihood of malfunction of the ice detection system in the P8-A test jet that Boeing had delivered to the Navy, and likewise for eight commercial 737s delivered to foreign airlines with the same problematic part, the report said. The committee concluded that by using so-called “reconditioned” or “remanufactured” supplies without permission from the Navy, Boeing violated federal acquisition regulation 52.211-5 and the Navy’s Aerospace Standard 9100.

State seeks bids on more probes for geothermal energy

by Henry Apfel May 25th, 2012

The State of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources is seeking bidders for drilling exploratory geothermal boreholes in Skamania and Klickitat counties at up to five of six targeted sites that have passed environmental muster: Swift Creek, Northwood and Wind River in Skamania County; and Laurel, Outlet Creek, and Box Canyon Quarry in Klickitat County. (Coordinates table; map.) Each borehole would be six inches in diameter and reach a depth of 700 feet, although the drilling would not require construction of new roads or other major infrastructure alterations. Their purpose would be to determine the extent of geothermal energy at the sites, rather than to generate power. The winning bid will likely be selected the week of June 4th, and drilling of the new probes is scheduled to begin as soon as the first or second week of July, said DNR Procurement Coordinator Melanie Williams.

Regional public utility districts and private energy companies produce energy in Washington, but the state regulates the industry and in the case of geothermal, helps take stock of resource potential. Higher-temperature sites are the most preferable. Following is a mapped visualization of geothermal energy exploration to date in Washington, created by Public Data Ferret.

Seattle NGOs echo concerns of USAID Haiti audit

by Zachariah Bryan May 23rd, 2012

A program aimed at improving watersheds and water quality in Haiti and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn’t made inroads against major environmental risks and could be facing potentially expensive setbacks, according to an audit by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Discussing the audit’s concerns, representatives of two NGOs in the Seattle region which track Haiti respectively accented ongoing cholera risk from unsafe water; and the need for a deeper level of personal investment from citizens to augment external aid for environmental and public health problems. But underlying these challenges is a staggering unemployment rate which defies easy answers.

Haiti’s troubled environment is compounded by a weak government and wanting infrastructure resulting in part from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Trash pick-up, environmental regulation, and water systems are especially problematic. Haiti’s watersheds have been long in decline due to decades of unchecked logging and charcoal demand, leaving the island with an estimated two percent forestation today, according to the audit. This boosts susceptibility to tropical storms and hurricanes which can bring flash floods to communities from eroded watersheds, taking lives and damaging property.

USAID in response launched a partnership with Chemonics International Inc. named the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program (WINNER). It has $128 million in authorized funding and is designed to reduce environmental and economic vulnerability by rehabilitating watersheds and reducing flood risk along rivers. It also aims to train farmers in agricultural practices. Haiti produces less than half the food it consumes.

State: $12M in yearly lottery ads not boosting ticket sales

by Matt Rosenberg May 21st, 2012

It’s the size of the jackpot and economic factors that really influence the volume of Washington Lottery ticket sales, not the $12 million per year the lottery spends on advertising, according to a newly-released report from Washington State’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). The report concludes, “JLARC found almost no statistically significant relationship between advertising expenditures and ticket sales.” The analysis looked at the period of 2009-11.