How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

Almost every major U.S. city has seen years of decline in bus ridership, but Seattle has been the exception in recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, Seattle experienced the biggest jump of any major U.S. city. At its peak in 2015, around 78,000 people, or about one in five Seattle workers, rode the bus to work.

That trend has cooled slightly since then, but Seattle continues to see increased overall transit ridership, bucking the national trend of decline. In 2016, Seattle saw transit ridership increase by 4.1 percent—only Houston and Milwaukee saw even half that increase in the same year.

“What’s happened with the city of Seattle was an interesting and important experiment.”

Bus service is crucial to reducing emissions in the Seattle region. According to King County Metro, which serves the region, nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state come from transportation and its operation displaces roughly four times as many emissions as it generates, by taking cars off the road and reducing traffic congestion. The public transit authority has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability and its bus fleet is projected to be 100 percent hybrid or electric by 2018.

So what exactly did Seattle do to improve ridership in a city famously clogged by cars? Three people with different positions in the Seattle transit community: Advocate, official, and bus driver, weigh in.

The bus driver: When buses get priority, riders prioritize the bus

On Third Avenue, where Adelita Ortiz’s routes usually begin, her only traffic obstacle is a stream of other buses traveling down the road. The street blocks off cars and becomes a transit-only corridor during the morning and afternoon rush hours (private vehicles are supposed to turn off after a block on the street). Third Avenue is one of a few transit malls in the United States that restrict private automobile use. Only Portland’s streetcar line or Boston’s Silver Line bus tunnels come close to dedicating as much space to public transit as Seattle’s arterial rush hour north-south escapeway.

Continue reading to hear these experts weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

Originally written by 

Infographic: Where in the West young people are moving

This story is part of the State of Change project, produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network.

 Across the West, more young people are moving out of rural communities than in. In every decade since 1980, most rural counties in the 11 Western states lost 20-somethings, without an influx of other young adults to make up for the loss, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau migration data by the Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics. A few managed to attract young people with the lure of some nearby metro area like Albuquerque or Denver, or a roaring tourism industry like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the undeniable trend has been a slow march to cities, where, especially in the West, jobs and people are increasingly concentrated.

In New Mexico, all but two rural counties have lost far more 20-somethings than they’ve gained since 1990. Tiny Harding and Catron counties led the state, losing people in their 20s at the fastest rate during the early 2000s. Only Roosevelt and Curry counties attracted people in their 20s during that time. The trend for 30-somethings in New Mexico is more mixed; more than 200 people in their 30s moved to Union County in northeast New Mexico since 2000, for instance, but hundreds of 30-somethings moved out of Socorro and Roosevelt counties.

Population Change from Migration by Age and Decade


This exodus is not just a Western problem; the USDA’s Economic Research Service says a record number of rural counties across the U.S. lost population since 2010. It’s a function both of young people seeking education and trying to keep up with a changing job landscape, said Megan Lawson, an economist with Headwaters Economics who tracks migration trends across rural counties in the West. Not only has mechanization reduced the number of people needed to work traditional rural jobs like farming and mining, Lawson said, but new jobs haven’t emerged to replace them. Jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the West — health care, real estate and tech — are cropping up mostly in densely populated areas.

If viability for small towns in the rural West depends in part on cultivating the next generation of local workers and leaders, or on a town’s ability to attract new people to fill those roles, understanding why young people choose to move is particularly important. “You really need a representation from all these different life stages,” Lawson said. “When (a community) gets too lopsided on one end or another, you really lose some of the economic opportunity and the contributions that these different ages bring.” Attracting a new generation of young people could be one answer to reversing the slow bleed of population in some rural places, though simply attracting young people isn’t a silver bullet. Bozeman succeeds at attracting young 20-somethings for college, for instance, but the town can’t hold onto them for long, Lawson said. People in their 30s continue to leave.

So, where is the young West? Where are young people actually choosing to live, and what’s drawing them there? Here’s a look at a few rural communities of all sizes -from tiny Camas County, Idaho, to booming Franklin County, Washington — that are attracting young people in surprising ways.

Continue reading in High Country News

Originally written by Leah Todd from Solutions Journalism Network

Extension, Metro Center Unite Communities to Solve Health Challenges

Extending science to serve communities is what Extension is all about. And when it comes to health, entire communities—from youth to elders, rural and urban—must band together to find solutions.

The new Culture of Health partnership unites thousands of communities in a 10-year effort to tackle the challenges they face when it comes to health.

A group of Metro Center staffFunded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy organization, and led by the National 4-H Council, with assistance from the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at Washington State University, the partnership aims to solve health challenges like chronic disease and rising healthcare costs.

In a five-state, 2-year, $4.6 million pilot project, Extension professionals will launch community health councils to share health innovations, connecting youths in 4-H, local non-profits, businesses, governments, community groups, and other key players.
“This is a new approach for Extension,” said Brad Gaolach, Director of the Metro Center and principal investigator on the grant. “This collaboration lets Extension use our unique resources to help people at a national level, while training Extension agents across the country to better engage with their communities.The Metro Center’s 19-month, $246,000 role supports Extension personnel with professional development for those councils. WSU Extension will build expertise in coalition building, productive decision-making, cultural competence, youth-adult partnerships, and other areas.

Continue reading in CAHNRS News

Photo: Staff at the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at WSU will help train Cooperative Extension personnel across the country to help their communities address health challenges. From left are Brad Gaolach, Martha Aitken, Haley Hughes, Maria Anguiano, and Anthony Gromko (Not pictured: José García-Pabón).


This Startup Lets You Use Your Extra Cash To Invest In Community Development

Despite the fact that around 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, we, as a country, sit on a collective wealth of extra cash; somewhere in the region of $300 billion is idling in accounts nationwide. These are not emergency funds; rather, it’s what Cat Berman, founder of the new Oakland-based startup CNote, calls “just in case” cash–she estimates that there are around 30 million “oversavers,” who have an average of an extra $10,000 in their accounts.

Berman, a former managing director at Charles Schwab and the founder of several social enterprises, landed on the idea for CNote when she took a look at her bank accounts online and saw several thousand dollars just sitting there. “I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’” Berman tells Fast Company. “Why do I have all this money just sitting in my savings account, and not doing good for anybody?” (Experts recommend keeping about six months of funds in cash in the bank in case of emergencies).

CNote founders Cat Berman and Yuliya Tarasava. [Photo: Mike Ivancie]

CNote is a way to put idle savings account funds toward the public good. The startup allows individuals to invest directly in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)–Treasury Department-certified organizations whose goal it is to invest in economic development and job creation in low-income communities. There are more than 1,000 CDFIs across America, and they make the kind of “small dollar” loans to local businesses that larger financial institutions generally don’t offer. These institutions do undeniable good–in 2014 alone, CDFIs financed over 4,102 small businesses and 24,466 units of affordable housing. But in his budget proposal for 2018, Trump has proposed cutting the federal program that finances these institutions–the CDFI Fund–from $233.5 million to just $19 million.

CDFIs combine grants from the CDFI Fund with money from private investors and financial institutions in order to make community development loans. But when Berman, looking for a more productive use for the thousands in her own “just in case” fund, thought to invest it in a CDFI, she learned that she, as an individual, could not.

“It’s not that CDFIs don’t need the cash,” Berman says. “There’s a huge unmet need–CDFIs have a deficit of over $600 million in loans they want to be doing, but lack the capital to make happen. And because they’re set up as B2B organizations and accept loans from banks and foundations, they’re just not equipped to handle and vet small individual [investments].”

Continue reading in Fast Company

Originally written by Eillie Anzilotti in Fast Company

How Health Care Supports Sustainable Communities

As the public hospital in Cleveland, and one of the city’s oldest institutions, MetroHealth has spent the past 180 years, turning around the lives of patients other people didn’t want to be bothered with.

One of our favorite turnarounds isn’t about a patient at all, it’s about Endia Reynolds, a junior at the high school inside our hospital. Endia is the youngest of eight. One of her sisters is a nursing assistant. Her brother owns a towing company. The rest of her siblings are just getting by.

Truth be told, Endia was just getting by, too. She didn’t like school, didn’t want to be there, didn’t care about her grades. Then, back in February, she spent half a day in our Life Flight communications office. And she fell in love.

It wasn’t the excitement of watching a helicopter land at the scene of a car crash. Or the adrenaline rush of doctors and nurses bandaging wounds and starting IVs inside the helicopter to save their lives. Or the Life Flight crew racing down a hallway as they rushed three gurneys, with the mother, father and their sobbing little girl, into our trauma center.

It was the teamwork.

“Everybody’s on their devices these days,” the 16-year-old told us. “You don’t see people working together anymore.”

After that day, Endia couldn’t wait to come to school, asking her assistant principal every day “When can I go back to Life Flight?”

She started studying harder, getting better grades, telling her brothers and sisters she was going to make their wish come true. She was going to be the first in their family to go to college. She was going to become a Life Flight nurse.

There are people who think a health care organization has no business opening a high school inside its hospital. There are others who think we have no business hiring employees with developmental disabilities, no business working to turn abandoned old buildings in our neighborhood into beautiful apartments, no business holding the city’s only transgender job fair, no business teaching healthy Spanish cooking to our Latino neighbors or spending money to improve the bus route along our hospital campus.

But our mission is to create a healthier community. And that means doing more than splinting broken bones and radiating tumors.

If you want a healthier community, you don’t just treat illness. You prevent it. And you don’t prevent it by telling people to quit smoking, eat right and exercise. You help them find jobs and places to live and engaging schools so they can pass all that good on, so they can build solid futures and healthy neighborhoods and communities filled with hope.

I’m not telling you about our programs to brag. It’s just the opposite. I’m telling you about them because we need to do more. We all need to do more.

Each of us has a social responsibility to bring people together from a variety of disciplines with the goal of developing solutions that work for everyone, that better our world no matter what line of work we’re in.

In Cleveland, we have hundreds of examples of these alliances from the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking; to a community-wide initiative to prevent infant deaths; to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s partnerships with more than 100 schools, churches, libraries and other organizations to make sure children have a healthy lunch in the summer.

Those programs do so much more than save people from hunger and trafficking and death.

Continue reading in Meeting of the Minds

Written by Dr. Akram Boutros in Meeting of the Minds

3 Driving Tips to Make Seattle Traffic Slightly Less Awful

A line of cars sitting in traffic with their brake lights on

Three years ago, we ran a story about a little-known traffic tip known as the “zipper merge.”

In short: Drivers should use all lanes leading up to a merge point, rather than clog up one lane. Arrived at the front of the line, drivers in all lanes take turns merging. This is not cheating! (See image above for why the seemingly polite way gunks up traffic.)

We wondered if there were other such counterintuitive tips, and there are! Behold:

The zipper merge

It might seem selfish, but the best way to ease congestion, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, is to drive right up to the closure before merging over.

“There can be the weird idea that goes through people’s head that, ‘Those people are cheating, they’re cutting in line,’” said spokesman Travis Phelps. “Well, it actually helps traffic flow if you can let folks in. Play nice with the other person, let them in. Treat traffic like a team sport,” Phelps said.

Phelps said that merging in the middle can create a small choke point. The trick is to put on your blinker, don’t make any sudden movements and don’t try to force your way in.

Also, make sure to give a courtesy wave to your fellow drivers.

“This is something we’re all in together,” he said. “So if we can play nice for four days, that’s great.”

Mark Hallenbeck, Director of the Washington State Transportation Center, specified that the zipper merge is great in slow traffic — not when you’re moving quickly…

Read the next two tips that will help reduce traffic jams in KUOW

 & Amy Rolph in KUOW in KUOW


The Effects of School Gardens on Children’s Science Knowledge: A randomized controlled trial of low-income elementary schools

This randomized controlled trial or ‘true experiment’ examines the effects of a school garden intervention on the science knowledge of elementary school children. Schools were randomly assigned to a group that received the garden intervention (n = 25) or to a waitlist control group that received the garden intervention at the end of the study (n = 24). The garden intervention consisted of both raised-bed garden kits and a series of 19 lessons. Schools, located in the US states of Arkansas, Iowa, Washington, and New York, were all low-income as defined by having 50% or more children qualifying for the federal school lunch program. Participants were students in second, fourth, and fifth grade (ages 6–12) at baseline (n = 3,061). Science knowledge was measured using a 7-item questionnaire focused on nutritional science and plant science. The survey was administered at baseline (Fall 2011) and at three time points during the intervention (Spring 2012, Fall 2012, and Spring 2013). Garden intervention fidelity (GIF) captured the robustness or fidelity of the intervention delivered in each classroom based on both lessons delivered and garden activities. Analyses were conducted using general linear mixed models. Survey data indicated that among children in the garden intervention, science knowledge increased from baseline to follow-up more than among control group children. However, science knowledge scores were uniformly poor and gains were very modest. GIF, which takes into account the robustness of the intervention, revealed a dose–response relation with science knowledge: more robust or substantial intervention implementations corresponded to stronger treatment effects.


Where schools are equipped with gardens … opportunities exist for reproducing situations of life, and for acquiring and applying information … Gardening need not be taught either for the sake of preparing future gardeners, or as an agreeable way of passing time … [gardens] are a means for making a study of the facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the role of light, air, moisture … (Dewey (1916 p. 235)

School gardens are far from new as a pedagogical tool. School gardens (along with outdoor and experiential learning more generally) have a long history in a variety of educational philosophies including those of Rousseau, Montessori, and Dewey (see Desmond, Grieshop, & Subramaniam, 2002Subramaniam; 2002; Trelsta 1997). John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), the father of modern education, advocated that ‘A garden should be connected with every school, where children can at times gaze upon trees, flowers, and herbs, and be taught to enjoy them’ (Weed & Emerson, 1909 p. 42). Although school gardens were promoted in the late 1800s and early 1900s—both in Britain and in the USA—with aims to address issues of city beautification, public health, and the development of good citizens, with relatively little focus on educational outcomes, prior to that era the initial school garden movement was sparked by the Nature-Study Movement, with the central aim to make learning interactive through the use of nature (Hayden-Smith, 2014; Trelstad, 1997). Dewey endorsed gardening as part of his ‘object teaching’ pedagogy employing hands-on learning rather than rote memorization (Dewey, 1916‘ Trelstad, 1997). School gardens are one way to bring learning outside the walls of the school and to employ engagement with nature as an experiential learning strategy (Desmond et al., 2002; Moore, 1995Subramaniam, 2002(see Figure 1; The Brookline Connection, photo 1916). The potential for garden-based learning has, more recently, been described as ‘encompass[ing] programs, activities and projects in which the garden is the foundation for integrated learning, in and across disciplines, through active, engaging, real-world experiences’ (Desmond et al., p. 7). And yet, aside from a brief reappearance as part of World War II victory garden efforts (Hayden-Smith, 2014; Ossian, 2011), the current resurgence of school gardens follows a long period of relative dormancy since World War I (Trelstad, 1997).

Figure 1. Students from Brookline elementary, Brookline Massachusetts work the school garden, 1916 (Source: The Brookline connection)

Continue reading in International Journal of Science Education 

Originally written by Beth M. Myers, Lauren E. Todd, Karen Barale, Brad Gaolach, Gretchen Ferenz, Martha Aitken, Charles R. Henderson , Jr, Caroline Tse, Karen Ostlie Pattison, Cayla Taylor, Laura Connerly, Janet B. Carson, Alexandra Z. Gensemer, Nancy K. Franz & Elizabeth Falk in International Journal of Science Education 

The Service Class Deserves Better

Our nation’s future depends on our ability to provide the largest segment of our labor force with stable, family-supporting work.

More than 65 million Americans toil in precarious, low-wage service class jobs, preparing and serving us our food, assisting us in stores, supporting our office and professional work, and taking care of our kids and aging parents. The service class is the largest class of Americans by far, making up about 45% of the entire workforce. In terms of the jobs they do and the economic functions they serve, in many ways, its members represent the 21st century analog of the old blue-collar working class. And just like we upgraded those once dirty, dangerous, and low-paid manufacturing jobs during the postwar years, we must now rebuild America’s middle class by turning service jobs work into higher-paid, family-supporting work.A new report released today by me and my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues, Karen King and Charlotta Mellander, entitled Building 65 Million Good Jobs, outlines the size and scope of America’s service class, and describes how we can begin to upgrade their jobs.

The chart below shows the transformation of the American workforce over the past century or so. In the early 1900s, the working class made up nearly 60 percent of the American workforce. Today, it has declined to roughly a fifth of the workforce, while America’s two other major classes have surged—the highly-skilled and highly paid creative class and the even larger service class.

The changing structure of the American labor force, 1900-2010 (Martin Prosperity Institute)

Members of the service class make just $32,272 per year on average. That’s 30 percent less than the national average of $46,440 and less than half the $75,759 average for the creative class, who work in science and technology; business and management; arts, media, and culture; and healthcare, education, and law. The lowest paid members of the service class—the 16 million workers who toil in food service and personal care work—average less than $25,000 a year.

Service class work is disproportionately performed by women, who hold 62 percent of service class jobs, compared to less than half of all jobs. And the gender pay gap for service class work is substantial: service class women make just two-thirds of what service class men make.

Minorities also make up a disproportionate share of the service class. Half of Hispanic-Latino workers and 55 percent of black workers do service class jobs, compared to 45 percent of whites and 40 percent of Asians.

The service class varies considerably by geography, as the map below shows. Service class jobs make up more than half of all jobs in Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, Tampa, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Providence, Phoenix and New York, and a whopping 62 percent in Las Vegas, as the map below shows.

Continue reading in City Lab

Originally written by in City Lab

Streaming Solutions

High in the Cascade and Olympic Mountain snowfields, pristine rivulets trickle into brooks that descend through forest, farmland, and town. Streams merge into rivers and sweep through cities until finally breaking into Puget Sound and the marine waters of the Pacific.

There, in the southern arm of the Salish Sea, the waters mingle in a fertile estuary teeming with biodiversity.

“Looking out at the waters of Puget Sound, you see the sunset, the beautiful mountains, and people think, ‘Everything is good, we’ve got the orca.’ But we have invisible problems,” says Chrys Bertolotto, natural resource programs manager at the Washington State University Snohomish County Extension office in Everett.

Indeed, the region’s rich natural resources have attracted a booming population complete with homes, schools, industry, and the inevitable waste products they generate. Much of it, unfortunately, ends up in the Sound. At least 63,000 pounds of toxic chemicals each day.

Before the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act, unfiltered wastewater from smelters, pulp mills, and sewage treatment plants was freely discharged into the Duwamish River and other Sound waterways. Regulations and permits have successfully decreased industrial pollution but a dozen or so Superfund sites remain in remediation.

Today, it is estimated that 75 percent of Sound contamination is unwittingly produced by citizens. Hidden residues from everyday activities are carried by stormwater runoff over miles of paved highways, paths, and parking lots that have essentially become an extensive new system of “rivers.”

With every rainfall, a toxic slew of animal manure, roofing materials, vehicle debris, home and garden chemicals, and sewage from failing septic tanks is washed down those conduits into the Sound.

The estuary also suffers from a slow rate of water exchange, allowing chemicals and bacteria to linger in bays and inlets. It all adds up to an ailing ecosystem, with negative effects on plants, wildlife, and humans alike. Rivers and streams once thick with Coho and Chinook salmon now see a fraction returning to spawn. Bacterial contamination of shellfish beds and swimming beaches is common. Water supplies are vulnerable.

In 2007, an alliance of concerned citizens and organizations formed a state agency called the Puget Sound Partnership whose goal is to restore the Sound to health by 2020 and safeguard it for future generations.

Their progress can be tracked by a “Vital Signs” wheel that colorfully highlights six major areas of concern, each with specific indicators of the Sound’s health such as eelgrass habitat and economic vitality.

It’s an enormous undertaking that relies heavily on regional and local efforts. Hundreds of state, federal, municipal, tribal, and nonprofit organizations work together to keep recovery on track. Among those participating is WSU Extension.

From Puyallup to Bremerton, Port Townsend to Everett, WSU Extension and research centers are immersed in Puget Sound revitalization through a combination of investigation, stewardship, and educational outreach programs.

Bertolotto, who directs the Snohomish County Beach Watchers program, is just one of many Extension agents who use the latest scientific discoveries to design locally relevant community projects and train volunteers to become citizen scientists.

It may be surprising that WSU, whose original campus is 300 miles away in dryland farming country, can be a partner in marine and freshwater recovery efforts.

But as Bertolotto says, “We’re a well-kept secret.”

On a sunny day at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center, tulips and even the grass seem jubilant as John Stark walks out of the tidy brick admin building en route to his outdoor laboratory.

The New York native and WSU professor of ecotoxicology is one of the original members of the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel and helped design the Vital Signs wheel.

“Every slot on the wheel is very important,” he says. “We try to cover all major issues affecting quality of life in the Sound, from scientific to social impacts.”

The panel advises Partnership directors on the best ways to protect the Sound while improving ecosystem health. The panel was key in pinpointing stormwater as today’s biggest source of contamination.

Continue reading in Washington State Magazine (pg. 22 print // pg. 13 PDF)

Originally written by Rebecca Phillips in Washington State Magazine