Monthly Archives: November 2014

GPS directions bring unwanted traffic to NK community

The in basket: Dennis Cziske of the Hansville area says their neighborhood, which includes Thors Road and Hillview Lane, is the victim of GPS technology that mis-directs people to Point No Point County Park.

The easy and direct – and intended – route uses Point No Point Road, but some GPS units direct northbound drivers on Hansville Road to turn before they get there – onto Gust Halvor Road and then to Thors and Hillview, which is private and graveled, he said. The cars can be traveling up to 40 miles per hour and “have nearly hit our dogs and kids.”

It appears this usually occurs with drivers using smart phones, not those on their home computers, he said.

He wondered if there is anything that can be done to keep GPS-guided cars from thinking their little side streets are the way to the park.

The out basket: I e-mailed an inquiry to Google maps, though there is not way of knowing if it has anything to do with the misunderstanding. I can’t say I was surprised that I got no answer.

So I asked Kitsap County public works if there is signage that might help.

Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer, and its information  services manager Diane Mark took a swing at this one. Though informative, neither had much help for Dennis.

“It sounds like the GPS is simply looking for the shortest route to the park,” Jeff said. “We have had similar situations and even directions off the freeway where there weren’t even off ramps.

“A sign here would be difficult. If we get too wordy on the directional sign it won’t be read. “Point No Point Park use Point No Point Road” is going to have to be pretty big on a 50 mph road and the language would be confusing to understand. When a motorist encounters the sign they are most likely focusing on the turn in 300 feet that their phone is directing them to do.”

Diane said, “In general, direction finding software and navigation systems default the route to a location based upon shortest distance and shortest time.  The user would need to specify additional parameters (if available in their map application) such as no private roads, no unpaved roads, etc.

“I checked the route to the park on both Google Maps and MapQuest,” she said. “MapQuest directed the route to the park from Hansville Road via Gust Halvor, Thors, and then Hillview.  Google Maps showed the route via Hansville Road to Point No Point Road.

“Companies that provide data for Navigational systems (Navteq, Nokia, TomTom etc.) may not have complete attribute data for roads (private, gravel, etc.).  The county does not have any way to control the results of way-finding systems.”

Dennis and his neighbors might explore posting a sign in their neighborhood directing misled drivers back to the Hansville Road and on north to Point No Point Road.

Why a four-way stop at Pacific and 11th in Bremerton?

The in basket: Richard Symms of downtown Bremerton writes, “At the Bremerton intersection of 11th and Pacific Avenue, there is an ‘all way’ stop so every car must stop at that intersection. The question I have is WHY?

“There must be at least 20 vehicles (probably more) going westerly toward Warren Avenue for every vehicle on Pacific at that intersection. Why not just stop signs for Pacific?  Is it because Pacific is a signature street now that it is rebuilt and part of the new Bremerton look?

“Well,” Richard concluded, “Pacific Avenue is a beautiful street, for sure. :>)

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson, managing street engineer for Bremerton said an engineering study done by consultant Parametrix in 2013 considered the issue at Pacific Avenue’s intersections with both Sixth and 11th streets. It found that at Sixth Street, where signals also were removed, it needed to be a four-way stop while 11th Street’s intersection could be either a two-way or four-way stop – now.

But as such studies usually do, it also looked 20 years ahead,  and found that in 2033, getting onto or across 11th on Pacific would be too difficult if 11th were free flowing.

And rather than wait until that happened and require drivers to stop where they hadn’t been used to stopping, the city put the stop signs on 11th now.

Actually, I think  2033 already is here for about half an hour in the afternoon commute.

Then traffic backs up out of sight at the westbound stop signs on both 11th and Sixth. That might seem like an argument for letting the traffic flow on those two streets, but if none of those vehicles had to stop, vehicles at the Pacific Avenue stop signs would wait forever for a break  in traffic to get across or onto the west-east streets.

And as annoying as it may be in the crawl on 11th to get to and across Pacific, any time saved if the stop were removed probably would be eaten up  by the wait at the upcoming Park Avenue and Warren Avenue stop lights.

“And thank (Richard) for the compliment,” Gunnar added in conclusion. “We think the same and the street looks far more appealing and is more useable and friendly than before.”

 

‘Enhanced ditches’ worry Illahee area resident

The in basket: Cathy Williams of Sunset Avenue near Illahee is concerned about a project Kitsap County has launched in front of her house, deepening the ditches on Sunset’s west side, lining them with yard bark and lining the culverts with baseball-sized rocks. Plantings will be next,  the work crew told her.

She hadn’t paid anything to have it done, didn’t know it was going to be done and she worried that it looked like problems in the making, she said.

A vehicle straying too far to the right might break down the edges of the deepened ditches, she feared, and it seemed an odd time of year for the work and for planting anything. “We’re worried it will undermine the sides of the street when it gets rainy,” she added.

The out basket:  Mindy Fohn, the county’s water quality manager, explained the work, called “enhanced ditches,” and being done along 400 feet of Sunset Avenue.

“These are similar to rain gardens – where storm water is slowed down and provided the opportunity to soak into the underlying soil,” she said. “The edges of the deeper ditches should hold up just fine, as we completed an installation on Shadow Glen Boulevard (near Bangor) and haven’t seen a problem.  The shoulders will be maintained along with the facility if any issues arise.”

The Sunset Avenue project “was identified in the larger ‘Illahee Stormwater Retrofit Project,’ where the county is working to find methods to soak in runoff or hold it back for a slower release,” Mindy said. “The benefit is to prevent erosion in Illahee Creek and increase the groundwater flow for fish during the dry summer months.

“To hold water back for gradual release, the storm pond in the development of Sheffield Park off Troy Lane (slightly to the northwest) recently was enlarged and naturalized.  In the future, storm water facilities will be enhanced on the (Rolling Hills) golf course – this is currently in the design phase.

“(In) ditch enhancement, the ditch is dug deeper than usual and about 12-18 inches of a special mix of compost and sand is laid on top of the scarified native soils to enhance the ability of storm water to drain into these soils.  We are finding that these systems perform better than expected and do a good job of soaking up runoff during small and medium rain storms, which carry more of the road pollutants. But you will see runoff during the higher intensity and larger rain storms.

“There is some erosion in the (Sunset Avenue) ditches (but) no muddy water is leaving the site.  The erosion will be corrected when it’s planted in 2 – 3 weeks.

“The county has developed a list of mostly native plants for these projects and those likely planted will be slough sedge, slender rush, Oregon iris and coastal strawberry. The sedges and rushes thrive in the frequently wet bottom area of the enhanced ditches and rain gardens.

“Projects are chosen based on known erosion and water quality problems in creeks, estuaries or lakes.

“This project was mentioned in the Illahee Newsletter last summer when we were marking the roads during the design phase. Maybe the county should have done a better job of letting the community know about the project.

“This area of the ditch is fairly flat so we are comfortable with constructing now.  Additionally, planting during the fall/winter is optimum for plant establishment. The county will water the plants with a water truck during the dry season and the plants should be completely established and self-sufficient by the third year. The county’s green maintenance crew will add Sunset Avenue to its growing list of over 80 green storm water sites – rain gardens, naturalized ponds, and enhanced ditches.

“(Ms. Williams) is correct that we didn’t request any funds – as she paid $78 this year for a comprehensive storm water management program which funds many green projects and more.

“For more information how the fees are spent, visit www.cleanwaterkitsap.org.  If landowners are interested in what they can do on their own properties to soak up runoff and receive a rebate of up to $1,000, visit the Kitsap Conservation District Rain Garden Cost-Share page at http://kitsapcd.org/programs/raingarden-lid.”

What triggers a red light camera infraction

The in basket: Dan Calnan read the recent Road Warrior column about a woman ticketed at one of Bremerton’s red light camera intersections after she followed a bus through a right turn and discovered the light had turned red just before her turn, which she hadn’t been able to see because the bus blocked her view.

Dan asked if she got the ticket for entering the intersection on red, not clearing the intersection while the light was red, or for blocking the intersection while the light was red.
The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police said the light has to be red prior to the vehicle crossing the broad white stop bar in entering the intersection for a ticket to be issued. That’s true of any traffic signal, right turn or otherwise.

I think staying in an intersection after the light is red and blocking cross traffic from proceeding is illegal, but the woman who got the ticket hadn’t done that, the red light cameras won’t support a ticket for that, and it wasn’t what Dan wanted to know, anyway.

Stream of buses leaving Woodward school a problem – until it wasn’t

The in basket: A couple I know mentioned at a recent social function that they’d seen something upsetting on Bainbridge Island.

People in reflective jackets had stopped traffic on Sportsmen’s Club Road one afternoon so a string of school buses could all get out of the parking lot of Woodward Middle School at one time.

Two days later, though, the husband e-mailed me to say he’d gone to watch it again and no longer had any objection to it. “They stopped the traffic at 1:57 p.m. At 2:01 they had let out 17 loaded school buses. So I guess they got things under control.”

Still, I thought I’d give it a look myself and ask if the city police had OKd it – or suggested it.

The out basket: I talked with Robin Hanley and Susan Stricker, the two school employees wielding the stop sign paddles the day I was there.

Robin said she’s gotten an obscene earful from the occupants of a moving van she’d stopped a few days earlier, and a teenager had ignored her on another occasion. So she was paying attention to how long vehicles had had to wait.

That Thursday it took her two minutes and 40 seconds to get all the buses on the road. She claimed 18 buses, but three of them, smaller ones, came out before they stopped traffic.

There is good reason to avoid Sportsmen’s Club Road when the buses leave Woodward on school days, but it isn’t the procession of buses.

The real problem is the stream of cars driven by parents who picked up their children in the next parking lot south. Most of them head toward New Brooklyn Road, where they must wait at a permanent stop sign for cross-traffic to clear. It backed up so badly, I was doubtful there would be enough room for the large buses for which Robin and Sue ran interference to get out of their parking lot.  The 15th bus was barely able to get into traffic.

About then, the stream of parents’ cars eased and the buses – and the backed up traffic behind them – were able to move along pretty quickly.

Deputy Chief Jeff Horn of Bainbridge police told me, “I have spoken to a few of my officers who have been around a few years and none of them remember this issue coming up (in regards to suggesting the tactic to the school). I did speak to the school transportation department who stated they do not recall specifically discussing this with the police department.

“The school did say the process was implemented because the inability to get the buses out (due to the traffic) which caused issues getting the children home on time.  If they were to ask me my opinion, I’d agree with their assessment and solution.”

Car prowls in Seattle get short shrift compared to here

The in basket: Retired sheriff’s deputy Terry Miller called my attention recently to a column by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times, detailing his frustration in getting Seattle Police to help out when his daughter and he tracked down a cell phone they lost when his car window was smashed at Woodland Park.

They used the phone’s GPS locator to track the phone, and then watched what vehicle drove away when they saw the phone was on the move. They followed it.

But telling the emergency dispatcher they were hot on the trail of those who had the stolen phone didn’t change the dispatcher’s instruction to forget about it and call their insurance company.

“We reported the make and model, the license plate and the location,” he wrote. “But the dispatcher was dismissive. Go home and file an insurance claim, she said.”

The saga continued, and you can read the whole alarming Oct. 31 column on the Times’ Web site. Ultimately, he wrote, “the thieves knew we were following them — because one held our iPhone up to us and shook it, as if to say, ‘Here it is, come and get it!’

“The next day,” he wrote, “when I called some glass-repair companies, no one blinked at this story. Happens every day, they said. In fact, some thieves want you to track them, so they can try to sell your stolen stuff back to you. That’s how confident they are the police are no threat.”

I asked our local police it Danny would have had better luck on this side of the Sound.

The out basket: Chief Al Townsend of Poulsbo police was the first to respond.

“I am extremely confident he would have had better luck here,” Al said. “In fact, I’d be willing to guarantee it. In Poulsbo we would take the initial report as well.  Persons have the option of having an officer come to them or using the on-line reporting software which every agency provides to the public.

“Our cops would be excited to know that the iPhone was in the bag for tracking purposes.  We might not travel to Seattle to catch them, but I’m confident that if the same case happened in Poulsbo, we would be happy to travel within Kitsap to track them down!

“Realizing our call volume is considerably different that Seattle, it would be a sad day in Kitsap when we aren’t willing to go the extra distance to find these miscreants. And, frankly, I think it’s a sad day for Seattle.”

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police agreed, “We take these reports and investigate them at the patrol level if there are leads to follow.  Given the fact pattern in the article, I’m confident the victims would have had a much different experience here in Bremerton.”

Chief Matt Hamner of Bainbridge police said, “I have no doubt that our officers would have responded and exhausted any leads they had. They are extremely responsive to the citizens of  Bainbridge Island. We have traveled to Roanoke, Virginia, to capture a burglar recently.  We want to keep our citizens safe.”

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said, “The sheriff’s office concurs with the opinions as voiced by our colleagues from municipal law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County.

Sheriff Steve Boyer said, “The frustration felt by victims and sheriff’s deputies in dealing with property crimes is high,. The answer lies in a little luck, quite a bit of patience and a lot of determination.  Deputies respond to the complaint, document the facts and follow-through with the investigation.  Success often occurs weeks or months later.”

“There are a number of variables to every 9-1-1 report,” Scott said. “Vehicle prowls or thefts from vehicles are no exception. From time to time there may be evidence that sheriff’s patrol deputies can use to identify suspects; frequently there isn’t.

“In any case the call will be dispatched and a deputy will make initial contact with the complainant / victim.  Follow-up investigation occurs as evidence develops or additional criminal information comes to our attention.

“In several instances, a single reported vehicle prowl may, by itself, not yield anything to investigate from an evidence perspective. However, that one incident may be part of an aggregate number of vehicle prowls / burglaries that sheriff’s patrol deputies and detectives are able to use to their advantage in determining the identity of suspects, ie:  one piece of a property crime puzzle.”

Port Orchard Chief Geoff Marti was more circumspect. “The Port Orchard police department strives to provide good fundamental police service and investigation,” he said. “All departments have some degree of failure in the endeavor. If a citizen is not pleased with our response or investigation we have a procedure in place to provide answers, feedback and resolution to the issue. All police agencies are eventually accountable to the community they serve.”

 

 

Traffic patrols in unmarked cars are legal, say local officers

The in basket: Michael Denton writes, “Recently a new video has appeared on YouTube showing a citizen pulling over a sheriff’s deputy in Spokane for performing traffic patrol in an unmarked sheriffs vehicle.  The citizen in the video goes on to cite Washington RCW 46.08.065 and that the sheriffs deputy was in violation of said RCW.  Further research on this particular instance indicated that the patrol vehicle in question was new and awaiting the installation of the vinyl decals, a poor excuse in my opinion.
“Driving around Kitsap County, a motorist can usually spot at least one unmarked patrol car, whether it be WSP or Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office performing routine traffic patrol stops,” he said. “I have witnessed a few years back an unmarked black Subaru WRX sedan that was pulling over people on Newberry Hill Road for speeding up the hill.

“Now at the time I thought that was very sneaky, and it seemed like a good tactic using a vehicle that looked like nothing to do with law enforcement, until I read the RCW, which the way I comprehend makes these unmarked patrol vehicles illegal unless they are undercover or confidential investigators.

“How can these sheriffs officers and state patrol officers be getting away with pulling over motorists for regular traffic violations and not be in violation of the RCW?” he asked.

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says the department “respectfully disagrees” with Michael’s reading of the law

“The wording in RCW 46.08.065 (second sentence) reads:   ‘This section shall not apply to  vehicles of a sheriff’s office, local police department, OR any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes,'”Scott said

“This issue comes up from time-to-time, (raised)  by those who believe that they have read and interpreted RCW 46.08.065 correctly.  We are not in violation of the RCW, as alleged by the author of the e-mail.  In fact, the wording specifically exempts sheriff’s offices and local police departments and, furthermore, exempts certain vehicles used by law enforcement in specific roles.

“There has been ample review of this RCW in the office of the Washington State Attorney General as well as our own county prosecutor’s office.

“The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed our policy as it applies to this specific RCW.  We will continue to equip / mark Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office vehicles as determined by the role that a particular vehicle will be assigned when it is placed into service, or as its assignment may change.”

Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here says his department agrees.

“Unmarked patrol vehicles have long been in use by the WSP for various traffic enforcement duties. The vehicles are equipped with emergency lights and equipment. There is nothing illegal about the use of these vehicles for traffic and other law enforcement duties.

“The patrol has several makes and models of unmarked patrol vehicles in use throughout the state. They are very effective in traffic enforcement and that is why we use them.”

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RR tracks keep Provost at Newberry from having flashing left signals.

The in basket: Eric Blair asks, “Do you know what criteria the county have used to decide which intersections will get flashing yellows for the turn lanes?
“Specifically, is there a reason these haven’t been placed at Provost and Newberry Hill? I can understand not putting them on Newberry here, but why can’t they be put on Provost for north/south drivers.

“About once a week I’ll come up in the turn lane on southbound Provost, just after the lights have gone green for straight-through traffic, but remained red for the turn lane. And the way the lights cycle, I have to sit through a whole cycle to get the green turn arrow. A flashing yellow here would be wonderful.”

The out basket: I often get nominations of intersections where yellow flashing left turn signals would eliminate a lot of waiting. Mostly they are on state highways, and the state’s regional traffic office doesn’t like them. Their official stance is that they won’t use them unless there is a significant upgrade at the intersection. But they passed on using them at the recently improved intersection the county upgraded for the state at Ridgetop Boulevard and the southbound Highway 303 off-ramp.

They don’t get much interest in them outside Kitsap County, one technician told me.

The flashing lefts we do see are all at county intersections, installed by the county. Cities here like them, but haven’t found the money for them

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works didn’t get into the criteria the county uses, but availability of money certainly is one.

At Newberry Hill and Provot roads, there is another reason. “That intersection is too close to the railroad crossing for a left-turn flashing yellow arrow,” Doug said. Too much to watch out for in addition to conflicting vehicles, I guess.

Container ships anchored off Manchester

IMGP2258The in basket: Chuck Hower of Harper, who for whimsical reasons goes by Goolsbee Snitworthy when he contacts me, asked me about three huge container ships lying off-shore near Manchester in South Kitsap, guessing the reason is “perhaps problems with the scheduling at the Port of Seattle?”

The out basket: An on-duty employee at the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service, said the service is making use of the infrequently used reserve anchorage area because of what is alleged to be a slowdown by longshoremen engaged in protracted labor negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association.

The normal anchorage areas are full, he said.

The American Journal of Transportation quotes a longshoremen’s union spokesman as saying “allegations by the PMA that the union is engaged in a work slow down at West Coast ports is, in fact, the result of “frustration by workers with the long-standing contract and congestion problems.”

One of the three ships appears to have departed Friday afternoon

Caught behind a bus at camera-enforced intersection

The in basket: Mary Watson writes, “In September, I was headed north on Wheaton Way and was attempting to turn left onto Sylvan Way. There were two buses ahead of me. I could not see the turn light so I took my cue to go from the bus ahead of me.

“I could not see the light until the bus was halfway into its turn and I was well past the white line of the crosswalk. I saw that the light was red and rather than reverse and go backwards, I quickly followed the bus through the light and drove home.

“A few weeks later, I got a ticket in the mail for $124 dollars for running a red light and was caught by the red light camera posted there. Because I did indeed go through a red light but not intentionally, I decided to admit it and go to a mitigation hearing.

“(At) the hearing, Commissioner Shane Seaman, after hearing my explanation, fined me $85 dollars. He even said ‘Oh, yeah, I have been behind those buses.’ I told him clearly that I could not see the light until it was too late and I was glad for the light delay so that I was not in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic.

“I don’t know what else I could have done. Was I supposed to stop and reverse once I saw it was a red light?
I have heard from a friend who told me that she knows of several people who have had this happen to them. The commissioner did not offer any suggestions and I was disappointed that he still fined me $85 dollars. Others who had committed similar offenses were fined $70 and $75 dollars.

“I am curious as to two things…why did I get fined more? And what else was I supposed to do? I honestly did not RUN the red light with intent. I had to take my cue from the bus until I could see the light and by the time I saw it – it was too late. So in the interest of safety I just proceeded through the intersection as quickly as I could.”

The out basket: This dilemma is not unique to red light camera intersections. Any time a driver is following a large vehicle that obscures the view beyond it, he or she can find that a traffic signal has turned red while the large vehicle was transiting the intersection.

I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police what he would advise and his two-sentence response is essentially what I would recommend: “The best advice is to follow at a distance that allows you to see the light. Just assuming it’s green because a truck or bus is going through could result in a collision.”

It means leaving a larger gap than normal between you and the vehicle ahead.

A driver can get away with following at a normal distance at most signals, as the one-second delay on signal changes that Mary mentions will keep cross traffic from starting up quickly enough to risk a collision. And an officer would rarely be there to see it.

But enforcement at red light camera intersections is constant. If you know you’re coming to one and are behind a large vehicle, allow the extra distance.

When I watched several of these red light camera mitigation hearings a few years ago, the presiding official would reliably reduce the $124 fine for those appearing, but never nullified it completely. The reductions varied, and the official didn’t explain why, nor could I.