Ferry Inefficiency, Pool Renovation, and a Centenarian Buzzfeed Sensation

A recap of this week’s happenings around King County.

1. When a 102-year-old Renton woman accidentally sent an email to the wrong person, she ended up with a new pen pal and an appearance on a Buzzfeed video.

Beatrice “Bea” Mathewson has lived in Renton since 1939. She remembers when the downtown Fred Meyer was a dairy farm and the surrounding shopping center was covered with blackberries and maple trees. She remembers the Black River running through the uncommercialized landscape. She remembers the restrictions that were placed on residents during World War II and seeing the influx of residents relocating to Renton after the war.

One fateful day, Bea attempted to send an email to a distant 23-year-old cousin in Canada named Jordan Imbery. The two met each other through Ancestory.com and quickly became pen pals. Bea, who meant to update her new pen pal on her book club and the flowers that were blooming in her garden, hit send to an email that never found its way to Jordan.

Due to an easy mistake of switching the “r” and the “e” in the email address, the message made it to the inbox of Jordan Imbrey, a 26-year-old video producer at Buzzfeed.

The Buzzfeed Jordan kindly responded to Bea and told her he wasn’t the intended recipient.

But Bea made the same mistake again. And again.

“To (whoever) Jordan….I’m not sure I’ll ever get you sorted out,” Bea wrote to the Jordan at Buzzfeed after multiple failed emails. “My 101 years has caught up with me.”

The Jordan from Buzzfeed found Bea endearing and the two became fast friends and faithful pen pals and last year, the two met.

The story was captured on film and recently published on Buzzfeed in a video titled, “I Made Friends With A 102-Year-Old Woman By Accident.” Renton Reporter

2. For more than four decades, the Enumclaw swimming pool has entertained children, provided valuable exercise for adults and hosted competition among high school athletes.

So, it comes as no surprise that the popular venue—owned by the city and located on Enumclaw School District property—is showing signs of age.

With a nod toward the realities of a facility in need of repair, combined with an estimated price tag of perhaps a half-million dollars, the city is turning to the public for advice.

During his first meeting as mayor, Jan Molinaro announced he’s looking to form a citizen advisory committee that will chart a course of action for the pool, which is one of many built as a result of the Forward Thrust initiative of the late ’60s, resulting in swimming pools being built throughout the county. Enumclaw’s pool sprang to life in the early 1970s. He hopes to pull together a group of five to seven people by February and conduct a council study session in March; the committee is expected to conclude its work by late summer, eventually forwarding a recommendation in time to be included in the 2019 budget.

To get a clearer picture of what needs to be done, the city commissioned a study by Aquatic Commercial Consulting, a California firm. The report—which can be viewed online as part of the City Council’s Jan. 8 agenda packet – provides a laundry list of suggested improvements.

The bottom line: $463,000 in estimated repairs and improvements including a new pool deck, tank, and handful of others projects—ranging from dressing room doors and lockers to plumbing repairs.

“Some might view this as a ‘negative’ report,” consultant Richard Young wrote in his detailed report to the city. But the intent, he added, was to raise awareness of issues that could help the pool be operated in a safer, more efficient manner. The Courier-Herald

3. A new study about ferry service from Fauntleroy shows that the loading procedures instituted last summer moved slightly fewer cars than in the same time the previous year, that recurrent delays hurt the ferry system financially and that implementing a new payment system and scheduling model would be beneficial.

The study was conducted by island resident Theo Eicher, who holds a doctorate in economics and is a professor at the University of Washington, and Jeremy Cooper, a data analytics consultant. The 44-page study, based on Washington State Ferries (WSF) data, also recommends that the state Legislature add capacity utilization—the actual number of vehicles loaded on each ferry—to the measures it evaluates at WSF. The study comes after a difficult summer of ferry travel for many islanders, who faced long lines and partially filled boats, despite the work of a task force dedicated to improving the service on the troublesome triangle route.

In a conversation last week, Eicher and Cooper stressed that they are analysts, not ferry activists.

“There is a lot going on between Vashon and Washington State Ferries, and really all we are is interested in the data,” Eicher said. “I happened to know the data was out there. I requested it, and we analyzed it, and we counted cars. In a sense it is very boring.”

Cooper, who has ridden the ferry to Vashon only a handful of times, joined Eicher in the project because he believed it would be an interesting exercise in data analytics—the kind of opportunity that he gets excited about.

Both men noted the dichotomy that was evident at WSF’s public meeting on Vashon in September. There, ferry officials spoke positively about the effects of the new loading procedures, while many islanders expressed high levels of frustration.

Cooper said they thought at the time, “What does the data have to say about what is going on?”

Ultimately, Eicher received data from 2007 to 2017, which included some 18 million transactions from the electronic ticket scanners at Fauntleroy. The hard part in the process, the men said, was cleaning all the data— removing errant double reads of tickets, or ticket purchases to other destinations, so that an apples-to-apples comparison was possible.

The most striking finding, Eicher said, was the number of vehicles on ferries—capacity utilization.

“At first I thought something was wrong with the data, because these numbers seemed really low,” Eicher said. “But then you look at the Facebook page (with photos of partially filled ferries), and they corroborate the low capacity that we found.” Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber