In 2000, half of downtown employees got to work by driving themselves. Now, barely one-third do so.
Transit has taken on the lion’s share of the new commute weight, but biking and walking rates have also grown steadily. And that growth comes in spite of a lack in downtown infrastructure to make walking and biking safer and easier. Just imagine what could happen to those numbers once we build cycle tracks and make other road changes that make it easier to walk and bike through and across car-filled downtown streets.
Interestingly, ridesharing rates have been falling with driving alone rates. This actually surprised me and makes me wonder if tolling I-90 would help turn this trend around as people carpool to split toll costs. Should the city/region do more to increase carpooling as a way to continue the decline in driving alone?
Another interesting point: Bike mode share downtown appears to be lagging slightly behind the city’s average (Census surveys suggest 3.5 percent of Seattle residents bike to work regularly, but this survey finds only 3 percent biking downtown). This seems insane, since the city’s bikiest neighborhoods surround downtown. But after you try one harrowing ride mixing with downtown rush hour traffic, it becomes obvious why more people are choosing to just take the bus, walk or drive instead.
It’s far past due to redesign the streets downtown. Currently, almost all space on our streets is dedicated to the private car even though only a minority of commuters get to their jobs that way. Dangerous streets discourage walking and biking, yet those modes are growing anyway. This suggests an intense demand that we could release by simply making the streets safe and efficient for people on foot and bike.
Combine this with a focus on increasing transit speed and efficiency (and the upcoming launch of Puget Sound Bike Share) and there will simply be no reason to drive a car downtown (wait, why are we building that $4 billion car tunnel again?).
Below is a peak at Commute Seattle’s research. The full report will be out in the coming months.