Nobody drives in Seattle anymore, it’s too congested

Get ready, traffic geeks, because there is lots of traffic data flying around the city the past couple days. First off, Seattle’s traffic is now ranked 10th worst in the country. Considering the city was once second worst, I’d say that we’re doing pretty good. Mike Lindblom at Seattle Times reports that in 2003, there were an average 975,000 vehicle trips per day. In 2009, there were only 900,000. That’s a great start, Seattle!

Drivers here wasted an average of 44 hours per year stuck in traffic, down from 47 hours last year. You know what Seattle did not do to decrease congestion and time wasted in traffic? Build new highways. However, we did invest in light rail and bicycle infrastructure. In fact, Seattle’s “urban mobility” has increased in spite of problems with the counting methods (PDF) used by the Texas Transportation Institute.

There’s also lots of good 2009 data from SDOT I am still pouring over. However, Erica at Publicola reported the following:

Even as  bike ridership went up, the percentage of bike commuters involved in collisions went down. The city’s bike master plan, adopted in 2007, has a goal of reducing bike collisions by a third by 2017.Some specifics on those collisions: Although people age 15 to 24 make up only 14 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 24 percent of bike collisions in 2009. Statistically, the most dangerous time and day to drive last year was evening rush hours (between 4 and 7 pm) on Wednesdays. Most collisions occurred when a cyclist was riding with the flow of traffic, which is how, by law, they’re supposed to ride. The largest proportion of crashes between cars and bikes (160 out of 382 reported) happened when the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to a cyclist. Out of those 382 collisions, the cyclist was wholly or partly at fault just 154 times; the driver was at fault 295 times.

We’ll have another post coming soon (today or tomorrow) with more data crunching.

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4 Responses to Nobody drives in Seattle anymore, it’s too congested

  1. Stephan says:

    Well, I’m wondering whether the recent increase in unemployment may be a significant contributor to less traffic. Fewer people working means fewer people going to work.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That’s certainly part of the decline, but other cities have gotten worse (and many of them build new highways all the time). Chicago, Miami, LA and Dallas have been hit by unemployment, too, but their traffic troubles keep going up (according to this somewhat questionable measurement of overall congestion).

  2. Chris says:

    I’m pretty sure the population increased in the city over that time as well, so even though unemployment certainly impacted the vehicle trips/year more people were in the city in 2009 then 2003.

  3. Alex Burchard says:

    Perhaps I just travel at odd hours, or on less traveled expressways(when I’m driven, as I don’t drive), but Lake Shore Drive, and the Dan Ryan both seem to have had less traffic by my observations this school year, compared to last school year. (I’m in Chicago) While I almost never see the eisenhower, or kennedy, the other expressways only seem to have traffic for an hour or hour and a half most days. (I live overlooking Lake Shore Drive as it arrives into the Loop/Grant Park, and IIT is on the Dan Ryan(as is the red line subway/el)

    Honestly Seattle seems to me, based on when I’m back in the summer, to have worse traffic, except on saturdays, Chicago is IMPOSSIBLE to travel in by car on Saturdays……. That and apparently rush hour is leaving the city in the morning and returning in the evening, rather than the normal entering in the morning and leaving in the evening. (at least on the kennedy, which I rarely see)

    Something that could probably greatly reduce congestion in Chicago would be to allow bikes on trains during Rush Periods. Not allowing that makes it very hard to rely on a bike to get you where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time.(when you have to leave the city/bus system) I feel like far more people would ride bikes if they allowed that. But they’d need to run more trains because it’s pretty hard to get a bike on the train just before rush hour or after it. (crushloaded trains)

    That is pretty awesome that Seattle’s traffic and trips reduced though.

    Also, is a trip indicating a round trip, or a one way trip? and does it count busses in that?

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