More people are driving into Downtown Seattle than ever, and car commuting is at its lowest rate in the modern era. Both of these statements are true. This morning Commute Seattle released its 4th biennial “Modesplit Survey” capturing commute trends in Seattle’s Center City – see our coverage of the 2012 and 2014 surveys – and the results show the paradoxes of our growing city.
First, the bad news anyone stuck in traffic knows in their gut: there are nearly 2,300 more car commutes each weekday peak period than there were two years ago. In a system already strained for capacity, these tiny increases reduce the system’s resilience and tip it into gridlock far more often. In 2014, Downtown had 228,000 commuters and 31% of them drove alone, for 71,100 daily car commutes. This year the rate edged down (to 30%) while the volume went up (73,350), because Downtown grew to 275,000 commuters over the same period.
Looked at another way, our Center City added 45,000 jobs but only 2,300 more cars, meaning transit, walking, and biking absorbed a truly stunning 95% of new job growth. If new workers chose to drive Downtown in the same proportion as everyone else (30%), we would have seen 14,000 more cars instead. The result? Probably total chaos.