Seattle's Terrible Traffic

I had to run an errand today that had me leaving good ole Redmond for Seattle right around 5:00. I punched in my old work address to get a quick estimate on how long it was going to take me to get there. After Google Maps finished their calculation I remembered why I hated going into Seattle from anywhere outside the city, traffic.

I immediately took a screen shot and posted it to my personal Facebook account to let my friends from around the county see how bad it is. Comments and “likes” started popping up, with the main question of “is that regular traffic”. I replied back with it is and added that it would have cost me $5.55 ($3.90 with a Good To Go pass) to take the 520 route, which shaved off only 24 minutes. Comments still came in with how horrible it was and how it shouldn’t take 43 minutes to go 13 miles. I must say I agree with them.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Seattle’s traffic is horrible. I’m not sure who designed the city’s roads, but they didn’t do a very good job. They did not future proof the city for the current tech boom we’re having. There’s only so many ways into Seattle, especially if you’re living on the East side. Even if you’re not in the Bellevue area, only I-5 really goes past Seattle and it’s filled with choke point. At every merge point, traffic comes to a crawl.

When I used to commute to downtown for work I would sit for what felt like forever at the SR 520 to I-405 merge point, I-405 to I-90 ramp, again at where I-90 and I-5 meet, and one last wait at the Mercer Street exit coming off I-5. All these bottlenecks lead to huge waits that backed traffic up for miles.

Amazon of course isn’t helping with their huge hiring influx of new tech workers. I’m not saying it’s their fault, because it’s not. They need to hire more people as they grow and their influx of new labor is really helping the city’s economy grow. However Seattle’s roadways are not prepared for the amount of new individuals moving to the city.

So far I haven’t seen a good answer from WSDOT on what they plan to do about it. They tolled the SR 520 Bridge to decrease traffic, but all that did was shift some of it to I-90. Even with the shift 520 is still bad, especially considering the cost of the toll.

Ditching the car and going towards the bus system may seem like the ideal thing. I did that for a while when I worked downtown. You can read a book, check email, etc. on a bus ride, or at least that’s the idea. In reality you’re probably going to be standing on a bus packed full with people. The busses are not keeping up with the increase in Seattle’s population. Seattle’s busses are overcrowded during peak commute times.

I can’t recall how many times I waited for a bus (the 545 normally) only to see it drive right past my bus stop completely full. The worst day was when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl and we had the big parade afterwards. The busses were so full on that day I was better off working from home. Working from home isn’t an option for everyone and you can’t really avoid the bus if you’re waiting on one to go home. Full busses only increase your work day by that much more and increase your stress.

I found the best option for commuting was via motorcycle. The benefit of being able to use the car pool lane is wonderful. You still get stuck at most of the merge points, but because of a motorcycle’s size I was generally able to find a space to squeeze into that got me close to the front of the line. Free motorcycle parking at work and high gas mileage was also an added benefit.

The positive experience I had on commuting with a motorcycle has also convinced two friends of mine to switch. One went from driving his Prius to work to a little beginner bike. So far he likes how it reduced his commute and saved him some money in the process on parking. Both now have motorcycle licenses to boot. They might not enjoy it so much when the Seattle rain showers start, but right now both are happy new members to the motorcycle community.

Getting back on topic, there’s not really a good way to commute into or out of Seattle. Riding a motorcycle might be best during the better weather days, but it’s not fun when the rain and cold arrives. Seattle’s roadways are simply not prepared for the boom we’re having. If Seattle’s city planners are listening, hopefully they do something to fix our current commuting nightmare. The current stress and decreased time after work is not helping the city’s population. Maybe automated cars will help, but as an auto enthusiast that might be a day when part me dies.

What are your thoughts on Seattle’s roadways? How long is your commute? Have you found a better solution to commute into and out of the city each day? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re thinking of getting a motorcycle to improve your commute or if you’re visiting the city, rent a bike from us. Commuters can test out a reduced commute and visitors can save time traveling around the city during rush hour. You’ll be surprised at how much time it shaves off.