The first year I had my driver’s license it cost me $10 to fill up my gas tank and the 14-mile trip to my high school took 18 minutes. That drive passed through miles of soybean fields but only one traffic light. That was middle of nowhere Indiana.
Today none of our commutes are as carefree or uncongested. I know, because we pass each other on I-5 twice a day. In the mornings, I’m lucky my reverse commute from south Seattle can be a little quicker. I don’t have to set aside 94 minutes the state Department of Transportation recommends, to reliably get to my desk on time. In the evening we share in the pain. (Though I’m almost always glad to be on my side of the median.)
Snohomish County residents have to travel through the most clogged roads in the nation as they head to and from work, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard declared last year.
“Commuters around Everett, Washington, spent more time stuck in traffic than anyone else,” the Kirkland-based company wrote in a news release accompanying the report.
For me frustration really begins to bubble up when I’m at a standstill, failing to make progress of any kind. I faced similarly choked roads in Chicago before moving to Western Washington nearly three years ago. Though there, the public transportation system was more robust.
We’re learning cities can’t build a way out of the congestion. And I would argue many don’t want to widen highways and streets at the expense of the landscape that surrounds and inspires us.
Building a transit system with light rail, buses with dedicated lanes and allowing more density could lighten the load on the roads. As Sound Transit slowly inches toward the county line, promising to arrive to Everett in 2036, Community Transit is planning several more Swift lines where buses are supposed to arrive every 10 minutes during peak times.
As the new Street Smarts columnist, those are some of the projects I’ll be watching and dissecting. These are big undertakings that will give residents new options for traveling around the region and a way for avoiding traffic jams.
Collectively we need to approach getting around the region differently, not only to keep the area moving, but because transportation is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
As Street Smarts changes hands, I’m ready for your questions. Let’s talk about tolling, light rail build out, the U.S. 2 trestle, ways to make public transit more accessible or even that stop light in Sultan that can cause mile-long backups. I’m prepared to find answers, or at least start the conversation.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lizzgior.
Have a question? Email me at email@example.com. Please include your name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.