Sound Transit last week unveiled its $50 billion plan for the future of light rail in Seattle. The project would add lines to Ballard and West Seattle and looks as far ahead as the year 2041.
However, KTTH’s Todd Herman says there are some easy, inexpensive ideas that Seattle officials could implement to ease the traffic issues that plague the city as well.
First, Herman thinks city officials should look at crosswalks. Specifically, varying the lights so pedestrians aren’t walking in front of right-hand turning drivers.
“Stop all traffic; let all pedestrians walk diagonally across the stop walks and then start all traffic,” Herman said. “You could increase the flow of traffic downtown exponentially, particularly getting off of freeways: Mercer, Stewart, off of the viaduct. That one step in and of itself could eliminate all sorts of stoppages. But we, for some reason, don’t look at these. And here’s the reason why: Nobody gets famous with a smart and simple idea.”
Herman’s second recommendation is to provide tax rebates to businesses and buildings that provide on-site parking.
“We are no longer requiring buildings to have enough parking because we’re an anti-car city, so we keep putting cars on the streets,” he said. “No, the opposite should be the case. We should offer bonuses to builders who offer parking for not just their employees, but others.
“Two simple, little things that we could do to make this immeasurably better,” he added.
But would the changes be enough to significantly lower the time drivers spend in their vehicles, especially during the morning and evening commutes?
Data recently released by TomTom shows Seattle drivers enjoy the second worst congestion during their evening commutes. The city’s traffic caused a 31-percent increase in extra travel time in 2015. The congestion adds 39 minutes of travel time per day.
Another study done in 2015 shows that drivers wasted more than 60 hours stuck in traffic last year, or two-and-a-half days staring at the bumper in front of them. In that study, Seattle ranked seventh worst for overall congestion.
Other studies have shown that no matter what improvements are made on the roadways, the city’s geographical limitations will always be a factor. The number of waterways people have to drive over and the actual shape of the city play into how efficient the roads can be.
So, while quick fixes could help reduce congestion, adding more light rail to the region and getting more people off the roads could be the answer. With the next light rail stations still years out, however, it could be some time before we get an answer.