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More downtown commuters than ever ditch driving alone

Solo car commutes have fallen 5% since 2010—and make up just 5% of new commutes

A RapidRide bus decorated for Pride in 2010
Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

The number of solo drivers rolling into downtown every day is gradually decreasing, according to data released by Commute Seattle. In 2016, just 30 percent of daily commutes into downtown happened alone in a car, with 70% choosing other options. Daily solo car commutes fell from 35 percent in 2010.

Overwhelmingly, the number one downtown commute option in 2016 was public transportation—rail, bus, or ferry—at 47 percent of daily trips. That’s 31,385 more daily peak trips than in 2010.

A pie chart breaks down percentages of daily commutes into downtown Commute Seattle
Graph compares daily transit, non-motorized, rideshre, and drive alone trends from 2010 and 2016 Commute Seattle

Around 9,000 more people walked or biked to work every day in 2016 than in 2010—which makes sense, as more and more people flock to live centrally. This year’s Downtown Seattle Association annual economic report shows that around 1 in 10 Seattle residents now live either downtown or in the surrounding area. That includes families; the report shows a 40 percent jump in school-aged children living in the area in the same time frame.

The majority of non-motorized commutes are walking rather than biking. Bike commutes have held steady from 2010, as Seattle Bike Blog observed last week—downtown only has one protected bike lane, tucked away on Second Avenue, and the area has been rampant with road closures and construction.

We’ve also experienced an incredible amount of job and population growth in 2010—but according to the report, out of the 45,000 new downtown jobs since then, 95% of commutes have shied away from driving alone.

It’s not surprising—people have more options than they did several years ago. In 2010, the West Seattle Water Taxi, RapidRide A Line, and Link Light Rail were all in their infancy. Transit options have expanded since 2010, too: Link Light Rail expanded to UW and First Hill just last year, and RapidRide BRT corridors hit Seattle in 2012.

Last November, voters approved getting even bigger by approving the Sound Transit 3 package with 62 new miles of light rail.