Seattle, A Tech Friendly Town? Sort of…

I’m going to start out with a rant, probably end with a rant too.  Seattle has some serious catching up to do.  For such a smart, educated, progressive city it has really missed a few key advances compared to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia.  I’m going to cover a few of these points now, so get ready.

First Point, I Want Transit Data NOW

Trimet has been a leader in this for about 6+ years.  Metro, Sound, Pierce, and the other agencies can’t seem to coordinate this in an efficient, standards based way.  Even though Vancouver, BC hasn’t been a leader with this, they’ve definitely made short order of catching up.

The solution is for the Seattle area agencies to coordinate and get the web services deployed, possibly using cloud technology (Amazon & Microsoft are IN TOWN!?!?!?), that provides real time location and other information.  This has been provided by TriMet for years, and even the MTA in New York (notoriously behind on technology too) has started providing this data.

Second Point

Timeliness has fallen apart completely in the US.  Metro, Sound, and others are on queue for this.  Especially Metro, as I haven’t ridden a bus that is on time. I know I know, it is inherent in any mixed travel lane service.  This is true.  Sound proves this even further with the timeliness of the Sound Commuter Rail.  Their on time arrivals are very high percentages.  But the bus system desperately needs help.

Solution is to either get the first point above taken care of ASAP or get services that can be on time (i.e. BRT, LRT, and dedicated transit lines).

Third Point

Actually get downtown figured out, and stop giving everything to the automobile.  If Seattle wants to get closer to the smart populations of Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, or New York in regards to transit share.  Better yet, get closer to a larger walking share.  Seattle transit authorities need to find some way to work closer with developers and getting downtown oriented more for pedestrians, especially in the residential parts of downtown.

Downtown Seattle absolutely kicks ass.  It is a fun place to be, a fun place to live, and can be very efficient.  However, the transit and development hasn’t lent itself to appropriate pedestrian friendliness.  There needs to be more tree lined streets, dedicated pedestrian crossings (especially on Pike & Pine), and other pedestrian friendly requirements.  New Orleans has it, Portland, Vancouver, and even parts of New York, Chicago, and other places.  Seattle has a rough spot around this aspect of life though.

Solutions Right Here in the City

Some prime examples of pedestrian friendly areas include Fremont, and Ballard.  These two town centers actually provide great examples of intelligent build up that Seattle might take care to notice.  Such as the tree lined streets, a number of streets that are no more than two lanes (yes, Seattle IMHO should decrease the size of some of their multi-lane boulevards).  This creates a much better atmosphere for street shopping, and other such pedestrian activities.

There are other points, and I know Seattle is working on learning from these areas, but it needs to a bit harder.  Seattle needs some hard line edge against the “let’s build more really big roads” mentality.  It doesn’t work and there is enough evidence to point that out.  I’m not anti-car, just anti-car commuter (the SOV people).  The “congestion” based lifestyle that so many “keeping up with the Jones’” create lies in the realm of mass stupidity.  Maybe one day we can cure it?


  1. I have always said TriMet is spending money in all the cool places, but not the right places. They have a bus system that is in shambles, its falling apart, all at a light rail system, that seems to be on track for setting a record in disruptions.

    Having that been said, its hard for Seattle to embrace the, lets say San Francisco feel of Downtown transit. If Seattle, or King County for that matter, was only 49 sq miles, yea, its easy, but its 2,134 sq miles. Its a lot of ground to cover. I think, IMHO, for what King County and ST have to work with, its pretty good. There are commuter routes serving neighborhoods all over with direct connections to Downtown, or Bellevue. Look at the regions HOV system, Portlands is laughable! The only HOV on ramp is in Beaverton, and it has a light. There is NO incentive to take transit or carpool in Portland. Riding a bus up the carpool lane on WB SR-520 while the traffic is stopped makes it so much worth while. Sure, shootings and police activity clog up traffic and add time to your commute, but at least it gets around. If rail is stopped, thats it, your stopped!

    So I rambled about that to say this point, Seattles transit is unique, I actually (still) think TriMet could learn a thing or two from King County Metro. (I hope I stayed somewhat on topic lol)


  2. Umm, Portland still has higher transit ridership than Seattle by percentage of population. It also has lower commuter trip times. It also has pretty fair amounts of carpooling.

    As for downtown transit, it isn’t bad, it’s just that downtown followed the “cement park” idea for too long. I see the city planting trees and greening downtown, but they still have a ways to go. Also they need to get rid of a lot of these empty lots. Portland filled their’s in with the Pearl District, and slowly but surely north of that and the east side is getting filled in. Seattle needs to make a strong effort to get rid of those areas and brings jobs and homes in to replace em’.

    …and it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they did something about the emergency response noise. Portland quited it without getting people killed or delaying the response, Seattle could do the same for all these people that live downtown.

    Anyway, all in all, Seattle is one of the better cities in this country by far, it could easily be one of the best. Me saying one of the better cities in this country is saying a lot btw, because I’m not a fan of most cities in the US.


    1. The commute times are lower because Portland is not that large of a region. The percentage is higher because it has a lower population, the actual amount of people that ride, is lower. TriMet is about half of King County Metro and ST, except the light rail aspect, as far as employees and equipment, but somewhere in the quarter to third range in amount of routes. Metro runs OWL service. Oh, and let not forget the one of the countries largest VanPool systems is right here in Seattle. Sure, theres carpooling in Portland, but not like here, because the resources and advantages are MUCH higher here. TriMet needs to get more bus lanes, even if its only rush hour. Hell, TriMet simply needs more (and better) bus service period.

      On a final note where both are equal, sharing Rail and Bus along the same path for more than a block or two is the dumbest idea ever conceived!!!
      (Streetcar exempt from this statement) It causes unnecessary delays all around.


  3. Commute times are lower because of that, and proportionally Portland has nowhere near the traffic congestion issues. Also as I stated, transit ridership is higher by percentage of population. So downtown there isn’t nearly as big of an issue. Not that I give the city of Portland, or Trimet credit for this, but the whole size has been maintained very well. Partially because of the Urban Growth Boundary, partially because of physical limitations. Overall it has paid off big time. Seattle however, has stretched itself thin by branching out too far – logistically speaking. So it makes travel times much worse for those obvious reasons….

    …and I suppose I’ve just restated what you just said. :/

    Mixing light rail and buses shouldn’t be a big deal, functionally, but as it is currently used I feel it pretty frustrating in the tunnel. When they finish the other lines though, and only trains are in the tunnel, that will make a lot more sense. Especially when they’re dealing with 2-3 car LRV Trains.


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