Seattle is #10 in the nation for time wasted in commutes. To anyone who lives here, this is not a surprise.
Remember the old PC game, Sim-City? It was the game where the computer randomly generated a topography and your goal was to build a town and grow it into a city. Well, if you ever played that game, then you know that the hardest terrains to beat were those where water bisected the map, forcing you to build bridges to link up the different areas of town. Those bridges were a nightmare; they were always clogged with traffic, you could never build enough of the damned things, and of course, when Godzilla showed up, he scarfed them up like Seattleites eat biscotti at a coffee bar.
Well, dear friends, that scenario (sans Godzilla) is Seattle. The Greater Seattle Metropolitan Area is bisected by not one, but two bodies of water. Lake Washington lies north to south on the map and separates Seattle proper from Bellevue, a former “bedroom” community but now a commuter destination in its own right. The outflow from Lake Washington is the Ship Canal; it runs west toward Puget Sound, and separates North Seattle’s primarily residential neighborhoods from the downtown core.
Thus, it is no surprise to us Seattleites that we have gridlock, as every outlying community and neighborhood must funnel its commuter traffic over one of four main bridgeworks that span these waters. That means that every arterial, every surface street either ends outright at a riverbank or ends with a debouchment into one of the feeders to the bridges.
And yet, my commute this morning was 25 minutes long. Am I lucky? No. I’m smart.
When we were looking for a house, we looked for one near a bus route. We looked for one near a park-and-ride. I set my work schedule so I can avoid the worst hours of traffic congestion. I take mass transit so I can zip along in the HOV lanes (and not pay for parking, I may add).
I drive for 7 miles (4 miles on the freeway, if I must), leave my car at the park-n-ride, and catch the bus that shows up every 7 minutes. This morning I left at 5:55AM and arrived at work at 6:20AM. If I had to take the bus all the way in, it would have added only 10 minutes to my commute. This is freeing for me; it reduces my stress levels. I don’t understand why more people don’t join me in this method of commuting.
Of course, I am lucky in that I have a job with flexible hours, and that I work at the same place I did 15 years ago (when we bought the house). But still, I am smart in that I gave my commute some thought, and tried to make it easier.
Too many people–maybe you, perhaps–don’t question things about their lives. We just muddle along, bitching about things like our commute but not really looking at how we might fix the problem, or at least alleviate it somewhat. Naturally, not everyone can commute the way I do, and if a different method won’t work for you, my sympathies.
But if we at least examine the problems in our lives, if we at least search for solutions, we can say we tried.