How Seattle Commuters Outwitted the Clog That Wasn't

Seattle's free-flowing experience with more than two weeks of freeway lane closures -- predicted to be traffic Armageddon -- shows that the conventional wisdom about traffic isn't always right.

In a Seattle Times op-ed published today, Sightline Institute's Clark Williams-Derry opines on what the great Seattle Clog that Wasn't can teach us about transportation.

Listening to the news stories beforehand, it was supposed to be an absolute nightmare, with predictions of traffic Armageddon. Then, on the first Monday of the closures, Aug. 10, the commute came and no disaster happened. "Drivers heeded the warnings, and many stayed out of their cars, finding other ways to get to work. In fact, not only was there no traffic disaster, it was, in the words of one commenter on The Seattle Times traffic blog, 'The best commute ever.'"

The main lesson is that traffic is more flexible than we think, which may teach us something about other national and local transportation debates. For example, the amount of northbound traffic diverted from I-5 was just about equal to the volumes that enter the Alaskan Way Viaduct every day from south of the West Seattle on-ramp.

The two cases aren't exactly parallel, but "the fact that the existing transportation system sufficed to forestall a disaster should give us more confidence that, with modest improvements in transit and traffic flow, the region's commuters can find workable commuting solutions without the massive costs and neighborhood disruption of rebuilding the viaduct."

Thanks to Elisa Murray

Full Story: The great clog of '07: Seattle met the challenge


Build Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is the only comprehensive ranking and listing of graduate urban planning programs available.
Starting at $24.95

NEW! Get the "Green Bible"

Understand the complexities of planning at the local level while preparing for the AICP* exam. Find out why this edition is included in the APA's recommended reading list.