Age Friendly Seattle: Moving people of all ages, reducing congestion.

Home » Age Friendly Seattle: Moving people of all ages, reducing congestion.


Recently I spent a week in Washington DC with the National League of Cities members. One of my primary goals was to learn what other cities are doing to address the needs of our senior neighbors, and as a tangential bonus I met transportation engineers who are addressing traffic congestion in the DC area for people of all ages.  In other words, how is DC become Age Friendly?

DC gridlock is abysmal; their traffic is ranked the very worst in the nation by many measures. Being #1 in this instance is definitely not an honor.

We face similar problems in Seattle, especially during rush hours or during a bad event like a fish truck or propane truck flipping on a highway. WSDOT confirms what we already know: traffic delays continue in the central Puget Sound region because more cars and trucks than ever are trying to get through our relatively narrow corridor. See: WSDOT’s 2015 Congestion and Corridor Survey.

So if DC has the worst traffic, what’s to learn from them? Interestingly, traffic in one adjoining neighborhood south of Downtown DC runs much more smoothly than the rest of DC, and Arlington offers some best practices.

Like Seattle, Arlington County is a growing residential and jobs center. Thousands of new residents have moved in during the past decade and millions of square feet of commercial space have been added.  Thousands more who are aging are choosing to stay there.

Like Seattle, Arlington County’s transportation planners recognized decades ago that people would not be able to get where we want to go if all of us try to drive there. This is not an anti-car sentiment, it’s simply a fact: more single-occupancy vehicles in our limited geographic space — no matter how much we love our cars — will not reduce congestion.

Arlington tried some novel approaches early on, and the majority of residents and employees now plan their commutes differently – they ride a bus, take the Metro, car pool, or walk and ride a bike to get to get between home and work. And by traffic planner’s measurements, 45,000 car trips have been removed from the streets of Arlington daily.

It’s hard to believe when stuck in traffic, but Seattle has been implementing many of the same mobility management tools recognized as successful in Arlington.

According to SDOT, 70% of us who work Downtown find ways other than driving alone to get Downtown. Watch this short video for confirmation: Streetfilms – Seattle the Next Top Transit City

With much thanks to Seattle voters, we’ve said YES to funding more affordable housing along our light rail line and in our urban centers. Voters said YES to more transit hours and Rapid Ride solutions. Voters said YES to expanding our Link Light Rail north, south, and east. These approaches are helping now, and will make a difference when fully implemented.

Combining those funded projects with our new Pedestrian Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan we will be better able to get around. Through our Age Friendly Seattle efforts we will have mobility choices irrespective of our physical or financial capabilities.

Consistent with our new Pedestrian Master Plan, I am promoting new ways to fund and improve sidewalks so everyone can safely walk and make connections within our neighborhoods.   We have models to follow for funding options, and this will be the topic of an upcoming article on this blog. Stay tuned!