51 Replies to “Weekend open thread: why do people commute by airplane?”

  1. It’s yet another weekend when a simple trip from Kirkland to downtown Seattle involves a ride on route 255 across the I-90 bridge, up I-5 past Seattle, onto SR-520, and up to UW in order to then backtrack to Seattle. Look at all the service hours we are saving!! Or do we need to cancel trips or have extra runs to maintain the schedule.

    Would it be too hard to have a little creativity and when SR-520 is closed to instead have route 255 serve either Stadium station or International District and have riders transfer to Link there?

    SR-520 closures are a regular thing, at least once a month and often more. Is it really too much to ask Metro and ST to do something a little more creative and common sense, that will save riders time and Metro operating hours?

    https://wsdot.wa.gov/news/2021/01/26/weekend-sr-520-closures-planned-new-highway-lid-work

    1. It had better be International District because there are more transfers there. There’s no reason to make people transfer twice in a less than 2-mile distance.

    2. I agree, they should change it up when the 520 bridge is closed. But the standard Metro policy is to error on the side of serving the same stops as before (and not leave people waiting at the wrong stop for a bus that will never come) over coming up with a new route that makes more sense, given the temporary circumstances. It’s hard to break the inertia in a large institution like Metro. Fortunately, this condition is temporary.

      1. It’s less temporary than you imply. The SR-520 construction will be underway for several years. Then there will be the eventual new Montlake Bridge construction. And the Portage Bay viaduct – which will surely impact transit. And we already know that there are football games, graduations, periodic Montlake Bridge repair, etc. that are forever. What will they do during football games? There really could be a better default solution for whenever the bus can’t serve UW directly.

      2. That’s a good point about 520 construction, Carl. I suspect that there will be ample appreciation of having East Link once it opens to avoid this challenge.

        ST expects a 30-minute one seat ride between Downtown Bellevue and UW. That would be 16-23 minutes to get to a Downtown Seattle station from there. With frequent trains, the biggest frustration will be getting a bus to Link.

        https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/bellevue-downtown-station

      3. Then there will be the eventual new Montlake Bridge construction.

        I doubt that will ever happen. I know it is still part of the official plan, but the community opposes it, and there is very little support for it, even by Metro or transit advocates. It would mainly benefit drivers, so tough luck. Ideally the community could get extra money, and that could go into transit service or improvements as compensation.

        But you are right, they plan on completing the Montlake phase by 2024 (https://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520/montlake/home). I would think they would then start work on connecting the I-5 express lanes to SR 520 (in my opinion, a completely unnecessary project) later, but it looks like that will happen at much the same time (https://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520/i-5-express-lanes/home). The other work to the west (https://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520/portage-bay-bridge-roanoke-lid/home) shouldn’t disrupt buses going between UW and the East Side.

        So buck up — only three more of this :)

        Seriously though — you are right, they should just send the bus downtown while they have these construction shutdowns. It is pretty simply to put up a “Metro Alert” for the weekends, and just run the buses to downtown.

      4. “connecting the I-5 express lanes to SR 520 (in my opinion, a completely unnecessary project)”

        It will make the express lanes bog down in traffic like the regular lanes are. If you look at what’s causing a bottleneck on I-5 northbound near the 520 entrance, a lot of it is cars going to 520. This will spread to the express lanes. With the twist that it will make getting from downtown to 520 faster, while making north-south trips slower. It’s a good thing buses will be getting out of the express lanes soon. Except that the First Hill and SLU routes and the 510 and 4xx will still be in the express lanes.

      5. I suspect that there will be ample appreciation of having East Link once it opens to avoid this challenge.

        Kirkland to East Link to get to downtown Seattle? Yuck. Out of the frying pan, into the fryer.

        It takes about 15 minutes from South Kirkland to downtown Bellevue, then the transfer, and another 19-24 minutes to get to downtown (depending on the station). The detour bus route takes about 25 minutes, and then the train takes 6-11 minutes. Pick your poison, really. The bus might be delayed even more, and the UW station is really deep. On the other hand, the UW train runs twice as often. Both sound bad, really. It makes way more sense to just send the bus downtown on the days when 520 is closed.

      6. To be fair, the new express lane connection will initially only be for buses, and then eventually car pools. Still, that is a huge amount of money for bus lanes that won’t be used by many buses. Once the 520 work is done, and buses can go from the carpool lanes right to the bridge in their own lane, all the express buses to downtown should be sent there. Metro may run a poorly performing express bus to South Lake Union, but they really shouldn’t. I could maybe see an express to the Seattle Center on hockey/basketball nights, but that’s about it. It is just an extremely wasteful project if the goal is improved transit. Yet another example of poor value spending resulting from the messy government structure (the state wants to spend money on road projects, not give Metro money).

        It would have been nice before Link, but now it is a waste of money.

      7. A year +/- East Link will serve DT Bellevue to UW. Until then it would seem to make sense to go to DT Bellevue and use NE 6th to I-405 and then yes terminate at International District. Between S. Kirk. & UW I don’t think the current route serves any intermediate stops (i.e. the 520 flyer stops). One question/idea. Would it be feasible to build a bus stop at SoDo or or Stadium that allowed level transfer to Link? It’s not the transfer rich option of International Dist but would be a lot less hassel and could be part of a West Seattle BRT route.

      8. Yeah it will suck between Kirkland and Seattle when 520 has construction delays. However, the place doesn’t seem as weekend critical any more than Alki or Issaquah seems to be.

      9. A year +/- East Link will serve DT Bellevue to UW. Until then it would seem to make sense to go to DT Bellevue and use NE 6th to I-405 and then yes terminate at International District.

        When 520 is closed, there is no need to do anything fancy. No need to stop by Bellevue on the way (there are other buses that do that). Just go downtown, like a regular I-90 bus (for example, the 212). It takes almost as long to stop four times downtown as it does to detour to the UW, while providing a better one seat connection for people.

        When East Link gets here, terminating at Bellevue doesn’t really get you anything. It saves you service hours, but I’m sure that is all allocated as if the bus were going to the UW. Might as well provide the one-seat express to downtown.

      10. While the morning inbound traffic in the reversible lanes may be a bit stressed by people coming in from SR520, there are still only be six access lanes from the north, and 42nd Street will never be a full lane of traffic.

        In the afternoon the throttle of the five slow downtown on-ramps will still be there. Traffic is unlikely ever to be clogged in the express lanes.

    3. I sometimes wonder if Metro and the City of Seattle should have developed Madison BRT to eventually connect to 520 buses. It wouldn’t be easy to negotiate the types of challenges that such a connection would face — but it would provide some amazing connectivity.

      If it went further to Children’s Hospital the corridor would provide an amazing hospital/ medical center connection between facilities in First Hill, UW and Children’s.

      1. How would it do that? Go into the valley, then turn around and go back to 23rd then north? Or were you thinking of using Lake Washington Boulevard? It’s two pretty narrow lanes and backs up hideously during the rush hour.

      2. It would be messy to do at this point because of the extension of the terminus at MLK.

        1. Ideally, this corridor concept would have turned at 23rd and gone north to/ from Montlake.

        2. The Lake Washington Blvd tie-in could have possibly used the former 520 ramps to intersect with the corridor, or perhaps Boyer could be bus-only between 26th and LWB to bring buses back to 24th / Boyer at commute hours and cut down on Boyer cut-through traffic. Maybe a single reversible bus only lane can be configured around the congestion points.

        The project already has many segments where buses will operate in mixed traffic unlike exclusive tracks or lanes built elsewhere. It’s certainly not ideal for speeds — but an extension doesn’t seem much worse at the mixed flow speed and reliability compromises than already have been planned..

      3. 23rd is very problematic. You couldn’t take a lane without widening the street. That would be very expensive, for relatively few riders (density drops off the cliff as you head north of Madison). You would connect to 520 riders, but that still isn’t that many. The Madison bus will run every six minutes, all day long. The 520 buses just won’t do that. Improving 23rd is important (the 48 is important) but aside from the area around the bridge itself, probably not going to get a huge investment (nor is it a priority).

        The same thing is true for the Children’s corridor to the UW. I think they are better off focusing on 45th. Both bypass the campus (not necessarily a good thing) but 45th connects to the U-District, which has a lot more people. I think it makes sense to have at least one route that goes through the UW, and that route essentially replaces a route on Montlake Boulevard.

    4. Just noticed that this weekend’s 520 closure is westbound only. Seems like the case for completely changing which stops are served is weaker if the bus only has to be rerouted in one direction, rather than two.

      Maybe, as a compromise, route 255 buses rerouted over I-90 could at least serve Mercer Island, which would at least allow a transfer to the 550 without the backtracking. Mercer Island adds much less trip time than serving downtown directly.

      1. That’s a clever idea. One of the issues with rerouting is that someone might not get the message, and be left stranded. I’m sure you would put messages at the bus stop, but I could easily see someone taking the train to the UW, walking to the bus stop, and then being forced to take the train back.

        If all you do is add a stop at Mercer Island, you don’t have this problem. If you get on the bus at Kirkland, and the bus starts “going around” (using 405, then I-90) you would realize what is going on. At that point stopping at Mercer Island makes sense. The bus driver could announce “last stop before the UW”. It is a fairly painless stop — it doesn’t take very long. The bus would just keep going to the UW.

        You would do the same thing in reverse. You still catch the bus at the UW. But if you know the schedule, then you can catch an express to Mercer Island, and then transfer there. That would work especially well once East Link is built.

        I like that idea.

      2. The fact that the closure was unidirectional actually means that Metro could have added a Stadium or ID transfer stop without worrying about anyone missing the bus. After serving that stop, the 255 could have reentered I-5 and ended at UW as normal and ready for the return. That wouldn’t save any service hours but would not cost much. There is an easy I-90 off ramp to serve either ID or Stadium, and plenty of places to re-enter without it being much of a deviation.

        It’s a bit tougher when the closure is Eastbound, but all you would need to do is offer passengers a location near ID or Stadium to board the 255, so that they don’t have to first go to UW

  2. The report about the I-5 lid over downtown was enlightening. I have always thought of it as a parks projects, or maybe a housing and parks project. But it can also be viewed as a major transportation project.

    About 40% of the people in the area commute by walking (the most popular mode). This is for commuting — my guess is for other trips the ratio is just as high, if not higher. Capping I-5 would be a huge benefit for many people. The time savings would be similar to those found by improving our transit system. The time savings are significant, as people avoid big detours, like this: https://goo.gl/maps/ucg7LRwWs7sVVkLb9 or this: https://goo.gl/maps/ai6v41Wmx1shewnV8. Just as there is a limit to the distance people will walk to transit (https://humantransit.org/2010/11/san-francisco-a-rational-stop-spacing-plan.html) there is a limit to how far people will walk to their destination. Too far, and people call a cab. The same is true for a very unpleasant walk (like walking on Denny over I-5). Thus walking — arguably the mode we should look to increase the most — would benefit quite a bit if we capped I-5.

    Then you have the 25% or so who use transit. Again, the cap would improve things. With the grid reconnected, new routes could emerge. Even if the system was largely the same, by making the walk to transit better, we make transit better.

    The price tag for capping everything is high (around a billion) but if you compare it to a lot of transportation projects, it is quite reasonable, especially if you add in the other benefits, like more housing, cleaner air, a quieter neighborhood and additional park space.

    1. Not just walking, at the other end of economic scale, Cascades and Sounder/Link could be moved to this corridor too.

      1. Lids have weight and foundation limitations. You can’t build highrises on them, and you probably couldn’t put Cascades on them. Convention Place Station is a case in point. The block south of it couldn’t have a highrise built while the station was open because of the cut-and-cover space underneath, so it got a lowrise instead. A few years later the station was sold to the convention center and they’re filling in the space with a highrise, but they couldn’t build a highrise while the space was still there.

      2. @RossB, Mike Orr: Because of the I-5 rebuild. You could take some of the space from the freeway (There’s already the express lanes there, but a more optimal configuration wouldn’t follow them strictly) and put in dedicated tracks for Cascades and Sounder. It’s something that I beatng my drum about here. In this case, Cascades wouldn’t be over the lid, but under it.

        I’d say that this kind of obvious, given how I-5 is the only real viable new RoW for HSR/Regional Rail that doesn’t absolutely bust the budget.

      3. You want to take some of the freeway right of way and let trains use it? Yeah, good luck with that. The last proposal for I-5 was to add capacity (as part of getting rid of the viaduct). I really don’t think they are going to take away any lanes of I-5, especially downtown.

        It wouldn’t be cheap, either. Let’s say you put a stop in between Madison and Spring: https://goo.gl/maps/gCXU3Ve1wNQKJxw97. You still have to spend a bunch of money on elevators and escalators. It is basically like an above ground station in terms of cost. So even though it runs on the surface, you don’t get the huge savings that come from that.

        But let’s say they did. Let’s say we somehow convinced the state to get rid of the express lanes, and allow the train(s) to use them. What then?You still have to spend a fortune getting over to them at the south end, and it doesn’t really connect to anything in the north until it crosses the ship canal. You would probably have to spend a bundle to enable that, at which point, all you’ve done is built a very expensive, but poor facsimile of Northgate Link.

        In contrast, this is a realistic proposal for a cap of I-5 downtown. This could happen — what you are talking about won’t.

      4. I think the idea is rail would be introduced whenever I5 is rebuilt. I think it’s politically plausible for the I5 rebuild to follow the logic of the 99 viaduct – less lanes, less downtown exits – but mostly follow the existing I5 ROW rather than go into a deep bore tunnel. An I5 ‘road diet’ would then unlock both robust freeway capping and ROW for rail.

        IMO, a major capping of I5 should wait until I5 is rebuilt (or removed). I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend a billon putting a really nice cap on top of a crumbling freeway.

        This rail would be a replacement of the BNSF waterfront alignment for commuter & intercity rail and would presumably be a part of the HSR project, if that gets off the ground. Would probably only make sense if we were building this rail all the way to Everett.

        Yes, the connection to the south end will be difficult. We could do what some cities do and have separate terminals? Seattle is the center of Cascadia, so it wouldn’t be ideal but it could be a intermediate solution and punt creating through-running rail for another generation.

      5. @RossB: A station at I-5/Madison would need a lot of escalators/elevators sure, but far less than what would be needed for a deep-bore Midtown DSTT station, while simultanelously serving First Hill much, much better. This is why I’ve brought up this idea for DSTT2 in the past.

        @AJ: Exactly my logic here. With the I-5 rebuild coming around the corner, now is the time to start considering how to reprogram some of the RoW for Rail. As for the connection to the South End? Georgetown Bypass to South Link/South Sounder.

      6. Is there an I-5 rebuild coming? The politicians have talked for decades about I-5 reaching its end-of-live but always avoid the cost of doing anything about it.

      7. I5 rebuild through Seattle is not included in the current packages being bandied about now in the WaLeg, but the freeway is clearly crumbling so it’s just a matter of time. That’s why I think the Freeway Lid activists need to create a coalition that is ready to take advantage of the inevitable rebuild because there is still a bit of political runway, rather than try to pitch the lid as a standalone project.

  3. Interesting topic, I love this guy’s video series. Regarding “commute tolerance”, I always had the thought that a person can tolerate a much longer commute when transit is involved as opposed to driving. Transit allows your mind to take a break and relax or get some early work down before hitting the office.

    1. Yeah, comfort has a lot to do with it. Ferry commutes can be quite long, but quite pleasant. But I also know plenty of people who have switched jobs because they hated their “pleasant commute”. It just takes too much of the day. A lot of people who make that long commute are parents, and while it means the kids don’t move (and the spouse keeps their job) it still sucks, because you can’t spend as much time with the kids and spouse. Every super commuter I’ve known who has a long commute has viewed the situation as temporary. Except one guy. He lived in Cle Elum and worked in Seattle (he just really liked Cle Elum and his job). He is probably working at home now (and loving it).

      I will say that I’ve only known a few low-income people with long commutes, and they eventually switched to a closer job.

      1. Comfort and convenience. Driving can be more comfortable if it’s more reliable than transit or if it is less physically taxing than taking transit, both of which can be super dependent on both the route and the individual.

        I’ve always thought the car ferries would be great for long commutes because of the ability to work at the tables, unlike a bus or a train. The few times I’ve ridden Sounder North I’ve thought, “this would be so enjoyable as a daily commute” given the route on the water.

        Comfort is one reason CT and ST use the double decker buses for the long haul express routes. They have more seats, and for longer routes it is viewed as important for all riders to have a seat. I think ST’s service standard is a route is ‘too crowded’ if it requires someone to stand for more than 20 minutes. Not sure if there’s something similar for Link? Often the long spine is criticized because the train will be ’empty’ outside of the core of the system, but if at TIBS most of the seats are taken but no one needs to stand, that could be viewed as ” mostly full” if we assume most of the riders still have 30+ minutes of travel ahead of them, while the same train leaving Mt Baker with double the number of riders might have ‘plenty of room’ because most riders are exiting the train in ~15 minutes.

        Interestingly, Sounder’s service standard is no one should stand (I believe), but I feel if some have to stand for a single segment (Kent to Tukwila or Tukwila to Seattle) that should be acceptable because it is <15 minutes for the standees. Riding Chicago Metra during rush hour, I almost always stood as the train left union station and waited until it a cleared the first few stops before trying to find a seat.

      2. @AJ: And Caltrain was SRO the entire way from SF to SJ during the times I took it at peak. DART, too could get surprisingly full during the times I took it.

      3. Aye, and Caltrain is trying to transition from a commuter rail operations and service expectations to ‘subway’ operations and service expectations. Not only does it need higher frequency, but the next generation of rolling stock needs to be designed to accommodate regular SRO loads.

        Sounder should do the same – higher frequency (at peak only, unfortunately) and the next generation of passenger vehicles should be designed for SRO loads, assuming peak loads continue to skew towards the King-Tukwilla-Kent segments.

      4. @AJ: No, all-day Sounder is something that should be strived for, it just takes a little creativity and will.

      5. Half-hourly Sounder would be a game changer in South King County mobility. Unfortunately the cost of BNSF time slots would be astronomical, and it would depend on switching most freight to the UP track. The state could support it by buying the BNSF track and making it passenger-priority, but it has shown no interest in doing so. (Other countries would consider it more seriously.)

      6. CalTrain can operate more frequently because the tracks were purchased by the State of California in 1991. Without outright track purchase, Sounder will never become a high frequency operation. Note that it’s been 30 years since the purchase and it’s still not operationally electrified.

        And why should it? We are spending billions on Link to Tacoma Dome and the high speed rail people want new track on I-5.

        Since ST owns the track from Tacoma to JBLM, I think they maybe could run a train every hour from Tacoma Dome to JBLM depending on usage agreements and where the ownership at Tacoma Dome starts.

      7. Because Link doesn’t serve south-central King County, and Sounder reaches Auburn in 30 minutes.

      8. @Mike Orr: It might take the form of the agreement that led to the creation of the Alameda Corridor in Los Angeles, with entirely new RoW being built elsewhere. And also, I would have lower headways (Like every 10-15 min in King County at local stops), but that’s also because I favor smaller, single-deck EMU’s as the way to go (as opposed EMU locomotives or Double-deck EMU).

      9. Yeah I probably went too far at discounting the Renton-Auburn-Kent corridor, Mike.

        Still, the solution is going to require ST ultimately having control of the track operation unless ST builds new tracks.

        The SD Trolley Mid-Coast Extension is running adjacent to mainline railroad tracks as an example. Solutions can be found. In fact, it may be good idea to pencil out where such a track would go and what the cost and effort would be — as well as a Stride alternative that can hit most or all of the stations that could be up an running within several years. Without alternatives, ST and the public are at mercy of BNSF.

      10. What would the Stride alternative look like? I think ST is likely going to have STX to provide span of service coverage for Puyallup, Sumner, and Auburn (578 truncated at FW), and Kent & Auburn will be served by RapidRide,

      11. FDW, what’s the Alameda agreement you’re talking about? I know Caltrain is getting electrified and more frequent someday, and something is happening in the Altamont corridor between San Jose and Stockton, but what’s happening in LA?

        AJ, there have been discussions about a 167 Stride between Renton and Puyallup, transferring to the Renton-Bellevue (and Burien) Stride. It’s all been long-term with no concrete proposal yet. But that would be a logical next step for South King and Pierce.

        The ST Express plan for ST3 hasn’t been finalized, but all the proposals for ST2 truncated all the routes at KDM, Lynnwood, Mercer Island or South Bellevue, UW, and 145th. None of this was finalized because ST3 superceded it, but the most likely assumption is that all will still happen when Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Redmond open, and ST3 will follow suit at Everett and Tacoma Dome.

        In the interim Northgate Link period, the 510 and 4xx will continue to go downtown, but all the other 5xx will be truncated at Northgate. So that will be the start.

        ST has been increasing the runs on the 542 in preparation for to replace the 545. And it has mused about keeping the 574 and extending it to Westwood Village to replace part of the 560 that will be abandoned when Bellevue-Burien Stride starts. And Metro has talked about replacing the 574, and a Seattle-Kent-Auburn express to replace the 578. Those are the only routes I know of that might “overlap” with Link.

      12. @Mike Orr: The Alameda corridor is a Grade-Separated Freight alignment in Los Angeles that was built between the Union Station area and the Port of Los Angeles (on an existing Freight RoW), and it facilitated the move of nearly all freight off the Harbor and Long Beach Subdivisions, enabling the eventual use by future Rapid Transit lines. The Crenshaw Line, and the Torrance extension are along the Harbor Subdivision, and the West Santa Ana Line and Blue Line are along the Long Beach Subdivision.

        Los Angeles followed upon this, extending the Alameda Corridor to San Bernardino using the Alhambra Subdivision, and is considering electrfiying this corridor.

        The Seattle-Tacoma version would probably be using the Interurban RoW and UP RoW to create a similar grade separated corridor. Seattle-Everett is would either expanding+burying the exising BNSF line, or building an entirely new line on another route (probably I-5). Moving freight off the BNSF Line through Downtown could enable a DSTT3 at reasonable price.

    2. Or walking. I’ll take a 45-minute minute walk over a 45-minute drive nearly any day. Walking also has the nice attribute where if you’re willing to hustle and exert yourself, 45 minutes can drop to 30 or 20. So, the same commute can have varying times depending on your energy level, rather than things out of your control such as traffic or a late bus.

  4. When I was younger, I tried to get jobs closer to my home and would even sacrifice a higher paying job for the convenience. These were unskilled jobs, however, and I was making $5 and hour. I still take it in to consideration now that I make much more. The time it takes me to get to work is unpaid time. My time values are also influenced by living in the city linits of Seattle my whole life. I am proud of that, but it could have both positive and negative effects on my decisions. An attachment to a part of a city is not technically always related to a style of commute. Many of my friends would not be able to understand my reasoning and I would not understand theirs. It is just a different life perspective.

    Some of my friends will commute by car 1 hour or longer each way. They have never lived in Seattle. And they do not want to. Money has nothing to do with it. The pay is high here, until 10 months ago, and they are willing to drive to get it. Period. They have always had longer drive times. And they are used to it. (Maybe not as long as today). What they are used to and what I am used to are completely different things. It is like a Puget Sound culture shock. We do not understand each other’s reasoning and maybe never will. Some have never taken a bus, ever. But they work in the city.

    My current commute by car is 15 minutes. My bus commute is 46 minutes. Either way, not too long. I have been very spoiled. (By my time value standard, at least). I have never had to commute over an hour.

    When I talk to them about it, they think it ithe drive time is worth it. And why shouldn’t they? They have a bigger home in a quiet neighborhood with a yard. Better schools, in their opinion. Percieved crime is also an influence. Another issue is percieved stomping grounds. In my mind, I was raised here and I have a right to try to stay here. Many of my friends do not have that attatchment to Seattle and think I am crazy for not leaving. That is just how it is.

    The very things that I have considered important when chosing a job with my commute is sometimes opposite of my friends. I like densly populated areas with many different shopping choices in every neighborhood. I have worked many graveyard shifts and like the 24 hour stores I can shop at. Everything I need is less than 10 minutes away. Not just food. Hardware stores, dentist, family doctor, veterinarian, clothing stores. This may change with Covid. Who knows. If it does, well I may have to rethink. Some on this blog think that is already in motion. Not sure. But not ready to make a solid decision yet either. I like convenience and short commute times. That is what I have. At least for now.

    The commuting by plane thing is weird to me, but my uncle did it for a couple of years. From Alaska to here. I know it is not the same thing, but he did this several times a year. Not for a regular job. He owned a business. I told him years ago, I could never do that. His responce was “I am not hungry enough”. He may be right. Just another different view.

    1. Different people have different priorities. Ever since high school I’ve wanted to live in a walkable mixed-use neighborhood with good transit options and work where I wouldn’t have to drive to it. In the 1980s it was easy to live in the U-District on minimum wage if you had roommates, or to buy a house in Northgate or Capitol Hill the CD or Rainier Valley on a middle-class salary. Now you can’t do either, and most people have to move at least as far as Auburn, Tacoma, or Lynnwood to do it. (Some people have deals closer in, but those are all full.) Only rich people can buy houses in Seattle and the Eastside, and only middle-income people can rent apartments, And if you want a house with a substantial yard or one of the recent close-together houses, you have to move to at least Covington, Lynnwood, or Issaquah. So people who want different things or don’t have much money move to different places.

      My choice to live in Seattle and not drive or work in a far-flung office park has limited the choice of jobs, but for me it’s worth it. For others it isn’t, especially those with children who don’t want to live in a 600 sq ft house like people in the 1950s did. One colleague recently bought a house beyond Black Diamond. He did it because he wants a metalworking shop and large garden and woodland, and it has a DADA for a relative, and he got a promotion that allows him to commute to Seattle once a week instead of daily. Another person commuted from Bonney Lake to north Seattle on Sounder because he was still in college and living with his parents.

      The video has some good points about supercommuting but the title is misleading. Most of it was non-air travel, like between Sacramanto and Oakland or Stockton and San Francisco. The people commuting from Stockton are the same phenomenon as people here commuting from Black Diamond or Bonney Lake to Seattle, it’s just that the distances are longer because the population is higher.

      Also, I don’t think it’s useful to lump daily and weekly commuters together with less-than-weekly commuters. There’s some justification for it, as commuting originally meant riding on a commutitation ticket (a 10-pack discount ticket that was the ancestor of our monthly passes), and those were for both work and non-work trips. (We had one for the ferry to Vashon where we went weekends.) And we should design transit so it can meet both work and non-work needs, as the all-day commuter rail in New York and Chicago do. But traveling on the same route multiple times per week is different from traveling on it less often. In the modern sense, “commuting” is about daily trips to 9-5 jobs. I wouldn’t call a less-than-weekly traveler a commuter; I’d call it more like “attending a business meeting”. Even if they’re sitting at a desk rather than attending meetings or making contacts. There absolutely are people who do that, like those taking Amtrak from San Diego to LA for business meetings or a monthly medical appointment.

      Airplane commuting is so fringe I don’t see it as more than a curiosity. It’s so expensive that only tycoons can do it. And while I’ve heard cases of rural subdivisions that advertise “a helicopter-landing pad on your property”, I don’t think it affects more than those few communities.

      1. I think with a much broader acceptance of remote work, there will be more people who ‘commute’ to their office only once or twice a month for key meetings, and definitely many people who commute only one or a few days a week. Whether that’s ‘attending a business meeting’ or commuting I guess is mostly semantics.

        Pre-COVID, Bend to SFO flights were pretty cheap and I read there was a community of workers who ‘commuted’ from Bend into Silicon Valley. If you are rich enough to have a pied-à-terre in a Seattle or SF, you are probably rich enough to spend a few hundred a week on a commercial round trip into SeaTac or SFO.

  5. I supercommuted for about three years, between Ballard and Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C., and am thankful for no longer making that crosscountry trek —though I miss the Alaska Airlines fruit and cheese plate and Biscoff cookies. I typically took transit on either end of the journey, so I have fond memories of running through the SeaTac parking garage from the Airport Link station with luggage in tow because a Fremont Bridge opening that delayed the 40 bus made me miss the southbound Link train I intended to catch at either the Westlake station or University Street station, throwing off my transit planning. On the other end of the cross-country trek, I’ve always appreciated the short walk to/from the main DCA terminal to the National Airport Metrorail station.

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