How Seattle city employees have commuted during Viadoom

Jan 21, 2019, 10:11 AM | Updated: Jan 24, 2019, 2:01 pm

New Year's Eve, bus, viadoom, budget cuts...

(King County Metro)

(King County Metro)

The first week of Viadoom was not as doom and gloom as many expected. The second week has been a different story.

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“It is a pretty bad drive out there…” KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Chris Sullivan Thursday morning. “I think we have a few more people every day going back to their old habits, which is not a good thing.”

Many City of Seattle employees appear to be taking themselves off the road, or at least out of a car. Commuters in general have changed their travel habits, and officials are noticing, from biking and ridesharing, to using mass transit.

Seattle employees

Only 7.6 percent of city employees (from a sample) are driving alone to work, while 65 percent are using some form of transit. Records also indicate that 10 percent of employees have simply taken a day off instead of coming into work.

According to Ethan Bergerson with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the city has been using an online system called MyTrip to track how employees get to and from work. It’s voluntary and about 15 percent of city employees have recorded at least one trip on the system — 45,600 trips.

“…about 65 percent of city employees in this data set are using transit (bus, light rail, train, or water taxi), 15 percent are flexing their schedules or tele-working, 5 percent are biking, 8 percent are carpooling, and 8 percent are driving alone,” Bergerson said.

Total numbers add up to a more than 100 percent because some employees recorded multiple modes of travel in one day. Despite water taxi and biking numbers dramatically spiking in Seattle, those do not seem to be the top favored modes by city workers (more on biking and the water taxi below).

Here are the numbers from 15 percent of Seattle city workers.

  • Bus: 49 percent
  • Day off: 10 percent
  • Commuter rail: 8 percent
  • Carpool: 7.8 percent
  • Drove alone: 7.6 percent
  • Light rail: 7 percent
  • Tele-work: 5.5 percent
  • Bike: 4.6 percent
  • Walk: 4.3 percent
  • Vanpool: .7 percent
  • Ferry/water taxi: .3 percent

The numbers from Viadoom commutes do differ slightly from a couple years ago, when the city reported on its commuter survey. A total of 15.3 percent reported driving alone to work in 2015-16, and a few more carpooled (10 percent). Fewer people walked and biked then, too.


Water Taxi

According to Jeff Switzer with King County Metro, water taxi ridership between West Seattle and downtown shot up by 228 percent compared to the same days in 2018.

During the first week of Viadoom, Jan. 14-19:

  • West Seattle water taxi carried 11,456 passengers Monday-Friday.
  • Vashon water taxi carried 5,642 passengers.
  • Pier 2 has more space at its parking lot that has shuttle service to the water taxi.

Switzer notes that the water taxis have room for twice as many passengers.


King County Metro reports that standby buses completed a total of 570 trips carrying 19,373 riders between Jan. 12-19.


Ridesharing company Lyft reports a 9 percent spike in shared rides to and from light rail stations and other transit hubs between Jan. 14-16, right at the start of Viadoom. Three stations in particular received the most rides — University of Washington Station; Northgate Park and Ride; and Tukwila-International Boulevard Station.

Both Uber and Lyft have been offering a $2.75 discount to customers who start or finish rides at transit stations. This continues through Feb. 15.

Just as Sullivan noticed, commute times started a bit earlier than usual throughout the week. This was also noticed by Lyft.


The one clear indication of changing commute habits in Seattle was bikes. Use of the city’s bike routes dramatically increased after the Alaskan Way Viaduct was closed on Jan. 11 — despite cold temperatures and some rain at times. This was noticed early on by SDOT officials.

Take the Spokane Street Bridge for example, considering the same respective weeks last year and this year (when Viadoom was happening). The bridge served 591 cyclists on Wednesday of 2018. Last Wednesday, 1,325 bike riders used it. In fact, over Monday and Tuesday of Viadoom, the Spokane Street Bridge saw a 327 percent increase from 2017 ridership, and a 164 percent rise from 2018.

The same could be said about increases on other routes for all but one day during Viadoom (apparently bike riders around Fremont opted to hang at home on a Sunday).

2nd Avenue Bike Lane


Fremont Bridge


Spokane Street Bridge


The two bikeshare companies in town have been offering discounts during Viadoom. Jump is nixing its $1 unlock fee between Jan. 11 and Feb. 15. Lime is knocking $1 off its rides as well.

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How Seattle city employees have commuted during Viadoom