CHOKEPOINTS

‘Amazon Effect’ crushing morning traffic into Seattle

May 18, 2023, 4:31 AM | Updated: 8:30 am

Amazon Seattle Traffic...

A King County Metro bus near the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

We thought that our traffic had returned to close to pre-pandemic levels at the start of the school year. The return of Amazon workers to Seattle shows we hadn’t seen anything yet.

I am calling it the ‘Amazon Effect.’

Amazon employees return to office, boosting Seattle businesses

I’ve been watching the regional morning commute for almost nine years now. I have a pretty good idea of what our patterns look like or should look like.

With kids returning to school in September, we started to look a lot like we did in early 2020. It started getting a little heavier at the start of this year, but the return of Amazon workers to Seattle for three days a week has blown our commutes out of the water.

Ask anyone who has driven into Seattle since May 1 what their experience has been like.

I have noticed a pronounced increase in congestion on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays since the return to work, especially on the westbound lake bridges.

Commute times for Interstate 90 and State Route 520 were hovering in the 20 to 25 minute range during the height of the morning commute until more than an estimated 50,000 Amazon workers started driving into Seattle again.

Those times between 7:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. have jumped to 45 to 50 minutes during the peak.

Amazon makes case for how it’s helped Seattle

But I know, that’s just anecdotal. That’s my gut. So I asked our friends at Inrix, who study traffic intensely, what they have seen.

Inrix reports the average speed on westbound SR 520 has dropped by 28% during weekdays since the Amazon return. The average speed on westbound I-90 has dropped by 38%.

Northbound I-5 into the city has also seen the morning commute extend longer since the return.

There are some other factors at play here for sure. We have plenty of construction zones. There are still people who used to commute by transit who are now driving as well.

But the impact of Amazon’s return to the office has changed our commutes.

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‘Amazon Effect’ crushing morning traffic into Seattle