Explain Commuting To Me
June 23, 2006 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Seattle Traffic Filter: Why is there more rush hour traffic on 520 going West-East than East-West?

My girlfriend and I live in Greenlake. Every morning, I take her to work in Bellevue, and then I drive to work at Northgate. Why is it that the 520 bridge is usually more congested going into Bellevue than coming out? I go over it at about 8:20 going East, and 8:40 going West. It's almost always (today excepted, perhaps) more crowded on the way in.

I know that downtown Bellevue is growing, and that more and more people are doing the "backwards commute" (live in the city, work in the suburbs) like she does. But it still doesn't make any sense to me.

Am I missing something?
posted by rossination to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (19 answers total)
Yeah, that's something that she pointed out to me: perhaps there are a lot of young people living in Wallingford/Fremont/Greenlake who commute to Microsoft. I'm not quite buying it, though.
posted by rossination at 11:45 AM on June 23, 2006

It is definitely Microsoft, Nintendo and similar corporate ventures. I personally know tons of people that commute to the Eastside daily. I constantly hear how bad the commute is....
posted by Sprocket at 11:52 AM on June 23, 2006

I always thought that was a little backwards, too, but it's just the nature of Bellevue/Redmond - there's a heck of a lot of industry and business parks there for a suburb. And since Seattle's a great city to live in (if you have to have a city), that would explain the traffic.
posted by hoborg at 12:01 PM on June 23, 2006

I live in Greenlake and I commute to North Kirkland. I don't work at Microsoft, but there are tons of other tech companies over on the Eastside. I'm not technically "young" but I am single and live kind of a young lifestyle (rock shows, art galleries, bookstores). I usually commute over 522 (Bothell Way) because it's more reliable than the bridge. That probably wouldn't work for your girlfriend since you have to get all the way down to Bellevue, but it might be a nice change of pace coming back to Northgate.
posted by matildaben at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2006

The express lanes on the I-90 favour the regular commute (to Seattle in the morning, and out of Seattle in the evening). So there is more capacity for the regular commute.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:05 PM on June 23, 2006

Wow, how do you manage to suffer through that?
posted by xmutex at 12:16 PM on June 23, 2006

Perhaps there are a lot of young people living in Wallingford/Fremont/Greenlake who commute to Microsoft. I'm not quite buying it, though.

I used to live in that area, and it was chock full of 'softies, as well as quite a few other people who worked on the east side. They weren't all young, but otherwise that statement is accurate.
posted by xil at 12:30 PM on June 23, 2006

Microsoft, Nintendo, Safeco, as everyone said. And also that many people prefer to live in Seattle over living on the Eastside.

But more importantly, you drive from Seattle to Bellevue to Northgate every day? Is that true love or masochism? :-)
posted by pdb at 12:31 PM on June 23, 2006

True love, I think. Not sure yet.
posted by rossination at 12:41 PM on June 23, 2006

If you look at the Peak Hour Report for 520 (page 44 in the 2005 report is for the middle of the bridge), the traffic volume at 7 or 8am is typically slightly higher going east than it is going west. But my half-baked traffic theory would focus more on the locations of on- and off-ramps in each direction.
posted by milkrate at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2006

I acutally know some people who work in Bellevue but live out in the Sound (Bainbridge, Bremerton, whatever) and ferry to Seattle, THEN take the 520 (as the 90 is even WORSE in the morning).

Also, I know a couple students at UW who work in Bellevue, that's a straight shot down the 520. But I still think you're all crazy. :-)

I live on First Hill and work for a webcasting company in Pioneer Square, my commute is ten minutes... walking. I win!
posted by mattoly at 1:03 PM on June 23, 2006

Wouldn't it make more sense for her to have the car and let her take YOU to work?

That's brutal.
posted by delladlux at 2:35 PM on June 23, 2006

I live on First Hill and work for a webcasting company in Pioneer Square, my commute is ten minutes... walking. I win!

Is that so? Here's my commute.
posted by mhum at 2:53 PM on June 23, 2006

perhaps there are a lot of young people living in Wallingford/Fremont/Greenlake who commute to Microsoft. I'm not quite buying it, though.

Why not? It seems like the obvious explanation, especially if you add in Capitol Hill and Montlake. At a rough guess I'd say that around half of my friends work on the Eastside, mostly at Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies, but I can't think of even one person I know who lives there. People complain about the commute all the time, but nobody even suggests moving across the lake, except to joke about how terminally boring it would be.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:03 PM on June 23, 2006

Twenty years ago the traffic flow over 520 was very heavy towards Seattle in the A.M. Two years ago it was a dead-heat. Now it may have finally tipped the other way. You'll never convince the DOT to work the Express Lanes on 90 that way, though. Numbers have no effect on them.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2006

So... you drive your girlfriend 10-15 miles, then backtrack to work within 5 miles of where you live?

Sounds like she should get a bus pass! (Seriously, living in Greenlake and working in Bellevue, it might even be quicker than rush-hour traffic)
posted by hatsix at 4:36 PM on June 23, 2006

She can catch the 48 to the U District or Montlake and then catch the 271. Or else you can drive her up to Northgate and she can catch the 555 express straight to downtown Bellevue.
posted by matildaben at 6:40 PM on June 23, 2006

(All of you folks saying "the 520" and "the 405" are hurting my poor native-Seattleite ears. Not locals, are you?)

I agree, it's that so many people work at places like Microsoft. I have a bunch of friends who work at MS or similar places, and they all live on the west side of the lake. It's just nicer for most of them in Seattle. The commute would drive me insane, though.

In the late 80s I did the "reverse commute" and then it was better than the standard direction... but it was never good. Like others, I'm shocked you drive over to Bellevue and then back to your job. You must be a saint. :)
posted by litlnemo at 2:44 AM on June 24, 2006

I don't recommend relying on the Seattle bus system to commute to the eastside unless you can make the journey on a single bus. Seattle buses aren't very punctual and many routes don't run more often than every 20-30 minutes even during rush hour. If your first bus is late you can easily miss your connecting bus and be a half hour late getting to work.
posted by rhiannon at 8:59 PM on June 25, 2006

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