The numbers say that fewer than 30 percent of trips to work in the city center are in single-occupancy vehicles (SOV) (47 percent of commuters take transit, 9 percent walk or bike, and the rest find other means).
Seattle is also the fastest-growing city in the United States. It added 45,000 jobs between 2010 and 2016, yet increased SOV trips only 3 percent. Seventy percent of new commuters take transit while the rest carpool, bike, walk, and telework.
Work toward reducing drive alone rates in Seattle started all the way back in 1991, when Washington State passed the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) law, to discourage solo driving and encourage other commuting modes at businesses. Since then, the state and city have passed many measures and improvements, including a bus tunnel, a growth-management act, regional transit legislation, and light rail in 1996.
While the CTR law prescribes targets, the state program allows cities and regions to set their own goals. So within Seattle, different districts have different goals, with more rigorous targets for urban areas with better public transit. Areas in the midst of growth become a focus of efforts to avoid the new cars that can accompany growth.
Seattle spends only about $300,000 a year for its CTR program. Coordination with large employers do the rest. The law says only that employers make a “good-faith effort to reduce” drive alone commutes by 10 percent, with “no time period” mandated. Many employers do this through subsidized transit passes, charging daily rates for parking, or even by paying employees a few dollars a day not to drive.
For businesses, CTR cuts down the cost of parking and the size of parking lots required, which provides social and environmental benefits.