Expedia’s move to Seattle will bring an urban campus and stunning views, as well as traffic and congestion. The company and the city are only beginning to deal with the latter.
Expedia’s move to Seattle is still more than two years away, but the company and city are beginning to plan for the impact of bringing 4,500 employees into the city’s Interbay neighborhood every day.
The Bellevue online-travel company announced last year that it would move its headquarters to the former Amgen campus on Seattle’s waterfront, just south of the Magnolia Bridge.
Expedia, which has 18,000 employees worldwide, now has 3,000 in the Puget Sound region. The company plans to move in late 2018 and have 4,500 employees in the space by early 2019.
The move to Seattle is not a slight to Bellevue, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in an interview last week. Rather, Seattle had the 40-acre piece of land, located right on the water with stunning views of the Sound and the mountains.
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“Where people work and their environment is becoming more and more important, especially for millennials,” he said.
Khosrowshahi said the company believes the location will help Expedia compete for technology talent, an increasingly hot commodity in the region. Many tech workers have been drawn to live in Seattle’s urban environment rather than its nearby suburbs.
Expedia’s $229 million purchase of the land and its economic impact is seen by many as a boon to Seattle. But the organization still has to deal with the sticky issue of the commute: Two-thirds of Expedia’s employees in the region live on the Eastside and will need to get into Seattle.
Khosrowshahi, who lives on Capitol Hill near Highway 520 and thinks his commute will be about the same length with the move, said the company is expecting to launch a shuttle service for employees. The service will likely operate in a similar way to Microsoft Connector shuttles, which bring Microsoft employees from Seattle and other areas to the company’s headquarters in Redmond.
Expedia has not nailed down details of the service, Khosrowshahi said, but is working with the city of Seattle on traffic-management plans.
“We are coming up with all kinds of commute options — shuttles, etc. — for employees,” he said. “We are working with the mayor (and city) to make sure the transportation plans that are in place come through. And I think if improvements in transportation infrastructure come through, and we do our job with shuttles and encouraging employees to use mass transit, I think we’ll be OK.”
The city has published a draft-environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project, which it said is designed to provide room for between 4,000 and 8,000 employees.
The EIS details the anticipated effects of Expedia’s renovation and what it will be like when the company moves in. The document looks at Expedia’s initial move in 2019, and more than a decade later, in 2031.
Expedia is likely to add more than 2,000 additional parking spaces to the campus, bringing the total number of spots to about 3,300 by 2031, the report says. It also notes that Expedia’s move will produce 2,000 additional trips on public transportation every day in the area in 2019.
“There is adequate transit service in the Elliott Avenue corridor to accommodate the increased transit trips,” the document reads.
The same does not hold true in 2031, when the city expects Expedia’s growing workforce will add about 6,000 public transportation and shuttle trips. That activity would require either more buses or a “robust shuttle system,” according to the EIS. The document suggests the city deal with that issue in the future, because its likely transit options will change in the meantime.
The draft EIS suggests several improvements to the traffic infrastructure, including adding lights at intersections near the campus and adding bus stops.
Expedia will be required to create a traffic-mitigation plan with the city, which will require that in 15 years no more than 30 percent of Expedia’s workforce drives alone to work. That percentage will be 49 percent in 2019.
Other options to temper the traffic increase are being considered as the final EIS is being written, said a spokeswoman for the city department of construction and inspections.
Several groups commented on the draft EIS, including both the Queen Anne and Magnolia community councils. They called for increased public access to the campus and further discussion of improvement to heavily traveled traffic intersections.
The groups particularly called out intersections at 15th Avenue West and Northwest Market Street, and Elliott Avenue West and Mercer Street.
The Port of Seattle also submitted a comment, saying the EIS did not include enough analysis of how the project would affect nearby Port activities and that it underestimates how many employees will drive to work.
The final EIS is expected to be released in the next few months.