Busing is a popular option among City Council members, while the police handle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s transportation.

Share story

Seattle politicians have kept busy in recent weeks making decisions that affect commuters. Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration moved to delay construction on a First Avenue streetcar line and a Fourth Avenue bike lane. She proposed tolling downtown streets and the City Council voted to allow more parking-free development.

All that transportation news got some readers thinking: How do the city’s elected officials get to and from work?

Busing and carpooling are popular options among council members, it turns out, while the police handle Durkan’s transportation.

The Seattle Times asked all nine council members and the mayor how they traveled to City Hall and back each day last week.

Some politicians pick a transportation mode and stick with it. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a Fremont resident critical of Durkan’s decision to delay the Fourth Avenue bike lane, said he pedaled to and from City Hall all five days.

“Just under five miles each way,” the transportation-committee chair wrote in an email, saying he usually bikes to events during the workday but sometimes takes transit.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who lives in Ravenna and championed the legislation that will allow more housing to be built without off-street parking, is also a one-mode man. Johnson bused to and from work each day last week, an aide said.

Other council members mix it up. Sally Bagshaw, a downtown resident who lives closer to City Hall than her colleagues, biked three and walked two days last week.

“I make the decision to ride depending on how hard it’s raining or whether I have a midday or after-work meeting where riding my bike will be the best option,” she wrote.

M. Lorena González, a citywide representative who lives in West Seattle, was the only council member to travel by boat last week. She stepped aboard King County’s West Seattle Water Taxi on her way home last Tuesday and Wednesday.

González rode the bus to work last Monday through Thursday and back home Monday, according to an aide. On Thursday, the council member caught a light-rail train to the airport.

The council’s other citywide representative, Queen Anne resident Teresa Mosqueda, usually takes the bus to City Hall, she said. Last Monday and Friday, she drove.

“I had to go to the machinist hall down in South Park this morning, midday to the QA Help Line, this afternoon to the U District, and then I don’t leave the U District until 7 p.m.,” she wrote in an email Friday.

“So today is a good example of a day where I did have to use a car.”

More and more people are reaching downtown Seattle by means other than driving alone: 48 percent used transit in 2017, up from 42 percent in 2010, while 25 percent drove alone, down from 35 percent.

Carpooling is an option council members Lisa Herbold, Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant and Debora Juarez all used last week.

Herbold, who lives in West Seattle’s Highland Park neighborhood and who cast the lone vote against Johnson’s parking legislation, said she carpooled both ways last Wednesday.

“I bus-commuted to and from work on Monday. On Tuesday, I bus-commuted one way and carpooled the other,” wrote Herbold, who was out sick Thursday and Friday.

Harrell, the council’s president and a Seward Park resident, carpooled last Thursday, according to an aide. He drove an “electric vehicle” the four other days, the aide said.

Sawant doesn’t live quite as close to City Hall as Bagshaw, but she also sometimes walks to and from work. That’s what the Leschi resident did last Friday, an aide said.

Last Monday, Sawant worked away from the office, while on Tuesday and Thursday she carpooled, the aide said. On Wednesday, she used a rideshare service.

Debora Juarez, who lives in Lake City, carpooled Monday through Thursday last week, an aide said. On Friday, she drove to North Seattle College, where she holds in-district office hours.

Council members must pay for parking in the City Hall garage, council spokeswoman Dana Robinson Slote said.

Durkan travels differently from the council members. She is a former U.S. attorney who has kept her home address under wraps through a program that protects criminal-justice employees who have received serious threats.

“All her transportation needs are arranged by the police department’s executive-protection unit,” said Sean Whitcomb, a police spokesman.

That means the mayor is driven, Whitcomb said.

Though only O’Brien and Bagshaw commuted by bike last week, safety for cyclists is top of mind for other council members as well.

During a briefing Monday, Mosqueda said one of her aides was hospitalized last Friday after being hit by a car while biking home from work. One of Sawant’s aides and González’s husband were also recently hit while biking, they said.

“We need to have a sense of urgency and stay true to our commitment to safe ways for people to get around the city,” González said.