The report includes a 2016 count of vehicles that nearly matches the total from the previous year — a good sign for those concerned about the city’s influx of newcomers bringing more cars.
A city-sponsored count of vehicles across Seattle streets last year nearly matched that of the year prior — a good sign for those concerned about the traffic impact of the city’s nearly 20,000 new residents during those years.
The plateau follows a steady increase since 2012, and runs counter to the increase in vehicles filling roads regionally and beyond, according to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) 2017 Traffic Report released last week.
“We’re successfully moving more people via transit and other options instead of driving,” SDOT said in a blog post announcing the report.
Of the city’s 20 traffic deaths last year:
• Five were pedestrians and three were bicyclists.
• Two pedestrians died as a result of drivers not giving the victims the right of way.
• Distracted driving played a role in three crashes.
• Police cited speeding as a factor in five collisions and driving under the influence of alcohol in three.
Seattle Department of Transportation’s 2017 Traffic Report
This week, we’re spotlighting trends in the annual document, which includes 2016 data ranging from accident statistics to bicycle and pedestrian counts, and helps guide street projects moving forward.
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Seattle’s status as the country’s fastest-growing city — adding 19,901 people since the 2016 report — is a backdrop to the traffic rundown.
Significantly more accidents in 2016 caused serious injuries that in the year before, the report shows.
To measure traffic volumes, city engineers run a counting system that tallies vehicles at numerous locations across the city throughout the year. They tracked a daily average of more than 1 million vehicles in 2016, about the same as the year before.
Also, the share of people who walked, biked, drove or took transit to work in Seattle remained nearly the same as the year prior, the report shows, amid the influx of new residents.
Just 4 percent of workers biked to work, while 12 percent walked, based on answers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey (ACS). The largest share of commuters — 52 percent — drove solo, while 23 percent took public transit.
Transit ridership across the wider Seattle area is booming, thanks in part to bus- service changes and new light-rail stations at the University of Washington, Capitol Hill and Angle Lake. The pace of growth in transit ridership was nearly double that of any other U.S. metro area last year.
The report also includes pedestrian and bicycle counts at dozens of locations throughout the city, from some of the most foot-trafficked intersections in Capitol Hill to quiet residential areas.
In all, SDOT recorded more than 260,900 walkers last year at those spots, a roughly 4.6 percent decrease from the previous year. The counts are intended to identify year-to-year trends, not record all the walkers or bicyclists.
For biking, an automatic counter at Fremont Bridge, one of the city’s most popular crossings for cyclists, clocked a daily average of 2,684 bicycle riders in 2016.
That’s also a slight decrease from the previous year, which SDOT blamed partly on last fall’s record-breaking rain and the department’s outdated counting system.
The numbers will grow “as we build and connect our bicycle network identified in the Bicycle Master Plan,” a long-term blueprint for adding bike lanes, trails and neighborhood greenways, the department says in the report.
The continuation of a privately operated bike-share program also would affect the number of people commuting by bicycle.
One particularly troubling data point in the report: The 171 collisions that caused serious injuries last year was nearly 20 percent more than in 2015, and was slightly higher than in 2014.
Of the 2016 total, 61 of those seriously injured were pedestrians and 26 were bicyclists, the report shows. Some intersections of the city are more prone to such crashes than others.
In addition, Seattle tallied 20 road fatalities last year.
The same number of people have died in traffic accidents so far this year, including 10 pedestrians and two cyclists. So far, 122 people have suffered serious injuries so far this year, according to Dongho Chang, SDOT’s city traffic engineer.
The rates of fatalities on Seattle streets have been fairly consistent over the past several years, SDOT records show. The city has an ongoing campaign to promote traffic safety through a variety of policy changes.
Seattle has a goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 as part of a nationwide Vision Zero Network.
Seattle’s latest rate of fatal traffic accidents is “much better” than the growing rate of deadly crashes nationwide and across the state, the SDOT says in a blog post about the report.
By comparison, Nashville, with a population similar to Seattle’s, tallied 50 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths last year. Washington, D.C., and Portland, both slightly smaller than Seattle, had 26 and 13 deaths, respectively.
“Behind each one of these data points is a person,” SDOT’s post says. “That’s why our Vision Zero goal is so important — because one fatality is too many.”
Got an idea, question or suggestion for Traffic Lab?
Last week, we compiled tips for getting around safely and lawfully, ranging from rules on parking to pedestrian do’s and don’ts at intersections. The week before, we explained signal timing on Seattle’s Mercer Street, following complaints from pedestrians that the traffic-light system doesn’t provide enough time to cross the busy street.
If you have a question or idea for us, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may feature it in an upcoming column.