Everett to Seattle Traffic Is Blowing Up

Has Seattle traffic suddenly gotten a lot worse, or is it just my skewed perception? I take the Sound Transit 510 express bus from Everett to Seattle every day for work and in the past few weeks I’ve experienced some really excruciating commutes, particularly in the morning on the way into Seattle.

Seattle’s worsening traffic has been the subject of a number of recent articles in both the Seattle Times1 and the Everett Herald2 based on a recent Corridor Capacity Report published by the Washington State DOT. However, this report only covers data through 2013, and my impression has been that things have gotten considerably worse just in the last few weeks.

As it turns out, I just so happen to have been collecting detailed data about my commute for over three years. Since late 2011 I’ve been logging the time at fourteen points along my way to work in the morning and on the way home in the evening. Using this data set, I can visualize my commutes to see if the last few weeks have seen anything truly out of the ordinary.

The plot below has a blue dot indicating the time between boarding the bus in Everett (at 34th & Broadway or 38th & Broadway) every morning and disembarking on one of the first stops (Stewart Street) in downtown Seattle. Orange dots represent the time spent on the bus in the evenings going the reverse direction. The lines are a 30-day rolling average.

Everett to Seattle Express Bus Rides

After peaking at 56 minutes in late 2012, then peaking at 54 minutes in late 2013, the 30-day average morning commute has risen to an hour and five minutes as of November 3rd.

In fact, six of the ten worst morning commutes I’ve experienced in the last three years have been in just the past three weeks.

Top Ten Worst 510 Express AM Rides
Date AM Ride
2014-10-20 01:49
2014-10-28 01:47
2014-11-04 01:46
2014-09-24 01:44
2013-11-08 01:40
2012-11-19 01:35
2014-10-23 01:33
2014-10-21 01:33
2012-05-31 01:33
2012-11-01 01:33

Probably due to the combination of the onset of rainy weather, less daylight, and other factors, the fourth quarter of each of the last three years has seen considerably worse morning traffic than the rest of the year, but this so far year it has been absolutely dreadful.

Median Everett to Seattle Morning Commute by Quarter

Interestingly, evening traffic in the opposite direction over this same period has not seen any significant increase compared to last year.

Median Everett to Seattle Evening Commute by Quarter

Hopefully the last few weeks have just been a series of terrible flukes, rather than the beginning of a trend of consistently nightmarish morning commutes.

At least I always get a seat on the bus, where I can sleep, read Reddit, or write blog posts like this.

Can Seattle Support Six Major Pro Sports Teams?

I was reading an article in today’s Seattle Times about a Metropolitan King County Council hearing on the Seattle arena proposal to build yet another sports arena in SoDo, when this bit stuck out to me:

[Councilmember Jane] Hague then wanted to know if the region could support so many teams. Counting the NBA and NHL, as well as the University of Washington football team playing in a new stadium, Councilmember Larry Phillips said the area could have seven major teams. He wondered if any other “midsized major market” supported that many.

“I think this area can support it,” [former Sonics coach Lenny] Wilkens said.

Phillips said he’d want to see a market analysis.

Traditionally the only kind of market analysis I do is for the Seattle real estate market, but once in a while I like to branch out, so I thought I’d give the Council a head start.

To get an idea of how reasonable it might be to have six professional sports teams here in the Seattle metro area, I took a list of the top 30 largest metro areas in the United States and counted up how many pro sports team each metro area currently has. For this analysis, I decided to exclude college sports and just focus on NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MLS. Las Vegas is the 30th-largest metro but has no pro sports teams so we’ll leave it off the chart. LA’s Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino Counties, #12 on its own) doesn’t have any sports teams of its own, so I included its population with LA. I’ve also included the San Jose metro area population (#31) with the San Francisco population to better reflect the whole Bay Area.

Here’s the resulting chart, showing where Seattle sits today with four teams (NFL, MLB, WNBA, and MLS):

Number of Professional Sports Teams vs. Metro Population

As you can see, Seattle’s current collection of professional sports teams puts us slightly above the trendline of these 28 metro areas. If we were to add NBA and NHL teams to our roster, it would put us on par with Washington DC, a metro area with 63% more people than Seattle.

[Update: A friend of mine asked for a weighted version of the above chart, where the major sports (NFL, MLB, and NBA) count double. You can view that version here.]

Another informative way to look at this question is in terms of population per team. Here’s a table of that data, showing Seattle’s location with and without two extra teams:

Click on any column header to sort by that column.

Metro Teams Population Pop. per Team
Denver 5 2,599,504 519,901
Seattle (proposed) 6 3,500,026 583,338
San Francisco Bay Area 7 4,391,037 627,291
Minneapolis 5 3,318,486 663,697
Kansas City 3 2,052,676 684,225
Cleveland 3 2,068,283 689,428
Pittsburgh 3 2,359,746 786,582
Phoenix 5 4,262,236 852,447
Seattle (today) 4 3,500,026 875,007
Boston 5 4,591,112 918,222
St. Louis 3 2,817,355 939,118
Tampa 3 2,824,724 941,575
Washington DC 6 5,703,948 950,658
Cincinnati 2 2,138,038 1,069,019
Detroit 4 4,285,832 1,071,458
San Antonio 2 2,194,927 1,097,464
Portland 2 2,262,605 1,131,303
Philadelphia 5 5,992,414 1,198,483
Dallas / Fort Worth 5 6,526,548 1,305,310
Atlanta 4 5,359,205 1,339,801
Chicago 7 9,504,753 1,357,822
Baltimore 2 2,729,110 1,364,555
Miami 4 5,670,125 1,417,531
Houston 4 6,086,538 1,521,635
San Diego 2 3,140,069 1,570,035
New York 11 19,015,900 1,728,718
Los Angeles + Inland Empire 9 17,249,798 1,916,644
Orlando 1 2,171,360 2,171,360
Sacramento 1 2,176,235 2,176,235

At 875,007 residents per local pro sports team, Seattle is already 25% below the 28-city average of 1,174,483. If we were to bring both NBA and NHL teams to our market we would shoot to a full 50% below the average.

It would appear that the answer to Councilmember Hague’s question of whether Seattle can “support so many teams” would appear to be “probably not.”

As for Councilmember Phillips’s question of whether ‘any other “midsized major market”‘ supports six teams, the answer is no. Only five other markets currently have six or more professional sports teams:

  • Washington DC – 6 teams, 63% more people than Seattle
  • San Francisco – 7 teams, 79% more people than Seattle
  • Chicago – 7 teams, 172% more people than Seattle
  • Los Angeles – 9 teams, 393% more people than Seattle
  • New York – 11 teams, 443% more people than Seattle

Not even close.

Obviously a more detailed analysis would take into account incomes, recreational spending patterns, and other factors. That said, we’re obviously not hurting for pro sports teams here in Seattle, relative to the size of our market. So why exactly do we need to spend $200 million in public funds to build a new stadium and bring two new pro sports teams to Seattle?

[Update: Whoa, 164 226 comments and counting on the Seattle Times piece linking to this post. People certainly have strong opinions on this subject!]

[Update 2: …and it’s been posted on the Seattle P-I as well.]

[Update 3]
There have been a number of comments on the Seattle Times piece as well as here on this post about the various other factors that need to be considered when attempting to answer the question of whether Seattle can support six pro sports teams.

Although I did plainly call out that this was just a cursory analysis meant to answer the specific “metro size” questions posed by the Councilmembers, I decided to get the latest Personal Income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to run a few additional numbers.

Here’s what the first chart looks like if you use Personal Income as the x-axis instead of population:

Number of Professional Sports Teams vs. Metro Population

I made a weighted version of this one, too if you prefer that.

For the non-stats-nerds out there, the R² value on the chart is the coefficient of determination, which is basically a way of measuring how closely correlated two sets of values are. In this case, total Personal Income and number of sports teams are 82% correlated, which is pretty high, and sightly better than the 79% correlation between population and number of sports teams.

And as long as I’m posting an update with incomes, here’s the table version, looking at personal income per local pro sports team instead of population per sports team:

Click on any column header to sort by that column.

Metro Teams $M Income $M per Team
Denver 5 $121,902 $24,380
Cleveland 3 $84,854 $28,285
Kansas City 3 $85,217 $28,406
Seattle (proposed) 6 $176,085 $29,348
Phoenix 5 $152,810 $30,562
Minneapolis 5 $154,479 $30,896
Pittsburgh 3 $103,039 $34,346
Tampa 3 $105,596 $35,199
St. Louis 3 $117,421 $39,140
San Antonio 2 $78,416 $39,208
Cincinnati 2 $84,611 $42,306
Detroit 4 $170,618 $42,655
Seattle (today) 4 $176,085 $44,021
Portland 2 $90,654 $45,327
Boston 5 $253,463 $50,693
Atlanta 4 $208,107 $52,027
San Francisco Bay Area 7 $374,249 $53,464
Washington DC 6 $323,536 $53,923
Dallas / Fort Worth 5 $277,516 $55,503
Philadelphia 5 $281,517 $56,303
Miami 4 $242,278 $60,570
Chicago 7 $435,413 $62,202
Baltimore 2 $133,587 $66,794
Houston 4 $281,842 $70,461
San Diego 2 $143,109 $71,555
Orlando 1 $75,289 $75,289
Los Angeles + Inland Empire 9 $691,121 $76,791
Sacramento 1 $86,943 $86,943
New York 11 $1,028,140 $93,467

At $44,021M in Personal Income per local pro sports team, Seattle is currently 15% below the 28-city average of $51,811M. If we were to bring both NBA and NHL teams to our market we would be at 43% below the average.

Here’s how the five markets with six or more professional sports teams stack up against Seattle in terms of total Personal Income:

  • Washington DC – 6 teams, 84% more income than Seattle
  • San Francisco – 7 teams, 113% more income than Seattle
  • Chicago – 7 teams, 147% more income than Seattle
  • Los Angeles – 9 teams, 292% more income than Seattle
  • New York – 11 teams, 484% more income than Seattle

It would appear that the answer comes out roughly the same when you factor incomes into the equation. Seattle still just doesn’t stack up with the metro areas that have six or more teams.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that I personally don’t really care whether Seattle gets a new stadium and two new teams. I’m neither a sports fan nor a sports hater. I’ve got no horse in this race, and nobody’s paying me to do this basic analysis. I just saw the Councilmembers quotes in the Seattle Times and thought it was an interesting question worth exploring.

Seattle Civil Defense Manual

Generally the only kind of material I like to put on our website is content that we have created ourselves, whether that be stories, photographs, or whatever. However, I have decided to make an exception for this content, on account of the fact that it is a WORLDWIDE INTERNET EXCLUSIVE!!!

The pictures featured below are scans of a publication released in 1951 by American Radio Publications, Inc. through the local AM talk radio station KVI. The Seattle Civil Defense Manual covers all sorts of important and useful information that all local citizens apparently needed to know in order to survive in the harrowing times known as the fifties. A copy was unearthed by an industrious and awesome coworker of mine as he cleaned out his garage. He loaned it to me for a weekend and gave me permission to scan it and put it online.

I’m sure there would be nearly no end to the clever commentary I could provide to go along with this material, but I have decided to let the publication speak for itself. Please note that the contents of this publication should not be construed as reflecting (positively or negatively) on the present-day KVI, since they most likely have little connection (outside of the name) to the KVI of 1951.

Click on a page to open a new window with the full version. The full-size scans are somewhat large, so horizontal and vertical scrolling will probably be necessary. Alternatively, you may download the full manual for later viewing. High resolution, non-watermarked TIFF files are also available upon request.

Front Cover
KVI’s Staff And Facilities Are Dedicated To The Public Defense
KVI – Don Lee Programs Dedicated To The Public Welfare And Necessity
The Seattle Area Prepares For An Atomic Attack
Civil Defense Provides Maximum Protection On The Home Front
Atom Bombs Could Destroy These…
The Mighty Atom Bomb!
Damage Effects Of An Atom Bomb Explosion
Advance Precautions May Save Your Life
What To Do
Personal Injury Effects Of An Atomic Blast
Subversive Organizations In The U.S.
No City Is Safe From Atom Attack

Read the Signs

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned humiliating bachelor party. Get a group of guys together, have some good fun, make a guy wear a giant foam cowboy hat and a bright red bow around his neck, and spend all night playing arcade games. Good times. Especially when the arcade games are at Gameworks, and the guys are the swell bunch that showed up for Bryce Schober’s party the night of January 15th, 2003. Good times, good times.

ALL VEHICLES MUST BE REMOVED BY CLOSING TIMELooking forward to this swell experience, J.R. and I giddily headed downtown on that fateful night. Lured by a sign promising $4 parking for the duration we would need, we pulled into the parking garage at the 520 Pike Tower. Ahh, things were going swimmingly. Upon arriving at our private suite (read: a small room with a few round tables) for Bryce’s party at Gameworks we wasted no time at commencing the humiliation. Of course, it would be terrible of me to post any of the pictures here, so I would never even think of doing that. Ever. Well, as much fun as we had, it was all soon to come crashing down on us. Staggering out of Gameworks at midnight, we made our way back to the parking garage. Which was locked. Doh.

All we could access was the stinking ticket-giver-outer-thingy. Which, as it turned out, had stated very plainly “ALL VEHICLES MUST BE REMOVED BY CLOSING TIME,” followed by the hours, which stated closing time as 11:00PM. Dang, we’re stupid. O-kay. Locked out of a parking garage downtown, without a cell phone, on a Thursday night (in other words, nobody is around but a few sleeping homeless people). Not exactly the way we thought we would be spending the evening.

VIOLATION NOTICEWe scoured the short section of the garage entrance that we had access to, looking for a phone number or some information on how to get J.R.’s hot rod out of the belly of this cement beast. Finally, we found a number. Which we called on the nearby payphone using a few coins that Paul gave us. Oh yeah, Paul was with us. He didn’t have a cell phone either though, so he wasn’t much help… except for the change he gave us to call on the pay phone. I guess that was pretty helpful. Plus I think he said a few funny things, too. Too bad I don’t remember them. Wait, where was I? Oh, right. So that phone number had a recording that gave us another number. Great. I wonder what percentage of the money from that pay phone goes to the owner of the parking garage? Fortunately we were able to flag down Nick (who had been at the party) and borrow his cell phone to call the second number. A real person answered this one and assured us that they would be down to rescue us in a few minutes.

At this point, Paul ditched us. I can’t blame him. We are such losers. Well, I’m a loser anyway. All right, I admit it, I was the one who told J.R. to park in there. I was the one who basically got us locked out of a parking garage downtown just because we didn’t spend three and a half seconds to read a sign. Sheesh. Well, true to their word, the night shift security guard for the tower showed up not too much later to rescue us–for a price. Oh yes, that’s right. Twenty-seven dollars, to be exact. Not such cheap parking after all, when you can’t follow their simple rules. It’s okay though, I’m thinking of going back there later to umm… well, nevermind. Let’s get this back to the main point. You should always read the signs. If you don’t bad stuff could happen. Seriously.

– Tim

Do you want to end up stuck outside a parking garage downtown at night, glossy-eyed and brandishing a sombrero like a madman? I didn't think so.
Do you want to end up stuck outside a parking garage downtown at night, glossy-eyed and brandishing a sombrero like a madman? I didn’t think so.