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March 2018

News In Brief

  • As reported in komonews.com, a revealing new in-depth study on traffic congestion has found that commuters around the city of Everett spent more time stuck in traffic last year than anywhere else in the United States. The finding, which probably doesn't surprise anyone who commutes through Snohomish County, were included in a global study by Kirkland, Wash.-based INRIX Inc. The study also found that the city of Seattle was ranked the ninth-most congested urban area in the nation, costing the city's drivers $5 billion in direct and indirect costs over the one-year period. The study analyzed 500 terabytes of data from 300 million different sources covering over 5 million miles of road around the world. Everett's No. 1 status turned up when researchers ranked the amount of time commuters spent trying to get in or out of a city. The data showed that commuters in the Everett area spent 28 percent of their time in gridlock while trying to leave or enter the city and its suburbs. That was twice as high as New York City, which had 14 percent gridlock. Seattle's status as No. 9 came when a different data set was ranked - showing how many hours the average driver spent in congested conditions during the peak commute hours. The study found that Seattle commuters spend, on average, 55 hours stuck in congested conditions, costing each driver an average of $1,853 extra in commuting costs. The worst urban area in the nation was Los Angeles, where each commuter spends an average of 102 hours in congestion, at an average cost of $2,828 to each driver. New York City was second-worst by that measure. Overall, the study found that traffic congestion cost U.S. motorists some $304.6 billion in 2017. Looking at the data from around the world, Thailand showed the worst traffic congestion of any other nation, followed by Indonesia and Colombia. The United States ranked fifth.

  • State revenues projections look to increase by about $1.3 billion more than expected through 2021. The numbers released by the Office of Financial Management in mid-February at a meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council showed that overall state revenues increased by nearly $628 million for the current two-year budget that ends mid-2019, putting it at nearly $45 billion. The projections for the next two-year budget that ends in mid-2021 also increase, by nearly $660 million, pushing the state budget up to $49.1 billion.

  • A new report released recently and reported by komonews.com ranks the safest cities in Washington state. The list, compiled by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, ranks Sammamish as the No. 1 safest city in the state. To make the rankings, the organization reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics along with the council's own population data and internal research. Violent crimes were given more weight than property crimes, due to their severity. The researchers eliminated any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI, and removed cities with populations under 10,000.

    Sammamish was found to be the safest, followed by (in order) Lynden, West Richland, Camas, Maple Valley, Bainbridge Island, Kenmore, Washougal, Oak Harbor and Snoqualmie. Eighty cities were ranked altogether. Seattle came in at No. 69 on the list, Tacoma was No. 77 and Everett was No. 60. The city with the fewest violent crimes was Snoqualmie, with only three reported - a rate of 0.22 per 1,000 residents. Sammamish had the lowest property crime rate, with only 8.3 per 1,000 residents. Tukwila had the highest property crime rate of 154.9 per 1,000 residents. Tacoma had the highest violent crime rate of 9.5 per 1,000 residents.

  • Only 17 state capitals are also the largest cities in their respective states, but they don't necessarily offer the best quality of life. To take a closer look at this issue, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2018's Best State Capitals to Live In. To identify the most livable seats of state government, WalletHub compared all 50 state capitals across 51 key metrics, ranging from cost of living to K-12 school-system quality to number of attractions. Olympia, WA was ranked #13 in the top 20 state capitals to live in, Austin, TX was ranked #1. To view the full report and your city's rank, please visit https://wallethub.com/edu/best-state-capitals/19030/

  • Seattle finished 2017 as the hottest housing market in the country for the entire year, and isn't showing any signs of slowing down, according to a report in The Seattle Times. And even cheaper towns in Washington, from Wenatchee to Bellingham to Spokane, aren't far behind on the list of regions with the fastest-rising home prices. Single-family home prices for the metro area that spans from Tacoma to Everett grew 12.7 percent in December from a year prior, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home price index released late February. It was the 16th month in a row that Seattle led the nation in home price increases. That extends a local record and is the longest streak in the nation since the dot-com bubble in San Francisco around the turn of the century. For homebuyers, the only shred of relief is that at least the market is not getting any hotter - the increase locally was the same it's been for the last few months. The rest of the country, on the other hand, is heating up. Las Vegas was second, with prices rising 11.1 percent in a year, and San Francisco was next at 9.2 percent, both up from the last several months. Nationally, prices are up 6.3 percent, the most in three and a half years and almost five times more than the country's historical average.

  • The pace of Americans signing contracts to buy homes fell 4.7 percent in January to its lowest level in more than three years, due to a lack of homes for sale, higher prices and rising interest rates. The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of pending sales fell to 104.6, its lowest reading since October of 2014. More Americans are looking to buy homes as the economy has improved, but prices continue to rise amid a dearth of supply. Standard & Poor's said Tuesday that U.S. home prices rose at the fastest 12-month pace in more than three years in 2017. During the third week of February, Freddie Mac said that the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.40 percent, the highest it's been since April 2014.