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July 2016

Noticing more travel delays?

PSRC Trends mapMore than 100,000 workers from outside the four-county central Puget Sound region commuted into King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties every workday in 2014. That number represents a 37 percent increase from 2006 when the U.S. Census reported 73,900 such commuters. Thurston, Island and Skagit counties are the top exporters of workers into the region.

Analysts attribute the surge to a combination of factors, including central Puget Sound's more rapid economic recovery and job growth compared to other parts of the state. (The region added more than 260,000 jobs since 2010.) The cost of housing and/or lifestyle choice is also believed to influence some workers' choice to live outside the region.

In a "Transportation 2040" report to the Puget Sound Regional Council, its Transportation Policy Board highlighted several encouraging trends from 2006 to 2014, notably:

  • Miles driven per day per person have decreased in the last nine years;
  • Fewer young people are getting their driver's license (but a larger share of people age 65+ have a license today than in 2006);
  • Millennials are driving less than Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers;
  • A smaller percentage of people drive alone to work;
  • Transit mode share to Seattle increased from 15% to 23%;
  • Transit ridership is on the rise, outpacing both population and employment growth;
  • The Puget Sound region is the "vanpool capital of the world;"


Despite these developments, delays on regional freeways increased 95 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The Board's report to PSRC also included an analysis of where workers in each major city lived in 2006, 2010 and 2014.  For 2014:

  • In Bremerton, 73% of the workers live in Kitsap County;
  • In Everett, 63% of workers live in Snohomish County;
  • In Seattle, 69% of workers live in King County; and
  • In Tacoma, 60% of workers live within Pierce County.

The presentation also included data on each area's job-housing fit.

Figures from PSRC, the Office of Financial Management, and Employment Securities Department pegged the region's population at 3.9 million in 2015 and project it to eclipse 4 million by early 2017. Between 2020 and 2040 another 1 million people will reside in the region, forming 600,000 additional households. During the same period, another 850,000 jobs are expected to be created.

Researchers at PSRC noted emerging technology could bring some mobility relief. This "uncertain future" could include autonomous and connected vehicles (e.g., RapidRide); shared mobility (e.g., Zipcar, Uber, Car2Go, Lyft and others); and traveler information (e.g, TripPlanner, RideScout and Waze).

Map Source: Puget Sound Regional Council  | U.S. Census LEHD