2017 LEX: SEATTLE

INNOVATION IN TRANSPORTATION

Researched & written by: Tim King & Andy Sahm

‚ÄčSeattle’s explosive growth over the past decade has put it consistently at the top of the fastest growing cities in the country. On average the city gains 1,000 new residents every week. The economic growth and population boom have created significant challenges with traffic congestion and transit. In 2016, the average resident spent approximately 55 hours stuck in traffic, and the city ranks in the top 5 most congested in the country.

 

Despite the congestion, Seattle ranks 4th in transit investment with infrastructure that includes light rail, train and bus service. In 2016, the system had 150 million riders, a 5% growth over the previous year. Even with the strong ridership and investment numbers, the population is growing faster than the infrastructure can be built. Last year city officials put forth a massive $53.8 billion dollar plan to expand light rail by 62 miles, 5 times the current system. Voters approved the measure on the November ballot.   

In addition to light rail expansion, a private sector led group called “Challenge Seattle” is looking at new technologies and programs to further reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of life. Challenge Seattle is made up of 17 regional companies that have partnered with the University of Washington to create a Mobile Innovation Center. The center will explore and test new transit technologies and incentive programs. A major goal of this initiative is to reduce single occupancy ridership to 35% by 2035. Planners are also considering how autonomous vehicle policy will impact transportation patterns in the near future.

 

Although Indy does not have the rate of population growth of Seattle, what can we learn from their growing pains as we start to expand our transit system in Indy? How do we react more quickly to the needs of our citizens? How do we research and implement newer technologies that could reduce the cost of transportation, while at the same time maintain and improve our current infrastructure? How does Indy consider equity in our transportation system?

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