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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 4, 2013 at 10:01 PM

Time’s a-wastin’: Seattle drivers lose 2 days a year to traffic

Seattle drivers lost an average 48 hours to congestion during 2011, tied with Philadelphia for ninth place among the 15 largest metro areas in the annual Urban Mobility Report by the Texas Transportation Institute, which uses 2011 data from INRIX. That’s up only one spot from 2010, in a report released Monday night.

But if your personal experience seems a lot crazier, you may be right.

Traffic here is highly volatile — sixth-worst among the big metros, if you ask the question, “How much time do I need to allow to get to or from work 19 days out of 20 on time?”   Seattle’s “Freeway Planning Time Index” is 3.99, meaning that if the commute takes 20 minutes in light traffic, you should allow 80 minutes.  Washington, D.C. fared the worst, at 5.72, in a new analysis that TTI rolled out for this year’s report. Portland isn’t in the largest 15 metros, but did worse than Seattle, at a 4.26 ratio.

The state Department of Transportation has been tracking these trends for years in its Gray Notebook, which can be found here.  In the Seattle area, a morning commute from Everett to Bellevue,  only 24 minutes in light traffic, requires a planning time of 70 minutes, and is getting worse. But a trip from Tukwila to Bellevue, of 13 minutes in light traffic, only needs 31 minutes planning time, because of widenings at the Renton S-Curves, an improvement from 41 minutes planning time in 2010.  Half the corridors got worse, while half improved from 2010 to 2011, nearly all on the Eastside.

Nationally, the average yearly delay worsened slightly in 2011, at 38.0 hours compared to 37.6 hours in 2010.

“As the economy recovers, we’re expecting an uptick in congestion levels in 2012,” said TTI researcher Bill Eisele.

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