Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2b600000Region of Boom is a reporting team at KUOW.We are tracking growth in metropolitan Seattle, which is being reshaped by the demands of a fast-growing technology sector led by Amazon. It’s a boom on a grand scale bestowing wealth and opportunity upon some and disruption and displacement upon others. Take a look at where development is happening now and make sure to tell us what is going on in your own neighborhood.Follow the ongoing discussion at #regionofboomThis project is edited by Carol Smith.

Seattle's commute zone is a hot mass

This heat map produced by real estate company Trulia shows the commute times for Seattle residents. The warmer the color, the longer the commute away from Seattle's core.
Screenshot with permission from Trulia
/
This heat map produced by real estate company Trulia shows the commute times for Seattle residents. The warmer the color, the longer the commute from Seattle's core.

About 236 people move to the Seattle area every day, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

This means more people driving to their jobs, some more than an hour. About 100,000 people commute to the region from Whidbey Island, Aberdeen, Mount Vernon and beyond, according to the regional council.

On the commute map produced by real estate company Trulia, above, red indicates an hour commute. That seems optimistic. Marysville is in the red zone, but at rush hour it’s easily an hour and a half from Seattle. That’s because Highway 2, which serves suburbs east of Everett, funnels overwhelming traffic into I-5. Also, more than a dozen train crossings slow commuters moving through Marysville.

We’ll find out how packed we’ve become in June, when the state works up the numbers. They believe the population hit 4 million last year; it’s supposed to reach 5 million by 2040.

We’re booming because of a thriving tech sector and well-paid jobs. The wealth isn’t being spread around evenly, though, which causes stress for tenants and hopeful homebuyers. Rents have soared, and housing prices have done the same – each driven by too much demand and too little supply. It hasn’t been easy for people whose incomes have not kept up with the rise in the city’s fortunes. Many are moving far into the suburbs for a lifestyle they can afford. 

More rental housing is moving onto the market in 2017, but more people are on the way. Freeway delays are increasing, according to the state transportation department; a light rail system that could relieve pressure is a dozen years away.

It’s stressful, but you adapt, says Mark Hallenbeck, transportation researcher at the University of Washington. He points to the City of Seattle’s decision to turn a lane of Denny Way into a bus-only lane.

“When the buses are way more efficient, it becomes way more palatable to take those, so people will shift to do that,” Hallenbeck says. “Those kinds of changes are taking place.”

Hallenbeck also says people will learn to adjust to life in our more-demanding metropolis. They'll exploit improvements in public transit. They'll exchange big houses for smaller ones in the right location.

“People will choose not to live in a four-bedroom house when there are only three of them,” he says. “All you’re doing is changing what you value.”

As we adapt, maybe we can come up with a new name for our transforming region. “Puget Sound” doesn't capture the region's eastern expansion. “Seattle area” misses the major job centers on the Eastside, and in Everett and Tacoma. 

We’re partial to “hot mass,” but that’ll soon be dated.

What are your ideas?

Carolyn Adolph can be reached at cadolph@kuow.org. Have a story idea? Use our story pitch form.