The Case for Buying a Home You Can’t Afford – Seattle IS AFFORDABLE

Trulia crunched income data to identify cities where mortgages will soon look more affordable.

Here’s a happy reminder if you’re someone who finds escape by perusing real estate listings for unobtainable homes: A mortgage that strains your budget now will be a lighter burden a few years, and a couple of job promotions, down the line.

Bloomberg Business Video

Young professionals willing to stretch their budgets now should consider Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., among other cities, according to a new report from Trulia. In New Haven, Conn., the typical millennial (defined by Trulia as an adult between ages 25 and 34) can expect to spend 37 percent of her income on housing in the first year of her mortgage. Three years later, though, the same home buyer’s monthly payments will fall below 31 percent of her income, according to Trulia’s estimates. By the last year of her 30-year mortgage, she’ll be spending 11 percent of her income on housing.

“There’s a sweet spot of metros where a mortgage looks obtainable but unaffordable, but where it doesn’t take long to become affordable,” said Ralph McLaughlin, a housing economist at Trulia.

Trulia built its model on the rough assumption that in three decades, today’s 25-year-olds will earn the same as today’s 55-year-olds. (It also baked in some inflation.) That seems like a reasonable basis for comparing local housing markets, but an overly broad one for making financial decisions.
Here are some other caveats: It wasn’t very long ago that U.S. homebuyers helped wreck the world economy by stretching their budgets to buy homes they couldn’t afford. Don’t do that. And even if you want to, it will be harder to find an enabling mortgage lender this time around. The average debt-to-income ratio that a borrower needs to close a loan has hovered around 25 percent in recent years, according to mortgage software company Ellie Mae, indicating that many buyers would struggle to convince a lender to let them stretch.

The other thing that stands out in the Trulia report is the low likelihood that young workers will ever be able to afford homes in California. In San Francisco, the typical millennial will still be spending 48 percent of her income on housing in the last year of her mortgage. In San Jose, the figure is 38 percent. In other words, the median home will still be unaffordable to the median millennial when that group is approaching retirement. It’s a grim picture up and down the coast.

California, to judge from the above, looks destined to become the land of the elderly.

Weekend traffic update Friday 10/23-10/25

Special Events Advisory for Friday, Oct. 23 -Sunday, Oct. 25

SEATTLE—The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) advises travelers to be aware of several events happening around the city through the weekend that will affect area traffic.

PRESIDENT OF IRELAND VISIT: The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins will be visiting the greater Seattle area from Wednesday to Saturday. Please be aware of potential traffic issues in and around the city.

SEATTLE HOME SHOW: The Seattle Home Show fall edition is at CenturyLink Field Event Center and runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the weekend.

“R” DAY:  A celebration to benefit KEXP’s new home fund at the Old Rainer Brewery from 5p.m. to 11p.m. About 1500 people are expected to attend.

LIGHT THE NIGHT: The 15th anniversary of the lantern-lit night walk benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The Walk starts at 6p.m. at the Seattle Center, goes around the Center and the sidewalks of South Lake Union.  About 1500 people are expected to walk.

WEST SEATTLE HARVEST FESTIVAL:  A Fall celebration in the West Seattle Junction from 10a.m. to 2 p.m. California Avenue SW will be closed between SW Edmonds and SW Oregon Streets from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. About 500 people are expected to attend.

Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, Sunday, October 25th, 2015 at 4p.m. About 40,000 people are expected to attend.

Seattle Area Traffic News What’s happening on the highway from Renton to Shoreline

Busy weekend of closures and roadwork

Whether you are headed out to find that one-of-a-kind Halloween costume, in search of the perfect pumpkin for carving or you plan to just run errands and gather supplies for a yummy fall soup, be sure to plan around a busy weekend of closures in the Seattle area this weekend. The significant closures include eastbound I-90 down to one lane across Lake Washington and a complete closure of the Montlake Bridge. That’s not all for the Montlake neighborhood. Watch for intermittent single-lane closures around SR 520, and for the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard to be closed. Want more details? We’ve got you covered, just check outour blog.

Special events to note

But wait, there’s more! Besides a lot of roadwork happening this weekend, you should also be aware of some special events. The Seattle Home Show at the CenturyLink Field Event Center takes place all weekend and the Sounders have a huge game at 4 p.m. on Sunday. All the details, plus other events happening throughout this month, can be found on our calendar.

Sound Transit closure in North Seattle

This is the fourth and final weekend of planned work on Sound Transit’s Northgate Link Extension project near Banner Way Northeast and Northeast 80th Street. The North 85th Street/Banner Way Northeast/Northeast 80th Street on-ramp will be closed from 7 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, through 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. Drivers will follow a signed detour around the ramp closure to access northbound I-5 from Northeast Northgate Way. Some nearby city streets will also be closed or only allow local access.

Looking ahead: Alaskan Way Viaduct closure, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1

Your Halloween plans may need a detour. The Alaskan Way Viaduct will be closed next weekend for its semiannual inspection. That means both directions of SR 99 will be closed between South Spokane Street and the north end of the Battery Street Tunnel from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, and on Sunday, Nov. 1.

Montlake Bridge to close this weekend; ramp and local lane closures also on tap
WSDOT maintenance crews will close the Montlake Bridge in both directions this weekend, along with the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard and a single lane of the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard. The closure, from 5 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, will allow WSDOT maintenance crews to begin important safety upgrades to the Montlake Bridge, including replacement of its aging metal decks.

Weather-permitting, crews this weekend will also intermittently close single lanes along East Park Drive East, along westbound East Lake Washington Boulevard between 24th Avenue East and Montlake Boulevard, and along northbound and southbound Montlake Boulevard between East Hamlin Street and East Roanoke Street, in order to complete paving activities.

During the weekend closures:                     

·       The SR 520 mainline will remain open, including its westbound off-ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard and a single lane of the eastbound off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard.
·       Drivers can access Montlake using the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard, the open lane of the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard, or via the University Bridge.
·       The Montlake Boulevard U-turn at East Hamlin Street for I-5 access will remain open.
·       Bicycle and pedestrian access across the west side of the Montlake Bridge will remain open.
·       Freeway transit stops will remain open, but other buses will be rerouted around the Montlake area. Check the King County Metro alerts webpage to find out information on your bus route.
·       Marine traffic will be restricted. There will be no Montlake Bridge openings for boats between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. The bridge’s south span will open for boats (with one hour’s advance notice) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Plan ahead: Eastbound I-90 closures also on the docket for this weekend
Please note that this weekend, Oct. 23-26, eastbound I-90 will also be down to one lane. As they have done in the past, contractor crews with the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project will reduce eastbound I-90 traffic to one lane just before the Mount Baker Tunnel from 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26. Drivers will then be rerouted to the express lanes. Similar eastbound I-90 weekend work earlier this year resulted in added congestion in both directions of I-5. The Sounders are also playing their final regular season home match at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. Just like the team will be preparing for the match, fans need to prepare for extra traffic- leave for destinations early and plan out alternate travel routes.

Best Corn Mazes in Seattle 2015

Field Day! 10 Corn Mazes You Need to Stalk This Fall

Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm
1 of 10

Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm

The a(maze)ing facts: This year at Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm, the maze will have you twisting and turning through the geometric paths that lead to a big ol’ barn at the center of Bob’s 10-acre maze. For new maze explorers who aren’t ready to tackle the whole 10-acres on their own (or at all!), the kids’ mazes are equally impressive and will keep little ones engaged with “stations” that they reach along the way.

Bonus: Bob’s is already booking up quickly, but you can also reserve one of their 15 fire pits that are scattered along the perimeter of the maze (you can see them on the photo above) – awesome for get-togethers with other families and some corn field marshmallow roasting! Fire pits are available for 2-80 people and run from $30-60 per hour, depending on the size of your group. Maze admission is required.

Car time: Approximately 40 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Sept. 26-Oct. 31, 2015. Daytime Mazes open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Night Maze open 6 p.m.-10 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays (last admission at 10 p.m.)

Cost: Daytime Maze $6-$8 or $35/family (4 & under Free); Night Maze $10-$12 or $45/family (4 & under Free); Kids Maze $4/person or $20/family (under 18 mos. Free).

11907 Elliott Rd.
Snohomish, Wa 98296

Carleton Farm
2 of 10

Carleton Farm

The a(maze)ing facts: This isn’t just a corn maze, it’s a crime scene at this year’s 12th Fan Challenge. Farmer Brown and his apple pie have been stolen and the only way to recover them is to collect all of the clues in the maze. Oh my! With one challenge for older kids and adults, using a punch card to follow the clues though the maze, and another challenge designed for younger kids to explore the maze following animal tracks, everyone in the family will be pleased with this maze. And if that’s not enough excitement, test your skills as a 12th Man fan. Navigate the maze and try and make it through 4 downs of trivia fun. As a fan, you have to get the correct answer or you may be forced to do a little cheer all while avoiding the penalties. With one maze and three games to play, plan on making a day of it at Carleton Farms!

Bonus: The Kids Korral Play Area at Carleton is also worth checking out, before or after the maze. There is an additional entrance fee for this part of the farm (parents are free), but between the zip swing, hay mountain, additional hay mazes (one is inside), that is money well spent! There is also an additional small fee for the Pony Express Train and the Pumpkin Cannon, so be prepared for those add-ons.

Car time: Approximately 40-50 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Sept. 26-Nov. 1, 2015 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (last ticket sold at 5 p.m.); the haunted maze is open from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so you may want to plan on leaving before the chainsaws come out to play.

Cost: Daytime Maze $6/person or $25/family (3 & under Free); Night Maze $10/person.

630 Sunnyside Boulevard S.E.
Lake Stevens, Wa 98258 (you may need to use Everett, Wa in your GPS!)

Thomasson Family Farm
4 of 10

Thomasson Family Farm

The a(maze)ing facts: Teaming up with Darigold to create one of the most gorgeous corn mazes in the area, the Farmalicious Corn Maze at Thomasson Family Farm is worth the trip to Enumclaw. The maze is hand-cut into the field by the owner’s daughter, Tia who also designs the maze every year. Now that is what we call aMAZEing!

Bonus: We love the old school farm vibe at Thomasson Family Farm and the fact that they truly keep kids in mind with every detail.

Car time: Approximately 50 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Oct. 1-31, 2015 from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Cost: Weekdays $6/person; Saturdays & Sundays $7.50/person

38223 236th Ave. S.E.
Enumclaw, Wa 98022

Remlinger Farms
5 of 10

Remlinger Farms

The a(maze)ing facts: A trip to Remlinger Farms in fall is like going to a pumpkin patch themed-Disneyland! We’re talking rides and food and go-karts and animals and so much more. But amongst all this fun, the corn maze should not be passed over, which has a kids helping kids-theme this year (think a gigantic pair of hands in the middle of the corn field).

Bonus: Need more corny fun? Don’t miss the flying corn rides when you’re done with the maze. No, the corn itself doesn’t fly… you do, in a giant ear of corn!

Car time: Approximately 45 minutes from Seattle (park in the outer lot to be near the corn maze).

Dates & Hours: Weekends Sept. 26-Oct. 31, 2015 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (weekdays are reserved for school tours).

Cost: Festival admission $15.75/person (under 1 Free)

32610 N.E. 32nd St.
Carnation, Wa 98014

Carpinito Brothers
6 of 10

Carpinito Brothers

The a(maze)ing facts: As one of the closest corn mazes to Seattle, Carpinito Brothers goes all out each year with two mazes – you won’t be able to tell when you’re deep in the maze, but you’re actually running through a Headless Horseman and his Fiery Pumpkin Head! The mazes vary in difficulty and length, ranging from about one to two miles of paths.

Bonus: You can combine all of your fall activities into one trip to Carpinito Brothers – pick up pumpkins and fall veggies, take pictures with their fun props, travel through the hay maze, swim in a sea of corn and say hello to the farm’s furry friends. Plus, scoot over to their store when you can stock up on all of your family’s favorite fall veggies. Beets for dinner, anyone?

Car time: Approximately 20-30 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Sept. 25-Oct. 31, 2015 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cost: $6-$9/person (4 & under Free). Click here for $1 off adult corn maze admission.

6868 S. 277th St.
Kent, Wa 98032 (note, this is not their main store address)

Mosby Farms
7 of 10

Mosby Farms

The a(maze)ing facts: After 24 years, Mosby Farms knows how to do corn mazes right. Parents rave about the maze at Mosby because it’s so well-maintained – the corn is lush and high, the paths are less mucky than at other farms and the routes are tricky enough to keep even mom and dad, who know everything, entertained. And this year, you can weave in and out of their Spider Web & Fly-themed corn maze.

Bonus: Well-behaved pets on leashes are welcome at Mosby Farms, so feel free to bring Fido to romp around with you. Just remember to bring a leash and a plastic bag for messes.

Car time: Approximately 40 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Oct. 2-31, 2015 from 10 a.m.- ‘til dusk.

Cost: $9/Adults; $6/Kids (3-12); under 3 Free. Click here for $2 off corn maze admission.

3104 Auburn Black Diamond Rd.
Auburn, Wa 98092

Rutledge Corn Maze
8 of 10

Rutledge Corn Maze

The a(maze)ing facts: BOOM! That’s not corn popping that you hear… it’s the sound of this awesome 8-acre corn maze at Rutledge Corn Maze, near Olympia, in Tumwater. There are two different games to play in this challenging corn maze. Choose to find all 12 check point stations, which will ultimately help you find your way out or play The Farm Scene Investigation. Farmer Joe is missing and there was an accident that appears to be foul play. There are seven farm animal suspects that you will need you to investigate. Collect the evidence to find the weapon, the suspect and the location where the crime took place. Be sure to punch your card to keep track of your clues. Solve the mystery and put the guilty farm animal behind bars and save farmer Joe.

Bonus: This is a tech-savvy corn maze! Download the Rutledge Corn Maze app onto your smartphone for details about the maze, directions, admission prices, events and more.

Car time: Approximately 80 minutes from Seattle.

Hours: Daily, Sept. 23-Oct. 31, 2015 from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. or later for the haunted version of the corn maze.

302 93rd Ave. S.E.
Tumwater, Wa 98501

The Farm at Swan's Trail
9 of 10

The Farm at Swan’s Trail

The a(maze)ing facts: Learn a little geography with your corn maze! A family favorite, The Farm at Swan’s Trail is well-known for its Washington State corn maze map. Start at one end of the state and make your way across to the other side… if you can! The maze is 12 acres (that’s 4.5 miles!) and shows more than 250 state roads and 400 towns and landmarks, each labeled with historical facts.

Bonus: Not to be missed are the duck races. And, we’re not talking about rubber ducks! Prefer your animal races with four-legged creatures? The pig races won’t disappoint either.

Car time: Approximately 45-60 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Daily, Sept. 27-Oct. 31, 2015 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. with flashlight mazes beginning at 6 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays.

Cost: Daytime Maze $6/person or $25/family (under 4 Free); Night Maze $10/person (by reservation only).

7301 Rivershore Rd.
Snohomish, Wa 98290

Dr. Maze’s Farm
10 of 10

Dr. Maze’s Farm

The a(maze)ing facts: A sunflower and corn maze in one? Sign us up! This year’s maze at Dr. Maze’s Farm features a spider web who is sure to love corn himself. At 3.5 acres, the maze at Dr. Maze’s is a great size for families with younger kids, who will be thrilled with the 1/4 mile short path… if you don’t get lost! There are ten question signs to help you find your way. The correct answer will lead you on your way. How much do you know about spiders? Don’t miss the Color Balance Maze and Spider Rope Maze in the middle of the big maze. It’s included in your admission – an Instagramming parent’s dream come true!

Bonus: If you still need pumpkins, the farm has plenty to pick from as well as a Farmstand with loads of farm fresh products and botanicals, hayride tours, rubber duck races, farm animals and even a Singing Chicken Show.

Car time: Approximately 20-30 minutes from Seattle.

Dates & Hours: Weekends, Sept. 24-Oct. 31, 2015 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Flashlight Nights Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31 ’till 9 p.m.

Cost: Included with $9 Farmyard fee

15410 N.E. 124th St.
Redmond, Wa 98052

2015/09/29 – 

This is just Scary

Seattle installs new system to track individual drivers

Seattle installs new system to track individual drivers
David Kroman

Gray boxes, holding the wiring for nearby traffic signals, dot more than 1,000 intersections throughout Seattle. They fade into the background by design, many of them further camouflaged with graffiti and posters for candidates or concerts.

It would be no surprise, then, if you’ve missed a new accouterment added to many of these boxes in the last year: a small rubber antenna, like a lily pad or tiddlywink, perched on top.

1  A Skywave Antenna at 2nd and Cherry.

The antennas are a patented design from Skywave Antennas in Huntsville, Alabama. Each is connected to a modem that casts a net of Wi-Fi across the intersection. As you approach, the signal pings not only the sensors in your car, but your phone and tablet as well. A succession of these gizmos can track your progress down the street.

It’s another step in Seattle’s march to the future, a world where the street grid adapts to congestion, construction, accidents and football games in real-time. And as the city works to build a framework for vetting new technologies, struggling at times to keep pace with the speed of technology, it is also driving privacy advocate nuts.
Seattle’s street grid is packed beyond its capacity. The city recently ranked 7th worst in the country for congestion. Because of geographic constraints, however, building more roads is really not an option. That leaves either getting cars off the road or allowing them to move more smoothly through the system — and that means making the traffic grid a smarter place.

The core of this effort is the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Center. High in the Municipal Tower, the operations center is a sort of NASA mission control for Seattle traffic: Desks with computers face an enormous screen, which is parceled into about thirty smaller views from traffic cameras around the city.

From this room, SDOT can monitor 200 traffic cameras, 34 message signs, 1,100 traffic signals and basically any major event or road closure, all in real time. The computers update travel times, dispatch incident responses, adjust routes around construction zones, and change messages on signs around Seattle. It’s all about moving people in and out of the system as quickly as possible.

But the thing about traffic is that it’s the result of spot decisions made by a million unpredictable human beings, and without an understanding of how people behave within that system, there are limits to relieving the immense pressure put on traffic after an accident, in rush hour or during an event. That’s where large-scale data collection comes in.

Before the most recent Wi-Fi based system, SDOT deployed license plate and Bluetooth readers to gather information as cars move from one place to the next. But while effective for highways and large scale roads, they left something to be desired at intersections and smaller corridors. The new system will provide a much more detailed picture: while Bluetooth readers capture 5-7 percent of cars passing intersections, the Wi-Fi readers capture nearly 50 percent from cars with smartphones or tablets with Wi-Fi turned on.

2The Skywave antennas are part of a larger system installed by a company called Acyclica. The readers are placed along a street corridor, creating a Wi-Fi signal. As a car passes one of the readers, any wireless device – phone, tablet, Bluetooth, car sensor – leaves a mark. As that same device passes through the next intersection, it gets pinged again. As the car passes more readers, algorithms are run to calculate speed, distance, time and general behavior.

One car doesn’t tell a lot. But as thousands, and eventually millions, of cars follow the same path, the data net thickens – that metadata we hear so much about – and the grid’s capacity to adapt grows. As a result, traffic signals and warning signs will, in theory, grow smarter, adjusting more accurately during certain times of day, and even learning to respond to isolated events.

“We have a Thursday night game between the Raiders and Seahawks and we’ll see how our system reacts,” said Adiam Emery, an Intelligent Transportation System Engineer with SDOT. “In real time this type of data will be feeding the system.”

After a pilot program along Mercer Street, SDOT is moving forward at full speed. Readers have been installed throughout downtown, along Mercer Street and, most recently, along the construction corridor on 23rd Ave. According to Emery, data will begin to roll in around the first quarter of 2016. If the effort is successful, it would allow for better use of existing infrastructure at relatively little cost – approximately $2,000 per reader. In a system that needs billions of dollars in improvements, that’s nothing.

It’s hard to talk about data without raising the issue of privacy, however. The new system works because cellphones and tablets have their own identifying numbers called media access control or MAC addresses. As you drive down Mercer Street or 2nd Ave or 23rd, it can tell that it’s the same device pinging the string of antennas at the streetlights.

SDOT representatives say they are exceedingly confident this new technology poses no privacy risks. Emery and SDOT Public Information Officer Norm Mah explain that the city receives no raw data from the readers, which they say means it cannot trace information back to individuals or individual devices. Mah compared it to a bar code on a baseball ticket: The system knows you’re there, but not who you are. The data fed into the readers is “scrubbed,” meaning it’s analyzed and aggregated into a lump of useful information, absent of discrete data-points.

But because SDOT is largely free to pursue infrastructure improvements without approval from the city council, advancements are not always aired in public. Emery called programs like this one “business as usual” for SDOT. That approach, though, can leave communication divide. The Department of Information Technology (DoIT) is working on fixing the divide with an initiative to consistently examine the new technologies of departments like SDOT and City Light to ensure they do not encroach too deeply on citizens’ privacy. But that initiative will likely not get up and running until January.

In the meantime, systems like SDOT’s traffic signals can proceed for months before other departments take notice. DoIT chief Michael Mattmiller said he first learned about the readers a few months ago, close to a year after the Acyclica system was installed.

This inevitably frustrates privacy advocates like Seattle Privacy Coalition’s co-founder David Robinson. He’d like more transparency when it comes to data-gathering, no matter how anonymous it’s purported to be.

The issue for Robinson is that the city does not own the technology; a private contractor does. Rather than develop its own system, SDOT found it would be cheaper and more effective to pay a service fee to get it up and running. When SDOT first experimented with the Bluetooth readers, they hired Acyclica, based out of Boulder, Colorado. The city was satisfied with the product so gave Acyclica a contract to build out the Wi-Fi reader infrastructure. More recently, SDOT added four more vendors — Digimax, Quality Counts, Western Systems and IDAX — to its vendor pool, meaning any of them may be used to expand the already existing data network.

“I’d like to know what kind of encryption and transparency measures they have in place,” says Robinson. “But we don’t know what the city is asking [of the companies]. If they would just say what they’re doing and make it transparent they would at least have us not worried about whether they’re lying or not.”

When Mattmiller learned of the program, he too had concerns about privacy. “Once we did hear about this, we recognized the concerns of privacy and we jumped in,” he says. Since examining the program, Mattmiller feels confident that the technology cannot be used to trace individuals or individual devices.

Acyclica President Daniel Benhammou says his company does not store any raw data. “In the case where you look at types of data with a unique identifier,” he says, “the practice is that it’s immediately anonymized and encrypted so that the identifier changes form in an irreversible way. None of that raw data is ever maintained.”

The president of one of the other four vendors, who didn’t want to be named for fear of hurting his company’s chances at more work, says it stores data for up to five years. But, as at Acyclica, the data goes through a “one-way encryption” process and “only a very smart person working for a lifetime could decode the information. We have no desire to track individuals,” he says.

To be sure, though, Mattmiller says a third party auditor has been hired to examine the city’s contractors.

The question of data-gathering and surveillance in Seattle exploded in 2013 when reporters at the Stranger exposed the Seattle Police Department’s “Mesh Network.” That network was eventually shut off after outcry from the public.

Robinson admits traffic management doesn’t concern him as much as law enforcement, but feels any sort of data-gathering device should be run through City Ordinance 124142, which requires all City departments to obtain City Council approval before using equipment capable of capturing or recording data. “The city is once again circumventing the spirit and letter of their own ordinance,” says Robinson.

When asked about the ordinance, SDOT’s Emery says, “the anonymous data gathered does not fall within the parameters of the ordinance. None of the anonymous data is retained.”

Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Councilmember Bruce Harrell could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mattmiller echoes Emery. “This would not be subject to the surveillance ordinance because it’s not a surveillance technology,” he says.

There is clearly a gap between what Robinson sees as the spirit of the law and the literal interpretation of city officials. In theory, this gap will be closed when the city has an official privacy initiative in place. If and when that is passed this fall, Mattmiller’s department will be better informed of new technologies and have a more in-depth review process.

“It’s going to take some time to educate city staff about what steps should be taken,” says Mattmiller. “We want to catch these programs up front.”

Meanwhile, SDOT’s new antennas create a certain knee-jerk reaction, even as data-gathering has become a fact of life. Any perception, real or not, of shrouding the truth is not taken well.

In this case, the ultimate question may be what concerns people more: the specter of overly surveillant law enforcement, or the prospect of spending yet another hour stuck in traffic?

Seattle Traffic – Can it really get worse?

The U.S. is choking on its traffic and it’s going to get worse

The United States is choking on its traffic, with the average driver losing 42 hours a year in the bumper-to-bumper grind and a drain on the economy costing $160 billion, according to a new report.

The report to be released Wednesday shows that traffic delays in most parts of the country have bounced back to pre-recession levels. That undermines the hope that three trends — telecommuting, the movement of people back to cities and a decline in millennials seeking driver’s licenses — might provide an antidote to congestion.

And with the U.S. population projected to grow by 70 million in the next three decades, there is little chance that the transportation network can keep pace with that growth or alleviate the current crush. In other words, it’s going to get worse.

“If you look at corridors like the Capital Beltway, it’s going to be hard to figure out how you scale up to make it accommodate another million people, 20 or 25 percent more travel demand,” said Tim Lomax, co-author of a joint report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the traffic monitoring firm Inrix. “We need to figure out how to use our existing capacity smarter.”

The report arrives five days after the U.S. Transportation Department said that Americans drove a record 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of this year, topping the 1.5 trillion miles driven in 2007.

On the United States’ 10 most-congested highways — six are in Los Angeles, and Chicago and New York have two each — drivers sacrifice an annual average of 84 hours caught in gridlock, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute-Inrix report says.

When calculated by urban region, Washington ranks worst, with 82 hours of delay per driver. Los Angeles, with drivers delayed 80 hours per year; San Francisco (78); New York (74); and San Jose (67) fill out the top five.

But congestion is no longer a distinctly urban phenomenon. The report said that drivers in midsize cities were delayed in traffic only slightly less than the 42-hour national average, and small-city backups cost drivers in those areas 30 hours a year.

Total the numbers and, the report says, Americans spend 6.9 billion hours battling traffic and burn 3.1 billion gallons of fuel while nudging inch by inch down the roadway.

It’s also more than rush-hour headaches for workaday commuters. When considering the vagaries of traffic — bad weather, collisions and construction zones — for a trip at any time of day, drivers need to allot an average of 48 minutes for a trip that would take 20 minutes in light traffic.

“One of the strategies we point to is, have some realistic expectations,” Lomax said. “If you live in Washington, D.C., for example, and you don’t think you’re going to encounter traffic congestion on the way to work, you must work the night shift.”

Although he said it was too early to say whether the millennial generation will rethink its dedication to the urban lifestyle, Lomax says there are inklings.

“Some of what we may be seeing as the economy recovers is that many of these millennials aren’t so different from their parents,” he said. “They have an economic reason to not buy a car and live relatively close to where they work. When those hard times start to go away, the behavior begins to look a whole lot more like everybody else.”

Lomax sees another congestion challenge in the creation of planned satellite urban hubs around big cities.

“You see the jobs sort of chasing the workers out into the suburbs,” he said, citing the development of Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia. “The people who developed Tysons thought, ‘Oh, well, let’s move out to where the houses are.’ Now you see people commuting really long distances into Tysons Corner. The houses just went farther out” into suburbia.

In addition to losing 82 hours a year to traffic congestion, drivers in the Washington region burn more than 88 million gallons of fuel stuck in traffic. For a must-make-it appointment, the region’s drivers need to allow 35 minutes for a trip that would take 10 minutes if there are no backups.

“Some of this is individuals taking some responsibility for knowing their options and figuring out how to plan around stuff,” Lomax said, “and their employers offering options that still work for the business but make that commuting experience less onerous for their employees.”

That balm for the irritation of traffic will come from technology, he said.

“The ability of the car to sense that it’s going to hit the car in front of it,” he said. “That kind of technology can help the Capital Beltway handle more cars.”

But it’s greater integration of traffic-monitoring apps into vehicles that will take the next leap forward.

“You can also take that same kind of information stream and turn it into something that helps people understand that there’s a crash six miles up ahead, here are the options,” he said. “Maybe that helps you to understand that transit is a better option, rather than have the car shove you toward the Beltway on a big accident day.”

He foresees a day when information about the daily commute will feed into a home computer calendar a few minutes before the alarm clock rings.

“Say you’re commuting in from Manassas: Your computer looks at your calendar, sees that it’s a regular commute day and that the weather’s going to be terrible so traffic is going to be bad, and there’s already been a big crash on I-66,” he said. “So, your computer goes out and finds the VRE train schedule and the bus schedule, and here’s the Metrorail schedule and where it drops you off. So, at 5:45, you’re shaved and showered and your computer presents you with your travel options for today.”

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.

Call Me for FREE HOME analysis


Blue Angels Traffic Update

Multiple closures required for Seafair Air Show practice

SEATTLE – As the U.S. Navy Blue Angels zoom above Lake Washington this week, drivers in the greater Seattle and Bellevue areas should prepare for traffic to slow to a crawl several times between Thursday, July 30, and Sunday, Aug. 2, and consider alternate routes.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the Interstate 90 floating bridge five times to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians while the Blue Angels practice for and perform at the Seafair Air Show. The closures are to keep the public and pilots safe and to minimize distractions.
The closures will extend from Interstate 5 in Seattle to Island Crest Way on Mercer Island. Certain I-90 and I-5 ramps will also close 30 minutes to one hour before flight times. Drivers who need to cross Lake Washington should plan to do so at least one hour before the closures or use an alternate route, such as Interstate 405, State Route 520 or State Route 522.
I-90 floating bridge closures
  • Thursday, July 30: 9:45 a.m. to noon and 1:15 to 2:40 p.m. (practice)
  • Friday, July 31: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (practice)
  • Saturday, Aug. 1: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (Seafair Air Show)
  • Sunday, Aug. 2: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (Seafair Air Show)
Ramp closures
  • Northbound I-5 to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Southbound I-5 to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Northbound Rainier Avenue South to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Southbound Rainier Avenue South to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Eastbound I-90 to West Mercer Way (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • East Mercer Way to westbound I-90 (up to one hour prior)
  • Island Crest Way to westbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • 76th Avenue Southeast to westbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • West Mercer Way to westbound I-90 (up to one hour prior)
SR 520 open during I-90 closures
During the I-90 closures, the SR 520 floating bridge will remain open to traffic and tolls will be collected according to the rate schedule. Infrequent users of the SR 520 bridge may want to consider setting up a short-term Good To Go! account for Seafair weekend.
In the Puget Sound area, drivers can get real-time traffic information on their phone with the WSDOT traffic app, by tracking the WSDOT traffic Twitter feed, and checking theWhat’s Happening Now page for detailed information.