Photo: Scott Lowrimore/Flickr
The secret is out. While the rest of the country basked in sunshine and wondered why anyone would want to live in rainy Seattle with a bunch of nerds, Seattleites quietly plodded away on our funky coffee shops, public parks, beautiful architecture and new innovation-friendly economy. The result? Everyone is moving to Seattle. A recent Seattle Times analysis of census data shows that Seattle — for the first time in its history — ranks among the top 10 most densely populated big cities in the U.S.
Droves of newcomers from California, Texas, Oregon and elsewhere have increased the population density of Seattle by 9.8 percent since 2010. Walking down the average street in Seattle, you can expect to share your square mile with 7,962 other people. If the mere thought of this sends you into a panic, there are some excellent hermit homes in the deep woods where you can commune with trees and recenter your chakras. But if this increase in density excites you (is Seattle the new New York?!), you’ll be pleased to learn that this growth shows no sign of slowing.
The densest part of Capitol Hill packs in 55,000 people per square mile — comparable to Greenwich Village in New York City. To experience what 55,000 feels like first-hand, go to Dick’s at 10pm to close on a Saturday night and try to move your arms. Not happening. Another place you may experience the density is the I-405 freeway.
According to a recently released first quarter balance sheet, the new I-405 toll lanes brought in $3.7 million between the September 27th grand opening and the end of the year in the corridor between Lynnwood and Bellevue. The new lanes allow solo drivers to buy a faster trip by paying to enter the bus-carpool lane. Tolls vary, based on congestion, to maintain a 45-mph flow. Officials had predicted toll lanes would bring in only $1 million during that period and were surprised to discover the demand for the fast lane was so high. Drivers saw the toll spike to $10 last year, as soul-crushing traffic made residents increasingly desperate to get home from work.
After costs, net income from the toll lanes was $2.7 million. That money will be reinvested in I-405. The congested toll lanes indicate that Seattle is more popular than ever. More people in the city, more people on the roads. For better or for worse, Seattle is undeniably thirty, flirty and thriving.