No solo driving in Seattle

Why settle for Seattle? For many the city on the upper west coast near the Canadian border associates with applied IT-businesses. After all, giants like or Microsoft have their headquarters up here. Or some might think of Jimi Hendrix born in hilly Seattle. Seattle is proud to be the place to go not only for high-tech job seekers and Hendrix fans. No wonder that city planners from all over the world convene regularly to seek inspirations for mobility management at home.

Business mobility: Going green and staying clean

Due to a booming economy and a steady influx of newcomers, traffic has been growing enormously in Seattle. A taskforce of 250 employees of the city administration have been toiling for over ten years to solve the traffic problems. This has been anything but easy for a metropolitan area with over three million inhabitants. But the city’s clever programmes have definitely turned the vibrant place into a role model for many other cities burdened with pollution, congestion and low liveability. Some Chinese cities for example wish to radically redesign their cities into low-carbon places. Also other mega-cities have become poignantly aware of the imminent challenges when two thirds of the world’s population live in cities.

So visitors are amazed at the sight of those busy pedestrians on wide safe sidewalks or commuters pedalling on protected bike tracks. They marvel at the consequent priority lanes for busses and carpools.[1] Solo drivers will definitely feel discriminated against when they have to cram into the congested “single” lane. Larger companies and building-users by law are to encourage their employees and tenants to reduce drive-alone commuting by any means. And the success of such policies for business mobility has to be presented bi-annually as falling “drive-alone rates”. Complaints about unfair treatment are rare but occasionally come up, when the city’s “unrestricted highway car lanes” are lost again in favour of more biking lanes.[2]

How to tame the Seattleist’s automotive drive

If other big cities are proud of partial programmes like green roofs in New York or rent-a-bike and car-sharing systems to cut down on pollution and control traffic volumes, Seattle is way in front of them. Its main target is to meet the growing mobility needs without building new roads and by diminishing the number of solo drivers. There are several steps encouraging car addicts to quit driving. For a start “switch at least 2 car trips per week, track them on your personal trip calendar and you could win some great prizes”, the city’s initiative “Way to go, Seattle” courts reluctant drivers.4 And apart from generous gifts like money prizes or tax reductions, for example, an impressive tool guide helps residents to design their own sustainable way of getting around. So you can connect easily with carpooling or carsharing groups, find the safest bike track to work or join public transport riders. Needless to say, that those who give up their car(s) altogether get the most attractive rewards. But also educational programmes are trying to convince residents that this is the way to live healthier and to move and socialize more in public space. And after all they spend less money. Statistics show that many have already understood that it’s up to them to make a difference when it comes to sustainable private und business mobility. The city’s website boasts with a considerable percentage of people who have adopted the new programme and also quotes of people spreading their success stories: “Non-car forms of transportation (are) more fun and social”![3] That’s why settle for Seattle!

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