One balmy night last summer, my fiance and I found ourselves trapped in a wall of traffic, one among thousands of cars inching northward, sloth-like, on one of the Seattle area's most congested arteries: I-5. Certain we could outsmart the situation, we took an early exit, inadvertently depositing ourselves into an even thicker traffic sludge on Eastlake.
Half an hour later, we had moved only a block or two. Pulling up next to the Eastlake Bar & Grill, we decided to cut our losses (and our road rage). It seemed as good a time as any to pull over for dinner. Most others stuck with it, their rants, angrily thumbed in stand-still traffic, spilling out onto social networks.
Now, nearly a year later, Crosscut is taking a closer look at the Seattle area's traffic woes with its latest Community Idea Lab. And this time around, as I wrap up my role as Crosscut's Managing Editor, I'm relinquishing the driver's seat to Community Manager Kate Harloe.
Kate was an early champion of the Community Idea Lab, working hand in hand with me to plan and implement the editorial coverage that drove last spring's look at tech and inequality. And this February, when we took a deeper look at K-12 education in partnership with MOHAI, she shepherded the planning of the event itself.
I can think of no better person to take up the mantle of Crosscut's Community Idea Lab in my absence.
Of course, Berit's traffic fiasco would be funny. If it had happened only to her only once. But the experience is one that all of us in the Puget Sound region — bikers, pedestrians, drivers and transit-riders alike — are far too familiar with.
When Cocker Fennessy, a regional public affairs firm, asked 1,500 people (King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap County voters) the open-ended question, "What do you think is the most important problem facing the Puget Sound region today?" 47 percent said: transportation.
According to Cocker Fennessy, such a strong majority in response to an open-ended question is extremely rare. But it's hardly surprising.
The act of transporting oneself across the Seattle Metro Area is convoluted, confusing and increasingly traffic-jammed. It’s an issue that touches (in many cases, heavily influences) the lives of everyone in the Puget Sound region. And clearly, it's on our minds. Which is why Crosscut’s next Community Idea Lab will focus on transportation. With an estimated 5 million people expected to pack the water-laced lands of the region by 2040, the pressure on our transportation infrastructure will only increase from here on out.
Fortunately, there's no lack of ideas on how to deal with the transportation problems in the Northwest. Unfortunately, no one has a solution. Yet.
Crosscut doesn’t expect to provide a quick fix, but Crosscut can enable a conversation. It will begin with our coverage and culminate in the next Community Idea Lab event in June.
Josh Cohen, Crosscut writer and transportation expert, is kicking things off tomorrow with his piece on the Puget Sound region's worst transportation problems. But first, we want to hear from you, our readers: What is the worst transportation problem that we face in Seattle and the Puget Sound region?
Your feedback will inform our coverage and, most importantly, the Community Idea Lab event itself.
A new kind of action-oriented journalism, the Lab is designed to elevate great Northwest ideas and work with community leaders in government, business and the non-profit worlds to integrate those ideas into civic planning. Our goal is to marry journalism and civic change. And you, Crosscut's audience, are essential to making that work.
So get going. Send us your battle stories — in the form below.
To attend this year's Community Idea Lab on transportation, get your tickets here.