As I was driving on the Magnolia Bridge with my wife the other day, I found myself wondering: What streets have I spent the most time traveling on?

I’ve lived in Seattle for the vast majority of my life, so the candidates must obviously be in this area. For the two other cities where I’ve stayed long enough to need an apartment (London and Washington, D.C.) I’d guess the answers would be Finchley Road and Independence Avenue SE — in both cases the nearest arterial to where I was staying, and on the direct route to school (London) or work (D.C.). For Seattle, I’m not sure.

I’ve lived in four neighborhoods during my time here — around 20 years where I grew up, in Washington Park; five in Hawthorne Hills (or Bryant, depending on who you ask); 11 in Roosevelt; and the last 10 in Magnolia. I wonder: would the answers be the quickest way out of my part of the neighborhood (34th Avenue E, NE 55th Street, Roosevelt Way NE, W Dravus Street)? The closest arterial (same, except replace 34th Avenue E with E Madison Street)? Or something else? I walked to school growing up — so maybe 36th Avenue E for that period?

I have no idea how I’d go about actually calculating this. I do know that, as the son of two professors at the University of Washington, and an alumnus myself (class of 1997), I’ve spent a lot of time on Lake Washington Boulevard E, Montlake Boulevard E, and University Way NE, too — though since I moved to Magnolia I’m hardly ever on any of them, and spend a lot more time on 28th Avenue W, 15th Avenue W, Elliott Avenue W, and the only three ways out of my neighborhood, because of the BNSF Railway tracks: W Emerson Street, W Dravus Street, and the Magnolia Bridge (W Garfield Street).

Anyway, I’d be interested in knowing what other folks think: how would you calculate this for yourself — and what are your most well-worn streets?

City of Seattle 1949 traffic flow map. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 3268. Linked to from their online exhibit “Traffic Flow Maps.” Note no data north of 85th Street — it would be five years before the city limits were extended to 145th Street, where they remain today. Also note that since this map was made 18 years before the completion of Interstate 5 through Seattle, traffic leaving the city to the north mostly takes 15th Avenue NW, Victory Way (now Lake City Way NE), and Aurora Avenue N (then U.S. Route 99, today State Route 99). Most traffic to the south leaves the city on E Marginal Way S (also part of Route 99). Lastly, it may be surprising to see that traffic on the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge to Mercer Island (then U.S. Route 10; today, on a new pair of bridges, Interstate 90) is less than on any of the Ship Canal crossings: the Ballard Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Aurora Bridge, University Bridge, and Montlake Bridge beat it by anywhere from 75% to 200%. Today, of course, it’s quite the reverse — traffic on I-90 dwarfs that on all Seattle bridges with the exception of the Ship Canal Bridge that carries Interstate 5.

9 thoughts on “My most well-worn streets

  1. I love the use of extremely-distorted vanishing points to create that map. It’s super!

    Mine, of course, are, the vast majority in Portland. They include: NE Halsey St, NE Glisan St, NE/SE 82nd Avenue, NE/SE 102nd Ave, E Burnside Street, SE Stark St (now more than ever!) NE/SE Sandy Blvd, SE Morrison/Belmont Streets, SE Hawthorne Blvd, NW/SW/N/NE Broadway, NW 15th Ave, NW 21st Ave, W Burnside Street, SE Powell Blvd, SE Division St, NE Killingsworth (but now it’s Lombard) St, NE/SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd (and its previous life as 39th Ave), SW Barbur Blvd, SW (now S) Macadam Ave, SE Flavel ST, SE 52nd Ave, SE Foster Road. For starters!

    The Salem streets I wore tracks in include State Street, Market St NE, McGilchrist St SE, Commercial/Liberty Streets NE/SE, Liberty Rd S, Skyline Rd S, Lancaster Dr NE/SE, 17th St NE, Pine St NE, Silverton Rd NE.

    For all the years I lived in Salem I actually spent very little time in West Salem. It was part of my home town but it could have been another city far off for all I knew.

    1. So it looks like directional designations in Portland precede the street name, and in Salem they follow it, unlike in Seattle, where their placement depends on which direction the street runs in?

  2. Hello Mr. Lukoff! This is one of my Subjects and I hope I don’t bore you to pieces.

    I was born in Seattle 1953. My mother was the greatest driver in Seattle; she was born during the Denny Regrade so she knew exactly the fastest way from point A to point B. Here is my main perception. To drive east-west across Seattle, you have to plot a route that just misses the major traffic juxtapositions, for example, to miss 15th Ave NW, the extension of the Ballard Bridge, you MUST cross under the Ballard Bridge. I learned this because I’ve been racing sailboats and teaching sailing since I was 13, and I would have to drive back from Shilshole to Seattle Yacht Club when one of our boats was missing a part, so I could grab the part and drive back out to Shilshole. My special interest became east-west driving across Seattle.

    Here is my favorite, it might be a little too far north for it to be of interest or relevance. Start: Seattle Yacht Club at 1807 E. Hamlin Street. Around the U of Hamlin up to Montlake Blvd. If the bridge is not up, take a left onto Montlake Blvd, traffic light assisted. If it’s up, take a right and onto the 520 stub over Portage Bay, then take I-5 across the Ship Canal, then get back down to NE 40th, I’ll dive into that one later. Left from Montlake Blvd. on to NE Pacific, which, and this is important, makes you go under the major arterial, Eastlake. Then take a right, I’m not sure here because the streets have changed names, then go left, west, on NE 40th, taking you under major arterial I-5. Stay on N 40th to a quick southbound jaunt on Stone Way, then the only method to pass under the 99 Aurora Bridge at that point: Bridge Way N, then veer northwest on Fremont Way N., missing the Aurora Bridge major arterial, but unfortunately entering into an interchange with the 99. West on Fremont Way to Leary Way NW and turn right. Keep Tacoma Screw as a landmark, when you come back, you want to turn one block past Tacoma Screw. You can turn left/west at two locations to make it under the Ballard Bridge avoiding that major arterial, the choice is NW 45th or NW 46th. Historically, the pavement has been better at NW 46th, local knowledge required. Glide right onto Shilshole Avenue to the traffic light at the intersection with NW Market St. If there is a backup at the light, just before the light, you can turn left on 24th NW, then right, west, on NW 54th, and scamper north to Market street through somebody’s parking lot, local knowledge is important. Market, to NW Locks Place, to NW 54th, going under the train tracks, missing any cross path with the train. Then on to Seaview and the destination.

    So, any route I take east-west has tunnels under arterials. My latest one: I found a road east-west under the airport! It takes tunnels under the runways! S. 188th, my route now from Trader Joes Burien to IKEA. Also useful for scenic bike rides: walk your bike across the locks when the lock gates are closed, for access from Ballard to any place in the south half of Seattle. When I go to a new city, I look for all the tunnel spots under arterials and link them together.

    1. You’re absolutely right that the quickest way to get east-west is often to go under bridges. There’s no good reason to take 45th or 50th if you can take Northlake or 40th, for example, and even when returning to my home in Magnolia from Ballard I will often take 14th down to 46th, go under the bridge, turn right on Shilshole and right again on 17th, then another right on Ballard Way to get to the bridge (rather than trying to get southbound on 15th, or using Leary). There are almost always alternatives to what seems like the “preferred” route. (Of course, if, like me, you live in a place like Magnolia, your options are indeed limited, as you can only get out of the neighborhood in a car via the Magnolia Bridge, W Dravus Street, or W Emerson Street. And of course we all remember what happened when the West Seattle Bridge closed recently…)

      I miss some things about my old office in the Magnuson Park area, but one thing I do not miss is that cross-town commute, which took over an hour out of my day. Traffic would often get so backed up I’d end up taking the freeway to Lake City Way and come across via Wedgwood rather than going by the UW!

      1. Exactly! Are you a boater? My father was retired Coast Guard as was his best friend Don Smith who had an office right on the water in Fremont. Don was going blind and about to lose his driver’s license – but he didn’t care because 1) he lived on the water in Bothell 2) his office was on the water in Fremont 3) his barber’s shop was on the water. Don could do it all by boat. I have a photo you might like, it’s a view from our porch of Portage Bay in 1956 before the 520 was built. How can I send you a photo?

  3. I’m also in Magnolia so I can say without a doubt that the Magnolia Bridge is one of my most traveled routes. Even if I’m headed north to Ballard, I usually take the Magnolia Bridge because I like the views. Were I to listen to Google, I would be staring at cars on Dravus. But I’d prefer a possible glimpse at Tahoma then a few minutes saved any day.

    Most of my routes around town involve enjoyment over saving a few minutes. I’d generally rather be moving at even a slow pace then be stuck in stop and go traffic so I am frequently a tunnel under sort of navigator (without knowing that was a thing until reading the other comments today).

    Thank you for these interesting posts! I stumbled upon your blog while researching the original pronunciation of Alki.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Annette! The view from the Magnolia Bridge, whether heading to or from Magnolia, is certainly better than that from Dravus (or Emerson, for that matter). It will be interesting to see if they end up rebuilding it in the same location or if something in the Armory Way right-of-way will prevail. (Or if the city will just let it fall in the next earthquake.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.