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, 28th Avenue W)? 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 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.

One thought 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.

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