A pedestrian crosses Lake City Way near Northeast 125th Street in Seattle's City Council District 5.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

The city of Seattle wants drivers to slow down.

On Tuesday officials announced a plan to reduce the speed limit on all streets without posted signs.

Dave Price wants to know why Seattle doesn't do a better job planning for traffic congestion.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Traffic is so bad in Seattle. Sometimes, when you’re sitting in your car, or on the bus, and you’re not moving, you wonder, is anyone, anyone with power, paying attention?

We’ve all been there. You’re stopped at a red light, it finally turns green, but the driver in front of you doesn’t seem to notice and doesn’t pull forward. You watch helplessly as the light changes to yellow, then red.

Cynthia Ulrich of Stop 405 Tolls looks unhappy as she prepares to enter the toll lane for the first time.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

A beat-up red convertible bumps south along Interstate 405. Driver Cynthia Ulrich is about to break her boycott on the freeway’s new toll lanes -- all to help KUOW illustrate how tolls are collected and spent.

But she’s not happy about it.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul Allen's company Vulcan Inc. are teaming up to stage a $40 million to $50 million winner-take-all competition. The prize will go to the "mid-sized" American city that comes up with the best plan to use technology of any sort to improve mobility and reduce pollution. 

Eliza Hinkes of Seattle says her cat had a bad experience in I-5 traffic. 'We've never tried to drive him anywhere again.'
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

If you think Seattle has some of the worst traffic in the nation, you’re right. A new traffic study  by the American Highway Users Alliance shows that the spot where Interstate 5 passes through downtown is the 17th-worst traffic bottleneck in the country.

Timothy McCall works in WSDOT's new $17.3 million Northwest Region Transportation Management Center in Shoreline.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington has a new Transportation Management Center in Shoreline. That’s the nerve center where engineers help resolve traffic problems.

Before officials showed me the new center, they showed me the building they used to work out of. It looks like an underground missile control bunker from the Cold War era.

Traffic on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Oran Viriyincy (CC-BY-NC-ND)/

Ross Reynolds talks with Mark Hallenbeck about traffic congestion in the Puget Sound region, and what can be done to solve it. Hallenbeck is director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington.

Monica Sweet says cheaper asphalt sidewalks would be a good thing for neighborhoods that have been waiting decades for sidewalks.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to loosen up the city’s standards for sidewalks by building them cheaper and faster. That would let money earmarked for sidewalks in the Move Seattle levy stretch much further.

Drivers wait to cross Mercer Street
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

It’s rush hour on Mercer Street, in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Tech workers are getting off work. Lauren Wheeler and Sande Ditt just finished an after-work jog – when I flag them down and ask them to share their traffic horror stories.

“On Mercer?” asks Ditt. At times, she says, “I’ve probably been here at least 45 minutes just trying to get on the freeway.”

Shoppers cross Fifth Avenue in Seattle during the Christmas season, 1954.
Flickr photo/IMLS Digital Collections & Content (CC BY 2.0)

Drivers soon won’t be able to turn right on red lights at 10 intersections in downtown Seattle – part of a plan meant to protect pedestrians.

The changes will affect drivers on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues (see map below).

Phyllis Porter is a neighborhood activist who lobbied long and hard to get Rainier Avenue S on a "road diet."
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

People have called Rainier Avenue Seattle’s most dangerous street. There’s at least one accident every day. Pedestrians have died. But that could change soon.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct sends cars streaming past Seattle's waterfront.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Ross Reynolds speaks with Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, about whether the $16 billion state transportation package will make your commute better.

The challenge of strategizing the best route to work against the herd of other drivers can be as routine as the daily commute itself. A number of apps are out there to help shortcut one's route and evade traffic jams. But which ones are the most accurate? And how?

The All Tech Considered team put a few competing traffic apps to the test in Robert Siegel's usual short commute from Arlington, Va., to NPR's D.C. headquarters.

The Test Drive

This ride is about 15 minutes in no traffic. But it's now morning rush hour.

At least there's a beautiful sunset to look at when you're stuck in Seattle traffic.
Flickr Photo/HeatherHeatherHeather (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Traffic is getting worse in Seattle. Our rising population is driving it. And even with a multibillion-dollar transportation package, it's not expected to improve.

Which is why we plug our ears when we hear someone like Gil Penalosa, a former parks commissioner from Colombia, say, “I think congestion is good.”