The cranes that dominate the Seattle skyline are a symbol of city's success. It's the fastest growing city in the country (among the 50 largest cities), according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. Last June, there were 100 construction projects underway simultaneously.
Even in the 1980s and 1990s, when many other major cities lost population to the suburbs, Seattle kept growing.
"Seattle has become an iconic city in the United States and really around the world," said Mayor Ed Murray.
But growing Seattle is experiencing growing pains -- especially on its roadways.
"We have not accommodated transit to meet growth, so we're playing catch-up. We are playing significant catch up," Murray said.
The roads were crowded even before the latest wave of development brought with it construction detours and blocked arterials. It's not uncommon to see cars backing up for blocks as flaggers direct traffic in booming neighborhoods like South Lake Union.
The traffic is made worse by the shrinking availability of curbside parking, as people circle blocks, searching for the elusive parking spot.
"A lot of the traffic congestion, something like a quarter of all traffic congestion in the city is people cruising for parking, looking for parking," said Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
But Kubly said the answer is not more parking. In fact, the city is removing coveted parking spots on some on its busiest streets to make way for protected bike lanes, light-rail lines, bus lanes, pedestrian pathways and micro parks.
An example is 2nd Avenue, a major arterial for traffic moving north and south. The city recently completed a massive overhaul, installing a two-way protected bike lane, and moving parking to a lane between the bike lane and traffic. The revision meant the loss of 38 curbside parking spaces.
Well north of downtown, a new bike lane along busy Roosevelt Way N.E. will eventually result in the loss of over 100 curbside spaces.
Kubly says the city is not anti-car.
"No. Not at all. I think it's pro-choice. It's allowing people to pick the mode that works best for them for the trip they're making," he said of the city's vision for transportation.
According to data provided to KING 5 by the Seattle Department of Transportation, paid curbside parking shrunk by 1,380 spaces over the past four years. That includes 275 spots in the commercial core -- a 20 percent drop.
South Lake Union lost 221 spots, Belltown South lost 198, and First Hill lost 105.
While some of those losses are due to construction, most of the parking spots are not likely to come back.
The mayor said Seattle is not waging a war on cars.
"It's not a war on cars. Absolutely not. I think we, in the last 14 months since I became mayor, we have stepped back to make sure we make all modes work," Murray said.
Still, the mayor concedes Seattle is not an easy place to get around, and while comprehensive solutions are in the works they're still years away.
"It really is about high capacity transit like light rail and Seattle is behind on that, we have not accommodated transit to meet the growth," Murray said.
In the meantime, the city recommends that drivers look for a garage. SDOT's Scott Kubly says on average there are 8,000 empty spaces available every day in downtown garages.
Still, there are also long wait lists in parts of the city that have seen rapid growth. Amazon.com employees say they have waited 8 months or longer for parking in the company's garage in South Lake Union.
The mayor says Seattle will start getting some relief this summer thanks to $45 million in transit funding approved by voters last fall. The money will go to expand the busiest bus routes and to improve cross town service.
"We have not accommodated transit to meet growth, so we're playing catch-up, we are playing significant catch up," Murray said.
For more traffic and parking news, go to king5.com/parking.