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Commute times in Seattle rising as Amazon, other companies mandate return-to-work

As more and more people return to the office, commute times on major highways are rising.

SEATTLE — If it feels like the morning commute has gotten longer in western Washington, new data provides some evidence to back that up.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, those who still had to go into the office in person enjoyed shorter commute times as many companies moved to remote work.

However, companies like Amazon and Meta have begun mandating workers to return to the office at least a few days a week.

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Data from INRIX, a Kirkland-based transportation data analysis company, shows traffic hasn't just gotten worse in western Washington since Amazon's return-to-office mandate, it is even down to pre-pandemic levels in some cases.

In 2019, the average driver's speed commuting on Interstate 90 into Seattle was 39 miles per hour. Just over a month ago, drivers were averaging 45 miles per hour. Once Amazon announced its return to work, speeds have dropped to 29 miles per hour on average, indicating there are more cars on the road on a regular basis.

The commute on Interstate 5 from Tacoma to Seattle used to see an average speed of 36 miles per hour, but that drive is down to just a 32-mile-per-hour average.

INRIX in particular found slower speeds on the State Route 520 floating bridge, which went down from 42 miles per hour pre-pandemic to just 30 miles per hour on average.

King County Metro also has seen increased ridership with more workers heading back to the office. The number of monthly passengers grew by 15,000 between April and May and 45,000 since 2022.

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