A bus pulls into the boarding/drop-off area at the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, adjacent to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
In 2019, before the COVID pandemic, nearly half of downtown commuters took transit to work, bucking the trend in other cities of declining ridership on public transportation.
But by the end of 2021, that figure was just 18%, a decline that followed an enormous shift to remote work. The recently released data, part of the nonprofit Commute Seattle’s annual survey of downtown businesses, quantifies a reality that is unlikely to come as a surprise two years after the beginning of the public health emergency.
The Downtown Seattle Association estimates there were 321,000 jobs downtown in 2021. Once upon a time, just 6% of all employees from downtown businesses worked remotely. That number jumped to 46% over the course of the pandemic, according to the survey of 4,371 employees. In addition to transit, those biking, walking or carpooling to work fell as well, although not as steeply.
Meanwhile, the share of workers driving alone to work remained roughly the same, at a quarter of all employees. That number represents a flattening after years of declines beginning in 2010.