Amazon’s HQ2 could trigger a commuting crisis and lead to the worst traffic in America

A view of Seattle's streets.

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A view of Seattle’s streets.
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  • Seattle’s traffic has gotten worse in the last year, according to a new report from technology and data firm INRIX.
  • Seattle is home to Amazon, which has become one of the city’s largest employers.
  • It doesn’t bode well for the cities that are competing for Amazon’s HQ2 and already rank among America’s worst cities for traffic.

Seattle’s traffic is getting worse.

The city was ranked as having the ninth-worst traffic in the nation, according to a new report from technology and data firm INRIX. That’s a move up from the 10th spot a year ago, indicating Seattle’s traffic may be getting worse compared to other American cities.

INRIX estimates that the city loses $5 billion a year because of traffic. Fair or not, many locals blame Amazon and other tech companies for bringing increased traffic to Seattle.

Last June, for example, Seattle’s King County Metro added more buses to accommodate Amazon’s summer interns.

Amazon has made some changes in an effort to alleviate the traffic problem. According to the company, 55% of Amazon employees use public transportation, walk, or bike to work, and 15% of employees live in the same Seattle zip code as the company’s headquarters. Amazon also encourages and incentivizes employees to use public transit, and it funded a fourth Seattle streetcar.

But for whichever city ends up with Amazon’s HQ2 project, the traffic issue might be something to watch. Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Dallas all ranked in the top 10 of INRIX’s study of congested cities. In fact, the only city in the top 10 list that isn’t being considered for the project (and that isn’t Seattle) is San Francisco.

If one of these cities ends up with Amazon’s HQ2 and its $5 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs, it’s unlikely that traffic will get better. It might not be a straight equation to 50,000 new cars on the road, but without an additional investment in local infrastructure, it could cause problems, especially if that city is not big enough to absorb it.

Amazon specifically cited public transportation and infrastructure as one of the key factors it was considering when evaluating the cities to place its new HQ.