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Monday, June 3, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Good news, bad news: It's all in report

Seattle Times staff reporter

If you're looking for bad news about traffic congestion in your city in the Texas Transportation Institute's (TTI) annual Urban Mobility Report, you can probably find it.

If you're looking for good news, you can probably find that, too.

Take the Seattle-Everett area. Last year, TTI ranked the area second in the nation in two of its key measures of congestion. Much civic wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.

TTI concluded that the typical Seattle-area resident lost 53 hours to traffic delays in 1999, the most recent year for which data were available. In its "travel-time index," TTI said a trip on Seattle freeways and arterials took 81 percent longer during congested periods than at other times.

But, according to TTI, the annual congestion delay per person in Seattle actually dropped two hours between 1992 and 1999, from 55 hours to 53. Of the 68 metropolitan areas TTI studied, none experienced a bigger improvement — all but two others got worse.

What's more, TTI reported, Seattle's travel time index also improved slightly during those seven years. In 1992, the institute said, the typical rush-hour trip took 82 percent longer than the same trip at non-peak times.

In almost every other city, that percentage increased between 1992 and 1999.

What does all this mean? If you accept TTI's numbers, it suggests Seattle has some of the worst traffic in the nation, but that it's about the same — maybe even a little better — than it was in the early 1990s.

It also suggests that there are lots of ways to quantify traffic. Tim Lomax, the Urban Mobility Report's co-author, says his steering committee jokes that he should develop 70 different measures of congestion, so every city in the report can claim to be the worst.

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