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—  City  —
City of Seattle
Clockwise: Downtown Seattle from the north, City Hall, Central Library, Mount Rainier, the Space Needle, Qwest Field, and Starbucks Coffee Company Headquarters

Nickname(s): The Emerald City, Seatown, Rain City, Jet City, Gateway to Alaska, Gateway to The Pacific, Queen City
Location of Seattle in
King County and Washington
Seattle is located in United States
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 47°36′35″N 122°19′59″W Coordinates: 47°36′35″N 122°19′59″W
Country  United States
State Washington
County King
Incorporated December 2, 1869
 •  Mayor Michael McGinn
 •  City Council List of Councilors
 • City 369.2 km2 (142.5 sq mi)
 • Land 217.2 km2 (83.87 sq mi)
 • Water 152 km2 (58.67 sq mi)
 • Metro 21,202 km2 (8,186 sq mi)
Elevation 0–158 m (0–520 ft)
Population (July 1, 2009)
 • City 617,334 (US: 23rd)
 • Density 2,842/km2 (7,361/sq mi)
 •  Urban 2,712,205
 •  Metro 3,407,848 (US: 15th)
 •  Demonym Seattleite
Time zone PST ( UTC-8)
 • Summer ( DST) PDT ( UTC-7)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 206
FIPS code 53-63000
GNIS feature ID 1512650

Seattle (pronounced  /siːˈætəl/ see-AT-əl) is the northernmost major city in the contiguous United States, and the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and in the state of Washington. A seaport situated on a narrow isthmus between Puget Sound (an arm of the Pacific Ocean) and Lake Washington, about 100 miles (160 km) south of the Canada – United States border, it is named after Chief Sealth "Seattle", of the Duwamish and Suquamish native tribes. Seattle is the centre of the Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue metropolitan statistical area, the 15th largest in the United States, and the largest in the northwestern United States. Seattle is the county seat of King County and is the major economic, cultural and educational centre in the region. The 2010 census found that Seattle is home to 630,320 residents within a metropolitan area of some 3.4 million inhabitants. The Port of Seattle and Seattle–Tacoma International Airport are major gateways to Asia, Alaska, and the rest of the world.

Seattle is the western terminus of I-90 and resides on the I-5 corridor, about 170 miles (270 km) north of Portland, Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington and 140 miles (230 km) south of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The city of Victoria, British Columbia's capital, is about 110 miles (180 km) to the northwest (about 90 miles (140 km) by passenger ferry) while the eastern Washington hub city of Spokane lies 280 miles (450 km) to the east.

The Seattle area has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years, but white settlement began only in the mid-19th century. The first permanent European-descended settlers, Arthur A. Denny and those subsequently known as the Denny Party, arrived November 13, 1851. Early settlements in the area were called "New York-Alki" ("Alki" meaning "by and by" in Chinook Jargon) and "Duwamps". In 1853, Doc Maynard suggested that the main settlement be renamed "Seattle", an anglicized rendition of the name of Sealth, the chief of the two local tribes. From 1869 until 1982, Seattle was known as the "Queen City". Seattle's current official nickname is the "Emerald City", the result of a contest held in 1981; the reference is to the lush evergreen forests of the area. Seattle is also referred to informally as the "Gateway to Alaska", "Rain City", and "Jet City", the last from the local influence of Boeing. Seattle residents are known as Seattleites.

Seattle is the birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and the rock music style known as " grunge," which was made famous by local groups Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. In more recent years, Seattle has been more known for its hip hop scene, putting out artists such as Blue Scholars, Macklemore, and Fresh Espresso.

Seattle has a reputation for heavy coffee consumption; coffee companies founded or based in Seattle include Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. There are also many successful independent artisanal espresso roasters and cafes.

Researchers at Central Connecticut State University consistently rank Seattle and Minneapolis as the two most literate cities among America's largest cities. Additionally, survey data from the United States Census Bureau indicate that Seattle has a higher percentage of college graduates than any other major American city, with approximately 53.8% of residents aged 25 and older holding a bachelor degree or higher.

In terms of per capita income, a study by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked the Seattle metropolitan area 17th out of 363 metropolitan areas in 2006. Seattle has particularly strong information technology, aviation, architecture and recreational industries. It is particularly known as a hotbed of "green" technologies, stemming in part from the strong and relatively non-controversial stances its public leaders have taken on policies regarding urban design, building standards, clean energy and climate change (Seattle in February 2010 committed itself to becoming North America's first "climate neutral" city, with a goal of reaching zero net per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2030).

Seattle is ranked as one of the most car-congested cities in the United States, and efforts to promote compact development and transportation choices are perennial policy issues. The railways and streetcars that once dominated its transportation system were largely replaced with an extensive network of bus routes for those living near the city centre, and the city's outward growth caused automobiles to become the main mode of transportation for much of the population in the middle to late twentieth century. However, efforts to reverse this trend at the municipal and state levels have resulted in new commuter rail service that connects Seattle to Everett and Tacoma, a regional Link Light Rail system that extends south from the city core to SeaTac Airport, and an inner-city South Lake Union Streetcar network in the South Lake Union area.



The Battle of Seattle (1856)

Archaeological excavations confirm that the Seattle area has been inhabited by humans for at least 4,000 years. By the time the first European settlers arrived in the area, the people (now called the Duwamish Tribe) occupied at least seventeen villages in the areas around Elliott Bay.

George Vancouver was the first European to visit the Seattle area in May 1792 during his 1791-95 expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest.

In 1851, a large party led by Luther Collins made a location on land at the mouth of the Duwamish River; they formally claimed it on September 14, 1851. Thirteen days later, members of the Collins Party on the way to their claim passed three scouts of the Denny Party, the group who would eventually found Seattle. Members of the Denny Party claimed land on Alki Point on September 28, 1851. The rest of the Denny Party set sail from Portland, Oregon and landed on Alki point during a rainstorm on November 13, 1851.

First Ave at Columbia Street, c. 1870

After a difficult winter, most of the Denny Party relocated across Elliott Bay and founded the village of "Dewamps" or "Duwamps" on the site of present day Pioneer Square. Charles Terry and John Low remained at the original landing location and established a village they initially called "New York", but renamed "New York Alki" in April 1853, from a Chinook word meaning, roughly, by and by or someday. New York Alki and Duwamps competed for dominance for the next few years, but in time Alki was abandoned and its residents moved across the bay to join the rest of the settlers.

David Swinson ("Doc") Maynard, one of Duwamps's founders, was the primary advocate to rename the village "Seattle" after Chief Sealth ("Seattle") of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. The term, "Seattle", appears on official Washington Territory papers dated May 23, 1853, when the first plats for the village were filed. In 1855, nominal land settlements were established. On January 14, 1865, the Legislature of Territorial Washington incorporated the Town of Seattle with a board of trustees managing the city. Two years later, after a petition was filed by most of the leading citizens, the Legislature disincorporated the town. The town remained a precinct of King County until late 1869 when a new petition was filed and the city was re-incorporated with a Mayor-council government.

Timber town

Seattle's first streetcar, at the corner of Occidental and Yesler, 1884.

Seattle has a history of boom and bust cycles, as is common to cities near areas of extensive natural and mineral resources. Seattle has risen several times economically, then gone into precipitous decline, but it has typically used those periods to rebuild solid infrastructure.

The first such boom, covering the early years of the city, was fueled by the lumber industry. (During this period the road now known as Yesler Way was nicknamed "Skid Road", after the timber skidding down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill. This is considered a possible origin for the term which later entered the wider American lexicon as Skid Row.) Like much of the American West, Seattle saw numerous conflicts between labor and management, as well as ethnic tensions that culminated in the anti-Chinese riots of 1885–1886. This violence was caused by unemployed whites who determined to drive the Chinese from Seattle (anti-Chinese riots also occurred in Tacoma). Martial law was declared, and federal troops were brought in to put down the disorder. Nevertheless, the economic success in the Seattle area was so great that when the Great Seattle fire of 1889 destroyed the central business district, a far grander city centre rapidly emerged in its place. Finance company Washington Mutual, for example, was founded in the immediate wake of the fire. This boom was followed by the construction of a park system, designed by the Olmsted brothers' landscape architecture firm. However, the Panic of 1893 hit Seattle hard.

Gold Rush, World War I, and the Great Depression

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition had just over 3.7 million visitors during its 138-day run

The second and most dramatic boom and bust resulted from the Klondike Gold Rush, which ended the depression that had begun with the Panic of 1893; in a short time, Seattle became a major transportation centre. On July 14, 1897, the S.S. Portland docked with its famed "ton of gold", and Seattle became the main transport and supply point for the miners in Alaska and the Yukon. Those working men only found lasting wealth in a few cases, however; it was Seattle's business of clothing the miners and feeding them salmon that panned out in the long run. Along with Seattle, other cities like Everett, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Bremerton, and Olympia, all in the Puget Sound region, became competitors for exchange, rather than mother-lodes for extraction, of precious metals. The boom lasted well into the early part of the 20th century and funded many new Seattle companies and products. In 1907, 19-year-old James E. Casey borrowed $100 from a friend and founded the American Messenger Company (later UPS). Other Seattle companies founded during this period include Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer. The Gold Rush era culminated in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, which is largely responsible for the layout of today's University of Washington campus.

Pioneer Square in 1917 featuring the Smith Tower, the Seattle Hotel and to the left the Pioneer Building

A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town; the subsequent retrenchment led to the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in the country A 1912 city development plan by Virgil Bogue went largely unused. Seattle was mildly prosperous in the 1920s but was particularly hard hit in the Great Depression, experiencing some of the country's harshest labor strife in that era. Violence during the Maritime Strike of 1934 cost Seattle much of its maritime traffic, which was rerouted to the Port of Los Angeles.

Seattle was also the home base of impresario Alexander Pantages who, starting in 1902, opened a number of theaters in the city exhibiting vaudeville acts and silent movies. His activities soon expanded, and the thrifty Greek went on and became one of America's greatest theatre and movie tycoons. Between Pantages and his rival John Considine, Seattle was for a while the western United States' vaudeville mecca. The several theaters Scottish-born, Seattle-based architect B. Marcus Priteca built for Pantages in Seattle have all been either demolished or converted to other uses, but many of their theaters survive in other cities of the USA, often retaining the Pantages name.

Post-war years: aircraft and software

The local economy dipped after World War II, which had seen the dispersion of the numerous Japanese-American businessmen, a consequence of Japanese American internment. The local economy rose again with manufacturing company Boeing's growing dominance in the airliner market. Seattle celebrated its restored prosperity and made a bid for world recognition with the Century 21 Exposition, the 1962 World's Fair. The local economy went into another major downturn in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many left the area to look for work elsewhere, and two local real estate agents put up a billboard reading "Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the lights."

Building the Seattle Centre Monorail, 1961. Looking up Fifth Avenue from Virginia Street.

Still, Seattle remained the corporate headquarters of Boeing until 2001, when the company separated its headquarters from its major production facilities. Boeing finally chose to move its corporate headquarters to Chicago. The Seattle area is still home to Boeing's Renton narrow-body plant (where the 707, 720, 727, and 757 were assembled, and the 737 is assembled today) and Everett wide-body plant (assembly plant for the 747, 767, 777, and 787); the company's credit union for employees, BECU, remains based in the Seattle area, though it is now open to all residents of Washington.

As prosperity began to return in the 1980s, the city was stunned by the Wah Mee massacre in 1983, when thirteen people were killed in an illegal gambling club in the International District, Seattle's Chinatown. Beginning with Microsoft's 1979 move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to nearby Bellevue, Washington, Seattle and its suburbs became home to a number of technology companies including, RealNetworks, McCaw Cellular (now part of AT&T Mobility), VoiceStream (now T-Mobile USA), and biomedical corporations such as HeartStream (later purchased by Philips), Heart Technologies (later purchased by Boston Scientific), Physio-Control (later purchased by Medtronic), ZymoGenetics, ICOS (later purchased by Eli Lilly and Company) and Immunex (later purchased by Amgen). This success brought an influx of new citizens with a population increase within city limits of almost 50,000 between 1990 and 2000, and saw Seattle's real estate become some of the most expensive in the country. Many of the Seattle area's tech companies remain relatively strong, but the frenzied dot-com boom years ended in early 2001.

Downtown Seattle and a ferry at the Central Waterfront.

Seattle in this period attracted widespread attention as home to these many companies, but also by hosting the 1990 Goodwill Games and the APEC leaders conference in 1993, as well as through the worldwide popularity of grunge, a sound that had developed in Seattle's independent music scene. Another bid for worldwide attention—hosting the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999—garnered visibility, but not in the manner its sponsors desired, as related protest activity and police reactions to those protests overshadowed the conference itself. The city was further shaken by the Mardi Gras Riots in 2001, and was literally shaken the following day by the Nisqually Earthquake.

The UK consulting firm Mercer, in a 2009 assessment "conducted to help governments and major companies place employees on international assignments", ranked Seattle 50th worldwide in quality of living; the survey factored in political stability, personal freedom, sanitation, crime, housing, the natural environment, recreation, banking facilities, availability of consumer goods, education, and public services including transportation.


Panoramic view of Seattle, as seen from the Space Needle.


Downtown Seattle is bounded by Elliott Bay (lower left), lower Broadway (from upper left to lower right), Yesler Way (lower right), and Denny Way (obscured by clouds).

Seattle is located between Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) to the west and Lake Washington to the east. The city's chief harbour, Elliott Bay, is an inlet of Puget Sound. To the west, beyond Puget Sound, are the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula; to the east, beyond Lake Washington and the eastside suburbs, are Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Range. Lake Washington's waters flow to Puget Sound through the Lake Washington Ship canal (a series of two man-made canals), Lake Union, and the Hiram C. Chittenden Locks at Salmon Bay, ending in Shilshole Bay.

The sea, rivers, forests, lakes, and fields surrounding Seattle were once rich enough to support one of the world's few sedentary hunter-gatherer societies. The surrounding area lends itself well to sailing, skiing, bicycling, camping, and hiking year-round.

The city itself is hilly, though not uniformly so. Like Rome, the city is said to lie on seven hills; the lists vary, but typically include Capitol Hill, First Hill, West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and the former Denny Hill. The Wallingford and Mount Baker neighborhoods are technically located on hills as well. Many of the hilliest areas are near the city centre, with Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Beacon Hill collectively constituting something of a ridge along an isthmus between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington. The break in the ridge between First Hill and Beacon Hill is man-made, the result of two of the many regrading projects that reshaped the topography of the city center. The topography of the city centre was also changed by the construction of a seawall and the artificial Harbour Island (completed 1909) at the mouth of the city's industrial Duwamish Waterway. The highest point within city limits is at High Point in West Seattle, roughly located near 35th Ave SW and SW Myrtle St. Other notable hills include Crown Hill, View Ridge/Wedgwood/Bryant, Maple Leaf, Phinney Ridge, Mt. Baker Ridge, Highlands/Carkeek/Bitterlake.

North of the city centre, Lake Washington Ship Canal connects Puget Sound to Lake Washington. It incorporates four natural bodies of water: Lake Union, Salmon Bay, Portage Bay, and Union Bay.

Due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Seattle is in a major earthquake zone. On February 28, 2001, the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake did significant architectural damage, especially in the Pioneer Square area (built on reclaimed land, as are the Industrial District and part of the city centre), but caused no fatalities. Other strong quakes occurred on January 26, 1700 (estimated at 9 magnitude), December 14, 1872 (7.3 or 7.4), April 13, 1949 (7.1), and April 29, 1965 (6.5). The 1949 quake caused eight known deaths, all in Seattle; the 1965 quake caused three deaths in Seattle directly, and one more by heart failure. Although the Seattle Fault passes just south of the city centre, neither it nor the Cascadia subduction zone has caused an earthquake since the city's founding. The Cascadia subduction zone poses the threat of an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 or greater, capable of seriously damaging the city and collapsing many buildings, especially in zones built on fill.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 142.5 square miles (369 km2), 83.9 square miles (217 km2) of which is land and 58.7 square miles (152 km2) water (41.16 percent of the total area).

Surrounding municipalities


Downtown Seattle averages 71 clear (sunny) days a year, with most of those days occurring between May and September

Seattle's climate is usually described as Oceanic or Marine west coast, with fairly mild, wet winters and mild, relatively dry summers. Like much of the Pacific Northwest, according to the Köppen climate classification it falls within a cool, dry-summer subtropical zone (Csb), with cool-summer Mediterranean characteristics such as its usually dry summers. Other climate classification systems, such as Trewartha, place it firmly in the Oceanic zone (Do).

Temperature extremes are moderated by adjacent Puget Sound, the greater Pacific Ocean, and Lake Washington. The region is partially protected from Pacific storms by the Olympic Mountains and from Arctic air by the Cascade Range. Despite being on the margin of the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the city has a reputation for frequent rain. This reputation derives from the frequency of precipitation in the city (150 days of precipitation > 0.01 in/0.3 mm) as well as the fact that it is cloudy an average of 201 days per year, and partly cloudy an average of 93 days per year. At 37.1 inches (942 mm), the city receives less precipitation than New York, Atlanta, Houston, and most cities of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Seattle was also not listed in a study that revealed the 10 rainiest cities in the continental United States. Most of the precipitation falls as drizzle or light rain. Thunderstorms occur only occasionally. Seattle reports thunder on just seven days per year (according to 'Cities Ranked and Rated' - Bert Sperling and Peter Sander.2007). For comparison Fort Myers, Florida reports thunder on 93 days per year. Kansas City reports 52 'thunder days' and New York City reports 25. There are occasional downpours. One of these downpours occurred in early December 2007 when sustained hurricane-force winds and widespread heavy rainfall associated with a strong " Pineapple Express" event hit the greater Puget Sound area. It became the second wettest event in Seattle history when a little over 5 inches (130 mm) of rain fell on Seattle in a 24 hour period. The rain also caused five deaths and widespread flooding and damage. Spring, late fall, and winter are filled with days when it does not rain but looks as if it might because of cloudy, overcast skies. Winters are cool and wet with average lows in the mid 30s °F (2-4 °C) on winter nights. Colder weather does sometimes occur. Summers are dry and warm, with average daytime highs around near 75 °F (24 °C). Hotter weather usually occurs only during a few summer days. Seattle's hottest official recorded temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) on July 29, 2009; the coldest recorded temperature was 0 °F (−18 °C) on January 31, 1950.

Between October and May, Seattle is mostly or partly cloudy six out of every seven days

Eighty miles (130 km) to the west, the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park on the western flank of the Olympic Mountains receives an annual average rainfall of 142 inches (3,610 mm). Sixty miles to the south of Seattle, the state capital Olympia, which is out of the rain shadow, receives an annual average rainfall of 52 inches (1,320 mm). Seattle typically receives some snowfall on an annual basis but heavy snow storms are less frequent. A recent example happened from December 12–25, 2008, when over one foot of snow fell and stuck on much of the city's roads, causing widespread difficulties in a city not prepared for sudden heavy bursts of snow. Average annual snowfall, as measured at Sea-Tac Airport, is 13 inches (33 cm). Seattle's daily record snowfall was 20 inches (51 cm) on January 13, 1950. The largest snowstorm on record occurred from January 31 to February 2, 1916, with 29 inches (740 mm) on snow on the ground by the time the storm was over. A sunnier and drier climate typically dominates from mid-July to mid-September. An average of 0.8 inches (20 mm) of rain falls in July and 1.0 inch (25 mm) in August. Although the summer climate is considerably drier and less humid than in areas with humid continental climates, dampness can be felt, usually when temperatures reach above 80 °F (26.7 °C). This dampness is typically more noticeable during the evening when the temperatures have dropped. Because of this, Seattle experiences summer thunderstorms every now and then.

The Puget Sound Convergence Zone is an important feature of Seattle's weather. In the convergence zone, air arriving from the north meets air flowing in from the south. Both streams of air originate over the Pacific Ocean; airflow is split by the Olympic Mountains to Seattle's west, then reunited by the Cascade Mountains to the east. When the air currents meet, they are forced upward, resulting in convection. Thunderstorms caused by this activity can occur north and south of town, but Seattle itself rarely receives worse weather than occasional thunder and ice-pellet showers. The Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm in December 2006 is an exception that brought heavy rain and winds gusting up to 69 mph (111 km/h).

Another exception to Seattle's dampness may occur in El Niño years, when the marine weather systems track as far south as California and little precipitation falls in the Puget Sound area. Since the region's water comes from mountain snowpacks during the drier summer months, El Niño winters can not only produce substandard skiing but can result in water rationing and a shortage of hydroelectric power the following summer.


Downtown Seattle includes a tightly packed financial district along with residential areas and a panoramic waterfront.

Seattle has grown through a series of annexations of smaller neighboring communities. On May 3, 1891, Magnolia, Wallingford, Green Lake, and the University District (then known as Brooklyn) were annexed. The town of South Seattle was annexed on October 20, 1905. Between January 7 and September 12, 1907, Seattle nearly doubled its land area by annexing six incorporated towns and areas of unincorporated King County, including Southeast Seattle, Ravenna, South Park, Columbia City, Ballard, and West Seattle. Three years later, after having difficulties paying a $10,000 bill from the county, the city of Georgetown merged with Seattle. Finally, on January 4, 1954, the area between N. 85th Street and N. 145th Street was annexed, including the neighborhoods of Pinehurst, Maple Leaf, Lake City, View Ridge and Northgate.

Former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels is among those who have called Seattle "a city of neighborhoods", although the boundaries (and even names) of those neighborhoods are often open to dispute. For example, a Department of Neighborhoods spokeswoman reported that her own neighbourhood has gone from "the 'CD' ( Central District) to 'Madrona' to 'Greater Madison Valley' and now 'Madrona Park'.

Over a dozen Seattle neighborhoods have Neighbourhood Service Centers, originally known in 1972 as "Little City Halls" and even more have their own street fair and/or parade during the summer months. The largest of the city's street fairs feature hundreds of craft and food booths and multiple stages with live entertainment, and draw more than 100,000 people over the course of a weekend. In addition, at least half a dozen neighborhoods have weekly farmers' markets, some with as many as fifty vendors.

Additionally, Puget Sound Regional Council designates several areas of Seattle as urban centers, defined as "designated planning districts intended to provide a mix of housing, employment and commercial and cultural amenities in a compact form that supports transit, walking and cycling." These urban centers may have the same name as a neighbourhood but slightly different borders; for example, the Capitol Hill Urban Center is much smaller that the entire neighbourhood.



Image showing 5th Avenue entrance of the Seattle Central Library, designed by OMA; located on 4th and Madison street in Downtown Seattle. Columbia Centre can also be seen in the background.

The Space Needle, dating from the Century 21 Exposition (1962), is Seattle's most recognizable landmark, having been featured in the logo of the television show Frasier and the backgrounds of the television series Dark Angel, Grey's Anatomy and iCarly, and films such as It Happened at the World's Fair, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The fairgrounds surrounding the Needle have been converted into Seattle Centre, which remains the site of many local civic and cultural events, such as Bumbershoot, Folklife, and the Bite of Seattle. Seattle Center plays multiple roles in the city, ranging from a public fair ground to a civic centre, though recent economic losses have called its viability and future into question. The Seattle Center Monorail was also constructed for Century 21 and still runs from Seattle Centre to Westlake Centre, a downtown shopping mall, a little over a mile to the southeast.

Pike Place Market

The Smith Tower was the tallest building on the West Coast from its completion in 1914 until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962. The late 1980s saw the construction of Seattle's two tallest skyscrapers: the 76 story Columbia Centre (completed 1985) is the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest and the fourth tallest building west of the Mississippi River; the Washington Mutual Tower (completed 1988) is Seattle's second tallest building. Other notable Seattle landmarks include Pike Place Market, the Fremont Troll, the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (at Seattle Centre), and the Seattle Central Library.

Starbucks has been at Pike Place Market since the coffee company was founded there in 1971. The first store is still operating a block south of its original location.

The National Register of Historic Places has over 150 Seattle listings. The city also designates its own landmarks.


Performing arts

Seattle has been a regional centre for the performing arts for many years. The century-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra is among the world's most recorded and performs primarily at Benaroya Hall. The Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet, which perform at McCaw Hall (opened 2003 on the site of the former Seattle Opera House at Seattle Centre), are comparably distinguished, with the Opera being particularly known for its performances of the works of Richard Wagner and the PNB School (founded in 1974) ranking as one of the top three ballet training institutions in the United States. The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest symphonic youth organization in the United States. The city also boasts lauded summer and winter chamber music festivals organized by the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

The 5th Avenue Theatre, built in 1926, stages Broadway-style musical shows featuring both local talent and international stars. Seattle has "around 100" theatrical production companies and over two dozen live theatre venues, many of them associated with fringe theatre; Seattle is probably second only to New York for number of equity theaters (28 Seattle theatre companies have some sort of Actors' Equity contract). In addition, the 900-seat Romanesque Revival Town Hall on First Hill hosts numerous cultural events, especially lectures and recitals.

The Moore Theatre has been a performing arts venue in Downtown Seattle since its construction in 1907.

Seattle is considered the home of grunge music because it was home to artists such as Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Mudhoney, all of whom reached vast audiences in the early 1990s. The city is also home to such varied musicians as avant-garde jazz musicians Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz, rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot, smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G, Heart, heavy metal bands Queensrÿche, Nevermore and Sunn O))), as well as such poppier rock bands as Harvey Danger, Goodness, and The Presidents of the United States of America. Such musicians as Jimi Hendrix, Duff McKagan, Nikki Sixx, and Quincy Jones spent their formative years in Seattle.

Since the grunge era, the area has hosted a diverse and influential alternative music scene. The Seattle record label Sub Pop—the first to sign Nirvana and Soundgarden—has signed such non-grunge bands as Band of Horses, Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils, Sunny Day Real Estate, Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Flight of the Conchords, and Fleet Foxes.

Earlier Seattle-based popular music acts include the collegiate folk group The Brothers Four; The Wailers, a 1960s garage band; The Ventures, an instrumental rock band; pop Young Fresh Fellows and The Posies; pop-punk The Fastbacks; the well-traveled avant-rock of Sun City Girls; and the outright punk of The Fartz (later 10 Minute Warning), The Gits.

Seattle annually sends a team of spoken word slammers to the National Poetry Slam and considers itself home to such performance poets as Buddy Wakefield, two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champ; Anis Mojgani, two-time National Poetry Slam Champ; and Danny Sherrard, 2007 National Poetry Slam Champ and 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champ. Seattle also hosted the 2001 national Poetry Slam Tournament. The Seattle Poetry Festival is a biennial poetry festival that (launched first as the Poetry Circus in 1997) has featured local, regional, national, and international names in poetry.

The city also has movie houses showing both Hollywood productions and works by independent filmmakers. Among these, the Seattle Cinerama stands out as one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films.

Additionally, the city is also home to the Seattle Polish Film Festival, ("SPFF") an annual film festival showcasing current and past films of Polish cinema. The festival is produced by the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association and awards the Seattle Spirit of Polish Cinema awards as well as the Viewers Choice of Best Film.


210 cruise ship visits brought 886,039 passengers to Seattle in 2008.
Seattle Sheraton from Two Union Square

Among Seattle's prominent annual fairs and festivals are the 24-day Seattle International Film Festival, Northwest Folklife over the Memorial Day weekend, numerous Seafair events throughout July and August (ranging from a Bon Odori celebration to the Seafair Cup hydroplane races), the Bite of Seattle, one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the United States, and the art and music festival Bumbershoot, which programs music as well as other art and entertainment over the Labor Day weekend. All are typically attended by 100,000 people annually, as are the Seattle Hempfest and two separate Independence Day celebrations. In the past, the Gay Pride parade and festival have been centered on Capitol Hill, but since 2006, festivities have been held city-wide, and the parade has followed a route in Downtown from the retail core to Seattle Centre.

Other significant events include numerous Native American pow-wows, a Greek Festival hosted by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Montlake, and numerous ethnic festivals (many associated with Festál at Seattle Centre).

The Seattle skyline viewed from Gas Works Park.

There are other annual events, ranging from the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair & Book Arts Show; an anime convention, Sakura-Con; Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention; specialized film festivals, such as the Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival, the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; and a two-day, 9,000-rider Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.

The Henry Art Gallery opened in 1927, the first public art museum in Washington. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) opened in 1933; SAM opened a museum downtown in 1991 (expanded and reopened 2007); since 1991, the 1933 building has been SAM's Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). SAM also operates the Olympic Sculpture Park (opened 2007) on the waterfront north of the downtown piers. The Frye Art Museum is a free museum on First Hill. Regional history collections are at the Loghouse Museum in Alki, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the Museum of History and Industry and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Industry collections are at the Centre for Wooden Boats and the adjacent Northwest Seaport, the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, and the Museum of Flight. Regional ethnic collections include the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Wing Luke Asian Museum and the Northwest African American Museum. Seattle has artist-run galleries, including 10-year veteran Soil Art Gallery, and the newer Crawl Space Gallery.

Woodland Park Zoo opened as a private menagerie in 1889, but was sold to the city in 1899. The Seattle Aquarium has been open on the downtown waterfront since 1977 (undergoing a renovation 2006). The Seattle Underground Tour is an exhibit of places that existed before the Great Fire. There are also many community centers for recreation, including Rainier Beach, Van Asselt, Rainier, and Jefferson south of the Ship Canal and Green Lake, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights north of the Canal, and Meadowbrook.

Since the middle 1990s, Seattle has experienced significant growth in the cruise industry, especially as a departure point for Alaska cruises. In 2008, a record total of 886,039 cruise passengers passed through the city, surpassing the number for Vancouver, BC, the other major departure point for Alaska cruises.

Professional sports

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners
Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders FC
Club Sport League Venue Established Championships
Seattle Sounders FC Soccer MLS Qwest Field 2007 2
Seattle Seahawks Football NFL Qwest Field 1976 0
Seattle Mariners Baseball MLB Safeco Field 1977 0
Seattle Thunderbirds Ice hockey WHL ShoWare Centre 1977 0
Seattle Storm Basketball WNBA KeyArena 2000 2
Seattle Grizzlies Australian Football USAFL Mosier Park 1998 0
Seattle Mist Football LFL ShoWare Centre 2009 N/AQ
Seattle SuperSonics* Basketball NBA KeyArena 1967 1
Seattle Totems Ice Hockey NPHL Olympic View Ice Arena 2005 4

Seattle's professional sports history began at the start of the 20th century with the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans, which in 1917 became the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup. Today Seattle has four major professional sports teams: The National Football League's Seattle Seahawks, Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners, Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders FC, and the 2004 and 2010 Women's National Basketball Association champions, Seattle Storm. From 1967 to 2008 Seattle was also home to an NBA franchise, the Seattle SuperSonics, who were the 1978–79 NBA champions. The team relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007–08 season. The Seattle Thunderbirds are a major-junior hockey team that plays in one of the Canadian major-junior hockey leagues, the WHL (Western Hockey League). The Thunderbirds moved to nearby Kent, Washington during the 2008–2009 season. The Seattle Sounders FC began play in Major League Soccer in 2009.

The Major League Baseball All-Star game was held in Seattle twice, first at the Kingdome in 1979 and again at Safeco Field in 2001. That same year, the Seattle Mariners tied the all-time single regular season wins record with 116 wins. The NBA All-Star game was also held in Seattle twice, the first in 1974 at the Seattle Centre Coliseum and the second in 1987 at the Kingdome.

In 2006, Qwest Field hosted the 2005–06 NFL playoffs. In 2008, Qwest Field hosted the first game of the 2007–08 NFL playoffs, in which the Seahawks defeated the Washington Redskins, 35–14. Qwest also serves as the home field for the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer. Seattle also boasts a strong history in collegiate sports. The University of Washington and Seattle University are NCAA Division I schools.

Some notable athletes include Felix Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young award, among others.

Outdoor activities

Green Lake Park, popular among runners, contains a 2.7-mile (4.3 km) trail circling the lake.

Seattle's mild, temperate marine climate allows year-round outdoor recreation, including walking, cycling, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, rock climbing, motor boating, sailing, team sports, and swimming. In town, many people walk around Green Lake, through the forests and along the bluffs and beaches of 535-acre (2.2 km2) Discovery Park (the largest park in the city) in Magnolia, along the shores of Myrtle Edwards Park on the Downtown waterfront, along the shoreline of Lake Washington at Seward Park, along Alki Beach in West Seattle, or along the Burke-Gilman Trail. Also popular are hikes and skiing in the nearby Cascade or Olympic Mountains and kayaking and sailing in the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. In 2005, Men's Fitness magazine named Seattle the fittest city in the United States.


Washington Mutual's last headquarters, the WaMu Center, (now the Chase Centre and soon to be Russell Investments Center) (centre left) and its headquarters prior, Washington Mutual Tower (centre right).

Seattle's economy is driven by a mix of older industrial companies, and "new economy" Internet and technology companies, service, design and clean technology companies. The Port of Seattle is a major economic engine. Though it has been affected by the recent recession, Seattle has retained a comparatively strong economy, and remains a hotbed for start-up businesses, especially in green building and clean technologies: it was ranked as America's #1 "smarter city" based on its government policies and green economy. The Seattle housing market, especially in centre-city neighborhoods, has not seen the sort of drop in value most housing markets around the nation have seen in recent years. The Seattle region's economy is increasingly diverse and multi-sectoral.

Still, very large companies dominate the business landscape. Six companies on the 2008 Fortune 500 list of the United States' largest companies, based on total revenue are headquartered in Seattle: former financial services company Washington Mutual (the banking business of which is now part of JPMorgan Chase) (#97), Internet retailer (#171), coffee chain Starbucks (#277), department store Nordstrom (#299), insurance company Safeco (#388), and global logistics firm Expeditors International (#458). However, in April 2008, the sale of Safeco to Liberty Mutual Group was announced and in September 2008, Washington Mutual was seized by the FDIC and was sold to JPMorgan Chase. Other Fortune 500 companies popularly associated with Seattle are based in nearby Puget Sound cities. Warehouse club chain Costco (#29), the largest retail company in Washington, is based in Issaquah. Providence Health & Services, the largest health care system and the fifth largest employer, is based in Renton, Washington. Microsoft (#44) and Nintendo of America are located in Redmond. Weyerhaeuser, the forest products company (#147), is based in Federal Way. Finally, Bellevue is home to truck manufacturer PACCAR (#169), and to international mobile telephony giant T-Mobile's U.S. subsidiary, T-Mobile USA.

Prior to moving its headquarters to Chicago, aerospace manufacturer Boeing (#27) was the largest company based in Seattle. Its largest division is still headquartered in nearby Renton, and the company has large aircraft manufacturing plants in Everett and Renton, so it remains the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a desire to spark a new economic boom driven by the biotechnology industry in 2006. Major redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighbourhood is underway, in an effort to attract new and established biotech companies to the city, joining biotech companies Corixa (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), Immunex (now part of Amgen), Trubion, and ZymoGenetics. Vulcan Inc., the holding company of billionaire Paul Allen, is behind most of the development projects in the region. While some see the new development as an economic boon, others have criticized Nickels and the Seattle City Council for pandering to Allen's interests at taxpayers' expense. Also in 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Seattle among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion. In 2005, Forbes ranked Seattle as the most expensive American city for buying a house based on the local income levels.

Alaska Airlines, operating a hub at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, maintains its headquarters in the city of SeaTac, next to the airport.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 188
1870 1,151 512.2%
1880 3,533 207.0%
1890 42,837 1,112.5%
1900 80,671 88.3%
1910 237,194 194.0%
1920 315,312 32.9%
1930 365,583 15.9%
1940 368,302 0.7%
1950 467,591 27.0%
1960 557,087 19.1%
1970 530,831 −4.7%
1980 493,846 −7.0%
1990 516,259 4.5%
2000 563,374 9.1%
2010 630,320 11.9%

According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Seattle had a population of 602,000 as of April 1, 2009. In the 2000 census interim measurements of 2006, there were 258,499 households and 113,400 families residing in the city.

According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of Seattle was as follows:

  • White: 71.3% ( Non-Hispanic Whites: 68.4%)
  • Black or African American: 8.0%
  • Native American: 0.9%
  • Asian: 13.2%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
  • Some other race: 2.2%
  • Two or more races: 4.0%
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 5.6%

According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, English was by far the most commonly spoken language at home; approximately 78.9% of residents over the age of five spoke only English at home. Spanish was spoken by 4.5% of the population; people who spoke other Indo-European languages made up 3.9% of the population. People who spoke Asian languages at home made up 10.2% of the population. People who spoke other languages made up 2.5% of Seattle's population.

Seattle has seen a major increase in immigration in recent decades; the foreign-born population increased 40% between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. At nearly four percent, Greater Seattle has the highest concentration of Multiracial Americans of any major metropolitan area in the United States. The Chinese population in the Seattle Area has origins in China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. The earliest Chinese Americans that came in the late 19th and early 20th century were almost entirely from Guangdong province. The Seattle area is also home to a high Vietnamese population. In addition, the city is home to over 30,000 Somali immigrants.

As of 1999, the median income of a city household was $45,736, and the median income for a family was $62,195. Males had a median income of $40,929 versus $35,134 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,306 11.8 percent of the population and 6.9 percent of families are below the poverty line. Of people living in poverty, 13.8 percent are under the age of 18 and 10.2 percent are 65 or older.

It is estimated that King County has 8,000 homeless people on any given night, and many of those live in Seattle. In September 2005, King County adopted a "Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness", one of the near-term results of which is a shift of funding from homeless shelter beds to permanent housing.

In 2006, after growing by 4,000 citizens per annum for the previous 16 years, regional planners expected the population of Seattle to grow by 200,000 people by 2040. However, Mayor Nickels supported plans that would increase the population by 60 percent, or 350,000 people, by 2040 and is working on ways to accommodate this growth while keeping Seattle's single-family housing zoning laws. The Seattle City Council later voted to relax height limits on buildings in the greater part of Downtown, partly with the aim of increasing residential density in the city centre.

A 2006 study by UCLA indicates that Seattle has one of the highest LGBT populations per capita. With 12.9 percent of citizens polled identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the city ranks second of all major US cities, behind San Francisco and slightly ahead of Atlanta and Minneapolis. Greater Seattle also ranks second among major US metropolitan areas, with 6.5 percent being LGBT.

According to the 2000 U.S. census interim measurements of 2004, Seattle has the fifth highest proportion of single-person households nationwide among cities of 100,000 or more residents, at 40.8 percent.

Government and politics

Seattle City Hall, 2007

Seattle is a charter city, with a Mayor–Council form of government. Since 1911, Seattle's nine city councillors have been elected at large, rather than by geographic subdivisions. The only other elected offices are the city attorney and Municipal Court judges. All city, county, and state offices are technically non-partisan. Like most parts of the United States, government and laws are also run by a series of ballot initiatives (where people can pass or reject laws), referendums (where people can approve or reject already passed legislation), and Propositions (where specific government agencies can propose new laws/tax increases directly to the people)

Seattle's politics are strongly liberal/progressive, although there is a small libertarian movement within the metro area. It is one of the most liberal cities in the United States, with approximately 80% voting for the Democratic Party; only two precincts in Seattle—one in the Broadmoor community, and one encompassing neighboring Madison Park—had a majority of votes for Republican George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. In addition, all precincts in Seattle voted for Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, including the two precincts who had previously voted Republican in 2004. In partisan elections for the Washington State Legislature and United States Congress, nearly all elections are won by Democrats.

Seattle is one of the most politically progressive cities in North America, with an overwhelming majority of voters supporting Democratic politicians; support for liberal issues such as same-sex marriage, reproductive rights and gun control is largely taken for granted in local politics. Like much of the Pacific Northwest (which has the lowest rate of church attendance in the United States and consistently reports the highest percentage of atheism), church attendance, religious belief and political influence of religious leaders is much lower than in other parts of America. Seattle also has a thriving alternative press, with two well-established weekly newspapers, several online dailies (including the Seattle P.I., Publicola and Crosscut), and a number of issue-focused publications, including the nation's two largest online environmental magazines, Worldchanging and

Federally, Seattle is part of Washington's 7th congressional district, representated by Democrat Jim McDermott, elected in 1988 and one of Congress' most liberal members.


Of the city's population over the age of 25, 53.8 percent (vs. a national average of 27.4 percent) hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and 91.9 percent (vs. 84.5 percent nationally) have a high school diploma or equivalent. A United States Census Bureau survey showed that Seattle had the highest percentage of college and university graduates of any major U.S. city. The city was listed as the most literate of the country's sixty-nine largest cities in 2005 and 2006, the second most literate in 2007, after Minneapolis, and tied with Minneapolis for most literate in 2008 in studies conducted by Central Connecticut State University.

Inside Suzzallo Library, University of Washington campus

Seattle Public Schools desegregated without a court order but continue to struggle to achieve racial balance in a somewhat ethnically divided city (the south part of town having more ethnic minorities than the north). In 2007, Seattle's racial tie-breaking system was struck down by the United States Supreme Court, but the ruling left the door open for desegregation formulae based on other indicators (e.g., income or socioeconomic class).

The public school system is supplemented by a moderate number of private schools: five of the private high schools are Catholic, one is Lutheran, and six are secular.

Seattle is home to one of the United States' most respected public research universities, the University of Washington, as well as its professional and continuing Education unit, University of Washington Educational Outreach. A study by Newsweek International in 2006 cited UW as the twenty-second best university in the world. Seattle also has a number of smaller private universities including Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University, both founded by religious groups; universities aimed at the working adult, like City University and Antioch University; colleges, such as North Seattle Community College, Seattle Central Community College, and South Seattle Community College; and a number of arts colleges, such as Cornish College of the Arts and The Art Institute of Seattle. In 2001, Time magazine selected Seattle Central Community College as community college of the year, stating the school "pushes diverse students to work together in small teams".


Health systems

The University of Washington is consistently ranked among the country's top leading institutions in medical research, earning special merits for programs in neurology and neurosurgery. Seattle has seen local developments of modern paramedic services with the establishment of Medic One in 1970. In 1974, a 60 Minutes story on the success of the then four-year-old Medic One paramedic system called Seattle "the best place in the world to have a heart attack".

Three of Seattle's largest medical centers are located on First Hill. Harborview Medical Centre, the public county hospital, is the only Level I trauma hospital serving Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. Virginia Mason Medical Centre and Swedish Medical Centre's two largest campuses are also located in this part of Seattle, including the Virginia Mason Hospital. This concentration of hospitals resulted in the neighbourhood's nickname "Pill Hill".

Located in the Laurelhurst neighbourhood, Seattle Children's, formerly Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the pediatric referral centre for Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has a campus in the Eastlake neighborhood and also shares facilities with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and University of Washington Medical Centre. The University District is home to the University of Washington Medical Centre which, along with Harborview, is operated by the University of Washington. Seattle is also served by a Veterans Affairs hospital on Beacon Hill, a third campus of Swedish in Ballard, and Northwest Hospital and Medical Centre near Northgate Mall.


Interstate 5 in Washington as it passes through downtown Seattle

The first streetcars appeared in 1889 and were instrumental in the creation of a relatively well-defined downtown and strong neighborhoods at the end of their lines. The advent of the automobile sounded the death knell for rail in Seattle. Tacoma–Seattle railway service ended in 1929 and the Everett–Seattle service came to an end in 1939, replaced by inexpensive automobiles running on the recently developed highway system. Rails on city streets were paved over or removed, and the arrival of trolleybuses brought the end of streetcars in Seattle in 1941. This left an extensive network of privately owned buses (later public) as the only mass transit within the city and throughout the region.

Central Link light rail trains in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel under the International District/Chinatown.

King County Metro provides frequent stop bus service within the city and surrounding county,as well as a streetcar line between the South Lake Union neighborhood and Westlake Centre in downtown. Seattle is one of the few cities in North America whose bus fleet includes electric trolleybuses. Sound Transit currently provides an express bus service within the metropolitan area; two Sounder commuter rail lines between the suburbs and downtown; and its Central Link light rail line, which opened in 2009, between downtown and Sea-Tac Airport gives the city its first rapid transit line that has intermediate stops within the city limits. Washington State Ferries, which manages the largest network of ferries in the United States and third largest in the world, connects Seattle to Bainbridge and Vashon Islands in Puget Sound and to Bremerton and Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula.

According to the 2007 American Community Survey, 18.6 percent of Seattle residents used one of the three public transit systems that serve the city, giving it the highest transit ridership of all major cities without heavy or light rail prior to the completion of Sound Transit's Central Link line.

Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, locally known as Sea-Tac Airport and located just south in the neighboring city of SeaTac, is operated by the Port of Seattle and provides commercial air service to destinations throughout the world. Closer to downtown, Boeing Field is used for general aviation, cargo flights, and testing/delivery of Boeing airliners.

The main mode of transportation, however, relies on Seattle's streets, which are laid out in a cardinal directions grid pattern, except in the central business district where early city leaders Arthur Denny and Carson Boren insisted on orienting their plats relative to the shoreline rather than to true North. Only two roads, Interstate 5 and State Route 99 (both limited-access highways), run uninterrupted through the city from north to south. State Route 99 runs through downtown Seattle on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was built in 1953. However, due to damage sustained during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake the viaduct will be replaced by a tunnel in 2015 at a cost of US$4.25 billion.

From 2006 to 2008, transit ridership in Seattle went up by 23%, and many bus routes in the central part of the city are routinely forced to leave passengers because they are full. Seattle now has the worst traffic congestion of all American cities.

The city has started moving away from the automobile and towards mass transit. In 2006, voters in King County passed proposition 2(Transit Now) which increased bus service hours on high ridership routes and paid for five Bus Rapid Transit lines called RapidRide. After rejecting a roads and transit measure in 2007, Seattle-area voters passed a transit only measure in 2008 that increases ST Express bus service and extends the Link Light Rail system (currently 15.7 miles (25.3 km) with 3 miles (4.8 km) under construction) by over thirty miles, and expands and improves Sounder commuter rail service. An extension of the light rail south to the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport began service on December 19, 2009; an extension north to the University of Washington is under construction as of 2010; and further extensions are planned to reach Lynnwood to the north, Des Moines to the south, and Bellevue and Redmond to the east by 2023. Mayor Michael McGinn hopes to put another transit measure on the 2011 ballot to build light rail from Downtown Seattle to Ballard, Fremont, and West Seattle After seeing a surprisingly large amount of support for it from its campaign (and now city's) policy forum.


Seattle Steam Company, one of Seattle's privately owned utility companies

Water and electric power are municipal services, provided by Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light respectively. Other utility companies serving Seattle include Puget Sound Energy (natural gas); Seattle Steam Company (steam); Waste Management, Inc and CleanScapes, Inc. (curbside recycling and solid waste removal); and Verizon Communications, Qwest and Comcast (telephone, Internet, and cable television).

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