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From moving to music, commuters share how they’re dealing with Seattle-area traffic

Transit riders, pedestrians and drivers across the Puget Sound region say they have specific strategies for coping with long, daily commutes — some more creative than most.

The sound of Dorothy Downes’ harmonica isn’t the point — that’s not why the Skagit County woman occasionally plays the instrument while stopped on Interstate 5 driving to and from work in Seattle.

“It is the commitment to self-care and a healthy coping strategy,” she said.

A “Happy Birthday” or holiday song requires deep breathing that lowers frustration and increases alertness on the road, said Downes, a registered nurse.

Four tips for surviving stressful commutes

• Rely on app-based GPS services. They can show traffic delays and road closures, hopefully getting you home faster.

• Twitter can be handy, too. Follow @seattledot for live traffic updates in Seattle. WSDOT uses @wsdot and @wsdot_traffic. (But if you’re driving, don’t check your phone while you’re behind the wheel — distracted driving kills.)

• Plan ahead. Preparing a music playlist to match your mood or scenery can do a lot for making time fly. Or, do research in advance for a new podcast series or audiobook.

• Find a buddy. Carpooling not only makes for fewer cars on the road, but you can swap coping strategies.

Nowadays, a trick like hers for surviving long, daily commutes in the Seattle area is just a part of the Rain City package. With a swelling population challenging transit systems and maxing out major roadways, people throughout the Puget Sound region say they have found their own ways to deal with the growing congestion.

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Over weeks, The Seattle Times fielded dozens of responses via emails and phone calls from transit riders, drivers, pedestrians and others who shared how they manage transportation headaches. The methods range from as simple as choosing the right music playlist for commuting to as complicated as changing jobs, daily schedules and even homes.

“This may sound passive aggressive but I take sick satisfaction in taking pics of drivers in the HOV lane with only one person in the car,” said one woman, describing how she passes time while stopped on Highway 520, heading from Redmond to Seattle.

“I don’t do anything with the photos because I’m convinced it would result in bad karma,” she said. “Just seeing people realize what I’m doing” is enough.

Grace Lee, 30, who works in downtown Seattle, said she makes a point to linger in the city after work, whether by meeting friends for happy hour or working out, to avoid making her drive home to Puyallup during rush hour.

“I can rant about this topic for hours,” she said.

Whether frustrated or inspired by Seattle’s growth, these stories come as Sound Transit maps out plansto expand light rail and bus service over the coming decades.

Last fall’s $54 billion, voter-approved package, funded…

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