Seattle is the western terminus of I-90 and is on the I-5 corridor, about 140 mi (225.3 km) south of Vancouver, British Columbia, and 170 mi (273.6 km) north of Portland, Oregon. The city of Victoria, British Columbia's capital, is about 110 mi (177 km) to the northwest (about 90 mi (144.8 km) by passenger ferry) while the eastern Washington hub city of Spokane lies 280 mi (450.6 km) to the east.
The Seattle area has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years, but European settlement began only in the mid-19th century. The first permanent European-descended settlers were Arthur A. Denny and his group of travelers, subsequently known as the Denny Party, who 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.
From 1918 to 1951 Seattle had a remarkable jazz history. There were nearly 2 two dozen nightclubs along Jackson Street in the current Chinatown/International District. The Jackson Street jazz scene developed the early careers of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson and others. 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 known for indie rock music.
The city 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 twenty-five 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 center, 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 20th 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 which extends from downtown to the South Lake Union area.