Study: SODO has sufficient parking, transit to handle arena traffic


by KING 5 News

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 6:38 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 23 at 5:18 PM

SEATTLE – The first comprehensive study examining the traffic impact from a proposed NBA/NHL arena near the city's existing baseball and football stadiums concluded the area will have enough  parking and transit to handle most event traffic, including when events overlap at more than one venue.

The study also said arena traffic and traffic from the Port of Seattle are "effectively separated" -- countering concerns from cargo and rail interests that have voiced concerns that the transportation infrastructure in Seattle's SODO is insufficient to handle additional traffic that the arena would bring.

"Arena event times generally do no coincide with the regular Port of Seattle container terminal operations," said the study.

The Port of Seattle did not have an immediate comment on the report.

The study, commission by the Seattle Department of Transportation, funded by arena investor Chris Hansen and conducted by Parametrix, was unveiled Wednesday by SDOT. (Read the traffic study presentation.)

"We don't see a fatal flaw here," said Bob Chandler, Seattle Department of Transportation Assistant Director.

According to the study, a sold out event at the arena would draw about 20,000 attendees and would bring about 6,000 vehicles to the SODO area.

"The 52 weeknights with Arena events only are well within existing parking/traffic/transit capacity," said the study. And new parking spaces expected to come online with the arena would provide sufficient capacity to handle overlapping events, the study found.

The study also said Link light rail and the First Hill Streetcar would increase the transit capacity in the area in the next 10 years.

The study found the majority of event traffic would be on 1st Ave. South and roadways to the east, while port operations are mainly west of 1st Ave. S.

The study noted that port operations close at 4:30 p.m., while arena events would start at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.  Day-time arena events would be rare.

While the study didn't take into account same-day, same-time Seahawks/arena events, it did examine multiple events scheduled on the same day:

• Weeknights with 40,000+ event patrons increases from 3 to 9;

• 40,000+ attendee events could increase by up to 15 on weeknights if one or more teams make the playoffs, though the study noted that start and end times would not necessarily coincide on those dates;

• For comparison, there were 40 weeknight games in the Mariners season (2002) with 40,000+ event patrons;

• With similar 2002 Mariners attendance levels the 40,000+ weeknight events would increase from 44 to 46 with the arena;

• Most same-day events would draw 40,000 ‑50,000 event patrons -- lower than a weeknight Seahawks game at 67,000.

And when it comes to parking, the study said SODO will have enough spots to accommodate same-day events:

• Parking supply within a 15-minute walk of arena would be sufficient to accommodate 60,000+ attendance same-day events;

• This assumes 3,500 new spaces. Approximately 1,500 spaces new to the arena and 2,000 potential spaces from other projects.

(Click here to read the full parking/transportation study.)

The study's release comes one day after the Port of Seattle sent a letter to City and County leaders urging them to reconsider the arena proposal. Port officials said additional traffic congestion would have a crippling impact on access to freight and cargo businesses.

On Wednesday, some manufacturers with operations in and near SODO made clear they have the same concerns voiced by the Port and disputed the report's findings.

"It's just not true," said Dave Gering, head of the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle.

Gering said SODO sporting events already prompt problems no matter the time of day, and an arena would just add to it.

"What happens is that causes truck drivers, the shippers, to in turn try and respond to that, to try and avoid that afternoon peak, to ship earlier in the day, which contributes to the kind of congestion you see down there now at 8 o'clock in the morning," said Gering.

Gering also said he believes past SDOT studies contradict the study released Wednesday, and actually found game day related traffic peaking between 2-4 p.m.

KING 5's Chris Daniels conducted an unscientific test of SODO traffic before Tuesday's Mariners game. Watch it here.

Traffic in SODO was set to be tested on Wednesday. The Mariners played the Rangers in an afternoon game that ended around 3:30 p.m. at Safeco Field. Later, the Sounders host the Columbus Crew at 7 p.m. next door at CenturyLink Field.

KING 5's Chris Daniels, Liza Javier and Jake Whittenberg contributed to this report.