The Truth About the Sonics Arena and Traffic

Here's a live SDOT traffic feed of the proposed Sonics Arena site. Keep in mind the majority of Arena events will begin after 7 pm on weeknights.

Over the past several months there has been a lot of discussion about the Arena’s potential impact on traffic. In an effort to understand the issue, we funded a detailed independent analysis of the traffic and parking situation in the SODO area, which concluded that the impact on traffic and parking in the area would be manageable. The major points behind this thesis were that there was adequate parking in the area as a result of the inventory built to accommodate the larger Mariners and Seahawks/Sounders crowds, the date overlap with Safeco and CenturyLink events would be minimal and manageable, and, most importantly, that Arena patrons would tend to arrive well after Terminal 46 and 30’s scheduled 4:30 pm closing time, minimizing the impact on Port and industrial traffic.

Despite the findings, several constituencies have derided the results as inaccurate, and claimed that as with Mariners games, Arena traffic will begin arriving as early as 3 pm, thus stifling SODO traffic from 3-5 pm while the Port is still open.

While such critics have yet to provide any substantive, independent analysis of their own to support such a point of view, common sense would tell us that people are simply not going to arrive at 3-4 pm for an Arena event that starts after 7 pm. On the contrary, we believe most of our customers are at work until at least 5 pm. But equally important is the fact that the Arena will not even open its doors to the public until 6 pm for weekday NBA and NHL games and most concerts. While some may choose to come to the area early for a drink or a bite to eat, most Arena patrons are in a rush to make tip-off/face-off and arrive just prior to game time — a fact that is clearly evidenced by a simple glance at the stands of an NBA or NHL game for the first half of the first period. Thus the assumption that all of our patrons and their 6,000 vehicles will descend on the Arena site between 3-5 pm is just grossly inaccurate.

And while we are certainly comfortable with leaving this point to the court of public opinion, we are also comfortable with the truth. As you can see above and on the traffic section of our site, SDOT has recently begun broadcasting live traffic cameras in the Seattle area that are updated in real time. A link can also be found here, where several other cameras in the area can be found. I would encourage everyone in the city to have a look at these cameras from 3-5 pm on Mariners game days and judge the traffic conditions for themselves. I would also encourage people to look throughout the evening, including between 6:30-7:30 pm when we believe most of our patrons would be arriving (and after the Port is closed), as well as after 9:30 pm when Arena events would be winding down.

Thanks for your continued support, and see you all on Thursday!

— Chris Hansen