Does the proposed Sodo arena site have a light-rail advantage over KeyArena?

The presence of Link Light Rail stations in Sodo often is cited as an advantage. But two companies proposing to renovate KeyArena say an upgraded Monorail would negate the Sodo advantage. With that in mind, we decided to run a timing test.

Public transportation has been a prime talking point in the Seattle arena debate about whether a KeyArena remodel or new venue in the Sodo District is the best option.

The presence of Link Light Rail stations in Sodo often is cited as an advantage, especially with expansion of that transit system not scheduled to arrive at KeyArena until 2035. But two companies proposing to renovate KeyArena — Oak View Group and Seattle Partners — say the venue has an existing light-rail connection that negates the Sodo advantage: the Monorail.

Both envision enhanced Monorail service in their plans. To judge how effective that Monorail connection could be — and whether the Sodo site truly holds a light-rail advantage — we decided to run a timing test.

We boarded a light-rail train at Westlake Station downtown and rode it to the Stadium Station between Safeco and CenturyLink Fields. Then, we got out and walked the remaining distance to where the entrance to Chris Hansen’s proposed Sodo arena would be.

After that, we did a second test beginning at the Stadium Station, where we rode a light-rail train back to Westlake Station. From there, we rode an elevator up to the Monorail platform and took that train over to Seattle Center, got off and walked the remaining distance to KeyArena.

Seattle Times sports reporter Geoff Baker compares the trips between Key Arena and the proposed arena site in SoDo. (Geoff Baker / The Seattle Times)

Why use Westlake Station as a focal point for the two trips? Well, there really was no scientific way to do this. There are a bunch of possible combinations of starting points where anybody using light rail to go to KeyArena or Sodo could first get on.

What we’re really trying to measure is the impact of the eventual transfer from light rail to the venue. In other words, if you’re already on light rail and an equal number of stops away from either site, how much longer would it take to reach the arena’s front door once all transfers and walking is factored in?

If going to the Sodo arena site, the biggest added transfer time would come from walking to the arena after leaving the light-rail station. For a light-rail trip to KeyArena, the Monorail transfer would cause the biggest additional delay.

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So, which proved quicker? On this day, the KeyArena trip. But it was close.

It took about 19 minutes, 30 seconds to take light rail from Sodo, connect to the Monorail and eventually arrive at KeyArena. We needed just over 21 minutes to take light rail from Westlake to Sodo and then walk the remaining distance to the envisioned arena site there.

In the two cases, because we rode the light…

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