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Will walking be faster than the Monorail for NHL Seattle games?

Will the Seattle Monorail really be the fastest way to NHL games? (NHL Seattle / OVG)

With NHL Seattle set to pour $7 million into improvements for the Monorail, it begs the question: Will that be the fastest possible route between Westlake and the Seattle Center arena?

Will riders use Monorail after $7 million investment from NHL Seattle?

NHL Seattle is billing the Monorail as the fastest route for fans using transit to get to games. That has us asking a couple questions:

  1. Does the Monorail have the capacity to transport thousands of fans in a small window on game days?
  2. Is it actually the fastest route between Westlake light rail station and the arena?

To answer the first question, we need to figure out how long it would take to transport every single fan using Monorail. NHL Seattle has said it expects roughly a quarter of attendees to use transit, so let’s take that slice out of an estimated 17,000 fans at home games.

That would total 4,250 fans to move with the Monorail if they’re all coming through Westlake Station by 2024, when light rail is up and running throughout the north and south end.

The Monorail’s website estimates a train leaves every 10 minutes, with a two-minute ride between Westlake and Seattle Center. Each train holds 250 people. Across those 4,250 fans, that means it would take 17 total Monorail trips to move everybody.

Assuming there’s absolutely zero friction in ticketing, getting to the platform, or any other delays, that means it would take over 200 minutes, or just over three hours to move every single one of those fans between stations in one direction. Conversely, the Monorail’s website claims it can move 3,000 passengers an hour in one direction (or roughly 9,000 in that same three-hour period).

Given all that, it’s worth looking at whether simply walking from Westlake to the arena would be faster. According to Google Maps, that’s a 25-minute journey on foot. Assuming you get to the station and immediately hop on a train with no delays, the alternative on Monorail would be an 8-minute journey (counting the 6-minute walk from the Seattle Center station to the arena).

But factor in over 1,000 people per hour moving through the area, and there’s a decent chance you won’t be hopping on a train the second you’re on the platform. If you arrive just as a train is leaving, that’s a 10 minute wait time for the next one, maxing your trip out at 18 minutes (again, assuming there are absolutely no delays anywhere else).

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Now, let’s say you’re pinned in the back of a crowd at the station and can’t get on the first train to arrive in 10 minutes — that’s another 10 minute wait, pushing your travel time up near 30 minutes.

Maybe NHL Seattle’s $7 million investment to upgrade platforms, ticketing, and elevators will be enough to mitigate anything that would slow this process down. No matter what though, at least you’ll know how long the walk takes.

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