Regional Aviation Baseline Study

Last Updated: 
Jun 14, 2018

PSRC is leading a baseline study to provide a clear picture of the aviation activities and needs in the region and set the stage for future planning efforts.

Aviation plays a critical role for people and businesses in the growing central Puget Sound region, which is currently home to 29 airports of varied sizes and functions. Continued, coordinated planning is essential for ensuring that the regional airport system can support existing and future demand. As part of these efforts, the Puget Sound Regional Council has launched the Regional Aviation Baseline Study, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Recent population, employment and income growth is driving regional aviation demand and this trend is expected to continue. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is also a growing hub for connections to Asia. Globalization and e-commerce are international trends that are driving dramatic air cargo growth, which is also expected to continue.

2050 Forecasts for Aviation Demand

Regional demand for commercial and air cargo service is expected to double by 2050, with demand for general aviation activity forecast to increase by a third.

Future Landside and Airside System Constraints

Even with planned investments, Sea-Tac Airport will not be able to meet the region’s 2050 demand for passenger air service. Landside constraints are complicated by the region’s complex and constrained airspace. Drive times to Sea-Tac are projected to get substantially worse, limiting future access for most of the region’s residents.

Scenarios and Airport Analysis

The study assessed scenarios for meeting demand for commercial activity, including the impacts of adding new airports and runways. Each of the region’s 29 airports was reviewed to assess their ability to provide additional commercial capacity, including characteristics such as airspace and airfield capacity, surrounding land and land use, transportation infrastructure, ownership considerations, and proximity to population and jobs.

Video illustrating air traffic during one hour for Sea-Tac, Paine Field, Boeing Field, and Renton Municipal Airport.

Learn more about the Regional Aviation Baseline Study

Study Overview

Download the study overview handout.

What is the purpose of this study?

This two-year study is intended to provide a clear picture of the region’s aviation system (King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties) and form the technical foundation for future decisions by regional and state leaders.

The objectives of the Regional Aviation Baseline Study are to:

  • Identify the roles of each airport and the aviation activities within the region.
  • Provide a regional perspective on how aviation activities at airports in the study area interact with each other, the community and the broader economy.
  • Obtain input from stakeholders about their needs and build a common understanding about aviation and airspace constraints.
  • Identify future aviation needs within the central Puget Sound region and set the stage for future planning.

What will the study cover?

The Regional Aviation Baseline Study will support future planning efforts by collecting information about:

  • Existing conditions and recent trends in aviation, including the roles of each airport and the aviation activities within the study area.
  • Economic contributions of regional aviation sectors and the factors that affect different market sectors.
  • A conceptual level of analysis of primary airspace flows and relevant airspace constraints. It will analyze whether the current airspace system can deliver future demand scenarios.
  • Relationships and dependences between airports within the region and with the National Airport System.
  • Landside access to the region’s airports and adequacy to meet future demand.
  • Community perspectives, concerns, issues and impacts gathered through a robust stakeholder engagement process.

How does this study differ from master planning or siting studies?

An airport master plan is a comprehensive study of an airport and usually describes the short-, medium-, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand. Sometimes an existing airport cannot be expanded to meet the future demand and a new or supplemental airport is required. In these cases, a new airport site may be selected as part of an airport’s planning process or as identified through a siting study.

The Regional Aviation Baseline Study will build on master planning processes underway at many of the region’s airports. The study will provide empirical data and describe potential scenarios to accommodate future demand, but it is not a siting study and will not offer recommendations or solutions. The study is intended to provide a comprehensive view of the regional aviation system and inform follow-up actions by policymakers.

What is the timeline?

The project team is completing this study in three major phases, ending with a final report summarizing key study findings.

  • Technical Analysis (Winter-Fall 2019): Compile data about existing conditions, aviation activity, and regional forecasts. Analyze regional airspace and feasibility of airports in the region to accommodate demand.
  • Scenario Evaluation (Winter-Summer 2020): Identify and evaluate future scenarios. Summary of community perspectives. Identify next steps.
  • Project Completion (Summer-Winter 2020): Publish final report.
  • Public Involvement (throughout): Throughout the project, stakeholder outreach will be performed to support development of the analysis at different phases.


How can I get involved?

PSRC is committed to transparency throughout the study process, with ongoing opportunities for stakeholder and public input. Outreach approaches will include:

  • Digital communication updates at study milestones.
  • Ongoing in-person briefings.
  • Technical workshops during each phase of the study.
  • Two rounds of focus groups and a public opinion survey in winter/spring 2020.
  • An online open house and regional public meetings in all four counties in spring 2020.

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