Regional Aviation Baseline Study Online Open House

Aviation plays a pivotal role in the central Puget Sound region.

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We hosted an online open house and a series of virtual public meetings to provide an opportunity for you to review the work we’ve done for the Regional Aviation Baseline Study and share your feedback. This online open house ended on October 30, 2020.

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About PSRC

Map showing PSRC region.The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) develops policies and coordinates decisions about regional growth, transportation, and economic development planning within King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties. PSRC is composed of over 80 jurisdictions, including all four counties, cities and towns, ports, state and local transportation agencies, and tribal governments within the region.


Project purpose

PSRC is leading a baseline study to provide a clear picture of the aviation 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, PSRC has launched the Regional Aviation Baseline Study, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Population, employment, and income growth has driven regional aviation demand and this long-term trend is expected to continue even considering the short-term effects of COVID-19. 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.


Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission

In a separate effort, the state Legislature created the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission. Managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Commission will develop recommendations to meet the state's critical aviation system capacity needs. The Commission has been tasked with recommending ways to accommodate capacity needs at other facilities. You can learn more about this effort on WSDOT’s website.


COVID-19 impacts to aviation

This study began in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact aviation. Many of us are staying close to home right now, and growth in passenger traffic at Sea-Tac has slowed as a result. There have been dips in aviation growth over the past 40 years, particularly in line with recessions, but long-term aviation growth has remained consistent. We expect the long-term forecasts outlined in this open house to remain representative of the long-term demand of the region.

Enplanements saw 3.4% annual growth between 1976 to 2018.


Study overview

The study team worked through three main phases:

Existing Airport and Aviation Activity Analysis – Summer 2019

  • Existing conditions and constraints
  • Market trends
  • Regional forecasts
  • Airspace flow and analysis

Future Aviation Issues Analysis – Fall 2019

  • Future regional landside and airside capacity needs
  • Future needs by activity and by airport
  • Major challenges

Scenarios Definition and Evaluation – Spring-Fall 2020

  • Identify and analyze scenarios
  • Identify potential next steps
  • Public survey
  • Open houses
  • Publish final report


Study outreach

The study team briefed the PSRC Executive Board on progress after each phase. The project team also convened a Technical Working Group made up of representatives from local airports, airlines, air cargo, and the aerospace industry. The Technical Working Group convened during each phase.


Public survey

During the Scenarios Definition and Evaluation phase, the project team conducted a statistically valid survey of the four-county region to determine priorities of residents. Survey invitations were sent by mail and online, and the survey was available in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Somali. Across the region, 1,416 people completed the survey.

Some of the key findings from the survey include:

  • Survey respondents use airports more for personal travel than business travel.
  • Respondents across all four counties said the aviation system is working well, and they think it is important for the region to accommodate growing future demand for passenger aviation service.
  • Participants acknowledged both positive and negative impacts of passenger aviation in the region, including employment, travel options, and economic benefits, as well as environmental impacts.
  • Participants ranked cost of flying, getting through security lines, access to the airport, and on-time performance as the most important features of the regional aviation system.
  • Participants across all four counties said the cost of flying, environmental impacts, noise impacts, and parking availability have gotten worse in the last three years.
  • Respondents ranked increasing passenger service as more important than minimizing aviation impacts and prioritized increased passenger service capacity at other regional airports versus increasing capacity at Sea-Tac.


Next: Existing conditions and aviation demand forecast

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