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Commencement traffic


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UW graduates at Commencement
Practical tips for one of the busiest days of the year

It’s almost time for the most momentous week of the year at the University of Washington. Tens of thousands of visitors will make their way to campus next week for Commencement activities, with more than 100 departmental celebrations leading up to the big event: the UW Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 9, at Husky Stadium. More than 5,500 graduates are expected to take the field to the cheers and applause of some 40,000 family members and friends.

Commencement week is an amazing time to be on campus. However, it also tends to turn traffic into what we in the transportation business like to call “a big ol’ mess.”

OK, the term we usually use is “congestion.” Whatever you want to call it, you can expect to see a lot of it around campus next week, especially on Saturday. Here’s our advice for surviving it, whether or not you’ll be attending Commencement yourself.


If you’re going to Commencement

However you get there, start early!

Save yourself some stress and ensure you’ll make it to the ceremony on time by starting your day nice and early. Stadium doors open and graduates are to line up outside at 12:30 p.m. Breeze through the bag check by planning ahead and following all guidelines. The procession begins at 1:30 p.m.

Think about how long it might take you to get to campus on a normal day. Then think about how long it might take in heavy traffic. Then provide yourself even more time than that. You don’t want to be late! Start early and breathe easy.

If you can, get there in a way other than driving.


Link light rail

Take Link light rail to the UW Station, and you’ll be right in front of Husky Stadium.

Many bus lines will drop you off near the stadium, as well — much nearer than a parking spot would likely be. Buses will be subject to traffic (leave early!), but you won’t have to worry about parking. And if you take the bus instead of driving, that will be one fewer car on the road.

To plan your transit trip, use the trip planners from King County Metro Transit or Sound Transit, or Google Maps.

Another option will be Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services. On Commencement Day, those services will drop you off on Stevens Way at Rainier Vista, a short walk from Husky Stadium. Keep in mind that fares for those services can increase when they are in high demand.

If you do drive, start REALLY early.

The UW Commencement website has all the details you’ll need about parking on Commencement day and for department ceremonies throughout the week. We just can’t stress this enough: Get started early to give yourself time to make your way through traffic, park, and get from your parking spot to the stadium. Huge crowds of people will be walking around campus, so please be patient, drive slowly and help keep everyone safe. Shuttles will be provided to transport guests near the stadium from some parking locations; the Commencement site has those details, too.

Have visitors from out of town?

If you have family or friends visiting from out of town, you can help them out by sending them our UW visitor transportation guide, which can help them learn about getting to campus and around Seattle using different transportation methods.


If you’ll be near campus at all during Commencement week

Expect crowds and congestion.

With more than 100 celebrations taking place next week, thousands of visitors will be driving and walking around campus throughout the week. Many of these people will be unfamiliar with the campus, and some will be here for the first time. Because of all that, expect roads around campus to be more congested than usual.

Our advice: Give yourself some extra time to get to and from campus, and consider trying out a new commute.

If you’re not attending Commencement on Saturday, do your best to avoid the area.

We advise you to steer clear of the area around Husky Stadium if you can. With 45,000 people headed to the stadium all at once, we expect roads and sidewalks nearby to be quite congested between noon and 6 p.m.

Parking restrictions and traffic controls will be in place along Montlake Boulevard NE from mid-morning until evening.

If you’ll be traveling in the area, consider taking an alternate route that takes you farther away from Husky Stadium. If traveling north or south, use the University or I-5 bridges instead of the Montlake Bridge. If dropping off or picking up someone from Link light rail, consider using Capitol Hill Station instead of UW Station.

We’re here to help.

If you need to work on campus on Commencement day, or any day next week, you can reach out to our Commute Options team for help planning your route to campus.


This article was originally published by Matt Erickson on June 3, 2016. Updated May 31, 2018.