Travelers say gridlock at Sea-Tac caused by bottleneck at rideshare area

Some travelers said they had to wait more than two hours to be picked up from Sea-Tac Airport late Sunday night due to gridlock.

Airport spokesperson Brian DeRoy called it a double whammy. He said Sundays between 10 p.m. and midnight are always busy and it was the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

But driver Mike Gramann points to a bottleneck in the area where rideshare drivers turn left and other vehicles turn right toward arrivals and departures.

The airport “should have somebody with a timer in their vehicle and just make that loop,” he said.

Airport officials admit that rideshares have been more popular than was expected when they were approved at the airport earlier this year. DeRoy said at one point, there were 100 customers in the garage waiting for taxis or rideshares.

Gramann was trying to reach Marti Reeder, the mother of his daughter-in-law.

“I was tired, distraught, the back hurt,” Reeder said, referencing a back surgery about a year ago.

Reeder’s flight from Ontario, California landed around 10 p.m. But Gramann couldn’t get to her until midnight.

“It seemed like five minutes to just go one car length,” he said.

He said it took 20 minutes just to get out of the cellphone lot, and that some people were getting out of their cars along the stretch of the airport’s expressway that leads to arrivals, departures, and parking.

“They're carrying or pulling their luggage, walking,” he said. “I mean, ‘forget it, I’m not going to get to the airport in time.’”

Meanwhile, where Reeder was standing, it was empty. She said someone should have been directing traffic.

“You have to break this backlog up - to let these people in somehow,” she said.

DeRoy said it is simply a lot of cars in a small space that currently cannot be expanded. He said Sea-Tac is the fastest-growing airport in the country, but has only a 4.2 square mile footprint. Denver’s airport, he said, has a 50 square mile footprint.

“Is there a better way to handle the taxis and rideshare vehicles so they're not blocking people who are trying to get to departures and arrivals?” KIRO 7 asked.

“It's really just a traffic merging situation,” he said. “You have all these cars coming in at once.”

Monday is the second-busiest day for the Thanksgiving holiday travel season; about 135,665 passengers were expected to pass through Sea-Tac. Only Sunday topped it, with 140,227 passengers expected.

“We're going to certainly look at how things went for Thanksgiving and say-- are there any tweaks we can make for the coming Christmas season,” he said.

He said they recommend people avoid late Sunday night, use light rail, and pick up people farther away from the airport if possible.

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