Sacramento Kings season ticket holders tour Golden 1 Center on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Tony Bizjak The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Kings season ticket holders tour Golden 1 Center on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Tony Bizjak The Sacramento Bee

Back-Seat Driver

Tony Bizjak writes about traffic and travel in the Sacramento region

Back-Seat Driver

How will disabled people, bicyclists, arena workers get to Golden 1 Center?

By Tony Bizjak

tbizjak@sacbee.com

September 25, 2016 01:09 PM

Golden 1 Center arena patrons are not all alike. Some will be able to walk for many blocks. Others are disabled and need to be dropped off close by. Some will come on two wheels, and will need a safe place to park their bikes. Some will arrive on light rail, others on Uber. Then there are the 1,000 or more arena workers who need to find their way into downtown almost nightly.

For many, it won’t be easy, at least early on. Here are some insider transportation tips for arena users of various stripes:

Parking options

Where to park? That may be the biggest question of all.

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City officials are pushing hard for car drivers to use the city’s SacPark website – www.sacpark.org – to purchase a reserved spot in a downtown garage beforehand. You can also reserve a garage spot when you buy a Kings ticket on the team app.

As of late last week, 1,800 drivers had reserved garage spots for the first preseason game on Oct. 10. That means plenty of drivers will be circling around that night, looking for a spot. Not good.

Parking meters within three blocks of the arena will cost $18.75 for the evening during Kings games and major concerts. If you prepay for a city garage online, that night’s parking will cost you $11.25. If you just show up at a city garage the night of your event, it’ll cost $15. I went to the city’s SacPark web page and reserved a private garage at Eighth and J streets, instead of a city garage, for $10.50 on a concert night.

Early data shows that a lot of Kings season ticket holders are booking spots in the garage on L Street just west of Macy’s, which is charging $25 a night. The Kings are calling that one the “West Premium Garage.”

Urban walking

It may be a smart bet, though, to park a half-mile or more from the arena to avoid arena-area congestion and the higher garage and street parking prices. I did a test walk last week with Michele Gigante, a downtown communications specialist for the city, to see what that might be like.

We started from the top floor of the city garage at 10th and I streets. That’s a half-mile – 6  1/2 blocks – from the arena main entry. It took us nine minutes to get to the arena, including the elevator ride in the parking garage.

It’s an urban walk. I smelled urine in one doorway and at one point Michele, who’s also a police officer, had to stop me from absentmindedly stepping in front of a light rail train rolling down Seventh Street.

But our route also took us past the enticing Grange restaurant, a Temple cafe. And we passed two recently opened restaurants, El Rey and Malt and Mash, that should be popular and lively on game nights. They’re on the intriguing 700 block of K Street. It’s blighted now, but that’s one block that will change dramatically in the next year when 200 new apartment dwellers move in, and a dozen stores and restaurants open.

Disabled drop-off

People with disabled placards on their cars can be dropped off and picked up at a special spot – a small stub of Fourth Street just south of J Street between the downtown cinema complex and Holiday Inn. It’s a block and a half west of the arena main entrance.

A parking attendant will be there to assist, and to keep non-placarded cars away. It’s not a parking lot, though. People dropped off there will get to the arena on the J Street sidewalk to Fifth Street, then will head up a slight incline to the K Street plaza and arena entrance.

Next year, disabled people will be able to get to the arena via a slightly shorter route from that same drop-off site. They’ll go along K Street in front of Macy’s instead of J Street. That area, formerly part of Downtown Plaza, is being rebuilt as a smaller shopping strip.

The Kings, by the way, are offering loaner wheelchairs inside the arena. The Golden 1 Center website lists other accommodations offered for the disabled.

Rideshare zones

More sports fans are using rideshare, such as Uber and Lyft, to get to venues these days. But city officials don’t want a cluster of rideshare cars blocking the streets next to the arena, so they have set up three zones a few blocks away where rideshare vehicles – or anyone actually – can drop off and pick up passengers.

Those designated sites: J between Third and Fifth on the north side curb; I between Seventh and Eighth on the north curb; and Fourth between L and Capitol Mall.

Think of it as a quick, airport-style drop-off. There may be a traffic attendant shooing you along.

Bike valet

The Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates will contract with the Kings to run a free “bike valet” service in Cesar Chavez Plaza on game and concert nights. It’s like a coat check. Cyclists leave their bikes in a fenced-in area and are given a claim check.

City officials plan to publish a map online in the next few days showing best bike routes to the plaza. “One of our goals is to get more people biking,” said Jennifer Donlon Wyant, the city’s active transportation (non-car) manager. “That would help with concerns about congestion.”

The Kings will install about 100 bike racks around the arena as well. Wyant said she thinks locked bikes will be safe at those racks because of all the people walking around the area. But SABA’s Jim Brown says it could be hard for cyclists to get through tight streets and heavy crowds to those racks.

Cyclists are not allowed to ride in the arena plaza, but can walk their bikes through it. And, they are not allowed to bring their bike helmet into the arena.

Employee shuttles

The Kings, the city and Sacramento Regional Transit are finalizing a plan to allow arena employees, and workers at other arena-area businesses, to park for free under the W-X freeway south of downtown, to be paid for by the Kings and other employers. The state, which owns the land, is letting the city use the lots.

RT buses will shuttle those workers to the arena area. The groups are discussing whether the employees can use their arena badge or other identification to ride for free. RT will add extra bus service and change some routes to handle the task, which could be available as late as 3 a.m.

This park-and-ride option (which city planners envisioned a half-century ago) could some day be used for a broader range of downtown workers on days when there is no event at the arena.

“Not everyone employing folks downtown has realized the employee parking problem facing them yet,” said RT’s operations chief, Mark Lonergan, “including later when more businesses open downtown and more employees need to get to work.”

Cheap parking

The best central city parking deal we have found, so far, is the city’s $2 price for several surface lots under the W/X freeway at 18th and 19th streets. You pay at a kiosk in the lot.

But that lot is a long two miles from the arena. You can pull your bike out of your trunk, catch light rail at the nearby Broadway station, or take a bus. For more information about this and other city parking programs, go to www.sacpark.org.

Bus and rail

Yolo Transit officials have a deal for people coming from west of the Sacramento River. YoloBus will offer free shuttle buses for major events at the arena, mainly Kings games and concerts with more than 10,000 attendees expected.

The buses – called the Y Shuttle – will take off at 15-minute intervals from the transit station across the street from West Sacramento City Hall on West Capitol Avenue. YoloBus is offering buses from Davis and Woodland to the shuttle stop. Those buses will cost $7 per round trip ticket, or $14 for groups of up to four. Information is at www.yolobus.com.

Roseville will provide express buses to the arena starting with the first regular-season Oct. 27 game. If the service proves popular, officials may expand the service to other arena events. Information is at www.roseville.ca.us/transportation.

The Capitol Corridor trains will be available from cities west of Sacramento for Kings games as well. Check www.capitolcorridor.org for schedules.

Light rail, after hours

Sac RT is boosting service on arena nights, and officials say they can handle 4,000 riders. All trains will have security personnel on them. (Anyone with a ticket to the Kings’ Oct. 1 FanFest event, by the way, can ride light rail free that day.)

There may be lines at some station platforms of rookie riders all trying to buy train tickets at once. RT suggests you download its RideSacRT mobile app. For information about the app and about riding light rail, go to www.gosacrt.com.

Of note, many riders will board at a different station going home than the station they used to disembark near the arena. RT will pass out information sheets during the ride in. They’ll have signs near the arena, directing riders, and guides will be on the streets offering assistance.

Some good news for Folsom residents: That city and RT are near a deal to extend two night trains from the arena to Sutter Street after Kings games and major concerts. The second train will leave 45 minutes after the arena event concludes.

“This is new to everybody,” Sac RT’s Lonergan said. “The city, police, the Kings, RT, everybody is going to make refinements over time. A lot is going to be determined by how people choose to interact with it. We all have a learning curve.”

Sacramento to ease safety concerns by adding street lights near downtown arena. Tony BizjakThe Sacramento Bee