Using Cell Phone Data to Develop Event Transportation Management Plan for Golden 1 Center

To plan for and evaluate the $556 million arena in the heart of downtown Sacramento, we used cell phone data to quickly estimate Arena VMT.

Results & Monitoring

The Golden 1 Center Event Transportation Management Plan (TMP) was developed to enhance circulation for all modes of travel in the vicinity of the arena (refer here for details). The TMP also calls for monitoring several initial events in order to quickly address any observed operational, logistical, and communication challenges. The initial monitoring took place during the following events: Open House, Sacramento Kings FanFest, Paul McCartney Concert (Night 1), and the Sacramento Kings Game (Opening Night of Regular Season). This initial monitoring effort revealed continuous and substantial improvements in how all modes of travel are managed in the vicinity of the Golden 1 Center during events. The project team wisely began implementing the TMP during smaller events that occurred prior to the arena’s opening night and first regular basketball game. Those early practices were instrumental in solving the minor hiccups.

Frequent communication between the City’s Police, Parking Services, and Public Works Departments was critical in incorporating adjustments to the plan between successive events, and also as conditions changed during events. These departures continue to evolve the TMP to test options for further improving conditions. A more robust monitoring program will occur in early 2017.

Pre-event arrivals

Post-event crowds about to board light rail

Post-event crowds exiting onto L St.

Post-event crowds walking down closed L St.


From the late 1980s until last year, the Sacramento Kings played their home games at the aging Sleep Train Arena, located in suburban North Sacramento. To avoid losing the NBA team, the Sacramento City Council voted to build a new arena downtown. In addition to a state-of-the-art arena that holds 17,500 persons for NBA events, the project’s approval also allows development of up to 1.5 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and theater uses in the immediate vicinity. Golden 1 Center also hosts numerous concerts and numerous other activities such as the first and second rounds of the 2017 Men’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Measuring the Environmental Impact

Since this massive development is located in a more densely populated urban area, it could significantly alter population movement patterns. The project leaders asked us to help develop the transportation component of an Environmental Impact Report, which included a Transportation Management Plan (TMP) that described how the system would be managed during arena events. Our timeline was short, as the plan was to release the Draft EIR by mid-December 2013 and prepare a Final EIR for certification by April of 2014 so site demolition could begin in May 2014.

Innovative Use of Data

Traditionally, to identify the distribution of trips for a new arena site, we would review zip code data for current season ticket holders. In this case, that data was not ideal because it represented the location where season tickets were mailed, and not necessarily where pre-game trips originated and post-game trips were destined. For this project, through our partnership with Airsage, we were able to:

  • Mine cell phone data to help us quickly and more accurately determine where visitors of Sleep Train Arena were coming from and going to before and after Sacramento Kings basketball games.
  • Use our MXD+ tool to help us estimate trip generation (based on occupied space) for the 1.5 million square foot mixed use portion of the project and for the existing 1.2 million square foot Downtown Plaza shopping center to be demolished. The difference between these two totals represents the increase in travel for the Existing plus Project assessment.
  • Use the regional travel demand model to develop traffic forecasts, which enabled us to compare vehicle miles traveled for a sold-out Kings Game at Golden 1 Center versus at Sleep Train Arena.


EIR Completed

Summer 2014

Construction Began

Fall 2016

Arena Opened, Initial Monitoring


Continued Formal Monitoring

Positive Feedback:

Quality work on the EIR that led to a solid, well-thought out Transportation Master Plan, has proven to be successful as many say that the traffic around the Golden 1 Center is “no big deal”.