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Radiohead's green promise must not apply to Seattle

Radiohead promised to play venues that could be reached easily by public transportation, but apparently this pledge doesn't apply in Seattle.


Earlier this year, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke explained to the AP that the band was going to take concrete steps to minimize its contribution to global warming, including traveling by airplane only when necessary and using solar-powered generators. But the biggest contributor, by far, to the band's global carbon footprint are its fans, who drive by the millions to its shows every time Radiohead tours. Hence, Yorke said that the band would play only "in places that have municipal transport systems in place or that we can persuade promoters to put on transport."

Radiohead is playing a venue (3) located halfway between Seattle (1) and Mt. Rainier National Park (2). Screenshot (Live Search Maps)

Apparently this dictate doesn't apply in Seattle. Most touring acts of Radiohead's popularity play in Key Arena, the basketball stadium (at least for another year, until the Sonics move to Oklahoma), which holds about 17,000 people. It's owned by the city, located in the middle of Seattle, and is easily accessible via the city's Metro bus system. But according to stories in today's Billboard and elsewhere, Radiohead will play the same venue they played last time, the White River Amphitheatre, a Live Nation venue located on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation 35 miles southeast of town. (See a map with both venues here.)

White River's about five years old. It's a fairly small (maybe 12,000 capacity) outdoor venue in a pleasant setting, but it's plagued by a complete disregard for traffic planning. If every car disappeared from the road, it would take about 40 minutes to drive there from downtown Seattle. But because the last five miles leading to the arena are on a two-lane rural road, and because it is in a particularly sprawling exurban part of of King County where growth has gone more or less unmanaged for the last 15 years, it actually takes much longer--the one time I drove there, after work on a weekday, it took me a little more than two hours. Most of the time I was standing still, emitting great gouts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The venue is aware of the problem, and has put up a Web site with driving directions and instituted a free shuttle from the relatively nearby Auburn Supermall. But for the 550,000+ folks who live in Seattle, they'd have to drive 30 minutes to Auburn, park, then take the shuttle, which (according to people I know who've taken it) still takes about 30 minutes to creep the last few miles to the venue.

Draw your own conclusions. I'm prone to think that Yorke and the band are trying to do the right thing, but are too busy to worry about the details of every venue on the tour, and one of their promoters or assistants saw the note about the free shuttle and thought "sounds like public transit to me."

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