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Originally published April 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 11, 2008 at 2:32 AM

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Dalai Lama's visit may snarl traffic

The Dalai Lama is in town through Tuesday. That means five days of inspirational speeches and workshops — and a whole mess of not-so-inspirational...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Dalai Lama is in town through Tuesday. That means five days of inspirational speeches and workshops — and a whole mess of not-so-inspirational traffic.

More than 150,000 people from all over the Pacific Northwest and California are expected to attend at least one of the dozen events at the Seeds of Compassion conference, most of which feature the Tibetan Buddhist leader as headliner.

Downtown streets, crosstown traffic in South Lake Union, Highway 99 and the on- and offramps along Interstates 5 and 90 may be particularly jampacked today, Saturday and Monday.

"This is a unique situation in that most dignitaries fly in, give a talk and take off the next day," Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said. "But [the Dalai Lama] is here for five days, with a lot of public events."

There are no tickets left for events at which the Dalai Lama will be present. Workshops on building compassion in parenting, education, public policy and the workplace, where he will not be present, are first-come, first-served.

Seeds of Compassion organizers expect large crowds at all events.

The Dalai Lama begins a whirlwind schedule today with a panel discussion on the scientific basis for compassion, from 9-11 a.m. at the University of Washington Hec Edmundson Pavilion, where 8,000 people are expected.

Some portion of that audience will then commute to KeyArena, where the Dalai Lama will join community leaders in a 12:30-2:30 p.m. discussion.

About 8,600 people are expected at KeyArena from 4:30-5:15 p.m., when the Dalai Lama will join musician Dave Matthews and Ray Heacox, president of KING-TV, for another discussion about compassion, followed by a concert with Matthews and Tim Reynolds.

Biggest event Saturday

Saturday, roughly 55,000 people are expected at a speech by the Dalai Lama from 1-3 p.m. at Qwest Field — the biggest single event in the conference aimed at teaching compassion.

Later in the day, about 30,000 people are expected at nearby Safeco Field for a 6:10 p.m. Mariners game, according to Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

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Adding to the crowds Saturday, between 25,000 and 30,000 people are expected to attend Seattle's Green Festival, a two-day conference on environmental responsibility, at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center between 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Several Seeds of Compassion speeches and workshops are scheduled for Sunday, but those are not expected to affect traffic, according to an SDOT traffic advisory.

Monday, you likely will want to avoid Seattle Center from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and noon-1 p.m., when about 14,500 school kids — and their yellow entourage of 200 buses — arrive at, and then depart from, an event with the Dalai Lama at KeyArena.

Traffic advisory issued

The SDOT has issued a general traffic advisory for those approaching downtown Seattle on I-5 or Highway 99 today through Tuesday, said spokesman Rick Sheridan. The SDOT does not plan to limit traffic in any areas of the city.

"We plan to operate much in the way we would with a baseball or a football game," Sheridan said.

King County Metro buses will continue to run on normal schedules, with the addition of regular Mariners home-game park-and-ride routes Saturday only, spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok said.

"We're asking people to understand that there will be added congestion and interruptions," she said.

Seattle police will ramp up the number of officers at several Seeds of Compassion events, providing crowd control and directing vehicle and pedestrian traffic, Jamieson said.

Police are not expecting any particular trouble with protests or the Dalai Lama's security, but are taking "necessary precautions," said Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel.

Watch events on TV

If braving the thronging masses sounds like the kind of thing that might erode compassion rather than foster it, consider viewing Seeds of Compassion events on TV or online.

Broadcast coverage is scheduled for these gatherings: Friday's Day of Review and Learning, starting at 9 a.m. on UWTV Channel 27; Saturday's Compassion in Action, starting about 1 p.m. on KONG 6/16; Monday's Children and Youth Day, starting at 10:45 a.m. on Seattle Channel 21 and UWTV 27; and Tuesday's Youth and Spiritual Connection Day, starting at 9:30 a.m. on UWTV 27.

TV-viewing parties will be held throughout the city at Seattle Public Library branches and public spaces. Check out one near you at wiki.seedsofcompassion.org/ViewingParties.

The Dalai Lama will leave early Tuesday afternoon for another conference in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745

or hedwards@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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