49ers: Solution to too many cars? More cars!

Sunnyvale BPAC will discuss bike trail access around Levi’s Stadium Thursday, September 18, 2014. Details below parking and transit discussion.

SVBC valet bike parking at 49ers stadium

Besides the 20-28 loss to the Chicago Bears at Sunday’s game at the brand new Levi’s 49ers Stadium in Santa Clara, the thing people complained loudly about was the post-game traffic.

70,000 people all trying to leave a large stadium simultaneously will cause congestion problems, no matter what. The 10,000 people who rode VTA transit report they were whisked away fairly quickly, with ambassadors directing people to the right trains, portable Clipper readers, and inspectors checking fares as riders entered the stations.

Those who parked in the cheap (distant) lots had to walk a little further, but they mostly report reasonable egress time.

The 15,000 or so attendees who paid to park in the close-in lots, however, experienced a parking nightmare.

Niners faithful who parked in two large inner lots along the train tracks saw their frustrations over the team’s crushing defeat compounded by gridlock.

“I went 25 feet in an hour,” said season ticket holder Jerry Karp of Santa Clara.

After an hour or so some attendees decided to take matters in their own hands, knocking over the temporary chain-link fences or driving over obstacles such as medians to escape.

The problem, according to 49ers VP for operations Jim Mercurio? It’s those danged people walking and riding the train causing the problems!

Those fans in the affected blue and green lots, which hold about 10,000 vehicles combined next to the stadium, have exit lanes that cross pedestrian paths and train tracks, with trains leaving every five minutes after the game. That means there were only small windows for vehicles to exit.

Since so many more people drive than take the train, Mercurio’s team will look at slowing down train service, perhaps to every seven or eight minutes, to let more vehicles through, among other potential changes.

If only there weren’t so many of those trains.

VTA published this strong response this morning. They don’t pull any punches:

A recent assertion that light rail was impeding traffic and that the frequency of light rail service to the stadium needs to be decreased to allow more cars through may have raised the concern of some of our riders: is VTA really considering slowing down trains to benefit cars?

The short answer is no.

It bears repeating that mass transportation is the most efficient way to move people to and from large events. With trains leaving every 5 minutes and supplemental bus service to help carry people home, VTA moved a total of 9,400 passengers in 65 minutes for the first regular-season 49ers game on Sept. 14. Transit is not the problem; transit is a solution.

If we slowed down trains or decreased their frequency, we would negatively impact that solution and would provide no tangible benefit to vehicle movement.

As the designated Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County, we are offering our expertise in managing traffic flow, and will continue to work with our partners to improve transportation to and from the stadium for all users. And because of decades of experience, we know 5-minute train frequencies are key to maximizing movement.

Rah. I encourage you to read the full statement.


Cyclelicious is a cycling blog, so of course it’s worth mentioning the two hundred or so people who biked to the game on Sunday. Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition now provides attended valet bike parking in Red Lot 1.

I love how Erich Smith,, the General Manager for the Santa Clara Hilton, dealt with the parking situation at his facility, which was sold out for the weekend:

To help deal with the crowds, he came up with a plan to increase available parking and reduce traffic congestion. “On these game days, none of our hotel staff drives to the property. Everybody take public transportation, gets dropped off or like me, rode my bicycle,” Smith said.

In the meantime, the problem of the San Tomas Aquino Trail closure still exists, and riders report the trail remains closed through Monday morning. Santa Clara Bicycle Advisory Committee was supposed to discuss this issue at this month’s meeting, but I don’t know what became of it.

The Sunnyvale BPAC has the Levi’s Stadium trail closure on their agenda for Thursday night’s meeting. This is interesting because Sunnyvale trails don’t touch Levi’s Stadium, although Sunnyvale residents can take trails in their city for eventual access to the stadium. If you’d like to give your input as a resident of Sunnyvale or a user of Sunnyvale facilities, the meeting takes place in the West Conference Room at Sunnyvale City Hall, 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, CA. The meeting begins at 6:30 PM.

Other items on Sunnyvale’s agenda: Consider participation in Bay Area Bike Share (staff recommendation is wait and see); and finalize study issues for 2015. Proposed study issues are steps needed to become a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community, convert “part-time” bicycle lanes on Homestead Avenue into “full-time” bike lanes, and creating a Safe Routes to School Map.


  1. “In the meantime, the problem of the San Tomas Aquino Trail closure still exists, and riders report the trail remains closed through Monday morning. Santa Clara Bicycle Advisory Committee was supposed to discuss this issue at this month’s meeting, but I don’t know what became of it.”

    Santa Clara BAC discussed it a bit in the August meeting but the next meeting is not until October. Basic mantra from the BAC and city is “we can’t do anything about it” and “give it a year to work out the kinks”. So the folks that the BAC blames for the trail issues are SCPD, the NFL and Homeland Security and nobody from any of those entities was present at the meeting, which was very convenient.

    I should have asked the trail gate dude Sunday afternoon what time they planned to open the trail gates, apparently with the later game it was after the normal 10PM time. I went around the trail bypass an hour before game time and it was not bad. But then I returned 15 minutes after kickoff and it was getting jam packed with buses. They had already blocked the south bound bicycle lane forcing me to ride in the traffic lane. SCPD was present but doing nothing to enforce any sort of order back there. They were just sitting around BS-ing with the various stadium gate guards.

    My take is that if you have enough money to change the name of the street from Stars and Stripes to Bill Walsh Dr. you can pretty much do anything you want on that street. Only problem is us poor cyclists who are forced to go that way are subjected to the unsafe conditions.

    I also saw quite a few attendees an hour before the game on foot walking around the bicycle detour path, assuming they probably saw the orange “Detour ->” signs. But going that way is close to 2 miles before you can get around to any sort of ticket entrance and on foot that is a fair walk. If those folks could just walk down the closed section of trail, it would be about 3/4 mile at most. Same with cyclists attending the game, all the bike parking is on the north side so anyone riding from the south has to run the gauntlet of the detour behind the stadium then fight all the foot traffic going to the game to park their bikes. Then repeat that process to leave. With all this and on paper touting being “bicycle-friendly”, I would hate to see what things would be like if they wanted to discourage cyclists!

  2. First, there’s plenty of transit to the stadium, and that more attendees should take advantage of these options. Even if they have to drive and park, just do it away from the venue and access via transit. Besides regular transit like VTA and Caltrain, there are at least 4 charter bus companies that provide service to the stadium from other parts of the Bay Area and beyond. Those services are generally not mentioned by the 49ers, City of Santa Clara, or VTA, but they provide additional access and capacity. Listing is here: http://www.transitunlimited.org/Levi%27s_Stadium

    When they plan for traffic to and from the stadium, they designated Tasman Drive as the access routes for some lots, which I think shouldn’t have been. I think Tasman Drive should be reserved for pedestrians, local non-game traffic, emergency vehicles, taxis, limos, buses, and along with light rail (there’s a street reserved for such vehicles at Candlestick). Because the light rail tracks are in the center, drivers accessing the lot may not have to cross the tracks on Tasman when coming to the lot before the game but must cross the tracks when exiting the game.

    Traffic flow to game: http://scpd.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=11891

    Traffic flow after game: http://scpd.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=11890

    Vehicles parked on lots south of Tasman should exit through Great America Parkway. This road is extra wide with 7 lanes of traffic. At the end of the event, they can make 3 of the northbound lanes to handle southbound traffic. Some of the traffic on Great America Parkway can be directed to turn left at Mission College Blvd and access 101 or 880 via Montague Expressway.

    There’s no need to slow down or reduce light rail service, because traffic can be diverted to not cross the tracks. By keeping the car traffic off Tasman, light rail, VTA bus (VTA uses buses to supplement light rail, and provide direct service to Mountain View Caltrain since there’s a single track section there reducing capacity), and charter buses can operate more reliably and be more effective in reducing traffic demand.

  3. Excellent options, I think these guys in charge are really missing the point. Or might it be that the stadium authority makes money on parking and more money the closer to the stadium the parking is?

    Another option would be if there was some sort of pedestrian access trail leading north and south from the stadium that attendees could use to exit the area of the stadium that went under Tasman to the north and Agnews/Mission College on the south. Oh wait, there is such a trail, but darn, we have it blocked off!

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