Saturday, December 14, 2013

Here's a Tip...Don't Let Super Bowl Host Committees Make Transportation Decisions

Nothing reflects 1970's urban planning by politicians better than the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Built on top of a damaged but ecologically sensitive wetland, surrounded by water on three sides and virtually locked in by freeways and railroads.

Paterson Plank Road (Route 120) provides the only non-freeway access to the complex, its a classic New Jersey hybrid divided state highway but it is served by multiple bus routes and is within walk/bike distance from several hotels. Furthermore the human scaled residential neighborhoods in East Rutherford and Carlstadt are less than two miles away. A recently completed resurfacing project included new sidewalks from both boroughs, making a non-motorized trip to the complex plausible (if far from ideal). With the upcoming Super Bowl on February 2nd local homeowners are advertising apartments for rent that allow you to walk to the Super Bowl.

New sidewalks and landscaping on Paterson Plank Rd - Google Maps

So how does the NFL feel about walking to the game? Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Al Kelly is quoted in the Star Ledger as saying "There is not a single solitary person, unless they’re a Navy SEAL, who is going to walk to that game and get through that marshland to the stadium and get past State Police," Nice, no wonder the Mayor of East Rutherford is livid about that statement.

So how to get to the game from those towns or anywhere else? Well about 45,000 people are expected to to use express park and ride bus service from 9 different hotels (1000+ buses) adding $51 to the $500 to $2000 game ticket. Another 12,000 are expected to cram onto NJ TRANSIT trains transferring at Secaucus Junction. Given the lower cost and the familiarity that many have with NJ TRANSIT I expect fewer customers on the buses and more on the trains. Either way expect a lot of company and long waits at the bus and rail pick up points after the game.

The economic impact for the Super Bowl will be felt across much of the region but the fact that it will be easier to get to the Super Bowl from New York City than it will be from East Rutherford is a lost opportunity for the state. Considering that billions of transportation dollars have been spent to connect this concrete island with the rest of the world, you would expect that one of the lessons learned is that you need to take planning out of the hands of developers, politicians and host committees and give it back to urban planners. There may be a refresher course on Ground Hog Day.