The Outside Lands Transpo Crunch: Bringing 65K People Per Day to GG Park

Photo: ##http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150252645941148.322122.10621661147##Outside Lands via Facebook##

For the fifth year, San Francisco’s transportation system will absorb one of its largest floods of travelers when 65,000 daily attendees descend upon Golden Gate Park this weekend for the three-day Outside Lands music festival.

With festival goers traveling from near and far, promoters have tried each year to curb the number of people arriving by car, providing shuttles, bike valet and rows of bike racks, while “strongly encouraging” visitors on the event’s website to come by means other than driving.

Still, with many driving from across California and beyond, thousands of cars will inundate the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and Muni vehicles will be packed. Although little data on mode share is available from the organizers (they’re apparently slammed preparing for the event), a representative said they expect close to 20 percent of people to come by shuttle or bike. That leaves about 52,000 people either driving, taking transit, or walking to Golden Gate Park.

Despite shuttles provided to and from Civic Center, as well as extra Muni service, the N-Judah, 5, and 71 lines are expected to be packed throughout the day. During the first event in 2008, Muni added 118 buses over the weekend, according to SFist, which reported that some riders waited 45 minutes just to board. This year, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said Muni will add limited-stop buses on the 5-Fulton from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. each day of the event, as well as inbound N-Judah Express buses on Friday night from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Rose said Outside Lands organizers “have offered to fund at least some of the extra service,” though the specific plans for service haven’t been finalized yet. Muni staff will also sell off-board tickets at the Civic Center and 4th and King Caltrain stations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to speed up boardings.

Outside Lands’ distant location from downtown (its name derives from the formerly undeveloped expanse of dunes) means it lacks the advantage of being within walking distance of BART and Caltrain, which other major events enjoy.

Demand for bike parking far exceeds room at the valet lot each year. Photo: ##http://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2011/08/16/where-all-the-bicycles-went-sunday/##John Angelico/SFGate##

Perhaps the most efficient and painless way to get to events so far has been by bike. The SF Bike Coalition, which has provided a valet bike parking lot each year, said its valets have parked over 1,200 bikes per day at past events. The massive bicycle parking lot, along with the thousands of other bikes locked to racks and fences, make for a spectacle impressive enough to draw a steady crowd of photo-snappers (speaking from experience as a past valet). Organizers arranged for a sponsor to run the operation this year instead of the SFBC, presumably because it’s more profitable — we couldn’t get an explanation as to why, or how it might be different.

Congested car traffic heading to Golden Gate Park on the Great Highway during last year's festival. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuffandnonsense/6061331162/##drain/Flickr##

Valet bike parking is actually a requirement for large public events in San Francisco. According to the SFMTA website, organizers must provide enough valet parking for a minimum of 1 percent of expected attendees for events of more than 2,000 people. The requirement, adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 1998 as part of the Bicycle Transit Enhancement Plan, makes San Francisco “a trendsetter,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum.

“It’s important for so many reasons that major events like Outside Lands and the Treasure Island Music Festival provide easy-to-find, secure valet bike parking,” she said. “You want to give visitors a good experience, and a fast-growing number of event-goers want to ride their bikes as part of the overall festival experience. And more people biking rather than driving helps the neighbors by avoiding more traffic congestion.”

Still, with untold thousands of cars expected to inundate the area, drivers will be circling for parking. The three-day, $150 parking passes for spots in the park sell out fast. In hopes of utilizing the local private parking supply more effectively, a couple of local entrepreneurs recently launched an online service called Park Please that lets residents and institutions rent out their privately-owned parking spaces at market rates. Flyers posted in the Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods over the past few weeks have promoted it as a way for residents to make some cash on their unoccupied parking spots during the festival. Most of the few dozen parking spots currently available for rent on the Park Please website surround Golden Gate Park. Clearly, Park Please isn’t the answer for meeting the huge demand for this event, though it might let locals make a quick buck.

This weekend will show whether or not efforts to reduce car and Muni congestion are working. Perhaps our readers can provide some insight as to how to improve the transportation situation — stricter limits on parking, perhaps? Would another location be better for such a large event? Let us know in the comments.

  • It will be a mess and has always been a mess. OL should either be required to include an all-day Muni pass for each ticket it sells or take the same amount and create their own shuttle service. 

    Whatever they’ve done in the past clearly isn’t working as anyone who lives in one of the affected neighborhoods can tell you that transit will be useless for us this weekend.

  • Anonymous

    Move the event to AT&T Park. It is hosting 42,000 seat game half of the year without issue. Use the nearby parking lots and piers for smaller stages.

  • Anonymous

    People who don’t like putting up with occasional incoveniences caused by cultural and recreational events shouldn’t live in cities. Outside Lands will return $60 million to City coffers: http://pulse.sfstation.com/2012/02/09/report-outside-lands-generated-60-million-for-sf-economy-last-year/  I’m sure that a lot of people hate Sunday Streets, San Francisco Pride, Bay to Breakers and any number of events because in makes it hard for them to get from point A to point B but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them.

  • Umm, maybe my mind is a bit addled today but is that picture at the bottom from SF? Doesn’t look like it to me.

  • Anonymous

    It’s Great Highway looking south.  That’s GG Park on the left

  • Rich

    The outer Richmond and Sunset should be closed an only open to residents only. People should only be able to get to the event by transportation provide the the Outside lands  group like they did for the big golf event a few weeks ago. The City should make money for cars that our tow that our blocking driveways.

  • Anonymous

    The problem isn’t the events or the people, it’s all the damned cars. It’s the idea that most people think they are entitled to drive *the* most inefficient vehicle ever designed (especially with only 1 or 2 people in it, as is usually the case) right up to their destination and park for free. And to be fair, the problem is also the city — and the people who vote for the city’s leaders and who refuse to prioritize transit over cars — which doesn’t put in place sufficient public transit for these events.

  • Rick

    It’s crazy to expect Muni to handle this event, three sold out Giants’ games, AND the 49ers first game of the season in the same weekend. Since all Muni rides are subsidized, it’s the ultimate example of “we’ll lose money on every sale, but we’ll make it up in volume.  At least when the Giants were at Candlestick, Muni could and did charge premium fares for the special express buses.  The AT&T trips are all regular fares because they all follow regular routes (though they often pay overtime to fill the required extra runs).  Maybe next year they can try to schedule events like this and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass when the teams are out of town.

  • While I still think that City dwellers naturally will always have to put up with special events, I do like the idea of requiring a muni day pass with each ticket. It would be even better if additionally, regional transit agencies such as BART and Caltrain would offer discounts to ticket holders on this weekend.

  • Joel

    The Giants are playing there this weekend.

  • Anonymous

    At least Muni can stop worrying about the 49er…

  • Guest

    Totally agree.  Tickets should help fund additional transit. While they already have a shuttle service, MUNI is really better prepared to add additional service.  But what they need is special event service instead of just additional runs.  Sure, charge a premium, but to make transit attractive, it has to be fast and efficient.  It cant be mired in the same auto traffic, and it has be limited/express service instead of local service.

  • I can’t remember when or what the event was but I have seen Muni run a special all-day fare for an event. That would make a lot of sense particularly if it was a special line so as to minimize the damage.

  • That would be nice, but the venue isn’t really set up to have five simultaneous stages going on at once. And it would be impractical to have a headliner stage at the ballpark and the others elsewhere.

  • $60 million to city coffers isn’t quite right — $60 million in taxable revenue was generated, which is nothing to scoff at, but it amounts to more like $5 million (assuming an 8.5% tax rate).

  • That would be amazing, but even a 1 block perimeter around the park would require a lot of personnel to enforce it.

  • @pchazz but won’t Caltrain be fun on Sundays!

  • Where is valet bike parking located for the TI Music Festival?  It can’t be on the island, can it?

  • Anonymous

    I’m just half serious about this 🙂 Though the point to highlight is the 65k number by itself does not guarantee problem. The problem is this is an occasion event and GGP do not have transportation infrastructure to handle this. Downtown has about 230,000 jobs and they are doing just fine with the daily commute.

  • Anonymous

    @murphstahoe like taking the Capitol Corridor on Sunday when there is a Raider’s game at the Coliseum…

  • mikesonn

    The N line is a couple blocks from this, if it worked and had dedicated ROW then there wouldn’t be such a big problem. Add BRT or LRV to Geary, also problem solved.

  • david vartanoff

    Any such large event should have a transit surcharge as part of the tickets.  In turn the actual tickets should be a valid Muni Pass for the day of the event.  If Muni gets the fees, then there should be funding for SERIOUS extra service.    The N and NX for instance should be running full rush hour mode all weekend.       

  • S Brown

     Last year there was bike valet parking in the Giants Stadium parking lot, then a shuttle took you to the island.  Very quick and efficient, as I experienced it.

  • This event is interesting in many respects.  First, there is not room within 2 miles of the Polo Fields for 3000 extra cars, much less 30,000. Second, this is going to be a rare, hot summer weekend in San Francisco.  Multiple thousands of people who aren’t going to the Festival will also want to go Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, jamming things up further.  Add to this three Giants games and a 49er game, and this will be an interesting weekend, indeed.

    I’ll note that the Festival is doing some things to ameliorate the situation. 

    1) They are offering the “Esurance” shuttle from the Civic Center to the Polo Fields, mostly, I am guessing, to get BART riders to the Festival. However, people must buy a 3-day ticket for the shuttle in advance, the ticket costs $29.50 (!) and tickets for this shuttle are now sold out (!)  It is not clear how frequently the shuttle will run–one hopes they’re not just running one bus back and forth. (I would think they’d need at least six going to and fro to keep any kind of frequency). A huge drawback to any shuttle (and, indeed, also Muni) is that after the event is over, when masses of people are all leaving at the same time, it will take forever to actually get on one. What I find most interesting about this shuttle is they are basically saying the actual price of a direct ride from the Civic Center to the Polo Fields is $5. (I assume they are just covering costs, not making a profit.)

    2) They are offering free pedi-cab rides from the park entrance at Stanyan to the Polo Fields.  However, there are only going to be 10 pedi-cabs.  Impact will be slight.

    3) They are offering free valet bike parking provided this year by Levi’s rather than SFBC. Does Levi’s have any clue how to provide mass valet bike parking?  I guess we will soon see.  One hopes Levi’s has hired a large number of former SFBC valet parkers who know what they’re doing.  In any event, I think this indicates a watershed moment in which a major corporation realizes that marketing to bicyclists is an excellent way to target the urban 18-30 year old demographic. Expect more of this.

    Ways in which I think Outside Lands could improve their transportation policies:

    1) The shuttle from Civic Center to the Polo Fields should be no more than $15 for a three day pass. Yes, this means the the Festival will have to subsidize it. It should leave at least every 15 minutes, and at the end of the day they need a whole bunch of extra buses is they want to have a prayer of getting everyone back to BART in less than an hour.

    2) The big problem with valet parking is that it can take a long time to get your bike after an event.  For people with expensive bikes, it is worth the peace of mind.  However, costs could be reduced and convenience increased if the self-park areas had video camera surveillance and a few security guards wandering around keeping an eye on things.  No guarantees that your bike wouldn’t be stolen in the self-park areas, but it would reduce the odds, and if it did get stolen, at least you’d have video footage of who stole it.

    3) Since every Muni trip is subsidized by SF taxpayers (although the subsidy costs the SF taxpayer less than the damage to our roads, the environment and San Franciscans’ health that cars inflict) the cheapest and best option is to encourage bicycling, (which has the added benefit of improving health and lowering health care costs.) The good news is that the primary demographic of those attending Outside Lands is young healthy people very capable of biking. To encourage bicycling, Outside Lands should offer everyone arriving by bike a chit for a free beer or some other drink equivalent in value.  Show the love to bicyclists and we all benefit.

    4) Outside Lands should create an “Easiest Ways to Bike to Outside Lands” web page containing best routes from all different directions.  Yes, experienced bicyclists all know the best ways, but inexperienced bicyclists, especially ones from outside the city, could use a little hand-holding.  It is not a bad bike ride from the Civic Center Bart station to the Polo Fields at all, and if I were coming from outside the city I would want to know that taking my bike on BART and then riding my bike up Market through the Wiggle, onto the Panhandle and then into the Park would be a very pleasant 25 min (?) bike ride in what promises to be very fine weather.  And then riding home in the evening (if I bring a bike light !) will be even more pleasant because it is mostly downhill the whole way.

  • mikesonn

    Levi bike share is better than Citi bike share.

  • Here’s a public service announcement to anyone driving to Outside Lands, from a neighborhood resident:

    Driveway Ticket: $98.00
    Towing Fee: $453.75
    Storage Fee (after 4 hours): $54.50
    Daily Storage Fee (after 24 hours): $63.50
    Watching some inconsiderate jerk get towed: PRICELESS

  • That most definitely is not Golden Gate Park on the left, unless someone recently put in some new hills and parking areas. And you can look at satellite images to see that there is no match. I definitely think the picture is outside of SF.

  • @facebook-713673729:disqus It is most definitely a shot from Sutro Heights. I’ve taken similar shots myself. Here’s another photo I just Googled, with a different angle, and the page also shows the location: https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/11102987

  • Eastlakerider

    I used to volunteer with SFBC at the bike valet. We filled up by noon. I spent more time turning people away than parking bikes. Also, I had to keep people from locking their ride on our fence. It was a terrible experience turning away people who were doing the right thing by biking in and yelling at those desperate souls looking for anything to lock up too. I wonder how the private operator will handle the crush load of 1,200+ bikes. Not very well I think.

  • Hmm… I’ve worked two Outside Lands festivals as a valet (and a zillion other events, including Tour de Fat and TIMF) and didn’t have that experience. I remember a long line, but quick-moving. And NO missing bikes, unlike those that parked locked up with out SFBC watching over their rides. I wish I knew more about how it went down this year.

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