VTA: No, We Won’t Cut Train Service to Move More Cars at Levi’s Stadium

Image: CBS 5

Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority says it does not plan to reduce light-rail service in order to move more cars at Levi’s Stadium during the post-game traffic crunch.

“Transit is not the problem; transit is a solution,” the agency wrote in a blog post yesterday, countering a report from the San Jose Mercury News on Monday.

As fans left the new Santa Clara stadium’s first 49ers game on Sunday, the Mercury reported that drivers “were trapped in their [parking] lots up to two hours as a constant stream of pedestrians and trains blocked their paths.” Jim Mercurio, the 49ers vice president for operations, told the Mercury that “his team will look at slowing down train service, perhaps to every seven or eight minutes, to let more vehicles through.” Trains were run every five minutes after Sunday’s game.

VTA spokesperson Colleen Valles was quoted in the article saying, “We have extra capacity,” giving the impression that the agency would go along with the idea.

But apparently not. As Cyclelicious reported yesterday, Valles penned a “strong response” to clear things up in a blog post titled, “Slowing down trains will build up gridlock”:

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.

The Mercury News article noted that VTA increased its game-day light-rail service, after transit-riding soccer fans suffered crowded, infrequent service in recent weeks:

The Valley Transportation Authority logged another win following a really rough outing during the opening stadium event on Aug. 2. Gone are the long postgame waits for light-rail trains and over-packed train cars, as the addition of an extra storage track outside the stadium, beefed-up service and a tweak to how passengers are loaded seem to have paid off.

Still, the agency’s buses and trains carried 9,400 people, down 11 percent from a peak of 10,600 during the first preseason game last month. While planners had anticipated 20 percent of attendees would take transit to stadium events, only a bit more than 15 percent rode the rails or buses Sunday.

Mark Dreger, an SF resident who went to the 49ers game, reported a positive experience on VTA:

Making sure transit service runs smoothly seems like a smart strategy to convince fans to come without a car next time — and VTA apparently understands that.

CBS reporter Len Ramirez illustrated the bottlenecks for cars at the stadium, due to only two of four sides being accessible. Image: CBS 5

As to the actual cause of the bottlenecks for cars, CBS 5 reporter Len Ramirez pointed out in a report that the stadium was situated in such a way that the parking lots can only be accessed on two sides, rather than four. “That leaves only the west side and the north side, and guess what — the north side is also where the light-rail trains run,” Ramirez said.

“It’s going to take a while to work out the kinks, which makes sense,” said Ratna Amin, transportation policy director for SPUR, which has offices in SF and San Jose. “In a location like where Levi’s Stadium is, it is essential that things work for cars, and it’s essential that they work for transit. Any solution that discourages transit ridership to the stadium would be a step backward.”

  • If only VTA put this much effort into the rest of their system, it’d be bearable to live in Santa Clara County without a car.

  • Sounds like a grade A Restore Transit Balance solution – just put cars in front of mass transit and everything will be AOK

  • Andy Chow

    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.

  • SuperQ

    Reminds me of how bad transit is to some places, even in Germany.

    For example, Berlin Schönefeld Airport. To get from the train station into the airport terminal you have to walk 500+ meters past all the parking lots.


    In Zurich, the train station is below the airport. You walk directly from the terminal, through the service/checkin mall, into the rail station.

    Hopefully the new Berlin airport will suck less.

  • ChristopherJK

    All those pricks walking to their cars in distant parking lots were blocking the rightful drivers in the close parking lots. Damn them!

  • “…were trapped in their lots for up to two hours as a constant stream of pedestrians and trains blocked their paths.”

    You’re kidding me, right?

    Recall that this is the same San Francisco 49ers front office that solemnly promised that they wouldn’t DREAM of holding Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football until they had achieved “their” goal of 26% mass transit use in Santa Clara.

    The 26% was total BS when they made that claim. What, more than what SamTrans, A/C and SFMTA were achieving at Candlestick?

    Horse apples.

    What we’re hearing now is something even more ridiculous:

    –> That the 49ers actually want the VTA to STOP operating mass transit as efficiently as they were, just so that automobile drivers can jam-pack their way out to 101 and 237, spewing exhaust the whole way.

    Hell, no: We shouldn’t be letting up on mass transit to Levi’s Stadium.

    Not for minute.

    Not one bit.

    William F. “Bill” Bailey, Treasurer,


  • Lego

    Thanks for the postcard! Great visual.. And on a rainy/snowy day, walking over a half a kilometer with luggage (and kids, etc) must really be pleasant. And this is Berlin, the nation’s capitol?!

  • Justin

    In my entire life being a fan of both the SF Giants and 49ers, I’ve never seen a single sports team attempt to slowdown mass transit service to move more cars faster. It seems pretty stupid at most as I’m glad to see VTA stand their ground and hope they continue to do so. Can the 49ers understand that cause of that traffic congestion is too many cars and too many people driving(not to say that everyone has that option to avoid driving)????? I just don’t understand that if the mass transit options are better at Levi’s Stadium as opposed to the old retired Candlestick, why wouldn’t they build a plan to encourage better use, seems like right towards the completion, they focused too much on acquiring as much parking as they can, rather than accommodating and improving alternative modes of transportation that would balance out. If the 49ers focused on improving the alternatives and encouraging more people to use them perhaps maybe the congestion can be mitigated a little bit, yes I understand there will be congestion no matter what after any big sports event

  • andrelot

    There is a fully covered walkway til the station. More importantly, this airport terminal (and its adjacent station) are going to be decommissioned as soon as the new terminal (visible on Google on the SE corner of the airfield) is opened.


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