Lessons learned from mass transit fiasco at Super Bowl

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone
Football fans make their way to trains on Sunday in Secaucus, N.J, even hours after the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 victory against the Denver Broncos.

Football fans make their way to trains on Sunday in Secaucus, N.J, even hours after the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 victory against the Denver Broncos.

Thousands of passengers in New Jersey waited hours to get trains to and from Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, with hundreds still waiting in the rain at MetLife Stadium more than two hours after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8.

“I am going to ask for my money back,” said Tommy Skul, a Broncos fan from Colorado who was among those waiting for a train after midnight.

The game’s organizers estimated 12,000 to 15,000 passengers would use New Jersey trains to get to the game and back. In reality, that number was nearly 28,000 more than an hour before kickoff, causing crowds to swell at Secaucus (N.J.) Junction, where fans complained of stifling heat and long waits to get through security.

After the game, the congestion got so bad that the public address announcer at the stadium asked fans to stay put until further notice. The game ended about 9:55 p.m. ET, but many fans weren’t able to leave until after 12:30 a.m. ET.

STORY: Super Bowl victory has Seahawks wondering what’s next

The Super Bowl host committee Monday could not be reached for comment.

“We’ve got a couple of things that we will review and obviously try to improve on,” NFL Commissoiner Roger Goodell said Monday.

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman said it would be a lesson learned.

“The sheer number that wanted to go at specific times just overwhelmed the ability to take them,” Grubman told news reporters Monday.

Fans were urged to use mass transit to the game largely because of the lack of parking at the stadium. Out of the normal 28,000 parking spaces, only about 13,000 were available because of the additional media and security requirements for the Super Bowl.

Skul, from Arvada, Colo., a suburb of Denver, said he was given a travel packet that said the only way to get to the game was via bus or train.

“But the buses were all sold out,” Skul told USA TODAY Sports. “This was literally our only way of getting down here, based on the information given to us.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Images from Super Bowl XLVIII

Grubman said he believed many people “didn’t make up their mind until the last minute as to how they were going to get there.”

In the big picture, he said, “The transportation system, for the most part, worked really well.”

It was the only apparent big glitch for the game, which was hyped as the first Super Bowl to be played in an open-air stadium in a cold-winter climate. But weather wasn’t a problem until hours after the game, when rain came down on the passengers waiting to return home.

Bill Smith, a spokesman for New Jersey Transit, said the previous record for passengers through Secaucus Junction was 22,000 for a U2 concert in 2009.

“We transported a record 33,017 customers by train last evening from the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium — a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that this was a level-one security event with the additional security measures that entails,” Smith said in a statement. “This constituted more than 40 percent of the announced attendance of 82,529. This is far more than has ever been transported to/from MetLife Stadium.”

He noted all passengers were moved safely and without incident. He also said the 2.5-hour wait after the game was “in line with projections.”

Before the game, Smith said several trains arrived simultaneously when security screening began before the game, delaying passengers from deboarding at Secaucus.

Smith said NJ Transit ran 10-car train sets, which is the maximum that can be accommodated at Secaucus Junction and MetLife Stadium. They can hold 1,350 seated passengers, plus additional standing passengers. He said they were operated on a “load-and-go” basis.

Grubman said one lesson learned is to bring in more buses next time.

“The first question we would ask is how do we plan for moving double the number of people through Secaucus Junction, and how do we plan for multiple backups of buses?” Grubman said. “We are getting pretty good at contingency planning. We need to put more elements into that contingency planning.”

Courtesy of USA Today

About Guest Writer