A few years ago, shortly after the NJ Transit spur to the Meadowlands opened, I attempted to take the train to a Springsteen concert. Heading there, I had no problems, but on the way home, the trip was a veritable disaster. Crowds surged against barriers; trains came and went; and what should have been a 30-minute trip took two hours.
Since my first attempt at taking the train to what was then Giant Stadium, I haven’t done so since. I’ve seen a few football games and another concert, and each time, I’ve driven. With MetLife Stadium and its higher capacity, the problem hasn’t gone away, and each Sunday, football fans are dismayed to find the train situation little improved since its early days. It will soon find its day in the spotlight though when the Super Bowl arrives in New Jersey in a few weeks.
For all the stadiums in New York City these days, MetLife is frustratingly inaccessible compared to the rest. It’s close to the city but on the wrong side of a bunch of choke points. When 80,000 fans — and 400,000 people — descend upon New York for Super Bowl week, they’re going to have to get around, and the region’s transit agencies are working together to make the process as smooth as possible.
For starters, New Jersey Transit yesterday announced a commemorative Super Pass for Super Bowl week. For $50, riders can enjoy unlimited travel from Monday, January 27 through Monday, February 3 on all New Jersey Transit rail, bus, light right and Access Link services. It’s part of a plan that New York and New Jersey officials hope will see 80 percent of those in the city for the big game use mass transit to get around.
“This is the first ‘Mass Transit Super Bowl, and we’re thrilled to be able to partner with Governor Christie and NJ TRANSIT to offer this convenient, cost-effective pass to efficiently and safely transport hundreds of thousands of visitors to events in New Jersey and across the region during Super Bowl week and for the game itself,” Al Kelly, Jr., CEO of the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, said in a statement.
As for the game itself, with limited parking going for $150 a spot, a special $51 bus will run to the Meadowlands, but these plans are untested. The Times runs down the options and the concerns:
New York City subways, New Jersey Transit and PATH trains will have about the same level of service as during weekday rush periods. For the game, the host committee will operate a bus fleet called the Fan Express to carry people to and from five sites in Manhattan and four in New Jersey. The buses will cost $51 round trip, and one lane of the Lincoln Tunnel will be dedicated to them.
“The bus piece is different and new,” Mr. Kelly said. “It’s like the Olympics model.”
Public transit is especially crucial to this year’s Super Bowl because only about 13,000 parking spaces will be available at MetLife Stadium. The rest of the more than 28,000 spaces there will be taken up by trucks used to televise the game and to provide entertainment. In addition to the buses, New Jersey Transit trains will be operating, with game-day service from Secaucus Station to the stadium…“If there’s any region that knows how to deal with public transportation issues,” said Jonathan Tisch, an owner of the New York Giants and one of the chairmen of the host committee, “it’s this region.”
The comparison to the Olympics is apt because this, with the 7 line extension, is how the city would have addressed congestion concerns had Bloomberg won his 2012 bid. Now, we’ll see this play out on a smaller scale for the Super Bowl. Hopefully, everything runs a bit smoother than my early train rides to the Meadowlands.