Streetsblog Rewind: Transportation Engineer Looks at the Lakers

As some of you know, I’m in Baltimore for a wedding today and am not going to have time to update the website. My colleagues with Streetsblog might be posting some material on the LA Streetsblog site later today, but to make certain you don’t have to go an entire day without the original content I know you all love, I’m republishing one of the pieces from the Southern California Voices Series done by some guest writers at the Street Heat blog between Christmas and the New Year.

This piece was written by Marybeth Miceli, a transportation engineer that like me recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, and chronicles her experiences traveling to her first Lakers game. What makes Miceli’s opinion different than just another person complaining about too much parking and not enough transit? Miceli was the transportation engineer for the New York Mets when they fully embraced transit while bulldozing the parking lot for their current stadium to build a new one.  During her time working with the Mets, transit usage to Shea Stadium doubled.

The article was written last December.  Just like Streetsblog focused on UCLA during their run in the NCAA tournament, I thought the NBA playoffs were a good time to give some attention to the Lakers. Please excuse all the references to New Year’s parties and remember these are her first impressions, both as a transportation engineer and a basketball fan, of what it is like traveling to Staples Center on gameday.

Have a Very Transit New Year…Or At Least Try

As the former transportation engineer for the NY Mets, I was in charge of traffic demand management, VMS, wayfinding, transit, remote parking, shuttles, and general coordination with the zillion different agencies involved with transportation around Shea Stadium and the new Citi Field currently under construction in the parking lots adjacent to Shea. I spent two years on the project. I tell you this so you are aware of where I am coming from when I speak about the transportation access and egress at the Staples Center during a recent Lakers games.

Now, I have never before been to the Staples Center (being new to the L.A. area and neither rooting for the Lakers, nor the Clippers, nor the Kings, nor the Sparks, nor whoever else plays there). So I began by visiting the Lakers website for directions to the arena because I was going to a Lakers game. On the directions page, there is no mention of mass transit anywhere (though we will find out later, there is mass transit around the arena and we witnessed some people even taking it!) Not one mention of transit. In fact, you can’t even find any mention of transit on the entire site! My favorite part though is that under the directions it boasts, "the arena is accessible from many freeways", well of course it is, we’re in L.A. The handy dandy map provided is very helpful in showing all of the plentiful surface parking around the stadium but oddly, doesn’t show the many transit stops that are even closer than the parking at times. See below for the Lakers’ super helpful map.

 

By contrast, the NY Mets give transit directions first and have pushed transit through deals with the major transit rail agencies in the NY Metro area and a ton of advertising. You can see their very detailed and helpful directions here.

In fact Mr. Met and Mayor Bloomberg have encouraged mass transit to the game (the extensive ‘Take the Train to the Game’ campaign) in various TV and print ads, as well as in the stadium itself. The Mets have also added a ferry service as another appealing transit option.
So, of course, after seeing how poor the Lakers website was, in disbelief, I went searching for mention of transit and the Staples center anywhere.

I found it…sort of.

So, if you visit the Staples Center website and go to the directions page and scroll to the bottom, you can get…a phone number for the transit agency…wow, that’s great, thanks Staples Center.

Hey Lakers, Hey Staples Center, pay attention! Go to the Kings website…they list something called… transit.

Well, ok, they list trains and not buses but we’re getting closer to useful.

Then I went to the Clippers site and got very excited because they have a whole page called Public Transportation;, FINALLY.

Except…the page lists the same contact info as on the Staples site with this paragraph added:

There are many alternative forms of transportation to STAPLES Center events, including Metro Rail and Metro buses which frequently stop near STAPLES Center. If you’re coming to STAPLES Center by train, Metro Rail Pico Station is only a block away from the STAPLES Center. To find the route that’s best for you, use the Trip Planner on http://www.metro.net/default.asp

Well, ok, at least the Clippers acknowledge the existence of alternative transportation (though I’d like to point out mass transit is not the only form of alternative transportation but I guess I’m being picky) whereas it seems maybe the Lakers think it is some sort of mythical creature and refuse to use their website to propagate such a myth.

Well, enough about the Lakers joke of a website. Moving on.

Upon arriving at the arena, I was impressed…yes impressed. The parking permits are color coded so that traffic management teams can easily identify and direct vehicles to the correct parking area.

The signage and VMS (variable message signage) was well distributed. The pedestrian wayfidning was well planned, very visible and even architecturally appealing. The pedestrian walkways and crosswalks were well marked and wide. The signal timing allowed for easy pedestrian crossing to surrounding parking lots. The pavement markings for vehicles were clear. And to be fair, the immense amounts of surface parking is shared between venues which is better planning than designated parking for just Staples or just Nokia (though it looked as though a Nokia specific parking structure was being built.) Even during egress, they close Chick Hearn Blvd. for pedestrian safety and ease of egress from the arena. All in all the operations and planning in the immediate vicinity of the stadium was well thought out and executed.

However, here are my suggestions. So much more can be done to enhance the fan experience, to encourage patronage of the local businesses and vendors and generally for urban revitalization in the area.

1. The parking lots are spread out around the vicinity of the arena. Great, let’s use this to promote local businesses or local vendors as it is done around Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

If the parking layout is not going to be used for revitalization then just build one tall parking structure and allow the immense amount of surface parking land to be used to revitalize the neighborhood.

2. Transit…on the Lakers website…promote transit deals…consistency of information between teams and venues. Transit, transit, transit equals less congestion. And many stadiums are now planning transit oriented development (TOD) with residential and retail venues around the arena. That would certainly help revitalize the area.

3. Since Flower is a bike route, maybe some bike parking and some mention on the website.
In short, there are many things the Staples Center does correctly…for vehicles and people walking from their vehicles, period. There is so much more that can be done though. Transit should be encouraged and patronage of local businesses and/or vendors should be encouraged. With such a busy arena and large theater right in the area so much more can be done to encourage revitalization of the neighborhood. One might dare to say that the large venues there have an obligation to work with the city to encourage such a revitalization, certainly everyone would benefit. And transit would play a large role.

So, at the very least, let’s try to promote the use of transit and reduce congestion in the area. It can and has been done. The NY Mets have successfully achieved and maintained a modal shift from approximately 25% transit to 50% transit with a concerted marketing effort by the Mets and the MTA and by providing LESS parking. Perhaps a lesson can be learned here. Provide less parking, encourage mass transit and maybe, just maybe we can get people out of their cars and onto mass transit.

New Year’s is described on Wikipedia as "an event that happens when a culture celebrates the end of one year and the beginning of the next year." Wouldn’t it be great if we could at least try to embrace transit culture in L.A. in the New Year and dissuade the insane car culture here?

Marybeth Miceli served as the senior transportation engineer for the New York Mets in 2006 and 2007. She now lives in Los Angeles and serves as Chief Operating Officer of an engineering firm.

  • One overlooked edge in being transit-friendly: you get more customers “for free” once the non-auto transit infrastructure has been properly laid out.

    Car transit costs a ton to build, but a lot of that money can get made back by charging to park. Dodger Stadium charges out the rear to let you park you car.

    I am sure that they are afraid of losing that parking revenue if they were to shift away from automobile use.

    I imagine that many in L.A. see it as a zero-sum game: the same amount of consumers will arrive at your destination, would you rather charge them to park or let them get in for free?

    The reality is that big events and public places naturally attract people – and transits users, cyclists, and pedestrians represent a “free” customer that did not require thousands of dollars in private money to go towards to build and maintain a parking space.

  • Vagapolitan

    What’s it going to take for LA to get the masst transit system truely underway. I’m talking about on NYC scale. Not only should there be a “Subway to the Sea” but it should encompass ALL parts of LA county.

    I’ve been around to NYC, Boston, Chicago, London and have experienced how great their respective cities are BECAUSE i was able to navigate either by foot or public transit. We are doing all visitors to our great city a disservice by not having the best transit available. Who do I need to talk to about this?

  • Vagapolitan: Hate to break this to you, but NYC’s subway was not built in a day, nor a week, nor a year, nor even 10 years. But it did take a long-ass time to build. It’s just that nearly all of it was built before your lifetime.

    Los Angeles’ system is being built during our lifetime. That’s just reality, and it takes time for lines to be planned, funding to be attained, contracts to be awarded, concrete to dry. Even if we do have billions or trillions to build it all, it still takes time for it to take shape. Perhaps in this age of instant self-gratification, patience is a long-lost art.

    So if you’re that impatient perhaps you should look into cryogenically freezing yourself for the next 50-100 years, that way you won’t have to wait that long.

  • militant angeleno is

    militant!

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