As rumors continue to swirl that sports and entertainment giant, AEG, is getting close to releasing plans for a National Football League Stadium in Downtown Los Angeles, sides are already being drawn in what will surely be a contentious debate. In such a debate, Streetblog’s role is not to take sides, but to draw attention to the transportation impacts and planning involved with the project. To that end, here’s a preview of what is important when deciding whether or not a Downtown Football stadium will be a traffic disaster for Los Angeles.
The most important part of the transportation planning is that it’s credible. That means that AEG and its partners should submit to a full environmental review and not try to pull a Roski and bribe the legislature and governor to exempt the stadium. At this point in time, no NFL team has made any noise about wanting to “take their talents to the Southland,” so the year it would take to fill out a CEQA review of the project shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
A solid estimate of how many people will ride transit to the games is one of the most important parts of the environmental review. The failed proposal for a new stadium in mid-town Manhattan was challenged in court because their transit modeling defied logic and precedent as the developers attempted to convince New Yorkers that event crowds wouldn’t destroy traffic and transit patterns. Despite their high estimates, the developer didn’t provide a plan to encourage transit use through reduced parking or bundling transit passes in to the cost of the tickets.
How the stadium would encourage transit ridership and discourage car driving is a crucial part of their transportation plan. The area around Staples Center and L.A. Live have car parking lots running near capacity. Will the developer want to build a parking lot skyscraper so that every football fan that wants to drive to the stadium can?
Speaking of parking, a lot of chartered buses come to NFL games. Where are you going to put them?
Conversely, will the stadium help cover the costs of operating more trains and buses throughout the transit system to move people to and from the stadium, or is it assumed that these costs should be born by the public? The same question should be asked of public safety officials who will be working to control snarling traffic. It took a new law to make the Hollywood Bowl and other venues pay for their public safety officers. And let’s not even talk about the Dodgers’ insistence that someone else pay to bring their ticket and concession buying fans to their stadium.
The transportation plan need also address the model to get people to and from the stadium when an event, be it football or a Randy Neuman concert, occur at the same time as a Clippers/Kings/Lakers game. There will be conflicts and those conflicts will see 20,000 more people descending on the area than if a football game were happening in static.
One of the advantages of placing a stadium in a Downtown is that people can go to a game without needing a car or transit at all. I have to admit the thought of throwing on my “Perry-72” jersey and pedaling Downtown to see a Bears game once every eight years sounds pretty appealing. But it wouldn’t be nearly as much if I’m expected to chain my bike onto a sign or in the smoking area as Dodgers want me to. The Downtown Stadium could be a great place for L.A. to have a San Francisco Giants style bike valet program.
There will also be people that want to walk. A public safety and wayfinding plan to get pedestrians to and from the stadium without being thrown into constant conflict with automobile drivers may be the most important, but oft easily overlooked portion of any stadium plan.
When AEG announces their plans for the Downtown, it will be important to look past the breathless news coverage and the “football fan v NIMBY” arguments. We need to look beyond the headlines to see if AEG is trying to build something good for themselves and Los Angeles or if they are just green washing a coming Carmageddon.