Stadium expansion leaves campus, city in a jam


Coaches aren't the only ones planning maneuvers during football games. Jack Molenaar, the director of Parking and Transportation, maneuvers the stadium crowds through the limited space and parking at the University.

With the stadium expansion in 2008, a possible extra 14,000 people may add to the face-off with traffic. One of the most important problems to solve, Molenaar said, is figuring out how many cars an extra 14,000 fans might bring with them.

"It's like a big chess game," Molenaar said.

The department coordinates busing and parking during games. Molenaar reduces the number of shuttles if the football game brings in fewer spectators and increases the service if the buses get crowded. The department also plans what parking lots should be opened for overflow.

Parking and Transportation, along with two other departments - University Facilities and Capital Planning, and the Department of Athletics - will plan for the extra cars after the stadium expansion in 2008, said Antonio Calcado, vice president of Facilities and Capital Planning.

Ideas still need to be ironed out between different school departments, and Calcado said he estimates they may have an outline of what they're doing in one to two months. The University is also bringing in a traffic consultant.

Meanwhile, Molenaar, along with Parking and Transportation, will collect information about traffic patterns throughout fall 2008.

Molenaar said he thinks they really have to plan, and they have to be careful so the school doesn't spend funds where they are not needed.

"We want to cross the Ts and dot the Is," Molenaar said.

To find out the extent of the traffic after the expansion, Parking and Transportation is collecting information about the thoroughfare.

The collection of data will start during the fall football season with "traffic counts," in which Parking and Transportation will station people at intersections to count cars. Also, big plastic tubes draped across roads - automatic traffic recorders - will record the density of traffic rolling over them. The data will help to find where the problem spots are during a game.

"[We will] figure out where the impacts are going to be, and then we can access what we need to do," Molenaar said.

To figure out how many vehicles the University should expect as far as parking is concerned, the department will gather data from the company Country Club. The company tallies the cars going through the turnstiles and into the parking lots, Molenaar said. They also collect parking fees.

In addition to car traffic, the University departments will also consider the shuttle routes.

"We'll be looking at things such as how buses will pick up and drop off at the stadium on game days," said Frank Wong, the executive director of Facilities Planning and Development. "And I'm sure we'll be able to develop something that will work - not only for game day, but for general campus circulation as well."

Wong said the planners might add a bus drop-off around the south side of the stadium on River Road. When the expansion plans were announced, Wong said they were shown concept sketches of the bus stop.

The expansion is not the only time the University faced challenges with traffic during football game days. This was the first year of sold-out games, and it went fairly smoothly, Molenaar said.

The department also created a lane for busses after games let out, so they could run more efficiently. Molenaar said they also have switched the bus routes because of pedestrian traffic.

The first 20 minutes after a game are often the most chaotic, as many people try to leave at the same time, he said.

But after the first 20 minutes, the stadium is empty.

Molenaar said Parking and Transportation has dealt with game day transportation for a long time.

"We know how many buses we run now. We've been doing that for a number of years," he said. "This season, we changed the routes around a bit to make them move faster. We assess each game."


Michelle Walbaum

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