San Jose Earthquakes fans became guinea pigs Saturday night in the poorly conceived traffic experiment that is Levi's Stadium. Attendees at the soccer game, the first major event at the stadium, were stuck for hours in standstill traffic trying to get both in and out of the game, as ABC 7 and others report.
Months ago there were rumblings that the city of Santa Clara and the 49ers were likely being overly optimistic about how they were going to handle upwards of 18,000 vehicles arriving at football games, in the hopes that most people would use public transportation (VTA light rail). But on Saturday, some 49,000 people came to the game about two thirds of the stadium's 70,000-person capacity and a lot of them took their cars and hit gridlock traffic a full two hours before kickoff.
And this is exactly what the 49ers hoped they'd be escaping by abandoning Candlestick Park, where the traffic situation after games was notorious, and where there was even less access to public transportation.
Oh, and parking also really sucks, as predicted.
This is how Ann Killion tells it to the Chron:
With a goal of arriving 90 to 120 minutes before the 7:30 game (actual kickoff was at 7:53 p.m.), I followed the instructions on my parking pass, optimistically turning onto Tasman [Drive], the road that leads to the stadium, a little before 6 p.m. and hit gridlock. Complete and total, Candlestick-esque stopped traffic. It took a full hour to go one mile. But at least I was able to get one of the last parking spots when I finally got to my lot - which those behind me in the jam weren't able to do. They were turned away and sought street parking in neighborhoods miles from the stadium, exactly the scenario many Santa Clara residents were concerned about.
Those who opted for the VTA light rail option which will be the only real public-transportation option for those taking CalTrain from S.F. or traveling up from San Jose reported late trains, trains that took twice as long to arrive, and at least one train that stalled and lost air conditioning, leading to panicked passengers trying to pry open emergency windows.
And as you can see from some tweets below, the traffic situation getting out of the stadium was just as nightmarish. (The photo that was tweeted below was from this traffic jam in China in 2010. It was a joke.)
I think leaving #LevisStadium is similar to Dodger Stadium.... lots of traffic, no moving.— Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) August 3, 2014
Also, there were problems with the sound system and some other technical glitches in the stadium itself.
The Niners have two weeks to figure out a solution to these problems, if there is one, before they'll be hosting a sold-out preseason game with the Denver Broncos on August 17, which will be the first football game played in the stadium. And did we mention that event will draw 21,000 more bodies to the area than Saturday's game?
The 49ers' first regular season game will be against the Chicago Bears on September 14, and look for more insane traffic as a whole new group of fans arrives for the first college football game on October 24, when Cal meets Oregon.
Here are the public transportation options, such as they are. You may want to consider helicoptering in, or, as the Chron's Ann Killion jokes, parachuting in.