CA: 49ers Sticking to Transit Plan After Traffic Mess at Stadium

Aug. 05--Two days after the inaugural sporting event at Levi's Stadium produced agonizing postgame traffic jams and long lines at the light-rail stations, the 49ers said they'll stick to their transportation game plan, while looking at how to make things better in time for the first preseason game Aug. 17.

Sounding much like a head coach, 49ers officials said they'll review the results -- including fan complaints -- from Saturday night's San Jose Earthquakes soccer game and decide how to improve what some fans described as postgame chaos. While some people reported smooth postgame travels, others complained of waiting for an hour to get out of parking lots, while transit riders bemoaned similar waits to get on slow-moving light-rail trains.

"We'll do exactly what the team does," said Jim Mercurio, vice president of stadium operations and security. "We'll review film and comments and critiques and make changes."

Many of those changes, he said, involve correcting errors, such as narrowing three lanes of traffic on one stretch of Tasman Drive to one instead of two as the stadium's transportation plan calls for, and allowing general traffic into some areas where access was supposed to have been limited.

Overall satisfied

Despite the after-game delays, and a few problems before the game, Mercurio said the 49ers were pleased with the stadium's opening performance.

"It was a good experience for the most part," he said. "We know people were frustrated, and we're going to make changes. But we did a lot of things right."

Similarly, officials with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which serves the stadium with light rail and express buses, promised to make improvements, but boasted that the system hauled more than 9,000 people to the stadium.

Special express bus service on five lines worked particularly well, said Colleen Valles, a VTA spokeswoman. But she acknowledged that postgame lines forced some fans to wait 45 minutes to an hour. Some trains were also slowed significantly because of traffic and people on the light-rail tracks, she said. One pregame train lost power and, when restarted, had to run without air conditioning.

"We are going to be looking at our entire service plan and whether we can make any changes," she said.

Contingency train

The South Bay transit agency already plans one big change that should shorten waits -- and also ease traffic congestion. A pocket track -- "literally a place we can put trains in our pocket," Valles said -- will be finished in time for the 49ers' first exhibition game Aug. 17 at Levi's Stadium. It will allow VTA to store three three-car trains, each holding 350 people, which can be pressed into service when crowds build.

Once the pocket track opens, 49ers officials said, it will also ease traffic on Tasman between Old Ironsides and Patrick Henry drives, where construction cuts off a lane of traffic and exits from parking lots.

While Saturday's soccer game drew 48,765 fans compared with the 70,000 expected during NFL games, Great America amusement park next to the stadium staged a popular event that filled its main parking lot -- to be used by the stadium on game days -- and that ended about the same time as the soccer game.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @ctuan

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