September 13, 2004
Take the train to the game

After the Rice-UH game at Reliant last Sunday there was a fair amount of complaining by fans about the parking and traffic situation. Turns out they had even worse problems for the opening Texans game.

"It took us an hour to circle around and park they wouldn't let us in," said Bryce Miller of Spring, a club seat ticket holder who had a permit to park in the Blue Lot. "It's kind of annoying when it's prepaid parking."

Miller and other Blue Lot parkers said they exited westbound South Loop at Fannin Street and then were forced by police to turn right onto Fannin instead of proceeding straight to Kirby, where the lot's entrance is located.

They said it was a disaster to get over to Main and reach Kirby from the west side. And once they got in the lot, many club and suite patrons found the reserved parking area full and had to park in the far corner along with Six Flags AstroWorld customers.

"It only took us 15 minutes to reach the Fannin exit but then more than an hour to get in the Blue Lot," said Shaun Austin, who drove up from Pearland. "They are closing off the roads at the wrong spots."

Maps sent by the Texans to Blue Lot permit holders instruct fans coming from the east to "avoid delays" by exiting the Loop at Fannin, staying on the frontage road and turning right on Kirby. The traffic headaches frustrated some season-ticket holders, who described last year's parking as more efficient.

"I want a refund," said an irate John Wald of Spring, walking toward the stadium 55 minutes after kickoff. "Those three cops made everyone turn. We couldn't go straight. We sat for two hours."

Fans parking in other lots said they also got stuck in the congestion around the stadium.

Fans who rode the light rail line, on the other hand, had no problems:

More than 5,000 football fans crammed MetroRail trains Sunday in the first NFL regular season test of the Main Street line.

Riders, several on board for the first time, had mostly favorable reviews of the new way to get to Houston Texans contests. Metro said about 5,100 took the rail to Reliant Park, 7 percent of the 70,255 people who had tickets to the game.

The passenger count Sunday, while higher than the Metropolitan Transit Authority's initial projection of 4,500, was down 19 percent from ridership of 6,262 to the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys last month.

Richard Zook of River Oaks had a $20 Red Lot parking permit that came with the tickets he bought. But he decided to park instead at his downtown office tower Sunday and hop on the light rail with his 8-year-old son, John, and a friend of his son instead.

"It saves time and trouble by taking the train," Zook said. "I've parked at the stadium in the past and getting in there can be a nightmare."

Rice fans also lauded the rail line, by the way.

I work near Reliant, and I know how nasty the traffic can be around there when there's a big event. The problem is that there's only so many routes you can take, and getting out of the parking lots themselves can take forever. I grew up taking the #4 train to Yankee Stadium, so taking the light rail line to a Texans game would be a natural for me. We'll see if more fans take that message away after this week.

I will say this: I'm surprised that a normally well-run operation like the Texans, especially in their third year of existence, could screw up Game One like this. Very much not what you'd expect.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 13, 2004 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

As an added bonus, you wouldn't have to travel through the South Bronx late at night. Unfortunately, you also wouldn't get the floor show that you usually get on the NYC subway (homeless people begging for change, subway preachers, and assorted people with unique personalities). :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on September 14, 2004 8:12 AM

My experience with parking at Reliant for Texans games (admittedly, only 2-3) has been very smooth, so long as you don't expect to wait until 30 minutes before game time to head to the stadium. MUCH better than the old Astrodome mess.

The decision not to run the park-and-ride bus shuttles almost certainly came as a result of trying to make happy with METRO (note: I'm not asserting there was pressure from METRO, but it's possible), and wasn't well received. That didn't help matters. And frankly, it's not something Bob McNair should have done (and isn't something the hated Jerry Jones would have allowed to happen -- however much folks hate him, he takes good care of his brand).

After riding the train to the UH-Rice game, I won't be repeating the experience. While the social aspects of hanging out downtown and riding to the game were nice, getting out afterwards was FAR WORSE than driving -- a miserable experience. I'll definitely drive for the Miami-UH game.

Posted by: kevin whited on September 14, 2004 8:20 AM

My wife and I rode the train from downtown to the game this weekend. We parked for free, paid $4 for a day pass, which was overkill. It was crowded but not too bad. We arrived quicker than we expected and had an extra beer.

Leaving took a bit more time but they had tents set up to provide shade for the wait. In the end we only waited about 20-25 minutes and made it home about 30 minutes earlier than we had expected.

The only reason I wouldn't use the train is if the time you have to wait before you leave is too much to bear. Going is easier since people arrive at different times. Leaving is always tough because everyone is moving at the same time.

That said, if I were Kevin I wouldn't discount using the train for the Miami-UH game. If the Coogs play like they did against OU, most of the fans will have reason to leave long before the final gun.

Posted by: Patrick on September 14, 2004 8:39 AM