LEAVING ASIDE the wrenching opening-day outcome at Redskins Stadium, the torture for thousands of fans began a good half-day earlier. Many of them never did see the game. For those who took to the roads, getting there was not half the fun -- it was more than half the game before they got to their seats, if they ever did. Traffic and parking were the worst ever -- a sour taste of what the congestion of tomorrow may be like across the region.
Team owner Daniel M. Snyder, maintaining that the Redskins were doing all they could to address the problems, got poor scouting: "Our reports are that traffic moved well. While we had heavy volume, we're told things went well." Those reports must have originated on the bulletin board in the Cowboys' locker room. Things didn't go well; they didn't go at all for much too long. The question that lingers still is what can be done to prevent another afternoon from hell on the roads to Landover.
Short answer: Don't drive. A record crowd of nearly 80,000 cannot expect to drive to a stadium with 22,000 parking spots. Even the 7,000 more seats that Mr. Snyder now says he will build, while welcome, won't accommodate this volume. If the region ever needed a classic case for mass transportation, this is it. Fans who took Metrorail to the Landover, Cheverly or Addison Road stations could take shuttle buses from there that had their own lanes at the stadium and bus parking lots not far from the gates. (No, this service is not as convenient as the subway trip to game day at RFK was, but that stadium had more access in the city than this one does farther out).
Many stadiums around the world handle far larger crowds without any parking facilities; you don't go by car. That's not bound to happen at Redskins Stadium. Happier motoring might be possible if more fans formed car pools; if the stadium had its own traffic radio station announcing what lots were full and where to go next, instead of relying on parking lot attendants who merely moved everyone onto the next lot until some motorists had gone full circle to no avail; or if attendants and police officers had more experience and information when they took to their posts.
Years ago, fans willing to pay a fee could take public buses from various spots around the region to RFK and back. Perhaps Metro could stage a few trial runs this season. In the meantime, Metro stands ready to handle far more than the 5,480 station-to-stadium rides taken last Sunday. If 10,000 more people took Metro, life at the stadium lots might improve. But those who drive can expect their home-game road games to go into overtime because there simply is not enough parking and not enough roads to handle capacity crowds.
For motorists planning their next home-game routes, the kickoff isn't until 4:05 p.m. Oct. 3. Best start now.