Alan E. Pisarski, a transportation consultant who lives in Northern Virginia, is the author of "Commuting in America" (Eno Transportation Foundation).
Dear Mr. Snyder:
Like a lot of others last Sunday, I sat fuming in my car as we all got this year's reminder of why the new stadium location is a big-time loser. Even my "secret" route (known only to 10,000 or 20,000 other Redskins fans) failed to save me. To prevent football Sundays from turning into "Snyder's Snafu," you might want to apply several of the most cherished concepts in the field of transportation planning.
* Redefine the problem. We know what happened: There were too many fans who arrived by car and too few parking spaces. But one or two more fourth-quarter disasters like the one at the Cowboys game and you'll be able to Rollerblade in the parking lots at game time. Very clever, Coach Turner.
* Go for smart growth. It's too late to put the stadium at a site with better roads, better parking and better public transit. I stare wistfully at RFK Stadium as I pass it on the way to the games; if the game were there, I'd be in my seat by now. (There goes my secret route!) But how about offering season ticket holders a subsidy to live in houses next to the stadium? Their cars could stay home while they cheer in the stands.
* Make them pay and they'll stay away. That's an old adage in the transportation biz. So raise the ticket prices to college tuition levels, make the bad beer even more expensive, charge New York City prices for parking and--poof! No more overcrowding.
Okay, you need a real answer--something that will keep fans, not drive them away. Two things might help. The first is almost elemental: The fans need more information about where to park. Use overhead signs and radio announcements to tell people which lots are available, which are closed and how to get to the open ones. And, oh, by the way, tell the parking lot employees, too. They really shouldn't be the last to know (as they seemed to be last Sunday). Most of your problem is inside the property--the public end has been pretty well handled.
But that won't fix the problem. If you want to spend a pile of money and do some lasting good, remember that your Skins are using the stadium maybe 10 times a year (counting exhibition game--let's not even talk about playoffs yet). Invest in parking lots, yes, but not at the stadium. Instead, build them at the Metro stations that "serve" the stadium. Let people drive to the lots and then provide free buses to the game. Meanwhile, those same lots will be available the other 355 days of the year for commuters and other subway users. As a marketing guru, you should immediately see the benefits: You make the stadium into an asset for the surrounding community rather than a real source of pain.
One more idea that might appeal to your entrepreneurial side and help relieve some of the traffic pressure to boot: Provide vans at malls around the region that would take fans to the game and back--for the price of a parking space at the stadium.
In a rare moment of prescience last Sunday, I left the game at the end of the third quarter--on the theory that if the Redskins won, I didn't need to see the fourth quarter and if they lost, I certainly didn't want to be there. I made it home before the game ended--just in time to see them miss the last-second field goal that would have won the game. Lucky me.