Robert Dunphy is a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute whose expertise is transportation planning. While in graduate school, he was director of traffic operations for the Texas A&M football stadium.
Dear Mr. Snyder:
So you just bought the Washington Redskins, your dream team. You knew the player roster was a "fixer upper," but you had no idea the stadium was, too, and that the parking is woefully inadequate. What do you do?
If possible, you invoke an escape clause that allows you to stick Jack Kent Cooke's estate with the stadium in exchange for a fat rebate. Then you fix up RFK Stadium, which has lots of parking and direct Metro access. But since it is undoubtedly too late for that, you charge the state of Maryland with the responsibility of providing adequate parking and access. After all, that was the deal it cut with the Redskins in 1996 to get the team to move there. Obviously, the $70 million that the state spent on road and other improvements was not enough, so you deserve to be made whole. Get the legislature to approve $30 million or so in state-backed revenue bonds, which is beer money compared with the $500 million in bonds that were floated to help pay for the Ravens and Orioles stadiums.
That takes care of the financing, but then what? Before we dismiss the state of Maryland, have you seen the great message signs it has for directing people to Camden Yards? Make it provide the same in Landover. After all, those are state roads that are getting choked with traffic, so Maryland transportation officials have a legitimate interest in keeping things moving.
Next, manage the heck out of those existing parking spaces. Keep track of unfilled spaces and communicate that information to the parking attendants. You might also consider some premiums to encourage car pools--perhaps by setting aside spaces for preferred ticket holders and vehicles with at least four persons.
Then, work on public transit access. The reported 7 percent of fans who rode public transit, while paltry by RFK Stadium standards, is huge for Sunday trips to the distant suburbs. Publicizing the horror stories from last week's game should be enough to give a boost to that service. The transit authority, the state and Prince George's County also should set a goal of at least doubling the ridership to Redskins Stadium. A combination of additional service and possibly more subsidies would make sense. And don't forget private bus operators and barsthat run special charters; piling 40 or so fans into a bus is a great way to cut traffic.
Finally, as you offered to do last week, go ahead and develop additional parking spaces to address the remaining deficit. But if you can encourage more car pooling and transit, the job becomes a lot less onerous. The cost of land around the stadium isn't going down, and the price per space may be more than you think. Find some vacant lots nearby that can provide interim relief.
Also, you may be able to share some of these new spaces with existing or new businesses. Fixing the parking, while an unanticipated pain, is a manageable task that will win the fans' respect while you go about the business of developing a new championship team.