Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Incentives vs. requirements: stadiums/arenas and transportation demand management

Washington Nationals stadiumStephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals throws a pitch against Juan Francisco #25 of the Atlanta Braves during a game at Nationals Park on August 21, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

In the testimony rounds about the Comprehensive Plan, approved in 2006, I kept making the point that the Plan did not require transportation demand management as a part of land use planning.  I joke that I changed one word in the Comp. Plan, because TDM had been suggested for planned unit developments, and in the final version, they changed "may" to "shall" therefore requiring it.

I have written many times about the need to impose transportation demand management requirements for sports stadiums and arenas, although many people have countered that with football at least, for many people, tailgating--which requires big parking lots and big vehicles--is part of the experience and can't be regulated away.

In any case, I am still flabbergasted that how the city's paid more than $600 million for the construction of the Washington Nationals stadium, without either getting any equity interest in the team nor a requirement that the team contract with WMATA for services to be provided if the games lasted beyond the normal closing hours for the system.

In "Nats fans stranded when Metro service ends before game," the Examiner reports about an instance earlier in the week when a late game--13 innings--went long, past the closing hour for the subway, and transit using fans were not able to take the subway to get home.

From the article:

The Nats warned fans when the system was closing. But Metro said the team could have decided to pay for extra service as it did for a June game against the Phillies.

"Metro has an obligation to offset the expenses associated with extending service for special events," said Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas. "Ultimately, whether the Nationals believe an extra hour of service is something they want to provide to their fans is a decision that only they can make." ...

Metro opens early and runs late for various events, but the transit agency says an outside group needs to pay $29,500 per hour to cover the cost. Metro then refunds the difference made by riders' fares.

But the agency must have an agreement in place before the service is needed, Lukas said. "The only caveat with Nats and Caps is that determinations of when to use the extra hour of service can be made based on how a particular game is playing out," Lukas said.  The city paid the bill in the first years Nationals Park was open to ensure the successful launch of the new stadium in 2008. But last year, the city said it wouldn't pay anymore.

Mayor Vincent Gray was noncommittal Tuesday about the city chipping in this year, noting that D.C. had already made a nearly $700 million investment to build the 41,546-seat stadium. "We'd be happy to talk to the team about whatever additional accommodations need to be made, but we're not prepared to make those commitments at this stage," Gray said.

There should be a standing agreement between the team and WMATA to extend service when necessary.  The could also be a service surcharge on the transit fare, to help cover the cost.  I don't think fans would mind, so long as they can get home relatively conveniently.

Since the contract's been signed, and because the Executive Branch continues to refuse to entertain transportation demand management planning requirements on such uses (my proposed amendment to require transportation demand management planning in the Comp Plan in the 2009 Amendment cycle was rejected), the city has no leverage to "force" the Washington Nationals to do this.

In the short to intermediate run, WMATA could develop a surcharge policy for such situations, to provide service while reducing costs.  You could think of it comparably to how it costs $6 to take the bus to Dulles (5A) or BWI (B30) Airports.

But the Comp. Plan needs to be changed or the forthcoming transportation plan, when approved, needs to require TDM planning, in order to change this very sorry situation.

Metrolink Angels Express promotionOne way where maybe WMATA could open up negotiations with the Nationals in a more creative way would be to create a special package of tickets + transit service at a discounted rate for groups, not exactly how the Metrolink  commuter railroad provides services in conjuction with the Los Angeles Angels baseball team (and also with the Anaheim Ducks hockey team)--there they provide a special roundtrip fare and of course, guarantee that the service home will be provided, since the last train leaves either 30 minutes or 45 minutes (on weekends) after the game ends.

Presumably there are other arrangements between sports teams and local transit authorities (although there are plenty of other failures that I can think of that I have written about including in Seattle with soccer and Dallas light rail with college football) that DDOT and WMATA could study as examples to use in terms of opening up dialogue with the Washington Nationals.

- Take the train to the game webpage, New York MTA

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