04 November 2007

Planning transit around a ballpark, Part III

Lew Wolff revealed on Forum with Michael Krasny that the development filing, due in 10 days, will be accompanied by 150 pages of documentation. Keep in mind that this "tome" won't be environmental impact report. It will likely include the much-anticipated traffic and transportation study. It might also contain an amended economic impact report to reflect changes in the development. The actual EIR will come after several months of study and review, first in draft form, then in final form for certification.

The traffic and transportation study will probably contain details about the shuttles that will take fans from either the current Fremont BART station or a future Warm Springs (South Fremont) BART station to Cisco Field. In an effort to provide a preview of this, this post speculates a bit on what the shuttles could look like.

The red, green, and blue lines represent potential routes from the existing Fremont BART station. The dotted yellow line shows routes from Warm Springs BART. The pink dotted line represents routes from the future Capitol Corridor/ACE station as well as the possible remote parking lot. At first glance it doesn't appear that the nearby lots (blue and yellow "P"), which are less than 1/2 mile from the ballpark, would have shuttle service.

This is where it gets tricky. Let's go with Keith Wolff's estimate that 5,000 people would either take transit or walk from the nearby village. How many would come from the village itself? 1,000? 2,000? I seriously doubt that more than 1,000 residents would go to the ballpark. The number of workers from the nearby area that could walk to the ballpark might number in the hundreds at best. So let's assume that 4,000 would come from transit.

Since there would be no direct BART or rail service to the ballpark, all transit riders would be coming via some kind of bus, big or small. So the question is, how many buses will it take? Going from what's in AC Transit's fleet, here's what they'll need:
  • 40 articulated (60' long) buses: 63 seated, 40 standees -or-
  • 60 regular (40') buses: 40 seated, 30 standees -or-
  • 200 mini or shuttle buses: 20 seated, 0 standees
There a couple more considerations to take into account. Would these shuttles provide "express" service between the station and the ballpark, or would there be stops in between? I can't see Fremont officials signing off on something that appreciably clogs their streets without providing at least some service to its own residents. And if the service included stops in between, what about service to parts of Fremont not on the routes? Or service to Newark or Union City? An express bus might take 20 minutes in favorable traffic. In bad traffic or with a bunch of stops, it could take 10-15 minutes more.

This is where our oft-neglected friend the train comes in. While Capitol Corridor won't bring fans the last mile (literally), CC trains can bridge much of the 5 mile gap. They can also overcome some major challenges. A train shuttle running from the Union City Intermodal Station would reduce the need for those 40-100 bus shuttles from Fremont BART. It would also service Union City and Fremont by default, plus a new station along the Newark section of the route could service Newark residents. Most importantly, the remaining shuttle traffic would be largely confined to the Pacific Commons area (the pink dotted line), with few shuttles crossing 880. Shorter shuttle routes translate greater efficiency and lower operating costs. The trip from Union City to Pacific Commons could run around 15 minutes - not as good as BART but better than a bus. Capitol Corridor officials had indicated in the past that they aren't set up to run a shuttle like this, but some creative scheduling can allow this service to be folded into their expanding schedule. Additional trains between Fremont and San Jose will soon be feasible with the completion of several already underway track improvement projects.

Now, on to the dotted yellow line. A study was undertaken in 2001 to determine ways to better move traffic between 880 and 680 during the commute hours. Two identified methods would immediately impact fans traveling between the proposed Warm Springs BART station and Pacific Commons.

Alternative A1 involves the widening of Auto Mall Parkway to 6 lanes east of 880. That alone should make things easier, but two other measures should be taken to mitigate traffic. First, it appears that the parking area located closest to Cisco Field will be largely VIP parking. That alone will reduce the number of cars making left turns from Auto Mall to Christy St. Rules can be established that limit left turns there to VIP parking passes and shuttle buses. Second, since Joe Fan won't get to park that close to the park, he may be forced to use the lot across Auto Mall from Pacific Commons (the uppermost "P" above). It would behoove the A's to build a pedestrian overpass over Auto Mall Parkway. A full lot there would equate to over 5,000 fans walking from the lot. Not putting in an overpass would be borderline irresponsible, as Auto Mall Parkway is 9 lanes wide in this area and only one side has a usable crosswalk. The best thing to do would be to build the overpass and stick some flexible electronic signage on it. The signage can direct traffic on event days. It can also show advertising on other days/hours.

Alternative B1 adds HOV lanes on Fremont Blvd and Grimmer Blvd between 880 and 680. If implemented, it would allow a natural route (the longer southerly dotted line) with built-in bus/carpool lanes.

I'm certain that with the direct discussions the A's have had with all of the area transit agencies, they can come up with more creative methods of serving the A's fanbase. The solutions described above are but a handful that can help bring fans to Cisco Field without huge capital expenditures while leveraging without taxing existing infrastructure.


gojohn10 said...

I went to the Cal-UCLA game a few weeks back (what has happened to the Bears?) and like a great number of fans, I took a shuttle bus from a remote parking lot to the Rose Bowl. It was such a positive experience that I have to say I've changed my mind about relying on shuttles to service Cisco field. If done properly, the experience is actually quite pleasant. Efficiency is the key and I think the best ways to do that are dedicated lanes for the buses and no stops between the pickup lot and the stadium. That and of course you want plenty of buses so that the bottleneck is loading/unloading passengers.

Anonymous said...

Now that Lew Wolff's development filing is finally in site, when can we expect construction to begin on Cisco Field? Perhaps Spring of 08?

Anonymous said...

This looks like a total mess!!

Can't believe they couldn't find something within walking distance from BART!

Anonymous said...

How do you think they will prevent people from parking in the Pacific Commons shopping center? All that free parking is going to be tempting for people to abuse.

Marine Layer said...

Enforcing parking rules at the existing PC shopping centers is doable, the question is who pays for it. There may be some kind of validation method. It's in both parties' interests to keep those lots to PC shoppers only. But what's to stop someone from going to Lowe's, buying something for $5, then walking to the ballpark afterwards?

Marine Layer said...

Spring of 08 is far too optimistic. Winter 08 or Spring 09 is a safer estimate.

Anonymous said...

I guess we'll have to plan an extra hour or two to get to the park!

Anonymous said...

They should build a monorail or people mover.

Anonymous said...

I'll take any start time as long as its before April of 09. That way we know itll open in 2011. -Jesse

Anonymous said...

Does anyone honestly think that these transportation issues will be resolved?

I think the Fremont City Council members will find this to be a big hang-up.

Jeffrey said...

I guess I disagree that the transportation challenges are as bad as people make them out to be. So that would, in effect, mean that I do believe the challenges displayed are completely solvable, and with small tweaks livable.

accountablevta said...

Don't forget that a bus shuttle is also needed from the south to connect with the light rail system. A reason to relocate to Fremont is to have a better access from the South Bay.