SBD/February 3, 2014/Events and Attractions

Super Bowl Fans Overwhelm NJ Transit, With Twice The Passengers NFL Estimated

NFL execs had estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people would take trains to the game
More than 27,000 people yesterday "flooded the Secaucus train station in New Jersey" for transportation to Super Bowl XLVIII, "wildly exceeding official estimates as fans waited uncomfortably amid long delays to the game," according to Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY. NJ Transit spokesperson Bill Smith said that the NFL "estimated that 12,000 to 15,000 people would take New Jersey trains to the game." But he added that by 4:30pm ET, "about two hours before kickoff, the actual number was 27,000" (USA TODAY, 2/3). In N.Y., Schapiro, Sacks & Hutchinson write one of the "biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history was capped by one of the biggest blunders in regional transit history." Overwhelmed by a "record number of riders, NJ Transit kept fans waiting after the game for hours for shuttle trains from MetLife Stadium." The situation "quickly deteriorated into transportation chaos." A stadium security guard said, "We completely lost control." Giants and Jets games "typically see about 6,000 riders" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/3). In New Jersey, Abbott Koloff notes as the line to leave the game "grew to be more than 200 yards long and six to 12 people wide, stadium employees at the Meadowlands rail station invited fans to return to the stadium for refreshments." But the crowd "booed" when it was told there "would be only non-alcoholic beverages" (Bergen RECORD, 2/3). In Newark, Kelly Heyboer notes the "long lines and confusion added to a frustrating day for some fans." It was a "harrowing day on the rails" for many fans (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/3). Giants President & CEO John Mara said of the transportation issues, "Maybe that's one thing we'd do differently" (N.Y. POST, 2/3).

ALL ABOARD! The AP's David Porter reports fans after the game "converged on the rail station for the return trip, clogging the platform as trains loaded and left when full." It "finally took NJ Transit bringing in more than 50 buses ... to eliminate the long delays at the stadium area." An announcement on the scoreboard at MetLife Stadium "asked fans to please stay in the stadium due to congestion at the platform." Still, the "rest of the festivities went off without a hitch." A NJ Transit spokesperson early today said that "nearly 25,000 passengers had been moved to Secaucus by midnight, two hours after the game, and that overall it was a 'tremendous success,' considering the volume of passengers transported without accident or incident." A spokesperson said that when the last train "cleared the platform at 12:45 a.m., 32,900 people had been transported by rail and more than 1,100 others taken by bus to Port Authority" (AP, 2/3). In Newark, Paul Mulshine noted with parking passes "scarce and overpriced, the train was the only alternative for most fans from New Jersey" (NJ.com, 2/2). CBS' Don Dahler said, "For some of the fans it was a rocky road. Many of them took more than an hour to go the six miles from Manhattan to MetLife Stadium" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 2/3). 

THE REVIEWS ARE IN: In N.Y., Matt Flegenheimer notes there were "occasional scenes of large-scale confusion at some of the region’s transit hubs." Fans were "mostly orderly," but it was "probably not quite the scenario the Super Bowl organizers had envisioned." For a "chunk of the afternoon, the crucial train transfer at Secaucus -- typically a simple walk through the station -- remained uncomfortably tangled, rankling fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3). Broncos fans "looking to duck out early lamented that they couldn't get back fast enough because there weren't many trains." Fans and transit officials said that the system "functioned smoothly" until about 2:00pm (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/3). In N.Y., Jere Longman notes fans of "both teams said beforehand that the party atmosphere was tempered by bottlenecks on the public rail" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3). THE MMQB's Peter King writes, "The NFL has to re-think its love of mass transportation and abandonment of cars at a Super Bowl, particularly at a venue where fans are so used to driving. And the Meadowlands is a driver’s paradise. When fans are still waiting to get a train or bus home two hours after the game, you’ve got a problem -- especially when some of said fans have paid thousands to attend the event" (MMQB.SI.com, 2/3). 

HOW WAS THE RIDE IN? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Dawsey & Kravitz note fans arriving around 5:00pm "waited for about 15 minutes to get through security lines" at the stadium. With a "ban on grills and tailgating except in single parking spots, the scene was relatively quiet outside the stadium before kickoff" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/3). ESPN N.Y.'s Jane McManus noted aside from the "early delay through Seacaucus, most Super Bowl visitors had a good experience getting to the stadium" (ESPNNY.com, 2/2).

WEATHER WATCHERS: In Miami, Adam Beasley notes the weather conditions at kickoff were "downright idyllic" at "49 degrees and partly cloudy." It was "only the third-coldest Super Bowl in history" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/3). In N.Y., Li, Fasick & Palmeri write the NFL "lucked out" with the weather (N.Y. POST, 2/3).

LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS: In Newark, Queally & Baxter note law enforcement agencies at the game enjoyed a "quiet afternoon and evening." With just "10 minor arrests at the stadium and two similarly minor arrests at the Secaucus Junction rail station, police and revelers alike were quick to call the NFL’s first cold-weather Super Bowl a security success" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/3). MSNBC's Mike Barnicle said, “The only time I've heard any commotion about the security and getting to the game was from people that were stuck at the Secaucus PATH train station” (“Morning Joe,” MSNBC, 2/3).
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