San Francisco Giants keep 50 percent driving mode share

When the San Francisco Giants moved from Candlestick Park in 2000, the Giants transformed fans’ transportation patterns overnight.  95% of fans drove to the old Candlestick park location, according to Staci Slaughter, the Giants’ Communications VP. The Giants sought a different experience for fans when planning the move.   “When we were looking for sites,” said Slaughter, we knew that the best sites were served by public transportation.   We had seen that in other facilities, at Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Oriole Park  in Baltimore.”

The Giants saw that a walkable location is good for business.  ”When we chose the ballpark site, we choose a site in a more urban setting that can take advantage of the waterfront views and help with the development of the neighborhood. It helps from an economic standpoint that people leave the ballpark and stay in the neighborhood and patronize the businesses.”

The Giants’ mode share goal at the new ballpark was set by way of the environmental review process with the City.  Following the transportation analysis, the City and the Giants came up with a goal: a 50/50 modal split. Half of the Giants fans would drive, and half  would come by some other means of transportation. To cut to the chase, it worked.  Since 2000, about half of Giants fans arrive some way other than driving, taking a mix of transit services –  Caltrain, BART, Muni Light Rail, ferry – along with walking and bicycling.

 Mode share to Giants games

Slaughter described the process to create the plan, working for several years with the city and transportation experts. “We surveyed the area, assessing how many parking spots were needed and all the public transit options, to ensure that everyone can get to the ballpark.” The Giants identified 8-9000 parking spots on dedicated lots south of the ballpark with easy access to 280, as well as other spots closer to downtown that are empty at night. The transportation patterns also included fans who come to the ballpark after work.  ”We found that a lot of people like to park downtown for work, and go back to their car at night after the ballgame.”

Developing the Giants transportation plan required a lot of upfront work with neighbors and transportation agencies, according to Slaughter.  ”We worked with neighbors to implement permit parking to make sure that the ballpark was not taking over neighborhood streets and to ensure there is car turnover for small businesses in the neighborhood.  We also worked with transit services; the stadium plan  helped bring in Federal funds to build the ferry terminal.  For Muni it was a great public relations opportunity to have people to take light rail or ride the bus.”

The change took place literally overnight.  According to Slaughter, “it was a major public education effort to retrain our fans who were used to driving, and we found that people embraced it.   From day on of our first season in the new ballpark, we had a 50/50 modal split.”

The modal split isn’t 50/50 every day.  A game on a weeknight will have more driving, perhaps 55/45. On the weekend,  more people come by Caltrain and by ferry, and the balance is 50/50.  The Giants keep a constant eye on the mode share, looking at how many people use the parking lots for day, night, weekend games, and get information from the transit agencies about ridership.  Maintaining the balance, bringing in 40,000 people for 81 games per season, takes continuous attention.  Before every home stand the Giants have a “home stand meeting” with all the transit agencies, police, city services, internal operations services.  The Giants need to plan around many other events in the City, such the Blue Angels and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival.

Unlike, for example, some of the Bay Area’s major employers, which have managed gradual, and continual reductions in driving, the Giants’ goal is to maintain their 50/50 mode split which has been consistent over time.   Since Caltrain ridership has doubled in the last decade, and bicycling has been increasing, one wonders what other modes of transportation have been declining, to keep the 50% consistent.

The Giants provide ticket-holders with information about the multitude of transportation options, but don’t provide transit discounts, unlike many employers and a growing number of residential developments.  Slaughter says this would be difficult to do, since season ticket holders often share their tickets with colleagues, friends and family members who are coming from a variety of different locations.   (Although all of the transit services with access to AT&T Park utilize Clipper, and it seems logical that it would be technically possible to credit a Clipper card for those that do use transit).

As Levi’s Stadium gets set to handle customers for 49ers games in Santa Clara, and VTA works to expand capacity and improve connections to Caltrain, perhaps a lesson can be taken from the San Francisco Giants experience.

And how will San Francisco handle the new transportation challenge when the Golden State Warriors move across the Bay? With the Warriors seeking to build a basketball stadium on the waterfront as well, the Giants have been urging the Warriors to locate further away at Pier 50, rather than closer to AT&T Park at Piers 30-32.  But if the Warriors move in, the Giants could conceivably be required to evolve their transportation as well.  The Mayor’s office is supervising the environmental review, working with the Planning Department and Muni, in order to set the transportation requirements for the Warriors’ move.

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8 Responses to San Francisco Giants keep 50 percent driving mode share

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  3. Andy Chow says:

    Unlike regular commuting, people who are going to special events (ballgame, concerts, etc) are generally willing to spend a lot more on transportation. Since providing extra transit service to these events is expensive, it would be unwise to lower the fares for folks that don’t need one. Transit agencies should keep fares low for those who use transit frequently and instead focus on providing high quality service for special events.

    Also, the private sector (charter buses, etc) can add a lot of transit capacity for special events at a time where resources at public transit agencies are limited (like weekday peak hours). Planning for transportation for those events should include the private sector so that impact on transit for everyone else is minimized.

    For many years, Muni has provided special bus service to Candlestick at a premium fare. This season all special 49ers service now charges regular fares because of a change of interpretation of the charter bus regulation by the federal government (after receiving a complaint by a private charter bus company). The buses are still packed as before (and probably carry no more folks than it did before) even though taxpayers have the burden more of the cost of special service.

    Muni could’ve discontinue the service and have the private sector take over, but SFMTA would have no say over fares and other service aspects that would maximize usage of service, reduce impacts, while collecting a reasonable amount of revenue. Muni cannot just contract the service to a private company because of union issues. I think there should be a change in the regulations so that public agencies don’t have to choose between doing nothing or having to fully subsidize a costly but needed service. This only affects bus and does not apply to rail and ferry, so both can charge special event fares even though it may compete with private bus service.

    • Adina Levin says:

      With the Giants, the consideration was the traffic and parking burden in San Francisco. The City collaborated with the Giants to work out how to get fans to the ballgame without as much driving as Candlestick. Back at Candlestick with the premium-priced bus, 95% of customers drove, so the example of premium transit isn’t compelling if a goal is to reduce traffic, pollution, parking. And that’s a market research question about fares. True, some people are price-insensitive and prefer not driving, so they’ll pay a premium. But are there other segments of customers who drive today, who would avoid driving if transit was cheaper or built into the price?

      • Andy Chow says:

        It is mostly about transit experience (vs driving and parking) and availability rather than price. Having direct rail access is a huge plus in terms of added capacity and improved experience (no traffic). People also expect a downtown stadium will have difficult and expensive parking, but is OK with it because downtown location provides better overall experience with the crowd and access to nearby hotels, restaurants, and bars.

        Special event transportation arrangement require special planning and consideration, but is very different than regular commuting. Some of the pricing strategy that works for commuting do not work well for special event situation, and it would require funding and other resources that would be better used to maintain and improve regular transit.

        A premium fare is fair because the service is expensive to begin with (more expensive with public agencies paying drivers at overtime rate rather than private charter companies). People who attend those events generally spend a lot more money on tickets. If they’re that price sensitive they wouldn’t have spent that much on live sports because they could watch or listen the game on TV or radio for free.

  4. Transit Challenges says:

    Kudos to the SF Giants for setting an ambitious goal early on and achieving it through careful site selection and education.

    If a lesson was to be taken from the SF Giants experience, a different location would have been selected for Levi’s Stadium, which was chosen in part for excellent freeway access, not to achieve a 50-50 mode split. Also, differences in income/demographics/geographic locations of Giants vs. 49ers season ticket holders has implications for willingness to use transit. The shock of $60 parking is lessened by only 8-10 49ers home games a year, as well as the prevalence of carpooling to tail gate parties.

    • Adina Levin says:

      True, Levi’s stadium won’t be able to achieve the mode split that the Giants can. But they still could make a difference if they did planning like SF and the Giants did. With regard to where they’re coming to the ballpark from and willingness to take transit, I think the way to assess that is to do research, rather than to guess. That’s what successful transportation programs do, it’s data not magic.

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