Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Urbanism 7, National Football League 0

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the rave reviews garnered by urbanism as a result of Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis.  The game was played at a stadium within the downtown core, with many fans able to walk from their hotels.

I remain more of a World Series person, but certainly noted that the most recent Superbowl also attracted urbanist attention, although not as uniformly positive.  (Also, it was Seattle where I first fell in love with an urban setting, so writing this post is my way of saluting a city of which I hold fond memories.)

The first Superbowl story was the one out of New Jersey about the transit overloading that occurred after the game.  The initial versions of the story criticized local transit authorities for not having sufficient capacity available.  Having stood on a few BART platforms after Cal football and A’s baseball games, I was dismissive of the comments.  After all, it isn’t possible for a system sized for weekday commuter loads to cover special events.

But then the full story emerged.  The NFL had advised the transit agency of how many riders to expect.  The NFL folks assumed that as many people as possible would drive cars or ride charter buses, with only the remnant riding rail transit.

To no surprise of those who have watching the slowly growing love affair between the public, especially the younger segments, and transit, the modal split didn’t work out that way.  Many folks decided to take the train, more than twice as many as the NFL had expected.

Although not fun to the folks jammed on the platform, it was great demonstration of how a growing number of people expect to get around, even if the NFL was clueless.  After all, if the NFL is going to remain thirty years behind the times on head injuries, it’d probably be unrealistic to expect them to anticipate urbanism.

Switching the scene to Seattle, the post-championship parade offered an opportunity for downtown Seattle to shine.  It succeeded admirably.  Families thronged into the city, resulting in huge absentee rates in suburban school districts.  And many used the multiple transit systems available, keeping the city functioning under extreme conditions.

The Atlantic Cities article about the parade is something of a puff piece.  Similar comments could have been made about many championship parades, including the recent World Series parades in San Francisco.  But the author was presumably intoxicated by the joy of sharing a jubilant sidewalk with fellow city dwellers.  And that kind of intoxication is perfectly forgivable.

Just wait until the Mariners win their first title.  That will truly be a party.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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