Home New Jersey Transit Inside NJ Transit’s post-Super Bowl debacle

Inside NJ Transit’s post-Super Bowl debacle

by Benjamin Kabak

In all of the promotional materials leading up to the Super Bowl, mass transit played a key role. The build-up to the game, much to the chagrin of New Jersey politicians, focused around New York City, but the anti-climactic Super Bowl happened out in the swamps of Jersey. So for weeks on end, organizers urged patrons to take the train to the game as parking would be limited and traffic bad. Little did anyone realize that everyone who took the train to the game would also have to take the train home from the game.

For New Jersey Transit, Sunday night’s debacle in which hordes of football fans waited in close confines outside the Meadowlands train station for up to three hours after the game ended was just another in a long list of problems. This is, after all, the same agency that ignored weather forecasts and moved trains into low-lying, flood-prone areas ahead of the region’s worst hurricane in decades. No one has been held responsible for that mess, and the same people were in charge for last night’s mess.

So here’s what happened: The Super Bowl organizers offered a $51 bus from Met Life Stadium into the city, but those tickets did not sell as briskly as planned. Instead, people who didn’t want to pay for parking or suffer the hassles of driving to the stadium took the train. As per usual, the ride on the way out was crowded, especially at Secaucus Junction, but tolerable. After the game, all hell broke loose. Few fans who paid for the experience of seeing a Super Bowl left early, and so when 30,000 fans headed to the train shortly after the Seahawks won, it was a giant mess.

That crowds piled up long after the game ended isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s tried to take the train home from a concert. New Jersey Transit stresses the convenience of travel to the games, but in nearly five years, they haven’t been able to move crowds away from the stadium when events let out. My first experience came during a Springsteen show in 2009 when we had to wait nearly an hour just to get a train that would take us to Secaucus. Since transfers aren’t timed properly, we had to wait until 40 minutes before a Penn Station-bound train arrived. I haven’t taken NJ Transit to Met Life again.

In dissecting Sunday night’s problems in an interview with The Times, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein issued some of the most inane comments you will hear from someone tasked to run a transit agency. Noting that nearly 20,000 more fans used the trains than expected, Weinstein seemed more keen to issue zingers than to take responsibility for the mess. Matt Flegenheimer reports:

The reasons, transit and National Football League officials said on Monday, were varied; even the weather, which had been the greatest concern of staging the Super Bowl in the Northeast, may have conspired against the rail system. James Weinstein, New Jersey Transit’s executive director, said in an interview that many fans seemed to have decided on train travel at the last minute, suggesting that a cooler day might have kept some at home. “If today’s weather was yesterday,” he said, referring to Monday’s slushy snowfall, “I think it’s legitimate speculation that the turnout for the Super Bowl would not have been as robust.”

…Still, despite riders’ frustrations — and an acknowledgment from an N.F.L. spokesman that organizers “fell short” of their transit goals — delays almost certainly could have been worse. New Jersey Transit suffered no major breakdowns or other complications. And the agency’s estimate on Sunday evening that about 12,000 fans could be moved per hour proved largely accurate. “It’s not Star Trek,” Mr. Weinstein said, noting the system’s constrained capacity. “You can’t beam people from one place to the other.”

When the agency realized how many people had taken trains, he added, extra buses were summoned to help ease the postgame crush, carrying about 1,800 passengers. “Can we figure out better ways to handle it? I’m sure we can,” he said. “What those are, I’m not sure at this point that I’m able to articulate them.” Mr. Weinstein was asked how he might prepare differently if the Super Bowl returned. “I’d shoot myself,” he said, waiting a beat. “I’m only kidding.”

Hours after the drama unfolded, New Jersey Transit’s Twitter account seemed oblivious to controversy, and it’s stunning to hear Weinstein say they don’t know what they’d do differently. The Meadowlands stop is a dead-end stub that sees service only during peak events and can’t seem to handle post-event loads. It cost over $200 million to build, and somehow, moving out 33,000 fans over the course of three hours is a victory. The decision to kill the ARC Tunnel wouldn’t have solved Sunday’s problems but could have addressed capacity issues on a line that can’t do what it’s designed to do. And somehow, New Jersey Transit thinks this is all one big victory. That’s pathetic.

Even picking on Weinstein, the teflon man behind the response to Sandy, may be a moot point soon. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may soon remove Weinstein from his spot, and if the embattled governor doesn’t act on his own, other Garden State politicians and columnists are starting to make more noise that should lead to Weinstein’s ouster. Even the NFL, notorious for exercising tight control over every element of the Super Bowl, wants to conduct its own investigation.

This wasn’t the “world class transit experience” Weinstein promised fans a few months ago. This was instead business as usual for New Jersey Transit. Anyone who has to rely on that agency’s trains would have expected nothing more, and the New York/New Jersey region pays the price for this service on a regular basis.

You may also like


R.V. February 4, 2014 - 12:24 am

While the idea of a train to the Meadowlands seemed like a great idea back when it was proposed the execution of the train has been at best terrible.

It seems that they have not figured out how to properly usher people into the trains and turn them around fast enough. It really is a shame.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 12:29 am

Using Multilevels was a mistake. While they do offer additional seating capacity, they take significantly longer to load since their doors are only one person-wide (and you can essentially only use half of the doors on one car at any given time).

Center-door Comets would have been better used in this situation. With three doors and no steps inside they would have been able to load much faster.

Just one of many things that went wrong.

Marc Shepherd February 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

Actually, it sounds like the system worked precisely as designed. They deliberately built a low-capacity stub-end terminal, reasoning that it wasn’t worth building higher capacity for a venue requires it only occasionally.

Wildstein is a shockingly inarticulate manager, but no one has actually suggested anything that he could have done differently, given the inherent design limitations of the terminal.

lawhawk February 4, 2014 - 9:56 am

And that’s where you’re wrong. They built a low-capacity terminus because they screwed up in the planning. Instead of a through-running train along the Pascack Valley line, they built a stub that ends with a three-platform terminal despite the fact that Xanadu/American Dream was in the works for years. They knew, or had reason to know, that there would be people seeking mass transit options to American Dream/Xanadu on non-game days, but at this point there’s no telling when American Dream will open and NJT hasn’t committed to providing daily service to the Meadowlands on days when there aren’t events with 50,000 or more people (primarily concerts or game days).

Here’s the thing that is really galling. Weinstein is still in charge at NJ Transit despite the massive foulup with flooding out the rail fleet after Sandy. Gov. Christie gave him cover, despite the fact that there was indeed a plan (albeit a half-assed one in comparison to the MTA disaster contingency plans) that called for moving the rail fleet to higher ground. The lines most affect by the flooding? The Main/Bergen/Pascack Valley lines.

And the Super Bowl service during the day on Sunday? Extremely limited from Bergen County. People were waiting hours to simply get to Secaucus to make the transfer to the stub line.

That’s unacceptable. And then failing to have sufficient trains to distribute people to elsewhere in NJ or NYP is likewise unacceptable.

The fact that Super Bowl organizers were estimating 8-12,000 people would use mass transit when every other word uttered by them was to take mass transit and avoid driving suggests a massive disconnect on message and provision of service. Even NJ Transit’s own estimates were lacking. Who made them, and on what did they base them?

All questions that must be asked and Weinstein must be held accountable.

Add to that the fact that the stub line could handle at most 10-12,000 per hour, and you got the kinds of delays we saw. But that too is on NJT, which designed the station and stub line the way they did instead of making a through track so that people could get service too and from Bergen County and allow more trains per hour to carry people away from the game. Poor planning breeds poor planning.

While NJT did increase platform length at Secaucus to handle the 10-car trains ahead of the game, the service level was unacceptable across the board.

Taking a tone-deaf response to the criticism is par for the course with NJT at this point.

Marc Shepherd February 4, 2014 - 12:06 pm

And that’s where you’re wrong.

What did I say that you disagreed with? In fact, it appears you agree: the problems are inherent in the design. Maybe a bad or short-sighted design, but that error was made many years ago, before New York was awarded the Super Bowl.

This is not like Hurricane Sandy, when the plan to put trains in flood-prone storage yards could have been altered in time to prevent the asset losses that occurred. Wildstein can’t re-design the train line that goes to the Meadowlands.

lawhawk February 4, 2014 - 12:51 pm

You’re right.

But it’s Weinstein, not Wildstein.

Wildstein was at the Port Authority before the GWB lane closure scandal.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:34 pm

I thaught it was Frankenstein.

Eric F February 4, 2014 - 10:00 am

If you look at the way the spur is aligned, it takes basically the longest route possible to the station, looping around the entire stadium complex. I assume this insane alignment was designed so that the swamp wouldn’t be disturbed, but it’s really kind of crazy. The trip to the station could be much shorter.

Nathanael February 4, 2014 - 2:42 pm

In the future (sigh), the line could be extended southward to reconnect with the main line, and the entire Bergen County line could effectively be rerouted via the stadium station. This would require sense, of course.

Or, while I’m dreaming (sigh), one could continue the reroute to stop at an elevated station in downtown Secaucus and then head straight into the tunnel to NY Penn.

Joseph Steindam February 4, 2014 - 3:28 pm

It does take the longest route, but if you want to keep the station where it is now (which is centrally located between all the facilities at the Meadowlands Complex), a more direct route would’ve involved threading the rail line between the NJ Turnpike/Rte3/Rte120 off ramps and the Meadowlands Sheraton, which would’ve been very difficult to engineer, as tunneling is likely not an option, and building over all the roads would have too steep a grade to get to the station site.

Michael K February 4, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Tunnelling is still the best option. The plan was – and still is, to have an elevated line from Secaucus to Ridgefield Park, where it would meet the West Shore/River Line.

AG February 4, 2014 - 9:28 am

I tend to agree.. I took the train there to watch Argentina play a football (soccer) match there. Going wasn’t too bad… but leaving I learned you are better off waiting to try to get back on the train. Everyone leaving at the same time makes for delays. It’s not like Yankee Stadium where you have multiple train choices (including frequent subways). The Meadowlands rail station looks as if they put it there just to say they made an effort. I seriously don’t think they expected so many ppl to use it for even regular events – let alone one with such driving restrictions. Hopefully they will expand the train capacity at the Meadowlands somehow.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 12:27 am

Secaucus Transfer was the key breaking point in the whole disaster, much like it was after Hurricane Sandy when tons of people arrived on a few trains. Following the hurricane NJTransit resorted to bypassing Secaucus (on the lower level) altogether for a couple of days until more service could be restored. It probably would have been best to remove Secaucus from the equation all together (instead of putting so much emphasis on it). Loading trains elsewhere (and by elsewhere I mean a variety of different locations so no one place has to bear all of the loads) and sending the trains to the stadium might have worked better.

Then there is the poor design of the Meadowlands station, the fact that Multilevel cars take forever to load, etc., etc., etc.. It just wasn’t NJTransit’s night for this one.

Joseph Steindam February 4, 2014 - 9:38 am

For some reason, there was a security check at Secaucus, along with a check to make sure you have a ticket to the game. The latter is at least understandable, but I don’t know why a security check was needed at Secaucus since everyone was presumably checked when they got to the stadium.

The only other place to load trains heading towards the Meadowlands is Hoboken Terminal, which I don’t understand why this isn’t done in the first place. Not only is it a large intermodal hub, its basically the only way for people in Hudson County to get logically get to the Meadowlands without transferring at Secaucus. It can even accommodate some people coming from NYC via the PATH terminal (although this connection is hardly better than Secaucus Transfer). Splitting some of the load between Secaucus and Hoboken might have made the pre-game movements better, but I don’t know how to fix the post-game craziness, except having a bigger fleet of buses prepared to cross honor tickets and bring people back to NYC.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Hoboken Terminal is not the only alternate location where you could load trains. They could have loaded trains at Newark Penn Station, Newark Airport, and countless other locations and then send the trains directly to the Meadowlands via the Waterfront Connection and West End (the train would not have to stop to change ends by using these tracks).

NJTransit could have offered direct rail service to the Meadowlands from almost every station in the system. It is possible to easily get to the Meadowlands without having to stop to reverse direction from every single NJT station with the exception of New York Penn Station and the ones on the Main/Bergen County lines. Everything else can be accessed directly by using either the Waterfront Connection and/or West End wye.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:38 pm

It makes a lot of sence. Can someone tell me why the waterfront connection between Newark & Hoboken is hardly used to begin with?


Nathanael February 4, 2014 - 2:44 pm

The wye is single-tracked. But it should certainly have been possible to send at least SOME trains in a variety of directions.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Oh, I see. Any chance it could be double tracked?

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 8:37 pm

A Westbound Waterfront Connection is in the works (it’s being lumped into the post-Sandy Resiliency Projects), so that is coming eventually.

The West End Wye is single tracked but since it is not used for anything of turning equipment on a regular basis, double tracking the wye is not worth it.

Joseph Steindam February 4, 2014 - 3:40 pm

I’m pretty sure that also requires the use of the dual power locomotives or running with two locomotives, as the Meadowlands line is not electrified. And NJ Transit does not have a big fleet of dual power locomotives.

I think incorporating Hoboken would have been sufficient to accommodate the pre-game crunch. Since the Meadowlands station was the issue after the game, I don’t know how running to more stations would’ve helped the post game rush.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 8:44 pm

It wouldn’t require dual-powered locomotives. Since the Meadowlands Spur is not electrified you could run it with straight diesels (as diesels are allowed on the NEC–and they frequently do run up and down the NEC for Bay Head, Raritan, and Atlantic City trains).

Anyways, NJTransit also has the silly tenancy to keep their dual-powered locomotives in diesel mode practically all the time these days. They don’t like the idea of raising or lowering pantographs in Hoboken Terminal due to arcing, so all trains are put in diesel mode at Newark Broad Street so they can be sent out again on any train.

The only issue that arises the Head-End Power. 10 fully loaded, AC blasting MVL’s require 900-something kW of HEP, and NJTransit’s ALP-45DP’s are the only locomotives on the property that can handle that much power (not saying that two locomotives would not have worked).

Z February 4, 2014 - 2:04 am

Who was responsible for setting the bus ticket price at $51? It sounds like the bus system worked fine, and could have handled more of this demand if ticket prices were set reasonably.

JJJJJ February 4, 2014 - 2:14 am

Buses were aimed at the NYC market I believe. IE: No buses to metropark or Newark.

Joseph Steindam February 4, 2014 - 9:45 am

I believe NJ Transit was running some of their usual bus routes that serve the major hotels in Secaucus and nearby towns that bring people to the Meadowlands.

I haven’t seen a breakdown of the ridership estimates, but judging from normal patterns, I suspect most people using the Meadowlands Rail link were heading back to NYC, not further down the NEC. The $51 buses did take riders to a variety of drop off locations in NYC, but that’s less important when you have a 24 hour subway network. All we needed was more capacity to get people back from the Meadowlands, and the price point for the bus options were not ideal. They should’ve been the same as the round trip.

Epson45 February 4, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Too bad the Coach USA’s 351 bus line did not operated that day… for $5 one way ticket.

sonicboy678 February 25, 2014 - 5:13 pm

What the hell? For $10 (round-trip) you could accomplish a similar objective to that $51 bus ticket?

JJJJJ February 4, 2014 - 2:13 am

It looks like the pre-game was a disaster as well. TSA set up shop at Secaucus, jamming thousands of people into a hot, narrow corridors, and keeping them there for up to an hour.

IE: A terrorist’s wet dream. Where else do you find so many sitting ducks than right before a checkpoint?

As for post game…meh. I sat in the parking lot for three hours after a soccer game at Gillette stadium. Sold out game, but no train service. Whoever decided to place a giant stadium with only a 2 lane access road in each direction was the world’s largest idiot. And then he added a mall.

Nathanael February 4, 2014 - 2:44 pm

TSA exists to support and assist terrorist activities, as far as I can tell.

Niall February 18, 2014 - 10:21 am

Also, rail passengers were subject to this extra “security” checkpoint, whereas bus and auto passengers were subject only to the security procedures at MetLife stadium (which rail passengers were also subject to of course). NJTransit is less to blame for the mess than TSA is. TSA has toys to use and will whip them out whenever they get the chance, regardless of whether it’s needed or adds security.

John-2 February 4, 2014 - 2:29 am

NJT had 3-4 days warning that this wasn’t going to be your average Super Bowl, when the stories came out on the huge number of tickets that were being put up for re-sale. The original holders of the tickets may have been people comped corporately who also would be able to write off a $51 bus ride as a business expense. But their replacements were actual football fans footing the Super Bowl ticket bill and the expenses to get there on their own dime. NJT (and the NFL) saw the reports that the expense account types were bailing on the game, but failed to put 2+2 together on how that would affect travel choices to and from the Meadowlands.

The posters above are right, that if they had thought this through, NJT should have seen the bigger crowds coming and opted for the three-door, single level cars to facilitate faster boarding and disembarking times. And in 20-20 hindsight, They should have given Meadowlands-bound passengers the option of not only departing from Penn Station via Secaucus, but also departing from Hoboken via PATH, even if that meant running non-stop trains from 33rd of WTC to Hoboken and having the Port Authority and/or NJT eat the fare (both 33rd and WTC have extra boarding platforms that could have been used for Hoboken-bound riders only).

Splitting the crowd’s game-bound boarding locations and the checkpoint bottlenecks, and running more access-friendly rail cars for boarding on the post-game ride would have the best options for NJT to avoid what happened. Fortunately, they’ll probably have at least until 2025 or so to come up with a revised plan, since the Super Bowl isn’t likely to make a return to New York for at least a decade.

megaregion February 4, 2014 - 8:48 am

The $51 bus tickets sold out last Tuesday. According to this article, those buses carried 12,000 fans, and 11,000 parking passes were issued (although I’m skeptical how many were actually used).

The NFL also sold 1,100 “vehicle permits” although they grossly overestimated the number of fans these vehicles (buses and vans) would bring to the game.

Clearly, NJT fails yet again, but the NFL also deserves some blame for a simple math error.

John-2 February 4, 2014 - 9:09 am

Apparently the buses were not filled to capacity, which may have been due to people buying passes in advance because they had business expense comped tickets then changing their mind about going to the game. They then sold the seats to regular Seahawk and Bronco fans or simply people just wanting to go to the Super Bowl, but didn’t sell the bus pass that went with them, and the new ticket holders opted for the cheaper train.

Had the bus price not been five times the train price, the new ticket holders likely wouldn’t have flooded New Jersey Transit. The Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine quotes a former LIRR exec as saying NJT and the NFL should have seen this coming at least by last Monday and adjusted their plans, including getting some of those unused bus seats in play faster after the game to get people back to Manhattan.

g February 4, 2014 - 9:22 am

There is one story that says those $51 a seat buses were not going to be allowed to leave until an hour after the game so a bunch of those people headed for the rail station….which is one reason why the departing figure was so high.

The entire NJT contingency was to hold 20 buses in reserve to relieve pressure on the rail station.

Both the host committee and NJT screwed the pooch big time.

g February 4, 2014 - 9:15 am

New Jersey should just give up and let NJT be folded into the MTA.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Fat chance of that since there are several private opperators throughout the state including IBOA, Coach USA, DeCamp & Lakeland. You want to buy them out?

g February 4, 2014 - 1:53 pm

Why would they need buyouts? Just let them run until the contracts are up then either switch to MTA operated service or do new contracts.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Because the companies don’t own their busses despite the logos painted on them, NJT does. NJT just leases them.

g February 4, 2014 - 3:31 pm

The MTA could would the same arrangement until the contracts are up. There is no reason they must be broken immediately if MTA took over NJT.

Michael K February 4, 2014 - 1:55 pm

We have the MTA bus company designed for taking over private operations.

Eric F February 4, 2014 - 9:33 am

Post-Sandy, NJ Transit established new temporary storm storage train yards in Linden and Garwood. They are now doing all the exciting permitting, design, etc. to establish a new yard for this purpose in South Brunswick. Link below.

It may be that these steps are all an elaborate ruse to protect Weinstein, but using Occam’s razor, there’s a good chance that NJT simply didn’t have “some other” place to store its rail fleet during sandy and therefore used that place established by Pennsy that never flooded before.


lawhawk February 4, 2014 - 10:18 am

Nonsense. The contingency plan that NJT actually released after FOIA requests from The Record indicated that trains should have been stored in the Waldwick yard and elsewhere along the Bergen/Main line where flood risk and damage from trees was minimal. They had sites designated for preparing for flooding/storms. They just didn’t use them.

After the storm, they’ve now committed to building new storage yards on higher ground. No word on whether they’re going to quit the Meadows Yard and relocate the signal control system to higher ground – and those were built within the last 20 years.

With the signal control system flooded out, NJT claimed to have no way to control train movements, even on lines where overhead power lines aren’t an issue. So, for the Bergen/Main/PJ/PVL, we got screwed because not only was the bulk of our rail fleet flooded out, but they couldn’t be bothered to restore what little service they had for months.

Half-assed any way you look at it.

Bolwerk February 4, 2014 - 11:42 am

For Eric’s rationalizations to be remotely defensible, New Jersey would need to be at sea level and about as flat as a pancake.

The corollary to his “HURRR NOBODY CRITICIZES DEMOCRATS ENOUGH” line of shit is that he thinks Chris Christie is beyond reproach.

Eric F February 4, 2014 - 1:16 pm

So the two temporary contingency yards and the South Brunswick yard are just in fact part of an elaborate ruse?

As for “Chris Christie is beyond reproach”, it would take an anti-Christie obsessive to think that he made decisions about where to store rolling stock. You may as well give him props for preserving the NJ Transit bus fleet, since apparently he’s moving assets across the state like he’s playing Stratego.

Bolwerk February 4, 2014 - 2:02 pm

No idea what an anti-Christie obsessive is (a mythological opposite of you?) or who you think is one, but the fact is his appointee was grossly incompetent and never held accountable.

So the two temporary contingency yards and the South Brunswick yard are just in fact part of an elaborate ruse?

Hmm, you may have a different definition of “elaborate” than me.

Pro tip: at least try to fool people who pay just a little attention, preferably about what happened before the fact.

BoerumHillScott February 4, 2014 - 9:50 am

I think the only real mistake that NJT made was to not run trains from Meadowlands to Hoboken.

As indicated, the station handled the number of people it was designed to handle.
I don’t think it was NJT’s responsibility to pay for a station and related infrastructure to meet peak crowds for special events. If that was a requirement, it should have been paid for by the Meadowlands or its tenants.

I place the blame on the NFL and organizing committee who seemed to ignore the math behind attendees travel choices.

Douglas John Bowen February 4, 2014 - 10:06 am

It’s almost painful for this Jersey rail advocate to defend NJT, but I will at least in part. Mr. Weinstein’s comments may indeed be inane. Mr. Kabak’s inflammatory use of the word “debacle” (so eagerly echoed by others)is over the top.

The day clearly was not problem-free. That said, folks got to the game on time. That’s better than, say, the backup outside Yankee Stadium for World Series Game 3, 2001 when, despite being what I thought was early, I got in only in time to see Jorge Posada rounding the bases in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Remind me to blame MTA-NYCT, in retrospect, for security concerns.

And it took some folks 2 1/2, 3 hours to get out after the Super Bowl — roughly comparable to the time it takes after an average Jets or Giants game on a given average Sunday. True enough, rail didn’t do betterthan auto alternatives, and it should have. But “debacle,” really?

Other comments here alluding to Secaucus Junction and other station setups are valid evaluations of long-term poor planning, though the station at MetLife is in part designed for very long-term right-of-way adjustment.

Already, some reports are walking back the problems encountered in going to the game (including the questioning of Tweets asserting people werefainting while waiting). Leaving the game does seem to be the greater issue, but am I going to automatically trust commentary from a disheartened Broncos fan, who may (or may not) live anywhere near Denver and thus may have no clue about rail transportation anywhere, let alone in or near Gotham, for an objective take on travel conditions? Really?

In a nutshell: Less than optimal execution? Absolutely. A debacle? Hyperbole.

tacony February 4, 2014 - 10:10 am

To be fair, this story about a 9/11 truther who didn’t even have a ticket to the game yet got into the press box and on national TV (!!!) despite all the gonzo security makes it sound like it wasn’t just NJTransit who were totally disorganized and inept: http://www.nj.com/super-bowl/i.....adium.html

What’s the best practice for transportation following huge events? It seems to me that the key factor is allowing people to disburse and choose multiple modes/access points/times of departure because you just can’t move 30,000 people immediately at one place, right? Was the problem actually just in choosing to operate a “mass transit Super Bowl” in a “controlled location” (security folks hate the idea of real cities where you can just walk around) with no pedestrian access and thus no dispersal really possible? After a big game at the Garden or Barclays Center or Yankee Stadium you can avoid the crush and go across the street and have a beer or walk over to a less-crowded subway entrance or a different line. After a game at MetLife you walk out into a holding tank with nowhere else to go. You have no other options.

AG February 4, 2014 - 10:53 am

Your last two sentences sum up the “problem” with football stadiums. They are so large and hulking compared to other sports facilities – so in a crowded city they don’t work well. Then just as you point out… when it’s “out of town” – there is nothing to do but sit and wait.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:53 pm

Not only that, in most cases despite what you read sports venues are NOT the tax generators they’re made out to be. Infact they are money losers based on the bonds issued to back them up finantially. MetLife is atipical since the financing was private & not public.

There was an article I saw a few years back in the NYT that pointed this out. The biggest offenders were PNC Park & the original Giant Stadium where the bonds are still being payed off after being demolished.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 2:27 pm

As Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives On


Nathanael February 4, 2014 - 2:54 pm

I think you’ve summed it up. Big events like this can’t and shouldn’t be a “controlled” or “secure” environment when people are LEAVING — people should be able to just *leave*, in all directions.

AlexB February 4, 2014 - 10:31 am

I’ve only ever driven or taken a bus to the meadowlands because the train always has such a slow schedule. Does anyone know where I could find out more about this line? I’m curious to know if it’s 1 or 2 tracked, how it manages to turn around at Secaucus instead of Hoboken, and why it can handle so few people?

Epson45 February 4, 2014 - 12:58 pm

2 track line, bi-level rail cars, trains suppose to run from Hoboken Terminal and Meadowlands via Seacaucus.

Bi-level cars do slow the boarding process. They should use single deckers with more doors.

Go into Meadowlands is fine, just GTFO of Meadowlands is a log jam.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 8:46 pm

Meadowlands Trains have not originated at Hoboken since Hurricane Sandy. Only the last 6 trains on game days going home will terminate at Hoboken, but everything now originates from Secaucus.

Mary February 4, 2014 - 10:55 am

Unless the Governor Chris Christie decides to close the bridges if his team was loosing…

Christopher Stephens February 4, 2014 - 11:06 am

I’m no fan of NJ Transit, but I don’t see how they are to blame. They were taking their orders from the NFL (and the TSA). They were told to provide a certain level of service, which they did. The NFL’s numbers were off by over 100%. You can’t expect NJ Transit to make contingencies to cover that large a mistake. If they had, and more people had taken cars and buses, you could expect angry news stories about NJ Transit having empty trains, paying overtime for staff that was idle, etc.

Many of these comments seem to be more about general beefs with service to the Meadowlands and NJ Transit’s poor levels of service on days that are not Superbowl Sunday. Are transit options to the stadium lousy? Sure. But ask yourself how much money, public or otherwise, should be spent to get people to a venue that is used, maybe, twice a month? Do you spend 100s of millions of dollars on infrastructure that will get people there seamlessly, or do you spend that money on regular commuter lines, and let the football fans and concert-goers wait an extra thirty minutes to get home on a Sunday or Saturday night?

This “controversy” seems to be little more than an excuse to vent about what you don’t like about NJ Transit. ARC? Really, Ben? You shoe-horned that into this post?

Would I like to think that NJ Transit could learn something from this experience? Yes, but the lessons aren’t going to be that useful. NJ may host the Superbowl again in, what, six years time? Ten? By then I expect we will all have flying cars, so I’m not sure how much effort NJ Transit should use to figure out how to solve this problem for next time.

Benjamin Kabak February 4, 2014 - 11:11 am

The “next time” isn’t the next Super Bowl. It’s at a concert in the spring or any other event that lets out a bunch of fans at once. Just because this story gets headlines only at the Super Bowl doesn’t mean it’s not a constant problem otherwise.

Eric F February 4, 2014 - 1:28 pm

Ok, but the train enhances the “other events”. The train is an added service that didn’t exist five years ago or whenever it was put up. It can move about 15,000 people. It can’t do more than that. It’s still another access option that wasn’t there before and it’s a decent addition. Not the way I would have done it, but that’s the design limitation.

Speaking of which, said design limitation was part of the package that actual human beings chose. Specifically, Codey/Corzine agreed to plunk 250mm for the spur and got the stadium/superbowl/Xanadu that ultimately came with it. They did that and the relatively minor Route 3 work that’s wrapping up this year.

I’d argue that a nice through station would be better, along with a widened Route 17 and Turnpike spur, but if you want to blame something, blame the design limitation and the identifiable human beings responsible for it.

Tsuyoshi February 4, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Seems to me there were two mistakes, both of which happened long before the Super Bowl.

The first mistake was to put the stadium in such an inaccessible place to begin with. Both the road and rail access to the location is terrible.

The second mistake is treating typically awful American commuter rail (slow-loading, infrequent, low-capacity) as useful transit, instead of what it really is: a way for suburbanites to avoid paying for parking in the central business district.

The stadium really should have been built somewhere in New York City, next to at least two subway lines. Long Island City, Broadway Junction, etc. would have been good choices. If getting a kickback from New Jersey was an absolute imperative, then Downtown Newark should have been the only real choice.

Eric F February 4, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Your suggesting mowing down 20 acres of center-city Newark for a football stadium?

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 1:32 pm

Wait a minute! Newark has a center city?

Josh February 4, 2014 - 2:48 pm

They found space for Riverfront Stadium and the Prudential Center and for Red Bull Arena not that far away. I know a football stadium is bigger, particularly if you need to allow for massive amounts of parking like there are at the Meadowlands, but it would seem that it’s possible to find large amounts of space in and around Newark if there’s political will to do so.

AG February 4, 2014 - 3:59 pm

Prudential Center is busy all year round and has a much smaller footprint. Red Bull Arena is not even in Newark – and also has a much smaller footprint.

JJJJ February 4, 2014 - 5:48 pm

Red Bull Arena is surrounded by empty space. It would have easily fit a 90,000 person stadium.

AG February 4, 2014 - 7:43 pm

The ppl of Harrison did not plan for it to be so… They rezoned the area near Red Bull to be a complete mixed use development (condos/offices/retail) after the industrial pollution gets cleaned up… The economic downturn killed that idea for the time being. They don’t want an NFL stadium.

Tsuyoshi February 4, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Minus the massive parking lots, MetLife Stadium looks to be well under 10 acres. I think the space could definitely be found.

AG February 4, 2014 - 1:30 pm

The original Giants Stadium was built in that same location decades ago… A huge football stadium is a waste in NYC.

Out of curiosity – are there any baseball or J-League stadiums that large in Tokyo proper? London has at least 8 professional “soccer” stadiums – but their footprint is small in comparison. There is on coincidence that huge Wembley Stadium is not really in any proper neighborhood.

Josh February 4, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about the geography of Tokyo, I’m just basing this on what it looks like on Google Maps

FC Tokyo plays at Ajinomoto Stadium, which is right near Chofu Airport, and seems to be close to 10 miles west of Tokyo Station, which I take to be somewhere near the “center” of the city.

The Yomiuri Giants play at the Tokyo Dome, which is very close to Tokyo Station. It was built in 1985 but was built on the site of a pre-existing stadium dating to 1937, so (as far as I can tell, though I’m far from knowledgeable on the topic) there wasn’t any “clearing” of urban real estate to make space for it.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows play at Meiji Jingu Stadium, which also seems to be quite central. It was built in 1926.

The Tokyo Dome is part of a larger entertainment complex called Tokyo Dome City, including a hotel and what appears to be an amusement park. Meiji Jingu Stadium is part of a larger stadium complex that includes the national soccer stadium, a rugby stadium, a smaller baseball stadium, and a lot of tennis courts. Ajinomoto Stadium is the only one that seems to have what I’d call a “large footprint” with a significant amount of adjoining surface parking.

AG February 4, 2014 - 4:35 pm

ok you forced me to go look it up – lolol.

right anjinmoto would be akin to playing somewhere around Newark… nothing like the West Side of Manhattan.

yeah Tokyo dome is big and in the “city” but at least its baseball so it is used at least half the year not including other events. its capacity/footprint is also smaller… so all those other activities can fit on that site.

Meiji jingu – well they are as old as Yankee stadium – so they are basicalLY “grandfathered” in. Plus again – it’s smaller and more active than an NfL stadium would be.

About the only place in nyc an NFL stadium would work would be Aqueduct racetrack… Since staten island doesn’t have real subway (or thE LIRR near) i wouldn’t even say it would work there (the place they wanted to put NASCAR on SI is more sensibly being turned into a facility to integrate with the port)
OR if they played if the Giants/jets became tenants of the Yankees/mets as they once were respectively.. that won’t happen since both sports frown on that now.

Ryan February 4, 2014 - 2:47 pm

No, the Meadowlands is built in the best possible location it could have been built in.

Long Island City, Broadway Junction, Downtown Newark &c are all much too valuable to have such a massive amount of land wasted on a dead venue that sees use certainly less than 40 times a year.

Basketball/Hockey stadiums are reasonably compact and yet somehow we can manage to hold events and concerts in them without too much difficulty. Same deal with baseball stadiums.

Football stadiums, much like the game of football, are obnoxiously huge and cause an awful lot of collateral damage. They have no place in any city but especially not such a built up city. We should be contributing $0 in land, infrastructure, or funding to these types of establishments. Let them continue to be built in the middle of nowhere, and let their owners be responsible for their supporting infrastructure.

Phantom February 4, 2014 - 2:51 pm


The Jets, Giants, the Olympics and the Super Bowl aren’t that important.

The downside of a Manhattan stadium would have been much higher than any upside.

I think that the mooch who owns the Jets wanted the taxpayers to pay for this ” Olympic Stadium “. I’d rather my taxes be spent on anything else.

nb8 February 4, 2014 - 1:48 pm

We can debate rail infrastructure needs all day, but the one stupid simple thing NJT didn’t do was to make use of the assets they have: thousands of buses sitting idle on a Sunday evening.

They knew that their rail system had a hard cap on the number of people it can move per hour, they own tons of buses, and there’s no reason in the world they couldn’t put their own buses to good use.

BoerumHillScott February 4, 2014 - 2:09 pm

Why should NJT pay the money and potentially disrupt their morning rush hour operations to make sure a bunch of football fans got home on time?

The NFL has the resources to hire as many busses as were needed.

Phantom February 4, 2014 - 2:05 pm

Again, who says that NJ Transit should have any monopoly on this job?

There are small and large private bus transport companies that could have taken a big bite out of any bus transport, probably at lower rates.

For such jobs, NJ Transit should be seen as another vendor bidding for the job. It should not be handed to them, and their workforce.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 2:35 pm

Again, NJT owns the busses that operate throughout the state regardless who the actual opperator is.

Phantom February 4, 2014 - 2:53 pm

NJT owns every bus in NJ?

I doubt that.

And who says that only NJ bus companies can bid on a job to transport people to and from NY and NJ?

Ryan February 4, 2014 - 4:40 pm

Not to take a position on this one way or the other, but PANYNJ says.

Them and, I believe, interstate commerce laws.

SEAN February 4, 2014 - 4:45 pm

Yes – what I posted above is a fact believe it or not. The way it works companies such as Lakeland don’t buy their coach busses directly, rather NJT is the buyers agent for the private operators & said busses are leased to them. The flip side to this is – if NJT wanted to, they could take the busses back if they chose to or give them out. Same principle applies to the routes they run on as well. As an example, the 300 to Newark Airport & the 351 to the Meadowlands from NYC were NJT routes, but now are operated by Coach USA under contract.

Phantom February 5, 2014 - 1:50 pm

There is no way in the world that interstate commerce laws would prevent all private bus operators in NY / CT / PA who have the NJ certification ( or whatever it is ) from doing round trips from those states to NJ.

The purpose of interstate commerce laws is to prevent most protectionism of this type not to promote it.

Epson45 February 4, 2014 - 5:42 pm

If they going to do a super bowl again, put it on Yankee Stadium. NJ has been a screw up.

johndmuller February 4, 2014 - 7:22 pm

Everyone seems to be buying into the idea that 10 or 12 thousand passengers/hour is the most you can hope for out of the current facilities. I don’t know the configuration there, but someone earlier in this thread posted that the spur was two tracks, so i’m assuming a few things:
– that there are two tracks at the station;
– that each track has its own platform;
– that there is a crossover near the station;
– there is room for a couple of empty trains on the incoming spur track.
If there is only a platform in between the tracks, then shame on them, but even with that, I don’t see why they can’t load faster.

If each train holds about a thousand people, that’s just 12 trains; with two tracks/trains being done at a time, that’s giving each train 10 minutes – at least 8, if you allow a minute each for the train pulling in and out of the station. Picture the subway at a ballpark; what would you say for dwell time – 2 or 3 minutes, maybe 4 at the most?

You say that there are only two entrances in each car (4 if there are platforms on both sides); so you need to load at least 50 people into each of those 2 doors to get your 1000 passenger train full. If it’s taking 8 minutes to load those 50 people, you’re only getting about 6 people a minute – 10 seconds apiece – really?? What are these people doing, is there a coat check room in the vestibule? Surely there must be some some hurry up peer pressure going on; after all, it was only moments ago that these same people were in the middle of the scrum outside.

It makes me wonder if the slowdown was really all with the actual boarding, and not also with the railroad operations. Perhaps full trains were sitting around waiting to leave the station; perhaps there were no empty trains ready to move into vacant platforms; perhaps the station entrances were a bottleneck.

Patrick O'Hara February 4, 2014 - 8:53 pm

The station itself has three tracks and two platforms.

The MLV’s have four doors, two quarter-point and two end doors that can be used at high-level platforms. However, due to the configuration of the vestibules, if you tried to use both the quarter point and end doors both at once, the people would clash going up the stairs.

MLVs’ are very slow to load due to their very narrow doorways and the fact that you have to go either up or down steps to get to seating.

Another major issue with the station is it’s proximity to the actual stadium. As I elaborated here, it is much better to have a decent distance between the stadium and the station as it allows people to spread more evenly across the trains.

Scott Maits February 4, 2014 - 8:05 pm

So Id agree that the line looks like it worked as well as could be afforded for this half built, occasionally operated branch to such a major event if some things like to much heat at and TSA lines in bad places are not NJT responsibilities. After this and the other major delays now have demonstrated to an auto oriented society that you need to invest enough in your transit if you want it to work in all conditions too. Build the rest of the intended RR loop here so its no longer a slower stub end since its width is small so you can more quickly clear both systemwide based trains that can be justified and run direct to then, and later, go to Hoboken or other yards while keeping whatever number turns out is needed continuing to run between Secaucus Junction and the old Lackawanna Terminal and the event. I will say the RR master of “mass transportation” Pennsylvania Railroad of course as usual did its remotely located extremely large single line stadia much better with its model of efficiency old Army-Navy Game operation at the former Municipal later JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for people from up and down it Mainlines using a requisitioned and even unelectrified yard it managed to actually run its famous GG1 motors pulling long trains in an out of en-mass as quick as the trains filled by throating the 2-4 track approach line (just like its LIRR subsidy still does) in the one direction at a time when two directions can not be briefly accommodated for some reason good or bad. NJT with its fleets of push pull trains could do nearly as well with some more thought and this loop so the train will actually become the preferred way. As to additional justification for spending money to complete the loop? If that requires (highway) funding make it a giant week-day-time Park and Ride too or (including the arenas) designated the complex a Homeland Security emergency evacuation center for the largest city/region in the country might help w/ funding to meet a need earlier planning decisions have left for us to complete.

Scott Maits February 4, 2014 - 8:42 pm

So Id agree that the line looks like it worked as well as could be afforded for this half built, occasionally operated branch to such a major event if some things like to much heat at and TSA lines in bad places are not counted as the RRs fault (why can’t they regulate even a new stations temperature better?). After this and the other major delays now have demonstrated to an auto oriented society that you need to invest enough in your transit if you want it to work in all conditions too. Build the rest of the intended RR loop here so its no longer a slower stub end since its width is small so you can more quickly clear both systemwide based trains that can be justified and run direct to then, and later, go to Hoboken or other yards while keeping whatever number turns out is needed continuing to run between Secaucus Junction and the old Lackawanna Terminal and the event. I will say the RR master of “mass transportation” Pennsylvania Railroad of course as usual did its remotely located extremely large single line stadia much better with its model of efficiency old Army-Navy Game operation at the former Municipal later JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for people from up and down it Mainlines using a requisitioned and even unelectrified yard it managed to actually run its famous GG1 motors pulling long trains in an out of en-mass as quick as the trains filled by throating the 2-4 track approach line (just like its LIRR subsidy still does) in the one direction at a time when two directions can not be briefly accommodated for some reason good or bad. NJT with its fleets of push pull trains could do nearly as well with some more thought and this loop so the train will actually become the preferred way. As to additional justification for spending money to complete the loop? If that requires (highway) funding make it a giant week-day-time Park and Ride too or (including the arenas) designated the complex a Homeland Security emergency evacuation center for the largest city/region in the country might help w/ funding to meet a need earlier planning decisions have left for us to complete.

foot condom April 8, 2015 - 8:45 pm

Hi there to all, the contents present at this web site are in fact remarkable for people experience, well, keep up the good
work fellows.


Leave a Comment