Despite complaints, Penn State sticks with its traffic, parking plan
As more than 100,000 fans make plans to head to Penn State’s homecoming game in time for the kickoff at noon Saturday, university officials say they’re ready to give their new game-day parking and traffic system another try.
Before this year, football fans could use any route through campus to get to their parking spot. This fall, Penn State Athletics put a new system in place that divides the campus into four parking zones, turns some thoroughfares into one-way streets and requires motorists to follow specific routes to park in each zone. Penn State says the changes are aimed at keeping campus roads safer, especially for pedestrians.
Fans who spent hours sitting in traffic, in some cases only to be told they’re in line for the wrong parking area and redirected, expressed their displeasure via social media after each of the first three home games.
University officials said they also received positive feedback. In the two weeks since their last home game, the athletics department met with “key operational stakeholders” to analyze areas where the system could be improved, said Kris Petersen. She was promoted Wednesday to associate athletics director for strategic communication.
“The plan was built to create an overall improvement to the movement of up to 30,000 vehicles on roads never designed to handle such a load,” she said. “We continue to review the data and video of each game’s operation, as well as the specifics on any complaints, to confirm whether it is more isolated or a fundamental issue.”
The parking and traffic plan was put together with the help of consultant SP+, which has designed parking and traffic plans for Super Bowl games, NASCAR events, and at universities across the country. The goal was to make campus roads safer during home football games. Traffic has historically backed up before and after every home game in and around Beaver Stadium.
“Overall, the feedback on the traffic pattern and parking system has been positive, although we do recognize there are some individuals who feel they have been negatively impacted,” Petersen said.
University Park police Assistant Chief Bill Moerschbacher, who oversaw the implementation of the new system, said after the first home game that the problems that many fans complained about were a result of a “lack of familiarity” with the new system.
“There are people who forget there is a game, we have people who forget to check parking details,” he said. “There’s an educational component to this. We knew this was going to happen. As time goes on and people get more familiar, it will correct itself.”
Penn State Athletics reiterated that point this week, saying fans’ experiences will improve over time as everyone gets used to the new system.
While the basic plan remains the same, the university has made some changes in response to fans’ complaints, Petersen said. For example, staff has been added and some staff members have been repositioned to better direct the flow of traffic.
“We have made adjustments before each game in several areas, including staffing placement, traffic control, equipment, and signage and other communications, and we will continue to do so moving forward as we see necessary,” Petersen said.
The university created a webpage to help football fans plan their route to Beaver Stadium. Drivers are urged to go to the website before they set out. It also started a social media campaign — #RunYourRoute — to remind drivers to review their parking permits to make sure they are following the correct route to their parking destination.
Waze also worked with Penn State Athletics, so that its app can also be used to guide drivers to their parking areas.
The game kicks off at noon, which means one-way traffic patterns will begin at 8:30 a.m., said Marla Fannin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation’s District 2. Beaver Stadium parking lots will open at 7 a.m.
As usual, fans are urged to leave plenty of extra time for the trip. The early kick-off makes for “heavier traffic volumes throughout the day on Friday and again on Saturday morning,” Fannin said.