Several years ago, Lisa Hodermarsky, who had recently moved to her new home three blocks from the Yale Bowl, made the mistake of going grocery shopping on the day of The Game. She went in the morning, thinking there wouldn’t be a problem getting to the grocery store — just a mile away — and back.
But after leaving the store at around 11 a.m. and spending an hour trying to drive the one mile back to her house , she and her husband have given up on driving after 9 a.m. on game day.
“I ended up parking a block away from my house just to get to my driveway,” Hodermarsky, an associate curator at the Yale University Art Gallery, said.
That annual scene is the result of heavy traffic — an issue the University, the city of New Haven and the town of West Haven (where The Bowl is located) are trying to change. So this year, they are overhauling the parking procedures.
Ryan Bamford, senior associate director of varsity sports administration, said the University will eliminate general admissions parking, instead offering pre-paid parking passes, which are now available for purchase online or by phone. The number of parking spots will remain the same as in previous years, at about 4,000, but Bamford said there should be less of a rush when looking for spots because pre-paid passes are required.
The spots cost $15 for regular vehicles and $25 for buses and other oversize vehicles. But in order to buy these passes at all, fans must either be Yale employees or students or buy at least two tickets to The Game.
Bamford said he realizes the added fees for parking, on top of the decreased number of parking spots, will be inconvenient for some fans this Saturday. But he said he hopes being able to control the number of cars parking at the Bowl will decrease the burden on the roads around the stadium.
“We got questions from people who didn’t totally read the [press] release, and they were frustrated with what we were doing,” Bamford said. “But our goal is to make this game the best it can be for all of our fans by doing this.”
Two alumni interviewed said they approve of the new rules.
“I guess I would say that I agree with anything that decreases traffic,” said John Greenawalt ’83, a Hamden resident who attended The Game in 2007, the last time The Yale Bowl hosted the event. “I’m sure someone cynical would say it’s just to make money or that sort of thing but I would agree that all of those things are offshoots of that.”
Josh Bekenstein ’80 of Boston, who attended the Harvard-Yale soccer game on the same day in 2007, said going early is the best way to avoid traffic.
“I think we parked pretty close by,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem parking.”
Those who are planning to go to The Game but do not want to pay the parking fees will be able to find parking at two downtown parking garages, the Crown Street garage and the Temple Street garage, both for $3.
The University has also added a pick-up location at the corner of Chapel and College streets and will double the number of buses to the stadium to 60.
The money made from the pre-paid parking passes will be used to subsidize the downtown parking garages and fund the 30 extra buses, Bamford said.
“We are working in cooperation with the University to minimize the burden on the community of having such an increase in flow in traffic,” City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said, adding that past complaints to the city included visitors parking their cars in local neighborhoods. “[There is] planning going on today to make sure that people who are coming into town are aware that they should not be, for example, blocking driveways of residents.”
Bamford said the added hype of the 2007 Game, in which both the Bulldogs and the Crimson headed into the competition undefeated, led to a crowd of more than 100,000 people, with 40,000 not even stepping foot into the stadium itself. The huge crowds were a wake-up call to the University to improve the traffic flow in and out of the stadium, he said. And even though Bamford expects only 50,000 to 75,000 people this coming Saturday, he said officials are not taking any chances.
“We said we needed to learn from this,” Bamford said of The Game two years ago. “We tried to use last year as a gauge. The best was Princeton, but we got inclement weather.”
Bamford explained that because of the weather, that Game only had 10,000 fans show up instead of the usual 20,000 to 30,000.
He acknowledged that the new procedures might not go as smoothly as he would like them to the first time but said he hopes that six to 10 years down the line, people will see it as “a well-oiled machine.”
As for Hodermarky, even though she said past measures to alleviate traffic have not had much of an effect, she said she hopes this time they will finally work. But she is still preparing for a rush on Saturday.
“You basically have to plan your day so you don’t drive after 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.,” she said. “It really is just nonstop traffic.”
Correction: November 18, 2009
An earlier version of this article misidentified where John Greenawalt ’83 and Josh Bekenstein ’80 each live. Greenawalt lives in Hamden, Conn., and Bekenstein lives in Boston, not vice versa.
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