March 18, 2016
» The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation seeks a chief of public transportation and a transit planning and project development manager. [More]
» Arlington, VA, is looking for a transit bureau chief. [More]
» The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is soliciting proposals to help the agency plan to expand and fund vanpools and assume management and operation of the existing vanpool program. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail the requested date(s) of publication to: Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: 3 p.m. EST, Friday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4877.

Two Years of Planning Pays Off for a Day-Long Event; How VTA and Its Partners Pulled Off a 'Super Day'

General Manager
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)
San Jose, CA

There’s a motto we live by at VTA: “Plan the work, then work the plan.”

When the date for the long awaited event—Super Bowl 50—finally arrived, VTA was the only public transportation agency in the San Francisco Bay Area that serves Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara. The pressure was on to step up and perform. It was our time to shine.

As great athletes know, it is all about the team. Beginning in 2014 with the creation of a VTA Board of Directors Ad Hoc Committee on Levi’s Stadium, Team VTA was off and running toward the goal of providing top-notch public transit service for Super Bowl 50. We issued the call to all employees, and from that moment on it was all hands on deck.

It was no small task to steer such a massive contingent in the right direction. For that, I am grateful for a superb top-tier VTA Super Bowl planning team and the hundreds of employees who stepped up to serve Super Bowl 50 fans from near and far.

Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, opened with its first event in August 2014, so VTA had only two short years to hone our skills for the big day. It was quite the learning curve to overcome, never having served a stadium of that size before.

Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ, had barely closed its doors before the NFL and the San Francisco Host Committee turned their attention to Santa Clara. Fortunately, football games at Levi’s were augmented by sold-out concerts and events, which tested our mettle and taught us the hard lessons about how to adjust to different types of crowds.

For the Super Bowl, we arrived at a ridership level we knew we could efficiently and safely handle—between 10,000 and 12,000 passengers. The NFL and host committee worked that into their plans for getting the rest of the 70,000+ crowd to the big game.

Together, we agreed to limit the number of pre-purchased fares, available only to those with tickets to the Super Bowl event. We required passengers to use VTA’s special event mobile app, “EventTIK,” to download a special Super Bowl 50 light rail or bus fare ahead of time. That proved to be one of the most helpful elements of pulling this service off.

As an event of national significance, safety and security were front and center of a successful plan. The operational and logistical issues related to security provided a complex challenge, causing VTA to modify service throughout our 61-station light rail system. Our service planners came up with what amounted to three separate operations to get to the stadium from different directions.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department Transit Patrol coordinated the security needs of multiple public transit systems throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The Department of Homeland Security, TSA and K9 teams from other transit agencies and law enforcement agencies across the country intensified the large corps of safety and security officers protecting passengers going to the game.

Trains and buses were routinely swept for explosives, and bags and packages were restricted from Super Bowl trains, which only stopped at a limited number of stations along our system. On game day, every single passenger went through a fare inspector and security before boarding our trains.

Getting the word out to what would certainly be a majority of out-of-towners unfamiliar with our system was a top priority. It helped to have an aggressive marketing and communications plan, which flooded traditional and social media throughout the Bay Area, and ultimately in the cities of the two competing Super Bowl teams, Charlotte and Denver, with messages about the fare requirements.

Thousands of pocket guides were delivered to fully-booked local hotels, providing a map of the public transit system and other critical information. Passengers were prepared.

Sticking to our motto paid off. By the time the Broncos and the Panthers kicked off the first play of the game, 10,000 VTA passengers were safely in their seats at Levi’s Stadium to see it.

Toward the end of the game, VTA flashed reminders on stadium screens to direct passengers to the right exits for their trains. Because of that, clearing those same crowds after the game took less than an hour. Queue lines moved steadily with 5-10 minute maximum waits.

VTA extends a tremendous amount of gratitude to our regional partners in this endeavor. The San Francisco Bay Area is a true example of regional collaboration and the coalition of public transit operators helped make service for Super Bowl 50 a success.

If there was one thread that continued throughout the year-long planning and execution of this event, it was top-grade enthusiasm for doing the best job possible.

Fernandez was named VTA’s general manager in 2013. Previously, she was chief operating officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Super Partners

VTA and other San Francisco area public transit agencies worked closely together to plan and carry out a comprehensive transit plan, creating a seamless experience for riders and fans alike. Key partners in this endeavor included Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Super Bowl fans wait to board a VTA train to the big game.

Photo courtesy of VTA

« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »

© Copyright American Public Transportation Association
1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe
Twitter Flickr Blog YouTube Facebook