Fans who attended the San Francisco 49ers preseason opener at Levi's Stadium against the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon were making their way home early after the game trying to beat traffic after struggling to get to the stadium in time for kick off.
Whether they had a short or long trip to the game, most of the fans said the highways were not a problem, as traffic on northbound Highway 101 moved along at a nice pace--but the problems started when they exited the freeway.
That is when finding parking near Levi's Stadium turned into sitting in a parking lot.
"It was about an hour-and-15 to an hour-and-30-minutes from the time we got off the highway until we actually got into our parking lot," 49ers fan Joe Durrenberger of Brentwood said.
Other fans said they were frustrated they had to park nearly a mile away from the stadium in order to be in a lot that allowed traditional tailgating barbecues using coals. But there were also improvements compared to the San Jose Earthquakes game two weeks ago.
More Santa Clara police officers were stationed at entrances to residential neighborhoods letting fans know they cannot park there. And security lines seemed to move more quickly, with more options for fans.
The biggest complaints reported were about the parking. Some fans prepaid to park in lots that allowed tailgating only to find they could not tailgate.
Others complained about the cost of parking. One of the lots charged $50 to park there.
Fans who did not want to deal with the hassle of parking had another option for getting to Levi's Stadium--public transportation.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority learned a lot from the first Levi’s Stadium event when it hosted the Earthquakes game.
So, Curtis Felix thought the light rail system probably ironed out a chunk of the problems, and he took a chance and rode the train to today’s 49ers game.
“It was just a lot of backed up trains…not a lot of people being able to get where they needed to be," he said. "They added a lot of trains this time, and they’ll be able to take care of everybody.”
The problem is lots of fans had the same idea.
Train after train, especially from the southern direction, was packed in a sea of red--some said it was like a party train.
VTA even had buses at some train stations if people could not get on a train.
“If the trains are full, they can hop on a bus," VTA spokeswoman Colleen Valles said. "We have put out extra buses at our Tasman station, which is a transfer station for that same reason. If people get one train and need to get to another train and it’s full, they can hop on a bus.”
Light rail seemed to be the way to go, judging by the slow moving traffic, according to some fans.
Trains zipped by the gridlock, and some of those drivers ended up on VTA because of the traffic jam.
“We tried driving down there, and it was a cluster, so we came back," Jim Doxey said.
"I wasn’t paying $40 for parking. We’ll just throw it out there,” Jennifer Doxey said.
VTA acknowledged the test may have been after the game when everyone was trying to leave all at once. That is when much of the VTA problems occurred at the Earthquakes game.
The exodus started before the game ended, since many left early because of the 34-0 Broncos score. And this may have helped traffic flow easily out of the stadium with no major traffic jams.
In any event, VTA had three, three-car trains on stand-up to help get passengers home faster--something they did not have ready at the Earthquakes game.