Parking system rallies after tough start

Parking system rallies after tough start

LOS ANGELES -- At 5:45 p.m. PT on Wednesday, the entrance to Dodger Stadium on Elysian Park already was becoming quite busy, as cars passed through the gates and headed to the parking lots for the third home game of the season against the Colorado Rockies.

Two days after a home opener in which parking became a hot issue at Chavez Ravine, the process moved along rather smoothly heading into Wednesday's game.

The attendants hired by the Dodgers to help implement the organization's new controlled zone parking system quickly checked which cars had preferred parking passes and which had general passes. One SUV headed to the right to the preferred section, but didn't have its placard out.

"Excuse me, sir," said the attendant, who was directing traffic. "Would you please put your placard up on your rear-view mirror? We need to know where you're supposed to go."

The driver apologized and proceeded to the inner circle of the stadium.

"It's actually been running a lot smoother," the attendant said. "The season ticket holders now know what to do and they're moving right through. It may take a little bit for the other customers, but I think they'll catch on pretty fast."

It was a rough going for the new system on Opening Day, but Camille Johnston, the Dodgers' senior vice president of communications, said many factors led to the problems.

"We parked 20,000 cars on Opening Day, and on a typical sellout, we park about 16,000," Johnston said. "It's just the nature of Opening Day -- people go to their office in the morning and then meet their friends and family at the stadium, so there's an additional four cars. That plus the game ending at 4:30, in the middle of rush hour, created a very difficult day on Opening Day.

"We do believe the system works. It's been evaluated and put into place by parking experts from outside organizations, who have been working with L.A. traffic situations for decades."

The controlled zone parking system has fans enter and exit through the same gate, and has them directed to park in a specific parking lot and space. Season ticket holder parking lots are now lettered, and, as in past seasons, season ticket holders with preferred parking lot passes may enter and exit out of any parking gate. Non-season ticket lots are numbered.

"What controlled zone parking does is eliminate people coming in and driving around and around the stadium looking for available spots," Johnston said. "When a lot is full, we know it and move on to parking people in the next lot.

"We also think this makes it much safer for pedestrians. We have now instituted pedestrian walkways that are proving very effective as well."

Johnston said the organization did receive negative e-mail about Opening Day, but very little regarding any parking problems for Tuesday and Wednesday's games. The e-mails showed there is a certain type of fan that is having a hard time with the new system.

"Many of our fans who have been coming here, some of them for 45 years, they like to drive in one gate, out the other gate, park in their favorite spot, all those things," Johnston said. "Those are the people that this has been a difficult change for. For the average person, not much has changed at all. They come into a gate, they are directed to a parking spot, and they walk into the stadium. [Then] they come out and get out."

Johnston felt the experience of the first three games was good training for both the security and parking staff. The big test will be this weekend series with the Padres, when the Dodgers are expecting sellouts. The Dodgers organization has also been working closely with city agencies to help improve traffic flow once the fans leave the stadium.

"The additional resources have been used to partner with Caltrans and LAPD and others in order to have thoroughfares outside the stadium work better, as well," Johnston said. "The close relationship that we are trying to make even better will be visible on games this weekend, when people see that we are able to [put traffic cones on] part of the freeways so there's a direct on-ramp, [and] there's no merging of traffic, those sorts of things.

"There are city officials down there monitoring the lights -- actually working with our traffic people to make sure the traffic flow is working properly."

The Dodgers are aware that there are adjustments by both the fans and the organization to this new system. But with a little more time, everyone will get used to it and things will go a lot easier going forward.

"I think the education system was kind of a difficult one," Johnston said. "So little has actually changed once you're inside the stadium that now that people have heard about it, and it should run pretty smoothly this weekend."

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.