Super Bowl post mortem – NJT Did Decently, Got Raw Deal


Last night’s game was a total disaster.  It was utterly awful.  I feel terribly sorry for the people who bought tickets to go to the game—but that’s primarily the fault of the Denver Broncos, and out of our purview.  There’s a word for losing 43-8, but its not fit to print.

Certain issues notwithstanding, NJ Transit did an incredible job last night.  They managed to move nearly 30,000 people through Secaucus to the Meadowlands, more than twice the 12,000 originally estimated.  Despite the enormous over crowding, despite the blockages and back ups, this operation was conducted safely, and nobody was hurt.  I applaud NJ Transit’s management and the 4500 employees who volunteered to help out. I especially applaud the private citizens who also volunteered to help out, too.

Despite all that, there were issues.  I could justify it—and point out in truth—that it took only 4 hours to clear the stadium.  That means that 30,000 people were moved on about 25 trains, or about a train leaving every 10 minutes.  One of the issues, which greatly exacerbated this problem, was that NJ Transit was only using one platform to load trains of the available three.  The only reason I could think of for this was overzealous security concerns.  If they were permitted to use only one platform for loading, they did it about as fast as it can be done with the equipment chosen.

Still, just because NJ Transit did the best they could under the circumstances put in front of them does not mean that it couldn’t have been done better with more of an intelligent overall approach.

NJ Transit was told to expect 12,000 people on the line.  Doing the math, long before the Super Bowl, we at the Lackawanna Coalition predicted very different numbers, and didn’t understand the ones the NFL had given.  We predicted 25–30,000 people would take the train—and we were right.  Had more accurate numbers been predicted, perhaps arrangements at the stadium could have been better configured to handle the actual number of people present leaving the game.

An unconfirmed and likely erroneous report of people passing out at Secaucus hours prior to the game, and hours prior to the first game train, surfaced through the vaunted reporting of the Associated Press.  While the situation was likely not as bad as presented by them, the station was uncomfortably hot, and had NJ Transit been preparing for the actual numbers of people present, perhaps that could have been fixed.

A final problem is the NFL itself.  The NFL—and other sports operations—are famous for setting up huge events for the ‘benefit’ of regions in which they take place.  Those regions are largely required to pay for the improvements needed—and the sports operator then collects most of the money that comes in from hosting the event, giving little benefit other than prestige to the area hosting the event.  This was especially egregious, since the event was hosted in and largely paid for in New Jersey, and the pregame events were hosted in and largely beneficial to New York City.

It was the NFL that largely commandeered the parking lot.  It was the NFL that charged outrageous amounts of money to park near the stadium.  It was the NFL that prevented rotating taxi, limo, and bus service from serving the game affordably.  It was the NFL that set up the pricing structure that so favored NJ Transit Rail as the way to go.  It was the NFL that largely organized this into what is being hashtagged by some as #TrainGate.  And it was New Jersey and NJ Transit that got the blasted with the blame for everything that went wrong because of it, and has to clean it up.

I feel sorry for the people who were stuck on line for four hours.  I feel sorry for the people who were uncomfortable at Secaucus and leaving the Meadowlands.  I feel sorry for the poor schnooks who paid to go to the game.  I feel really sorry for Denver Broncos fans. However, none of those things are really the fault of NJ Transit.