Speaking of potentially transformational ideas, I've also been thinking lately about stadium parking lots. This month the Anschutz group released its draft environmental impact report supporting the development of a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles (where I work). What was interesting about that is even here in car-happy Los Angeles, the developers are proposing various schemes to encourage maybe 25% of all attendees to use public transportation to get to football games.
I have some concerns about the development of a new football stadium downtown, but they are mainly based on the fear that because the stadium might only be in active use a couple of dozen times a year, the rest of the time we would have a giant dead zone in the middle of downtown, and that is not good for other kinds of commercial and residential development. But let's say the developers can create a structure that does not suck the life out of the surrounding area. Then I would also have to applaud them for thinking seriously about integrating public transportation and stadium design.
It would be easy to scoff. Naysayers are already saying that football fans will insist on bringing their own tailgates to the tailgate party. But I remember following the crowd to and from Yankee Stadium on the D train. That was a great part of the fan experience. And I'd love to see us start teaching the masses in my adopted city to leave their cars home more often.
Baseball presents similar opportunities. There was an article in today's LA Times diagramming the new ownership structure of the parking lots at Chavez Ravine in a way that is so complicated it reminded me of the maps of Bosnia we used to see during the conflict in that country. But the new, and the old, owners are clearly re-thinking their uses of the vast acreage of parking lots we have in the hills above downtown, designed at the apex of car-centered development, when it never occurred to anyone to design a stadium accessible by public transportation. We have since learned that when you send 50,000 people into a narrow ravine solely by automobile, it is going to take them an hour of crawling through narrow exhaust-choked roadways to exit at the end of the game, and that is not so pleasant.
My idea, for what it's worth, would be to build a Swiss tram ride from downtown up to the Dodger Stadium parking lots, which could be used by baseball fans, tourists and perhaps some park and ride commuters into downtown. By reducing the acreage needed for parking cars, we could add some new features to the area, like stores and restaurants and hotels, and Angelenos could continue to learn something about getting around by other means than the private automobile.