If You Build It With Less Parking, They Will Still Come


We’re nearly a couple of weeks into baseball season, and fans of the Washington Nationals are enjoying their new transit-, bike- and pedestrian-friendly stadium. The DC complex, with its transit links, shuttle buses and valet bike parking, is so accessible — and city efforts to encourage fans to get there by alternate means so successful — that on Opening Day its relatively few parking lots weren’t even full, reports Greater Greater Washington:

Good for DC for resisting the warnings from team owners and various
commentators that the world would end unless the entire neighborhood
were converted to parking as New York did to the South Bronx. Looks like parking demand is elastic, after all.

The Yankees, while we’re at it, are in Kansas City tonight; the Mets host the Phillies. 

Photo: ShepDave/Flickr

  • lee

    Another reason the parking lots may not be full:
    The Washington Nationals play there.

    Opening day attendance was 39,000. it’s been about 20,000 since then. Far shy of the ~57,000 and ~55,000 that fill Shea and Yankee Stadiums.

  • dave snyder

    If your experience is like ours with the Giants ballpark, your parking lots will fill up as soon as people realize there is actually a great deal of parking. We had fewer than 5,000 spaces for our 40,000 seat stadium and people freaked: oh my god there will be no parking. Opening Day was a sellout and the lots were empty. Somehow people managed to get there without a car. Weird, I know. But in the ensuing weeks people realized they could drive and transit use dropped and auto mode share rose to the level permitted by the available parking. Surprise surprise.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So what does that say about the Nets Arena? Build it without parking, and it will fill without cars, especially given its location.

  • Boogiedown

    It seems to my neighbors on the Grand Concourse here in the Bronx that there is a lot less traffic on game days so far this season…maybe the construction is scaring people onto the subway? In other words, take away parking, and they will also still come?

  • jason


    Attendance in the two games since opening night has indeed been mediocre (weather has been poor, to be fair). But opening night was a sellout of the 41,888 capacity ballpark, and there were still open (but not cheap) parking places in the nearby lots and garages. WMATA reported that 21,000 people, over half of visiting fans, took Metro to get to the stadium. That’d make Nationals Stadium a pretty good example for others to emulate, regardless of the size of the crowd.

    To don a more pessimistic hat for a moment… I think it is a stretch to describe the stadium as pedestrian-friendly, despite the short and pleasant walk on a pedestrianized street from the Metro station entrance to the ballpark. I say this more because of the undeveloped and barren nature of the neighborhood (called Near South-East by most). There has been a remarkable amount of construction in the area, and while some of it is completed, the current area is more of a work-in-progress than a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. Now, this site was picked particularly for the potential for gentrification/development spurred on by the ballpark. And much of the planned and in-progress construction is mixed-use. Hopefully, this all comes to pass (including displaced locals getting the workforce townhouses they were promised).

    But regardless of that, the city and the team have done a lot right, from market-based street parking to bike valet to urging visitors to take the train.

  • neb

    This is great news! Washingtonians are used to the idea of taking metro to see sporting events. Its too bad there was such a fuss over providing parking at the stadium. This is what happens when team owners and politicians who never use transit are the ones making the decisions. The people know how to get to the game by Metro, but unfortunately the people in charge don’t. But now, maybe they will! Hopefully.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I was listening to the Mets game last night. With two stadiums on the footprint, and less parking, the announcers told fans that whatever you do, take mass transit this year.

    The “good news?” The new stadium holds only 44,000 (probably more expensive) seats, but with Shea gone there will be the same amount of parking as before. So beginning next year, it will be easier to drive!

    A couple of differences. The Nats stadium is a short hop from the CBD and the center of the region, but the Mets are 35 minutes out. That means that getting home from Brooklyn after a night game takes up to 1:45, and puts me home at 1:00 in the morning. I get up at 5:40 am. Shea was sited for the automobile.

    There are, however, still some things they could do. The Mets are not selling tickets via internet you print at home – a great deal. They know where the fans are. They could try to get people together to take special transit buses (finding a loophole and flouting federal law) back to particular areas. But to do so, they would have to have configured the parking lots to give buses more direct access to the highways.

  • Alex B.

    The local media has been seemingly disappointed that there wasn’t transportation armageddon. There were dire predictions. Wednesday provided a great test, with a Nationals game, a DC United game, and a Wizards game all occurring at the same time, all in venues located near Metro, and everything went smoothly.

  • Alex B.

    I forgot one thing –

    That’s an ironic picture to show for the new Nationals Stadium, since it shows probably the worst design aspect of the entire park. That picture is from Half Street, the street that links Metro to the stadium. As you approach the gate to the outfield, you’re flanked by two massive parking garages that hold some 1,200 cars, reserved for season ticket holders.

    Those garages are now the view when looking towards the outfield. Original plans called for burying the parking and siting mixed use development on top of it, creating a Wrigley Field-esque balcony ballgame experience, but that was deemed too expensive and would take too long to the park’s breakneck construction schedule. So, while it’s been a great opening in terms of people’s ability to use alternative modes, there are two gigantic and ugly reminders of the car mentality that will be with this park for a long time. They’ve tried covering them with all sorts of banners and signs, but you can only put so much lipstick on a pig.

  • Andy

    I feel bad for sports fans in most North American cities. Here in Toronto, we’re fortunate to be able to attend NBA, NHL, MBL, and soon NFL games, all within a short walk of the subway, in the heart of downtown. Not only that, but people actually live within walking distance of the stadiums. Out of towners frequently choose to park their cars at a subway station off the main highway and take the subway downtown.

  • The King of Spain

    If you want to know more about the area’s development, some woman has meticulously documented the light-speed development of the area. It’s really incredible how much construction there is, much that is very good planning, if not great architecture. But hey, anything is better than K street.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I write real estate/regional economic reports for a living now, and DC is one of the markets I cover.

    All the issues in NYC — gentrification, redevelopment, are moving much faster there. There is much more vacant land close in, and thus much more development, and the city went much further down before recovering due to violence and drugs.

    The question is, how will all this be affected by the end of the real estate bubble. For now, it is the exurban McMansion areas that are getting crushed.

    Also, there is a north-south divide in Virginia like NY. NOVA produces all the money, and is dying for infrastructure, but Richmond doesn’t want it spent there. A compromise — a regional transportation tax in NOVA — was just struck down by the state courts. An extension of the metro to Dulles Airport may never happen.

  • Alex B.

    The woman The King of Spain refers to is Jacqueline Dupree, her site is JDland:


    And yes, it’s an extensive overview of current and proposed development in the area. If you check out her page on the ballpark, she’s got great interior pictures showing how big those parking garages are, despite the proximity to Metro. She’s also got some amazing before and after shots to see what changes have already happened, yet alone what’s on tap.

    Larry, the DC market has dropped a bit and slowed down, but it isn’t facing anywhere near the kind of wholesale collapse seen so far in the exurban counties.

  • The King of Spain

    Ha! I did forget to actually put in the link, didn’t I.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Thanks for the link. Institutional investors may see this lady cited in the next quarter’s report, along with data produced by my firm.

    Who needs the MSM anyway?

  • Josh

    Momentarily taking off my Streetsblog hat and putting on my sports fan hat…

    Toronto is going to have an NFL team? What?


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