Gone Baby Gondola

2018 gondola route map (with older ballpark design)

Two related bits of ballpark-related news came out of FanFest over the weekend. First, the Chronicle’s Phil Matier picked up on the transportation study that shows that people will continue driving even if the A’s come to Howard Terminal, which belies the notion of an “urban” ballpark. On a related note, Oakland’s Department of Transportation is now downplaying the prospects of a gondola bridging the nearest BART station (12th Street/City Center) and the ballpark. After all the hubbub coming out of last year’s FanFest, this news is what I feared. Dave Kaval remains optimistic. I have my doubts.

I discussed the prospects of the gondola at length exactly one year ago. It saddens me that the discussion may end there, not so much because the gondola dream is dying, but because all parties seem to be satisfied with the current lack of solutions to deal with the last mile problem. The prevailing attitude seems to be that technology will solve the gridlock problem. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that.

Transportation Network Companies, from Uber and Lyft to bike and scooter share startups, are supposed to bridge that gap along with walking. Profitability remains off in the distance. Strategies are largely confined to waiting for a competitor to go under and become a default monopoly player due to attrition, then jack up fares to become profitable once the competition is gone. Another possible scenario is a merger to eliminate competition, which makes some sense given that many drivers work for both Uber and Lyft. When that consolidation occurs, and more realistic pricing emerges, we’ll start to see how many people choose ridesharing as an option instead of walking or taking a bus shuttle. The upshot is that it’s a very difficult game to make transportation that merely breaks even, whether you’re talking public or private. (Note: Not touching the impact of AB 5.)

This is the point where I have to point out (again) that the Giants’ ballpark deal in China Basin was made with SF agreeing to a light rail extension from Market Street to the ballpark along the Embarcadero. That won’t happen in Oakland. Perhaps a BART extension could happen once everyone figures out how and where a second Transbay Tube will be built (and funded). That probably can’t happen until 2050.

Take it or leave it for now

For the majority of fans who will be driving to Howard Terminal, they could reserve parking spots at participating area garages depending on how much they’re willing to pay and walk. There’s enough parking inventory in downtown Oakland to handle the demand. How fans react to longer walks to their parking spots or BART is the coming source of friction. If fans encounter a fairly tranquil day as has been experienced for the Jack London Square version of FanFest, they’ll be encouraged to keep going to games. If they see difficulty in game night traffic, the parking experience, the walk/shuttle, or a train incident blocks the way in/out, that could mean one or more fans or families that choose to go on a weekend instead of a weekday, or simply less frequently than they used to. However the A’s and the City/Port are pitching this, convenience is not the main selling point. It will be convenient for some who live in Oakland near the park or a short AC Transit bus ride away. The problem is that it isn’t an improvement for practically everyone else who lives in the East Bay. There could be improvements with the bus schedules, helpful for those who choose to take the bus. I could see more Amtrak trains and ferry service. None of those options help the rest of the East Bay, where most of the fanbase originates.

Baseball, especially in Oakland, is dependent on casual fans who choose to go on a whim instead of being season ticket holders. The A’s even modernized their season ticket plan to effectively encourage going on a whim. But it’s not a good trend if the end result is lower friction to buy tickets and higher friction to actually attend a game. Bottom line: the only infrastructure being planned so far is the transit hub, a single pedestrian/bike bridge, and the addition of bus lanes. To be honest, I’m confounded at how this passed as a first draft of the transportation plan. A’s fans, whether you live in Oakland or Concord, whether you’re young or old or need assistance, deserve better.

P.S. – I chose not to go to FanFest this year. The lack of news about the ballpark, combined with the minimal turnover in the roster, made it easy for me to look ahead towards Cactus League play. Speaking of which, the A’s brought back their Spring Training Pass for those fortunate enough to be in the Valley of the Sun for the entirety of the spring. Maybe this time I’ll be able to go to more than a few games.


19 thoughts on “Gone Baby Gondola

  1. Gondola, Monorail, Star Trek like transporter…why would they even put forth such a ridiculous idea. Makes you wonder if the whole thing is pie in the sky…they are close to buying the Coliseum but not much closer to breaking ground than a year ago…

  2. @ ML

    I find Matier’s assertion that people will continue to drive a bit misleading, there is a big difference between driving and parking at the coliseum, where you park your car in a massive parking lot then go directly into and out of a game, as appose to driving your car and parking at a variety of different locations in different areas of downtown, while you get a drink, dinner, or stroll through variety of different entry points from downtown.

    Again, it’s not like there will ever be 10, 000 cars in JLS like the coliseum as you point out,

    “For the majority of fans who will be driving to Howard Terminal, they could reserve parking spots at participating area garages depending on how much they’re willing to pay and walk. There’s enough parking inventory in downtown Oakland to handle the demand.”

    And is even stated in his article,

    “But chances are that even if fans drive, they are going to wind up walking, biking or taking a bus in the final stretch “from BART, a nearby restaurant or their parking spot,”

    I am however, very concerned about your point about just how casual a big part of the A’s fan base is.

    This project will require a much larger season ticket base, from the fans, and local company’s then what we have seen in the past, It’s also fare to wonder to what length the casual fan will go to bridge the gap of that last mile.

    • You’re missing the point. 10k cars are effectively moving from East Oakland to Downtown. In the future they could be conditioned not to drive, maybe they won’t. That’s not progress no matter how you spin it.

      • @ ML

        I am missing the point?

        My point is that by saying that “people will continue to drive”, whiteout the overriding point being how different that will actually look and fill is a bit misleading.

        It infers that because the same amount of people drive it will be similar to the coliseum experience, which it in no way will be.

        I could not care less about weather 10,000 cars are at either location “That’s not progress”, the fact of the matter is that them being at one location is very different than them being at the other, that point is lost, weather intently or not.

        And no, I am not trying to spin anything.

      • https://newballpark.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/3-trafficimpacts.jpg?w=1170&h=694

        Look at this traffic map. Most of the gridlock will occur at 4-5 intersections coming off 880/980. It isn’t nearly as spread out as you think. The actual locations of parking are spread out, which helps somewhat. Getting to the parking will not be an improvement because those freeway off-ramps weren’t built for that kind of traffic crush. It will take longer and require more preparation, plus the additional walking/shuttle time required. Perhaps someone will pay for new or expanded freeway ramps to make it happen. In that sense, it’s much like Victory Court.

      • I agree with you on this, there is defiantly more that needs to be done, and for the traffic plan to ignore the off-ramps of 880/980 is huge. But, I never said it was perfect (far from it) my point was simply that Matier’s assertion that people will continue to drive a bit misleading, and I stand by my explanation of that.

        It’s hard to have a project like this, especially in the Bay Area without having some flaws to the traffic plan, hopefully over time they will try to mitigate some of that.

        In the meantime fans (that are driving) are smart enough to take 580 East at Grand, Lakeshore, Harrison, or Telegraph, Broadway, and Harrison in the other direction, one could also take 980 at 27th

        There are a lot of surface streets one could approach the area and find parking before they reach the areas of gridlock, via San Pablo, Telegraph, Broadway, Harrison (north of 20th) West Grand or Harrison at 20th, or come through West Oakland on 7th street via Maritime to name just a few.

        Unfortunate 880 in either direction is going to be difficult even if they made improvements to the off-ramps, but they should be making them with or without a ballpark.

      • This April will mark 15 years of the blog. Frankly I’m tired of “hopefully.”

      • Yeah, I am sure we all are, “hopefully” it won’t dampen your… um, enthusiasm if they actually ever get anything done.

  3. You missed a great fanfest. IT seemed like more people than the last few years. Heard it was over 30k, which is actually a great sample of what a game might look like at HT. Thanks for all your posts.

  4. One advantage of having a ballpark in close proximity to a BART station is that it offers an alternative for driving fans to the necessity of having to either drive their automobiles directly to the ballpark vicinity or to drive to downtown parking facilities and then seeking further transportation arrangements to take them in closer proximity to the ballpark. BART offers a convenient and hassle-free way of travel to the ballpark by eliminating parking, traffic, and short distance travel issues in and around a ballpark neighborhood. With utilizing BART, the fan would leave their cars at a BART Station parking facility nearer to their respective home communities, without the issues of having to drive their cars to a ballpark in a relatively inaccessible setting.

    It should also be noted that for the A’s to be financially successful in a new ballpark, they would have to be able to draw fans from the entire Bay Area, not just from the City of Oakland and Alameda County. BART is the most geographical extensive public mass transportation system in the Bay Area, and the A’s new ballpark must have close BART station accessibility to the system.

    • @ llpec

      Yes, that’s wonderful, and yet the A’s are not at the moment considering the Laney/Peralta site (BART stop close), they are also not permitted to consider the Diridon site. (BART within next ten years, not that it matters)

      They are not even considering the Coliseum site at the moment, which they actually can consider that gets 23% of their fans to the games. (surprisingly it’s not more)

      They are however considering HT, which has not one, not two, but three BART stations within relatively short distances (too bad it couldn’t be closer), apartly they fill that’s enough, or close enough to enough.

      If they actually build a stadium at HT I guess some folks will just have to be disappointed. (slit sarcasm intended)

  5. The traffic figures are concerning. I am very familiar with that area, and the thought of that many cars in a 25 block area at the same time is not good. Personally I hope this HT option works, but I think it’s critical for there to be a better traffic plan. Traffic experts have various methods that can help, in addition to more infrastructure. If there will in fact be that many drivers (which I am taking at face value) then I personally think we need to see a better plan.

    • @ Rickey24

      The traffic figures are concerning, but there won’t be that many cars in a 25 block area at “same time”, that’s the thing we are taking about staggered time periods when people will be arriving downtown.

      People well be coming from work/home in downtown Oakland, no need for a car in that case, and people that do arrive by car (from other parts of the Bay Area) will be arriving at different time periods before the game because they may choose to eat, or get a beer, or just throw beanbags at Plank in JLS.

      As you said it’s a 25 block area, that’s not small, and some of Oakland’s surface streets actually don’t see a lot of activity anyway, at least not in terms of the traffic San Francisco streets see.

      The fact is many people are talking about the under usage of traffic on 980, so much so that there are efforts to do away with it as a freeway altogether, and the majority of people using 980 in rush hour will be traveling in the opposite direction.

      I share you concerns, and yes there needs to be more done, but it’s also fair to say that some of this stuff is overblown.

      • Sure everyone arrives at staggered times, but pretty much everyone wants to Leave at the exact same time 😦 = Gridlock

  6. Lakeshore/Neil: Yes, I hope you are right that it is overblown, and maybe it is. For what it’s worth, I just studied a map of the area. Based on my local knowledge of the roads around Howard Terminal as well as “parkability” and “walkability,” there are actually almost 200 square blocks that I think will be in play for drivers coming to games. The area spans from the edge of Laney’s campus on the South over to West Oakland BART on the North and going East towards Downtown. I would love to see (and I hope we see) a traffic flow schematic showing how the estimated number of cars will look entering and exiting this area, along with the traffic impacts on the freeways and neighborhoods. I get that this seems like a large area, traffic patterns can infect large areas. Looking at the map, I personally believe there will be a need for significant traffic control efforts and likely new traffic-related infrastructure, if we assume this volume of cars. I’m not an expert at all, but I just hope the planners get this right. As an A’s fan, I want this project to be built but also to be a success over the long term for the team and the area.

    • From the looks of it, City/Port will try to keep all ballpark traffic east of either Adeline or Market to prevent conflicts with trucking. That will cause a greater concentration of fans in the designated area and the longer delays that will result. This is similar to the way SF had to create new restrictions south of China Basin. The biggest proposed infrastructure change is the fence along the Embarcadero, which will help keep pedestrians from wandering on the tracks but won’t significantly change vehicular traffic. A fence exists along the Embarcadero east of the Amtrak station.

    • Looking at the traffic control map that ML posted, its pretty clear that West Oakland is going to take the brunt of the added cars (mostly off 980) especially after a presumed build out of the project.

      I guess this report was apparently a first fase or something, Oakland defenitly needs to take a harder look at some of the streets west of the ballpark its self.

  7. Hmmm….it’s almost as if they should have considered building in a more convenient, transit accessible location? But they did and were rejected when trying to build in Fremont, SJ, and Laney. I still think the current location is the best. This dream of a waterfront location doesn’t work if people can’t get to it.

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