Parking changes made for safety and experience
Penn State officials had a clear message for football fans at media day on Saturday when it comes to the upcoming traffic and parking changes going into effect this season: If you figure out your route before leaving, you shouldn’t have any trouble.
Because of the change in lot numbers, the new four-zone access system and one-way traffic pattern that starts four hours before kickoff, some football fans might be feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Acknowledging that change can cause confusion, Penn State is putting in the effort to make sure people know where they’re supposed to go with the #RunYourRoute social media campaign, the gopsusports.com/gameday website with interactive maps from the state Department of Transportation, information on the back of each parking pass, new signage and a partnership with the Waze app that directs motorists to where they need to go on game day.
“What we encourage people to do is read the back of their parking permit, look at the signage, the signage will be completely different than in the past,” said Scott Sidwell, Penn State deputy director of athletics-external. “Know before you go. Don’t wait until 15 minutes before you have to be here to start looking up what you need to do for the day to make it a great experience for you as a fan.”
Penn State announced its parking changes in November, then held a series of town hall meetings to gather feedback from the public and made a few tweaks, such as allowing some access on Fox Hollow Road for those who park in Lots 14-18 in the North Zone. But the initial planning process began as early as 2017, when Penn State contracted Chicago-based event parking and transportation consultant SP+ to help identify areas of improvement.
One of the major things they noticed, SP+ representative Don Jordan said Saturday, was the amount of cross traffic — traffic going in all directions around the stadium.
The quadrant setup, which divides the area into the North Zone (with access from Fox Hollow Road), the East Zone (with access via U.S. Route322/Interstate 99 to Park Avenue), the South Zone (with access via University Park Drive or Porter Road from College Avenue) and the West Zone (with access from Atherton Street to Park Avenue) — was implemented to help dissipate that.
“By eliminating some of that traffic, we’re creating more of a direct in and out, a safer scenario if we need to get emergency vehicles in or out to take care of a situation,” Jordan said. “And also a more efficient scenario where we’re getting people into the lots a little quicker and easier.”
Another one of the biggest changes Jordan said people will notice this year is that all lots will open at the same time, instead of the staggered openings Penn State has done in the past.
In addition to increased efficiency, Penn State is also hoping the four-zone system and one-way traffic helps increase pedestrian safety. The Fox Hollow and Porter roads intersection was identified as one of the most significant in terms of mixed vehicular and pedestrian traffic, Penn State Assistant Chief for University Police and Public Safety Bill Moerschbacher said.
With the changes, he said the amount of vehicular traffic going through that intersection should be “significantly less.”
Moerschbacher said that although he doesn’t believe fans need to leave home any earlier for Penn State’s first game at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 31 against Idaho, he does encourage motorists to have their parking permits displayed on their rear view mirrors to make the process smoother.
“As we all know, Beaver Stadium is one of the greatest stadium experiences in all the world, and to be able to bring 107,000 people here on a game day is a huge challenge,” Sidwell said. “Penn State has done that very well for a number of years, but we’re looking to increase and enhance that experience.”
Along with the traffic updates, Penn State also put work into improving its grass lots over the offseason, as record precipitation last year restricted parking for four out of Penn State’s seven home football games. Overflow parking was sent to places such as the Nittany Mall, Mount Nittany Elementary/Middle schools, downtown and Penn State parking garages and as far as the Grange fairgrounds in Centre Hall.
As soon as the snow melted this spring, Sidwell said the university placed hard plastic mesh on the ground, which grass has since grown through, to help increase the strength of driving lanes. They also added gravel drive aisles in two of the lots to reduce rutting during wet conditions.
Although some improvements have already been made, Sidwell said there will be more to come. He also said that the university will be monitoring how everything goes on that first football Saturday, and then making any necessary adjustments.
Penn State also wants fans to be a part of that process and offer feedback.
“That’s why we created #RunYourRoute, we’re trying to to centralize communication from a social perspective so we can see what is going on on a game day,” he said. “We have 1-800-NITTANY open on game day and gopsusports.com/gameday to be able to access what’s happening so we can make adjustments on the fly then react to that between games 1, 2, 3 and beyond.”