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Dodgers could learn a lesson about public transportation from the Hollywood Bowl


The bus doors opened and happy passengers rushed toward Dodger Stadium. The bus came directly from their neighborhood.

The Dodgers gave everyone a free team magazine when they came out. The front door was just a few steps away, leading directly to the food, drinks and attractions behind center field.

“We can come here without worrying about parking,” said rider Leslie Mendoza. “It’s better than driving.”

The playoffs open Saturday at Dodger Stadium. With them come sellout crowds and the infamous congestion in and around stadium parking lots.

You can take a shuttle from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. You might be able to take a gondola to the stadium someday, but that will also require you to go to Union Station.

In Los Angeles, summer means Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl. For half a century, the Hollywood Bowl has offered park and ride, directly from your neighborhood, with drop-off at the front door, and without the need for a transfer to Union Station or elsewhere.

The park-and-ride program is convenient, effective and popular. So why don’t the Dodgers offer park and ride?

“We looked into it,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said.

Kasten said the team has no plans to implement a park-and-ride program at this time, citing two challenges in particular.

For one thing, he said, the Dodgers might have trouble finding enough large parking lots to meet demand. Hollywood Bowl buses carried 295,467 passengers last year, according to spokeswoman Sophie Jefferies, or 24% of the season’s audience.

Shuttle buses from Union Station to Dodger Stadium handled 214,038 passengers last year, Metro spokesman Jose Ubaldo said, or 5 percent of the season’s audience.

If 24 percent of fans took park-and-ride parking — the same percentage as the Hollywood Bowl percentage — the Dodgers would need to guarantee parking spots around town for about 1 million fans over the course of a season.

“And buses also have to cross traffic,” Kasten said. “We wouldn’t have dedicated lanes all over the city.”

An aerial view of Dodger Stadium shows numerous parking lots used by fans. Shuttle buses from Union Station to Dodger Stadium handled 214,038 passengers last year, according to Metro.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

The shuttle from Union Station travels to Dodger Stadium along a dedicated (bus-only) lane along Sunset Boulevard. However, Turner Engineering Corp. of Venice recently presented Metro with a plan that could deploy technology to turn regular traffic lanes into rapid bus lanes and vice versa.

As Metro continues to add electric buses – its goal is to operate a zero-emission fleet by 2030 – these buses could be equipped with existing technology that would turn a red light green as the bus approaches, or would keep a green light until the bus passes.

The buses could be used for regular daytime service and park and ride service for such crowded events as the 2026 World Cup, the 2028 Olympics and any future Taylor Swift concerts.

“We think it’s great for Dodger Stadium,” said David Turner, president of Turner Engineering.

Turner said mall parking lots — whether the mall is still in use or mothballed — could provide neighborhood parking and pickup spaces for park-and-ride buses. Hollywood Bowl park-and-ride buses depart from 15 locations throughout Los Angeles County, including transit centers, shopping centers, recreation centers and colleges.

Ubaldo, the Metro spokesman, said his agency believes Metro’s large parking lots throughout the county — at stations in places such as El Monte, Gardena and North Hollywood — allow fans to park near home and take public transportation to Dodger Stadium, even with one stop. at Union Station.

“We already have plenty of park-and-ride opportunities,” Ubaldo said.

For many fans, the decision on how to get to Dodger Stadium could come down to the weather. On a weekday evening, from the Westside, the drive regularly takes more than an hour.

Metro says the Westside Subway — formerly called the Purple Line, now called the D Line and scheduled for completion in 2027 — could get you from Brentwood to Union Station in 30 minutes.

Transfer from there to the shuttle, and the total journey could take 45 minutes to an hour, maybe a little more in peak times. Transfer from there to the proposed gondola, and the total expected journey time would be close to 40 minutes.

Under his proposal, Turner said, park-and-ride buses could get from the Westside to Dodger Stadium in a little more than 30 minutes, without stopping at Union Station.

The first full-capacity concert at the Hollywood Bowl on July 3, 2021 featured Kool & the Gang.

The Hollywood Bowl has offered park and ride buses with drop-off at the front door for half a century.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Money matters, of course. Metro contributes more than $1 million a year to the Hollywood Bowl park-and-ride program, Ubaldo said. Riders pay $7 in advance, $12 on the day of the show.

Still, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which runs the county-owned Bowl, and promoters who hold concerts there combine to cover about two-thirds of the park-and-ride fees, said Jefferies, the spokeswoman for the Bowl.

The Dodgers are unlikely to subsidize a park-and-ride program. The Hollywood Bowl lacks enough parking and desperately needs its park-and-ride program. Dodger Stadium has about as many parking spaces as the Hollywood Bowl has seats.

“With all of our problems,” Kasten said, “we’re handling a very large number (of cars) reasonably efficiently, for the number that it is. It’s a huge number.

“Nowhere else needs so many cars. It’s a challenge. It will never be perfect.

Nothing is, except Sandy Koufax in 1965. But Metro and the Dodgers should work together to evaluate the feasibility of a park-and-ride system, providing another transit option for fans of a team that sells out nearly 4 million tickets each year. In our sprawling region, even an extensive subway system is not a practical choice for everyone.

In fact, there is already a park-and-ride option. This is the bus described at the top of this column, the little-known alternate route of the Dodger Stadium Express shuttles. This route does not leave from Union Station but from the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in Gardena and goes directly to the stadium.

That route serves about 700 fans per game, Ubaldo said. And, just like the shuttle from Union Station, it costs nothing if you present a game ticket. Metro funds the Dodger Stadium shuttles with revenue from grants, taxes and advertising.

Jose Morales was all smiles as he got off the bus one recent evening, surveying the crowded parking lots all around him.

“I’m not paying $30,” he said. “I prefer to come here for free.”

Take me to the ball game?

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