Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

No answers yet on Super Bowl tie-ups

A legislative committee again got nowhere in trying to figure out why thousands of riders were stranded.

TRENTON - A New Jersey legislative committee was rebuffed again Monday in its attempts to get answers to why thousands of train-riding football fans were stranded for hours after last month's Super Bowl, even as the committee's chairman appeared to shift some of the blame from the state's transit agency to the NFL.

For the second time in less than a month, the NFL, New Jersey Transit, and the local Super Bowl host committee declined to send representatives to the hearing sponsored by the Assembly transportation committee. A scheduled Feb. 24 hearing was canceled when those parties, including outgoing NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein, said they would not attend.

Since then, Weinstein has been replaced by former Turnpike Authority chief Veronique Hakim. In a letter to committee Chairman John S. Wisniewski (D., Middlesex) dated Friday, Hakim asked for "reasonable time so that I can be in a position to provide the committee with meaningful testimony."

While Wisniewski called Weinstein's last-minute decision to skip last month's hearing "reprehensible," he questioned how much the NFL's policies played a role in what fellow committee member Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D., Union) likened to the "Who's On First?" comedy routine.

"We don't know, because we haven't had an opportunity to hear from them," Wisniewski said. "But the testimony we heard today from individuals is that the NFL dictated many of the protocols that New Jersey Transit had to follow. They were really put into a box where they had to use only rail, they had a rail facility that only could process 12,000 to 13,000 people per hour, and when they realized they had 30,000 people coming through that train station, there was no other way to fix it. I think that was unfair to New Jersey Transit, and I'd like to hear from them to understand exactly what they did to try and solve that problem."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment when asked about Wisniewski's remarks or whether the league would send a representative to a committee meeting.

About 33,000 people took the seven-mile ride between MetLife Stadium and the Secaucus rail transfer station, more than double the highest estimates made by organizers and transportation experts before the game.

Billed as the first mass-transit Super Bowl, the game differed significantly from a standard New York Giants or New York Jets game because far fewer parking spots were available due to security considerations. The Super Bowl host committee provided round-trip "Fan Express" buses from six locations in New York City and three in New Jersey for $51, about five times the cost of a round-trip train ticket.

Speaking at Monday's hearing, marketing expert Ron Simoncini, who worked with several North Jersey towns on Super Bowl-related events, said it was unclear until the days leading up to the game how local hotel guests could get to the game, given that NFL rules prohibited anyone from walking onto the site or being dropped off by a bus or limo. Parking passes for the game cost $150, with scalpers getting upward of $300.

"A lot of things with this game seemed to be decided on the run," he said.

Sal Gentile, a senior vice president at Hartz Mountain, which owns the Harmon Meadow hotel, retail and dining complex in Secaucus, said ticket reseller StubHub provided ground transportation to and from the game for several thousand of its customers that operated smoothly, while fewer than 100 people took Fan Express buses from a designated stop in Harmon Meadow.

David Porter Associated Press
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