Metro Transit gets lessons from Houston

Published 7:36 am Wednesday, February 15, 2017

By Janet Moore

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Metro Transit sent 12 people to Houston this month to research how transit operated amid the Super Bowl at NRG Stadium and festivities leading up to the big game.

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The price tag was $22,881 — $10,852 of which was paid by the Department of Homeland Security. The remainder of $12,029 was covered by Metro Transit’s operating budget, according to spokesman Howie Padilla, who attended.

None of those traveling to Texas attended the game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, except for a police lieutenant who was at the stadium on game day working on a special program with other law enforcement.

Staff traveling to Houston included representatives from rail and bus street operations, rail and bus control centers and the Metro Transit Police Department, plus a special-events specialist and a marketing and customer-service representative.

“It was eye-opening,” said Mark Benedict, Metro Transit’s director of light rail operations. “The purpose, in a nutshell, was to observe transit and security demands firsthand.”

A key takeaway was that the festivities begin two weeks ahead of the game, scheduled for Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium. So transit needs to adapt well beyond gameday service to the stadium, and existing transit customers need attention, too.

“The density of our crowds will be much tighter here,” Benedict said, noting that Houston is much more spread out geographically.