Live concerts are a way of life in the Bay Area. There’s always some kind of show going on from kids’ concerts to skating shows to rodeos to the biggest names in the music business. If a production is touring the western US, chances are they’ll be playing at one of the Bay Area’s concert venues — the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, The Greek Theatre, Shoreline Ampitheater, SAP Pavilion, Oracle Arena, to name a few. Sometimes they’ll even play at multiple venues. One thing’s for sure: if a gig I want to see happens to be playing at the Oracle Arena (or its neighbor, the O.Co Coliseum) and another venue, I’ll always choose the other venue. Here’s why: parking.
Parking at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex (which houses both the Oracle Arena and the O.Co Coliseum) is an absolute nightmare. For one thing, it costs $35. Thirty-five dollars to park a car? That’s crazy. Event parking costs about $25 at most San Francisco venues and just $15 at San Jose’s SAP Pavilion. What’s worse, many families won’t know about the parking charges until they drive up to the parking attendant! At that point, you don’t really have a choice but to fork over the money. And what do you get for your $35? Unless you arrive an hour before the event, you get long, long lines and lots of traffic.
Case in point: last Saturday we took the kids to see Monster Jam at the O.Co Coliseum. From the moment we entered Hwy 880 in Fremont, traffic was terrible, and it didn’t let up until we approached the Oracle Coliseum exit. What was normally a 30-minute drive became a 1-hr drive, all because the cars lining up to enter the parking lot had reached beyond the exit ramp, and cars trying to squeeze into the exit lane had clogged up all the other lanes. Things were at a standstill; there were vendors walking on the exit ramp selling souvenirs! After about 20 minutes (during which we moved about a car length), I checked Twitter and saw that @OdotCoCOLISEUM had tweeted: “PARKING ALERT: All on site lots are closed to cash. Pre paid passes only. Please use overflow lots to park for #MonsterJam #MJoak.”
Seriously?? Did they think that every grownup headed for the 70,000-capacity stadium obsessively checks Twitter the way bloggers do? And did they think that everyone magically knew where this overflow parking lot was located? No wonder the line had completely stopped! Fuming, we ditched the line and got back on the highway. The overflow lot turned out to be on the other side of the highway, about a mile from the regular parking lot entrance. Even though we had left 90 minutes before the event start time, we ended up being 20 minutes late. I spoke with a few other families as we were waiting in (yet another) line for food, and they said they felt like giving up, taking the hit and going home.
I doubt that my little rant is going to convince the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to reduce their parking fees, but I’d love to see some of that $35 go towards making the whole experience a bit more pleasant for the people who have spent their hard-earned money. Here are three things they could do:
Sell parking passes online
You’ve been there before: sitting behind the car that takes ages to pay for parking because the driver can’t find his wallet or doesn’t give exact change. Multiply the delay by 10,000 cars and you can see the reason for the long lines. Give families the ability to buy parking passes along with their event tickets, and all they’ll need to do is hand their pre-purchased parking passes to the attendant. The lines will move so much more quickly! Another benefit to selling parking passes online: families will know about the $35 parking cost beforehand, and they’ll be able to factor it into their budget.
Offer live parking status updates
Whenever a major concert is playing at Shoreline Ampitheater, I see electronic billboards up and down Hwy 101 warning commuters to expect traffic due to a Shoreline concert. Why can’t they do that on Hwy 880? Even better, provide additional electronic billboards with updates on the parking situation, so that when parking is full, concertgoers will know not to get in line at the Oakland Coliseum exits and seek alternative parking.
Encourage concertgoers to ride BART
Taking BART to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is clearly the most stress-free option, but first-timers may not know about it, and it may not be cost-effective for large groups of people who would otherwise carpool to the stadium. The public transportation option needs to be highlighted when purchasing tickets — perhaps even offer a discount on BART tickets? — to encourage people to take public transportation and ease the demand for on-site parking.
Fortunately for my blood pressure and sanity, Monster Jam was a lot of fun. In fact, it was enjoyable enough that I’m considering taking them to the event when it rolls around to the Bay Area next year (mark your calendars for Feb 21, 2015). I just hope that I don’t have to leave the house a month in advance just to be 0n time for it.
Despite all the traffic and parking headaches, Bonggamom (to her surprise) actually enjoyed the show; you can check out her Monster Jam show recap on Bonggamom Finds, where she reviews family-friendly shows and products for families. She also blogs about parenting, travels, recipes and crafts on Finding Bonggamom.