NFL to review train station fiasco

Updated: February 3, 2014, 11:56 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- After all the anticipation of a mass transit Super Bowl, thousands of Super Bowl attendees were stuck waiting for New Jersey Transit trains hours after Sunday's game ended.

The New York/New Jersey Host Committee underestimated by half the number of riders who would use the train to get to the game, and those 28,000 strained capacity and set a record for single-day traffic on the line.

"We've got a couple of things that we will review and obviously try to improve on," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said before he introduced Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at Monday morning's news conference.

[+] EnlargeTrain Station
Kris Schwartz, ESPNNearly 28,000 people went home from the Super Bowl via New Jersey Transit trains, causing a lengthy delay.

NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman addressed specific questions after the news conference.

"When something is done for the first time, you don't really know what's going to happen," he said.

Grubman provided similar postgame comments after the blackout in New Orleans and a construction fiasco that meant seats weren't installed in Dallas.

"For the people who were inconvenienced and delayed, it was no doubt very frustrating," Grubman said. "Probably there was anxiety because people's dreams are to get to the Super Bowl when they want to get to the Super Bowl and how they want to get to the Super Bowl.

"But if you look at the big picture of the NY/NJ presentation, I think it is one part among a very big picture that was terrific."

Early last week, the host committee was asked about the Secaucus Junction. It has faced crowding before and after regular-season games, and double-decker buses were brought in to provide the extra capacity needed.

It turns out the NFL expected many more people to arrive by charter bus. The league had 11,000 parking passes for cars and saw 12,000 fans arrive via presold Fan Express shuttles. With 1,100 bus permits sold, Grubman said the numbers added up to the 80,000 fans expected on Sunday.

"When I do the math, with the number of permits and passes that were sold to vehicles that could accommodate multiple people -- really rough numbers: 1,100 buses, those buses are of different sizes -- if they hold between 40 and 50 people and they're fully occupied, do the math," Grubman said. "So 50,000-plus [by] bus expected."

[+] EnlargeBenjamin Lowy for ESPN
Benjamin Lowy for ESPNAccording to witnesses, several people collapsed at the overcrowded Secaucus Junction train station while waiting in long lines to get to the Super Bowl.

Not all train riders bought tickets ahead of time, but with no other way of getting to the stadium -- cabs were not permitted and no one could access the stadium on foot -- the train was the only way for remaining fans to arrive and, more importantly, leave.

After the game, NJT spokesman William Smith said extra buses were dispatched from Secaucus to MetLife Stadium that then transported fans to the Port Authority bus station in Manhattan. Grubman said there had been 100 such buses stationed in Secaucus in the eventuality they were needed to get people to the game, but they ended up being used instead for the return trip.

The last train left MetLife station at 12:45 a.m. ET, Grubman said.

There was a brief but intense delay that kept early riders from getting to trains right away, and patrons passed out waiting in a hot Secaucus corridor. Grubman said more people arrived for the early train than were anticipated.

"There was no service until that first train, and people left Penn Station much earlier than they needed to," Grubman said. "So you had a queue forming that filled up the lobby of Secaucus. That's my understanding. Then when people who were on the trains from Penn Station and other places in New Jersey arrived in [Secaucus] anticipating that they'd get that first train [to MetLife], they ran into a wall of people, so that created the first unpleasant, anxiety-filled wait."

Grubman said the league would prioritize the situation to prevent similar incidents at future Super Bowls.

As snow fell outside the building Monday, Goodell alluded to the fact that the last part of Super Bowl travel could be more difficult for fans who came to New York and New Jersey.

"Obviously our work continues today as we work to get our fans back out of town and back home," Goodell said.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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