ASU homecoming events will cause traffic headaches

by Dianna M. Náñez – Oct. 28, 2011
Courtesy of The Arizona Republic

[Editor’s Note: Go ASU! Games and Events like this keep the light rail corridor in Tempe strong and vibrant. pushes live, work and play near the tracks]

Arizona State University’s homecoming festivities are a hoot for thousands of Sun Devil fans.

But Saturday’s parade at 11:30 a.m. and football game at 3:30 will cause traffic headaches for residents who want to drive to Mill Avenue for dinner or shopping.

Fans will crowd parking lots and streets near the stadium and downtown Tempe. The city shuts down University Drive for the homecoming parade. To make matters worse, football fans are sharing the streets today with thousands of participants in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, a fundraiser that starts at 7 a.m. just north of downtown and ASU at Tempe Beach Park.

Sue Taaffe, a Tempe transportation spokeswoman, said the city posts traffic notices on its transit website to notify drivers and people who use public transportation of street closures and restrictions and bus detours.

A quick review of the site makes it easier to navigate Tempe on days when major festivals, marathons or celebrations are scheduled.

Because many major events are scheduled at Town Lake, which is near Rio Salado Parkway and Mill Avenue, two major Tempe arteries, the restrictions usually hit downtown Tempe the hardest. But there are ways to ease traffic woes, Taaffe said.

“We don’t want people to think downtown is closed. It’s more challenging to get downtown, but it’s not impossible,” she said.

Many downtown Tempe businesses lament that the traffic restrictions make it tough for customers to have a dinner or shop on Mill. But the trade-off is often increased foot traffic from s people attending the major events, said Phil Porter, manager for Churchill’s Fine Cigars, just west of Mill on Sixth Street.

“It’s such a community atmosphere downtown that even if it’s a definite pain to try and get your vehicle down here, people still come to enjoy hanging out on Mill,” Porter said. “We see an actual uptick (in business).”

Porter said Churchill’s business doubles or triples during big events.

Light rail has made it easier to get downtown. Many Valley residents who want to join homecoming-day celebrations, party at the city’s New Year’s Eve Block Party, shop the biannual Tempe Arts Festival, or attend other big Tempe events, now leave their car in a park-and-ride lot and take the train to downtown Tempe.

Taaffe recommends that visitors who prefer to drive to Mill on big-event days call the restaurant where they want to have dinner and ask the manager to suggest the best route and parking lot.

Although Tempe transit officials have promoted the convenient parking garages and lots near downtown Tempe, many residents still grumble about paying for parking.

Downtown Tempe Community Inc., a non-profit that manages downtown for area landowners, operates several of the lots and garages near Mill. Such lots are identifiable by a green “ParkiT” sign.

On days when there are no major events, the first hour of parking at ParkiT lots and garages is free.

But on big-event days such as for today’s homecoming game or on other ASU football game days, the rate at ParkiT lots is $10. That is pricey for residents who only want to shop or eat downtown for an hour or two.

But for people who plan on attending events, $10 is cheaper compared with rates charged by many of the privately owned downtown lots.

David Meredith, operations manager for parking downtown, said there are bargains even on event days. The surface street ParkiT lot on the northeastern corner of Fifth Street and Farmer Avenue and the City Hall parking garage at Fifth and Forest Avenue is $10 maximum before kickoff and afterward it is free. On most non-event days it is free to park in the Fifth and Farmer lot.

Downtown Tempe parking:

Tempe traffic restrictions:

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