Northwestern University has included a very preliminary draft of a transportation management plan for concerts at a new Ryan Field with its application for City Council approval of the project.

With the council scheduled to vote on the zoning requests Monday night, Evanston Now took a look at how the plan’s numbers add up for getting a concert-capacity crowd of 28,000 people to and from the stadium.

Transit modeEstimated capacity
Rail – Metra5,800
Rail – CTA4,800
Auto with parking near stadium6,450
Auto with shuttle bus from remote parking11,500
Transportation Network Companies / ride share??
Pedestrians, bicyclists??
Total> 28,550
Table based on NU draft transportation management and other sources as noted in the text of the story.

The plans assume that concert-goers will arrive within an hour before the event starts, and will want to have left the venue within an hour afterward. That a contrast to football fans, who tend to arrive earlier and linger longer.

Rail: Metra and CTA

The transportation management plan offers substantial detail about anticipated capacity for fans to get to concerts by rail.

It predicts that Metra could increase its schedule of trains stopping at the Central Street station to three trains per hour in each direction in the hour before and the hour after a concert.

It says the southbound Central Street Metra platform can accommodate six-car trains while the northbound platform can service eight-car trains.

With at least 140 seats per Metra car, the plan estimates three Metra trains in each direction could accommodate a total of 5,880 passengers in the hour before or after a concert (not counting standees).

The report predicts that the CTA could run 10 trains per hour through its Central Street station, with 80 passengers per car and six cars per train for a capacity of 4,800 passengers per hour.

While the trains would presumably be running in both directions, the assumption is that most concert-goers taking the CTA would likely arrive only on northbound trains — since the northern terminus of the line, at 4th and Linden in Wilmette, is within walking distance of the stadium.

Auto: Parking at or near the stadium

NU Transportation Management Plan: Concert event parking options.

The report says the university has 1,357 available parking spaces at the stadium and that there are an additional 1,223 spaces within walking distance — at the Linden CTA station, Evanston Hospital and on Poplar Avenue along the Metra tracks.

Assuming an average of about 2.5 passengers per car, as indicated by a Federal Highway Administration guide, Managing Travel for Planned Special Events, those parking spaces would have a capacity of 6,450 concert fans.

Auto: Shuttle bus to stadium

The plan identifies 1,910 available parking spaces at five sites on the Northwestern University campus and another 2,815 spaces in seven downtown garages.

With an average of 2.5 passengers per car, that should provide parking for up to 11,812 concert-goers.

Northwestern’s draft transportation management plan says between 75 and 115 buses may be needed for a capacity event that fully uses the shuttle-accessible off-site parking.

The shuttle loop route is roughly four miles in length for the campus shuttle and five miles for the downtown shuttle.

NU Transportation Management Plan:: Shuttle bus routes

A Streetsblog study indicates the average CTA bus speed is about 10 miles per hour.

If the concert shuttles averaged the same speed, each downtown shuttle bus could be expected to complete two runs in an hour and the campus shuttles might finish discharging a third passenger load in that time.

That suggests a one-hour shuttle bus capacity, with 115 buses, of about 11,500 concert-goers.

Other: Ride-share, walking and biking

The draft transportation plan from the university provides no estimates of the number of concert-goers who might use transportation network or rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, or how many people might walk or bike to the stadium.

The Federal Highway Administration guide offers examples of professional baseball games that drew between 3% and 13% of their spectators using those modes and suggests that as many as 25% of event patrons may arrive on foot for some college football games.

Bottom line

The NU plan counts on agreements with transit agencies that have not yet been reached, but it does not appear implausible that sufficient transportation capacity to handle the concerts could be developed, with the agreement of those agencies.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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