Numbers game: Fixing Meadowlands transportation issues is more important than fixing blame

By Tom Bergeron
Meadowlands | Apr 15, 2019 at 7:15 am
Editor’s Desk

While others were playing the blame game following the latest transportation problem/debacle at MetLife Stadium, Jim Kirkos was doing the math problem.

And he got the same answer he got before WrestleMania came to the Meadowlands last week. In fact, he got the same answer he got before Super Bowl XLVIII came there in 2014.

New Jersey Transit, as the system is currently designed, can move approximately 10,000-12,000 people an hour, he said. That’s the issue.

So, if you have a situation where 30,000 people want to use it at approximately the same time — like the end of a major event at the stadium — it’s going to take three hours to handle the volume.

More importantly, if the region keeps getting that answer, the area is not going to be able to capitalize on the economic benefits such major events bring.

That’s why Kirkos, the longtime CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, is trying to make a solution the topic of conversation — rather than trying to blame the post-event problem on officials from NJ Transit, MetLife Stadium, WWE or either of our most recent governors.

“I always want to look through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror,” he said. “I think it’s important for us all to understand just how important big events at the sports complex at the stadium are for economic impact — and that we need to make ensuring the transportation infrastructure in all modes will allow us to leverage our ability to bring these big events here a top priority.

File photo
Jim Kirkos of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re building these great destination-related assets and we have to get it right. It’s beholden on all entities to make sure that we can give visitors a great experience.”

That wasn’t the case last Monday, when fans leaving the WrestleMania event (in the pouring rain) discovered just how many people could (and couldn’t) get through the station in a timely manner.

“No train, we riot,” it was reported many chanted.

You can be sure that won’t be part of the marketing campaign to try to lure WrestleMania, the Super Bowl and — let’s not forget — the final of the 2026 World Cup to New Jersey.

Here’s what will, Kirkos said: a comprehensive plan.

“If somebody wants to come back or bring a new event here and that issue is raised, everybody’s going to need to sit down and provide some assurances this type of thing won’t happen again,” he said. “We need to not only have a Plan A and Plan B and maybe even have a Plan C.

“But we need to have long-term plans to complete the mobility issue because, at the end of the day, it’s really about that.”

The problem isn’t new. 

“The fact that we built the train line to the train station and we dropped the idea of continuing the loop is unacceptable,” Kirkos said.

And it’s an issue that’s talked about repeatedly.

“Transportation and infrastructure investment have been one of our top priorities, always has been,” he said. “Especially for the last 15 or 20 years.

“There is never a comment about economic development that isn’t led or followed by it. We need to focus on our ability to move people and create good mobility experiences. I think that’s the message here for everybody.”

So, ignore the blame game, Kirkos said. 

Solve the math problem instead.

“We, as a region and as a state, have yet to complete the transportation infrastructure that’s necessary to leverage all that we can from an economic development and a tourism destination standpoint,” he said. “All of our priority must go to that, now and in the future.”