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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Ignoring Parking in a Land of Autos

July 02, 1993

Even with four years' warning, the city of Anaheim hasn't been able to get things right when it comes to parking at Anaheim Arena. It's a problem so obvious it's hard to understand how it was not dealt with, especially with all the traffic experience available from nearby Anaheim Stadium and Disneyland.

A 1989 environmental impact report noted that the arena would seat 19,400. The parking lot holds 4,500 vehicles. Unless every vehicle held at least four people, there were going to be problems. Still, the city went ahead with construction without addressing that problem fully; when the arena opened last month, the people came. And waited for parking. And waited. And some missed Barry Manilow's inaugural song on opening night, and the ice skaters' figure-eights several nights later.

Now the city and the arena must get to work to be sure no one misses the face-off when the Mighty Ducks take the ice.

In many big cities, you can take a train to the game. You could take Amtrak to the arena, but few will. And in a city that did its bit in helping Southern California build a culture around the automobile, it defies common sense to find that no one gave sufficient thought to cars. True, Anaheim Stadium lots are used for the overflow from the Anaheim Arena parking areas. Given the poor record of car-pooling in Southern California, the stadium is likely to get a heavy workout, with arena slots filled for all popular events.

The scope of the problem was obvious during the Manilow concert and the Tour of World Figure Skating Champions. There were not enough attendants. There were too few buses to shuttle customers from the stadium across Katella Avenue to the arena. One skating fan reported waiting 20 minutes for a shuttle bus. At the Manilow concert, frustrated fans swarmed across Katella, making traffic even worse. The show promoters and arena operators wisely delayed the start of the singing and skating, but many fans still were unable to see the beginning of the shows.

A beautiful arena with comfortable seats should be a site for entertainment and relaxation. The city was wrong not to anticipate the traffic and parking problems. Now it must work with the Police Department and arena management to solve them so fans don't start the night off in a foul mood, or, worse, drive off in frustration. These things must be worked out, and can be. The evidence is just a few miles down the road: Disneyland had a major traffic jam on its opening day too. But it found solutions.

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