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Music fan seeks solution to Hollywood Bowl tunnel congestion

John Boal dreads entering the hot, crowded passageway that leads to the buses and shuttles that take concert-goers to their cars. He thinks he has a work-around.

September 07, 2013|By Bob Pool
  • John Boal of Upland stands near the hot, claustrophobic tunnel at the Hollywood Bowl that leads to the buses and shuttles that take him and other concertgoers to their cars. “It’s packed wall to wall with people,” said Boal, 72. “It’s horrible.”
John Boal of Upland stands near the hot, claustrophobic tunnel at the Hollywood… (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)

John Boal dreads it when an enjoyable summertime evening of symphonic music at the Hollywood Bowl comes to an end.

Along with hundreds of other concertgoers, the 72-year-old Upland resident descends into the hot, claustrophobic tunnel that leads to the buses and shuttles that will take Boal and the others to their cars.

"It's packed wall to wall with people," Boal said of the subterranean passageway that cuts under the southbound lanes of Highland Avenue. "It's horrible."

Boal said it can take him a quarter of an hour to make the 40-yard walk.

A wide stairway that leads to the 20-foot-wide tunnel acts as a funnel, Boal has come to realize, clogged with people trying to get home. "People are crammed shoulder to shoulder. A fainting, a heart attack, that's all it's going to take to cause people to panic."

Boal, a real estate agent, and his wife, Nancy, leave their car in Arcadia and take a "park and ride" bus on bowl outings with a group of friends who call themselves the "Culture Vultures."

Buses used for the 14 park-and-ride routes line up in rows between Highland's northbound and southbound lanes during concerts. Riders are advised that the buses need to depart 25 minutes after concerts end.

The human tunnel jam occurs because the exit stairway that leads to the buses is about a third of the width of the tunnel entrance's staircase. And those emerging from the 7-foot-tall underground passageway often pause to hunt for their bus or wait for filled buses to pull out of the lot, Boal said.

"When you finally get to the exit staircase you think, 'Finally, air!'" he said.

Because of the chronic parking shortage around the bowl, Los Angeles County, which owns the venue, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., which manages it, encourage concertgoers to use the park-and-ride buses and shuttles that connect the bowl with parking lots at nearby Universal City, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Hollywood & Highland shopping center.

Boal thinks the county and the bowl could possibly resolve the tunnel crowding issue by briefly shutting down southbound Highland traffic when concerts end so people can walk directly to their buses, or by assigning monitors to control the flow of people entering the tunnel.

Philharmonic officials say they already employ crowd control — at least on nights when large crowds are expected.

Sophie Jefferies, the philharmonic's director of public relations, said no incidents have been reported in the tunnel.

"There have been no issues with them," she said. "There's always security on both ends of the tunnel. Occasionally there's a bottleneck: They don't want anyone hit by a bus."

Jefferies said it is her assumption that bowl patrons can cross Highland Avenue at a signalized intersection near the park-and-ride bus lot. However, there are no painted crosswalks at the bowl's main entrance, and signs instruct pedestrians to use the tunnel.

Those unable or unwilling to use the tunnel can notify bowl personnel at the box office plaza, and their bus will detour onto bowl grounds to pick them up, she said.

Andre Herndon, public information officer for the county's Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains the bowl, said it's unlikely that officials would want to close busy Highland Avenue traffic lanes for bus-bound pedestrians.

And Herndon said both the tunnel, constructed in 1953, and the avenue are owned by the city of Los Angeles, not the county.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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