With Football Thursday kicking off the season for the second year in a row, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has been working to get traffic down to a science for the weekday game.
A few challenges come up when combining a class day with a game day, said Tim Lomax, the Transportation Institute’s game day coordinator. The most challenging part to coordinate is the postgame outflux of traffic, he said.
“I would say our biggest challenge has always been close games, big stadium, everybody wants to leave at once,” Lomax said.
Lomax and assistant game day coordinator Madison Metsker-Galarza have a very hands-on role in directing postgame traffic.
“Madison and I are in command, and we’ve got folks with Transportation Services that are sitting next to us,” Lomax said. “On game days, we’re usually on our bicycles or walking around, looking at different elements of the plan. We know about things that are a little bit of a challenge, and we’re always trying to tweak something to make it better.”
The game against LSU on Nov. 24 last year made that process extremely difficult, Lomax said.
“Coach Fisher managed to organize a seven-overtime game last year; that was a real challenge,” Lomax said. “Not that we weren’t ready [for fans to leave the stadium], but we essentially had to be ready eight different times. That’s probably the most chaotic since .”
The biggest tip for students, Metsker-Galarza said, is to avoid Wellborn Road when possible. According to data from last year’s Thursday football game, congestion on Wellborn picks up at noon and lasts until game time.
“If you’re not coming to the game and you’ve got another route you can use, use a different way,” Metsker-Galarza said. “We’ve got 2818, State Highway 6, Texas Avenue — all great options.”
Parking is another important issue for students to consider, though according to the Transportation Services website, 92 percent of class day parking will be unaffected. The Football Thursday web page includes information on which lots will use a modified schedule.
Many lots will close to students, faculty and staff at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, and all-day parking is available with any valid A&M permit at Fan Field.
Lomax said that while Transportation Services will have tow trucks removing unauthorized vehicles from lots after their scheduled closing times, he doesn’t anticipate it being a big issue since they only removed nine cars during last year’s Football Thursday.
“You can expect there will be some people who get their cars moved if they stay in a lot too long,” Lomax said. “We’re allowing students to stay in until 4:30, but we’re letting fans come in at 3:30. We had everybody out by 3 last year, so we’re really giving one more class period to be able to stay in a lot. That’s because everybody really followed the rules [last year].”
The rate at which fans came into town also allowed for the Transportation Institute to make that decision, Metsker-Galarza said.
“Last year, we didn’t see a huge rush with fans getting to campus [when the lots opened at 3:30 p.m.],” Metsker-Galarza said. “This year, we realized that we could really allow students, faculty and staff to stay in their lots longer so we could still accommodate the fans but also have students have their normal access.”
Metsker-Galarza said fans should consider their postgame destination instead of proximity to the stadium when choosing a parking spot on Thursday.
Lomax said he expects an increase in attendance from last year’s 95,000.
“I think there are going to be more people than there were last year, with Texas State being relatively close,” Lomax said. “They’ve got a bigger alumni base around here. I think some people frankly stayed away [last year] because they thought the traffic and crowd were going to be kind of a nightmare.”
Though having class and football take place on the same day lends itself to chaos, Lomax said there are similarities in the traffic patterns of Thursday games and 11 a.m. Saturday games. In those cases, he said traffic congestion can be much worse compared to a Saturday 6 p.m. game where cars come in throughout the day.
“Between the people coming from Austin, Houston, Dallas that go to work part of the day then load up the family and come to Kyle, they’re all getting here at 5, 5:30, 6,” Lomax said. “If folks from the community are also getting here, then that looks like an 11 a.m. game where everybody arrives in the last 90 minutes.”
Lomax and Metsker-Galarza said they urge students, faculty and staff to plan ahead for Thursday. More information can be found at footballthursday.tamu.edu and on the Destination Aggieland app. The app will also feature live traffic updates on game day.