Fans waited up to 90 minutes to enter and exit the park Monday, creating a ripple effect that spilled out onto surface streets and freeways around the park. Team officials say that mess isn’t a fair way to evaluate the new system. In time, they say, fans will adjust to the new system and it will prove better than before. “We worked with the foremost experts on parking in the city and directed parking works,” said Camille Johnston, the Dodgers’ senior vice president of communications. About 4,000 more cars than usual show up at season openers, and the problem Monday was made worse by the game’s 4:30 p.m. ending, pushing thousands of vehicles onto L.A. streets and freeways during rush hour, she said. On a more typical night, Johnston said, the new system will help fans find a spot more quickly by eliminating the need to circle the stadium, and it will help them exit more quickly as they are directed to the same gate they entered. The Dodgers changed things up this year in response to fan complaints, Johnston said. “The parking situation at Dodger Stadium hadn’t changed in 45 years, and we all know the traffic situation in Los Angeles has.” During the offseason, the team hired transportation consultants to study the problem and recommend a solution. No matter what the consultants came up with, transportation experts say, some people would be unhappy. “People don’t like change. They resent it,” said James E. Moore, director of the transportation and engineering program at the University of Southern California. “(But) when carefully executed, changes in parking lot configurations can be made.” The former parking system was a free-for-all, sometimes looking like a demolition derby after games. Fans took their own shortcuts to and from the park, often circling the roads around the stadium. Under the new system, fans are directed to lots closest to the gate through which they entered, and they must exit from the same gate. Driving around the stadium is no longer allowed. In addition, general parking permits are $15, up from $10 last year. Holders of preferred-parking permits have two more lots to park in now. “We have 26,000 season-ticket holders. That’s a significant portion of the fan base,” Johnston said. “We do what we can to cater to people who want to pay more for a higher level of service. But we also have 10,000 seats that are under $10.” The Dodgers and city officials are still looking at ways to improve the situation. A shuttle that ran from Union Station to the stadium in 2002-03 was halted because of low ridership. A plan by county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich to start a public-private partnership on a shuttle has stalled due to lack of a partner. “We’re still working on creative solutions to the problem,” said Michael Cano, Antonovich’s transportation deputy. “Hopefully, if there’s still frustration at the parking situation, that will provide the impetus to get this done.” Tim Campbell and his parents didn’t want to bother with the new system when they attended Wednesday night’s game. They parked instead on a nearby side street and walked the half-mile to the stadium. “We’re from New York,” Campbell said. “There, people don’t bother with driving to the stadium and parking when they could just take the subway.” email@example.com (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! When the gates open, he directs season-ticket holders to preferred parking and everyone else to the general lot. He becomes the conductor of a discordant traffic symphony with horns blaring, fans yelling obscenities, cars weaving and darting across four lanes of traffic. “Compared to Opening Day, this is a breeze,” Mendoza said before Wednesday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies; a typical weeknight crowd of 35,852 showed up. Things were chaotic for a while, but by 7:20 p.m., 10 minutes after game time, Mendoza and his team of parking conductors had successfully sorted all the cars entering the Sunset gate – Dodger Stadium’s busiest – and the flow of traffic had slowed to a trickle. But this weekend’s games against San Diego are expected to again test the new zoned parking system at the stadium. Monday’s sellout game drew 56,000 fans, and the Padres series tonight, Saturday and Sunday is expected to approach that turnout. “It just depends on how many people show up,” Mendoza said. It’s 5 p.m. – a little more than two hours until game time Wednesday – and the gates of Dodger Stadium are set to open in 10 minutes. Christian Mendoza finds his position halfway up the hill of the Sunset Boulevard Gate and digs in. His job directing traffic at Dodger Stadium has always been stressful, but Monday’s home opener was a nightmare created by a new parking system. More trouble is expected this weekend when huge crowds return to Chavez Ravine. “I’m really earning my money this year,” Mendoza joked.
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