Another big Pebble Beach golf tournament is half over tonight. The U.S. Open has two more days to go, giving me two more days to shake my head in dismay over the parking and transportation arrangements.
I've been doing this every year for a decade or more now, usually during the AT&T Pro-Am. In a nutshell, here's how golf parking works. Golf fans come from all over the world and find lodgings in Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey, barely spitting distance from the Pebble Beach gates. But Pebble Beach doesn't have nearly enough parking places for all of them, so there is a problem to be solved.
What tournament attendees are now asked to do is drive ten miles North, away from the Monterey Peninsula out to the parking lots at CSUMB, the university property on the land formerly known as Fort Ord. Everyone then gets on buses which retrace the same ten miles back to The Peninsula, into Pebble Beach. While there is no charge for either the parking or the bus ride, it is sort of like going from San Jose to San Francisco by way of Reno. Only the scale is different.
Instead of making people drive to the buses, wouldn't it make more sense to send the buses to where the people are? Most local lodgings are clustered together in less than a dozen distinct areas, including downtown Carmel, downtown Pacific Grove, Asilomar Drive, downtown Monterey, Cannery Row, Munras Avenue, North Fremont, and a few other places. I should think it would be fairly easy to disperse the tournament bus fleet to those areas and have plenty of tournament ticket holders waiting for pickup. The handful of
remaining lodgings scattered about are located near MST transit routes
which could feed passengers to tournament shuttles in downtown Monterey or Carmel.
Think of the advantages. Nobody would have to drive ten miles out of their way (20 miles round-trip), saving fuel and reducing traffic congestion. The bus trips would be shorter and faster for everyone, saving even more fuel and giving golf spectators more time to enjoy our beautiful area. It might even require fewer buses, since they will be able to haul more people in less time.
A few years ago I had a letter published in the Monterey Herald with this very suggestion. I got a call from the man in charge of bus transportation for the AT&T Pro-Am Tournament and he asked me "Can you promise me my buses would be full?" Not being a transportation expert, I couldn't give him a definitive answer. Unfortunately, he wouldn't even consider the idea unless I could.
Indeed, the current system doesn't require a lot of thought, just some quick and dirty arrangements for a big parking lot and a fleet of buses. But as I have already noted, it isn't particularly efficient. Just easy. My idea would require some careful planning, and maybe some tweaking over a year or two to get it just right, but to not even try just strikes me as lazy.
For the U.S. Open, some local business associations apparently saw the absurdity of the CSUMB parking plan and dug up a gold mine in the process. They chartered buses for their respective business districts (Carmel, Pacific Grove and Cannery Row) and charged $20 per person per day to avoid the 20-mile detour to CSUMB. These buses hold some 45 passengers, so each full bus reaps a whopping $900 per round trip! Multiply that by three locations running buses every 30 minutes and somebody is getting very rich this weekend!
One Pacific Grove resident noted in a letter to the Herald on June 16th, that the cost of the bus ride, $80 for her family of four, cost almost as much as the event tickets themselves. She called the fare "insulting." Indeed it is.
So the powers that be on The Peninsula are not only failing to serve our guests efficiently by providing well thought-out event transportation, they're also developing a reputation for price gouging. Word will no doubt get around.