A day of classes and research at the Texas A&M University campus will be capped by the season-opening football game at Kyle Field on Aug. 30, making for a packed schedule that residents will likely see the effects of during their commutes that day.
The last time A&M hosted a non-Thanksgiving Thursday night regular-season game was in 2005, when the threat of Hurricane Rita pushed up a game against Texas State. The university is preparing for "two typical days in one" again more than a decade later, which includes plans for parking and alternative transportation options.
Early release at 1 p.m. has been approved for "nonessential" personnel, according to a memo sent Friday to A&M faculty and staff. Classes and university business will go on as scheduled.
"The idea has always been we're not gonna cancel class. We're a Tier One educational institution doing lots of research; we're not gonna cancel anything," said Texas A&M Transportation Institute Research Fellow Tim Lomax. "We are gonna need people to be a little flexible, and to accommodate that flexibility we've got a whole bunch of transportation options."
Lomax said a task force has worked out the logistics to accommodate the students, faculty and staff who will be going to work and classes that day along with those who will attend the 7:30 p.m. game against Northwestern State. While about 88 percent of class day parking will be unaffected, some changes will be required for the remaining 12 percent.
Beginning at noon and again at 1 p.m., some parking lots will only allow entry for vehicles with specially issued placards. And starting at 2:30 p.m., certain lots and garages will require all vehicles to leave besides those with the placards. Parking at the Fan Field lot begins at 7 a.m. and is free for A&M permit holders.
Lomax said while most fans attending the game are expected to show up closer to kickoff, some will be on campus as early as 7 a.m. Peak traffic times are expected around lunch and 1 p.m. as nonessential staff leave for the day, and around 5 p.m. when the community gets off work. "Mini rush hours" will also likely be seen during class-change times.
The city of College Station, meanwhile, will be following its typical game-day traffic plan on Aug. 30, but staff will be manning the traffic control center a little longer than usual.
"In 2005, we didn't do a lot as far as signal timing," said Traffic Engineer Troy Rother. "We didn't have the technology and communication we do now. Back then, we had to anticipate what the traffic was gonna be and put it into the system and just hope it worked. Now, we can actually plan for it, and if things don't go as planned we can make changes on the fly."
Motorists likely will find traffic controls will look similar to what the city already uses on game days. Traffic engineers will set the signal timing to allow for longer green lights headed away from Kyle Field and out of town, specifically for areas such as southbound Texas Avenue and F.M. 2818 to push traffic out of the area.
In another effort to cut down on traffic congestion, Lomax said the university is pushing members of the campus community to use alternative methods of transportation that day. About 3,000 Ofo bikes are expected to be on campus by that time, and Uber and Lyft will be offering discounted rates for rides that start or end on campus. Carpooling is also encouraged.
On-campus bus routes will run at their regularly scheduled times and until 3:30 p.m., when frequency will be reduced and some routes will transition to gameday service. Most off-campus buses also will follow normal schedules but end service early. Lomax said about 25 buses have also been chartered to run gameday shuttles to campus from Downtown Bryan and American Momentum Bank.
More information about Aug. 30 bus schedules and which lots will have limited entry or need to be cleared can be found at footballthursday.tamu.edu. Other details about tailgating and RV parking can also be found at the site.