METRO to add buses for NCAA crowds

HOUSTON Organizers had a year to prepare for the NCAA Men's Final Four, yet some people reportedly found themselves waiting up to 90 minutes for a taxi at Reliant Stadium after Saturday's semifinal games. While no transportation plan is ever foolproof, Final Four organizers and METRO are standing by theirs.

An out-of-town guest and first-time visitor to Houston, Crystal Rogers is all about the Final Four frenzy. But getting to and from Reliant Park hasn't been her idea of fun.

"It was a little crowded, a little rough. There's not a lot of ways to get around the city. It's pretty spread out and it's hard to find transportation," Rogers said.

A record number of college basketball fans -- more than 75,000 -- turned out for Saturday's Final Four semifinals. So many, in fact, that Final Four organizers had to arrange for METRO buses to shuttle some 500 stranded fans who reportedly waited more than an hour at Reliant for a taxi.

"With a lot of out-of-town visitors, you don't know what their travel patterns are and how to predict for them. It's different than a Texans game or a the Rodeo where everybody knows where they are going. You've got to predict as best you can. We've been in a lot of communication and we'll adjust the plan accordingly," said Doug Hall of the Final Four organizers.

Since the evening commute coincides with Monday night's championship game, METRO had already planned on adding 40 more buses to keep the city's public transportation system from being overwhelmed.

To cut down on any possible confusion, METRO will have additional volunteers at Main Street Square. They'll be handing out these wristbands for fare collection for light rail. METRO bus drivers will also be equipped with these maps for visitors so they don't get lost.

Despite the few minor hiccups, most of the visiting fans we talked to say the plan to get them where they need to go is working.

"The light rail has been easy and it seems like they are running a lot of them," said Dennis Bonifer.

"Very helpful, very knowledgeable, got us to where we need to be. Safe sound and everything. Everything worked out perfect," said Carl Lee.

To avoid any confusion about where to go, METRO bus drivers will also be equipped with maps tonight. The map not only highlights the light rail stops, but it also shows where the main hotels are in relation to those stops.

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