Mallon: Major sporting events offer Bay Area transit a chance to shine
The Super Bowl is returning to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara in 2026. Levi's hosted its first Super Bowl in 2016 and the College Football Playoff National Championship game in 2019. Photo courtesy of the 49ers.

In 2026, the Bay Area will host the Super Bowl and World Cup at Levi’s Stadium. As anticipation builds for these events, transportation agencies and leaders have a huge opportunity to showcase our public transit system.

Levi’s Stadium is well-served by public transit, including VTA light rail and buses, Capitol Corridor and the ACE train. Additionally,  VTA light rail provides connections to Caltrain in Mountain View and BART in Milpitas, providing easy access to the stadium from all across the Bay Area.

Major events that draw in visitors from across the country present a unique opportunity to encourage transit use and get people who wouldn’t typically take transit on board.

Coming out of the pandemic, VTA has already seen success in promoting transit ridership to events. In July 2023, VTA surpassed the previous Levi’s Stadium ridership record during the Taylor Swift concert with an estimated 23,400 boardings. Since that concert, Levi’s Stadium VTA ridership has consistently been above pre-pandemic. The Ed Sheeran concert had 20,307 riders and the January 49ers games had an average of 15,655 riders.

By building off this success, we can fully take advantage of the opportunity created by hosting major sporting events and create win-win situations for the entire Bay Area.

One of the most obvious wins of promoting transit use for events is reducing congestion. The influx of visitors for events such as the Super Bowl and World Cup leads to increased traffic, especially surrounding the stadium. However, by promoting transit as a convenient alternative to driving and making improvements before major events, we can make it easier for visitors and residents to get around.

A strong transit system not only benefits attendees, but also supports local businesses and the broader Bay Area economy. By facilitating easy access to event venues, public transit encourages attendees to explore surrounding areas, visit local restaurants and businesses and contribute to economic vitality in the region.

In addition, encouraging attendees to take public transit reduces the carbon footprint often associated with large-scale events. Positioning public transit as the preferred mode of travel aligns with our commitment to climate action in the Bay Area.

As we look ahead to the Super Bowl and World Cup in 2026, Bay Area transit agencies have an incredible opportunity to benefit from the influx of visitors and showcase our transit system. By leveraging these major events as a platform to promote transit use, we can create a more transit-oriented culture and build support for improvements that will benefit generations to come.

San José Spotlight columnist Monica Mallon is a transit advocate and rider in Santa Clara County. Her columns appear on the first Thursday of every other month. Contact Monica at [email protected] or follow @MonicaMallon on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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