Travel tips for the Sweet 16 basketball playoffs at Verizon Center


Many sports fans take transit to reach Verizon Center in downtown D.C. (Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post)

[Updated at 2:15 p.m.]

Metrorail will stay open an hour late Thursday night if needed to accommodate basketball fans leaving the second game of the NCAA regional basketball playoffs at Verizon Center. Use either the Gallery Place or Judiciary Square station entrances.

Metrorail normally closes at midnight on weekdays. As sports fans no doubt recall from last fall’s uncertainty about late service after Nationals’ playoff games, the transit authority does not ask the region’s taxpayers to pick up the bill of about $29,500 per hour for getting fans home from a late event.

In this case, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, Verizon Center has agreed to cover the cost, beyond whatever Metro recovers through the late-night fares.

The standard procedure is to allow fans to enter the station or stations nearest the event and to make all transfers within the system. They can exit at all stations, but no one is allowed to enter at those stations.

Verizon Center’s doors are scheduled to open at 5:45 p.m. Thursday. The first game, between Miami and Marquette, starts at 7:15 p.m. The second game, Syracuse vs. Indiana, is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. The winners play at Verizon Center on Saturday.

Travel tips

Driving: Verizon Center is at 601 F Street NW. See driving directions on the center’s Web site.

Parking: Verizon Center’s own parking garage is not open for games. The center lists several other parking places nearby: Gallery Place parking garage on 6th Street NW; the public garage next door to Rosa Mexicano restaurant on F Street NW; and the public garage located near 7th and I Streets NW. But there are many more lots and garages in the Chinatown area. The ParkingPanda Web site lists some availabilities.

If you’re looking for street parking in the neighborhood, be careful: Read the instructions on the meter, whether it’s a traditional, stand-alone meter or one of the newer, green multi-space meters. Make sure you know the hours of meter enforcement.

Metrorail: The Green, Yellow and Red lines converge at Gallery Place, below Verizon Center. The station gets crowded, especially after the game, when everyone leaves at once. See the Metrorail map. Here are some tips.

* Make sure you have enough value on your fare card or SmarTrip card to cover a round trip, so you don’t have to wait in a long line after the game at the fare vending machines.

* Remember the other stations in easy walking distance: Metro Center, Judiciary Square, Mount Vernon Square and Archives. A Red Line rider in the direction of Glenmont might have a better chance of getting a seat on a post-game train by walking over to Metro Center. A Red Line rider heading toward Shady Grove might find the trains less crowded at Judiciary Square. Green and Yellow Line riders heading north might have better luck at Archives, while those heading south might try Mount Vernon Square.

* Listen to the station and train announcements and check the final destination displayed on the side of the train to be sure it’s the right one for you.

* Metro sometimes adds trains after games if the platform crowding gets bad. They might not operate on the line’s full route.

* See Metro’s list of elevator and escalator outages, including some at Gallery Place.

Metrobus: These bus routes are near Verizon Center: 42, 70, 79, 80, P6, X2. Look here for Metrobus routes and timetables.

Biking: Capital Bikeshare, the bike rental program, now has stations all over D.C. and Arlington. You can join for a day or sign up for a longer program.There are stations at Fifth and F streets NW and Seventh and F streets NW, near Verizon Center.

Walking: If you visit Chinatown rarely, you might not be familiar with the District Department of Transportation’s pedestrian crossing experiment at 7th and H streets NW, by the Chinatown arch around the corner from the entrance to Verizon Center.

There’s one light cycle when pedestrians can cross any way they want. All drivers must stop. Also, drivers are not permitted to make turns at any time in any direction. Police have been known to pull cars over for breaking that rule.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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