LivingSocial’s Big Save

September 28, 2012

Fans fill the platform at Navy Yard after a Nationals game earlier this year. LivingSocial will pay to ensure Metro will stay open late during weekday playoff games.

No matter how the Nationals perform in the playoffs, their fans are going to be winners. Although the team refuses to pick up the $29,500-an-hour tab to keep Metro trains running beyond the usual curfew for any late-finishing games, D.C.-based deals website LivingSocial came forward Thursday to say it will foot the bill.

Still, I’m not sure I can rescind the suggestion I had planned to give fans in this column: Watch the games from home, and let all those embarrassingly empty seats in the stands serve as a reminder that fans won’t support a team unless the team supports them.

The fact that the Nats played this game of chicken until another business decided to cover their costs is shameful.

Every other group that puts on late-night (or early morning) events in this city knows the drill. If you want people to be able to ride Metro beyond its normal operating hours, you need to pony up a deposit. If people actually ride the trains, you get a credit for all of their fares and end up paying nothing.

As WMATA tweeted Monday afternoon, “5,229 customers rode late-night service following #Madonna concert last night. As a result, @verizoncenter actual cost will be $1,472.”

Jim Vandak, race director for the Army Ten-Miler, says his event has always recouped the money it’s put down to open Metro early the morning of the race. (And this year, the race will be paying for two hours of extra service.)

It’s a financial no-brainer, and it builds goodwill. These other groups play ball with Metro because they recognize what an utter disaster they’d have on their hands if they didn’t. Imagine the scene at the ballpark if the Nats had gone forward with their plan to do nothing and no one swooped in to the rescue.

From the potential crowd of 40,000 who could pour out of the stadium after the final out, a few fans could cobble together a couple of late-night bus routes to find a way home, or snag a ride with Capital Bikeshare. Maybe cabs and Uber would work together — fat chance of that — to shuttle people around. The rest would be feeling as left behind as Teddy in the presidents race.

Now, Metro needs to step up to the plate. If the system is going to charge $29,500 an hour for service, it has to provide service, and I got reports from some of those Madonna concertgoers that they had to wait more than an hour for an Orange Line train after the show.

No one expects rush-hour frequency, but that’s simply too long for anyone to wait before reaching home.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby | September 28, 2012