Nats fan already worried about Metro for World Series

Robert Thomson
Columnist September 14, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On July 3, Metro and the Nationals, because of a lack of communication and planning, forced ticket-paying fans and fare-paying subway patrons to have to leave the Nationals-Giants game before its conclusion.

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. View Archive

After an 85-minute rain delay, it was announced that the last train would be leaving the Navy Yard station at 11:20 p.m.

What is going to happen in October, when presumably the Nationals are in the playoffs, and games start later for a national television audience? The average playing time for a playoff game is in excess of 31 / 2 hours.

Is Metro going to announce in the sixth inning that the last train is leaving the Navy Yard station, forcing an exodus of 40,000-plus fans? What if the Nationals make it to the World Series? What do the Nationals and Metro plan to do to accommodate the paying public?

Steve Lewis, Potomac

DG: It’s a little early, but should the lucky day come when we have a home team in the playoffs and perhaps the World Series — with home-field advantage thanks to the National League’s All-Star Game victory — I hope the Nationals will pay for keeping Metro open late.

Metro does not cover the overtime cost when big events go late, nor should it. The cost per hour is about $29,500. When an agreement is in place, the transit authority will subtract the passenger revenue from the OT bill, and the event sponsor will cover the rest.

As Dan Steinberg pointed out on the D.C. Sports Bog, baseball games rarely go past Metro’s closing time during the regular season, and the Nationals don’t have a standing agreement with Metro to stay open late.

Start times are different for many playoff games and for the World Series, so unless we’re talking about a Friday or Saturday night game, when Metro is open late anyway, the closing time would become an issue. (I hope I’m not jinxing this possibility.)

Sunday through Thursday, the last Green Line train through Navy Yard in the direction of Branch Avenue is scheduled for 12:17 a.m. The last one in the direction of Greenbelt is scheduled for 11:39 p.m. The last one before that is scheduled for 11:20 p.m. and would be a safer bet for making connections.

By the way, it would have been a remarkable thing if “40,000-plus” fans headed for Metro after a late-night game. Steinberg pointed out that when the Nationals did sponsor a late closing for Metro after a Sunday night game against the Phillies in June, 445 people rode the trains after midnight. That meant it cost the Nationals more than $62 to get each of those fans home.

Smart investment

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have a senior card that I use to buy paper Farecards in increments of $20. Do you know if I would be better off buying a Metro SmarTrip card? Does a SmarTrip card have an expiration time on it? I ride Metro only a few times a year.

Kay Quirk, Alexandria

DG: Even an occasional rider will be better off with a plastic SmarTrip card now that Metro has imposed a surcharge on each trip taken with a paper card. People 65 and older get a discount, but they’re still paying 50 cents extra per ride with a paper card.

The SmarTrip card costs $5, so it wouldn’t take too long to cover the investment. A very occasional rider should consider waiting until after Sept. 1 to buy the card. That’s when Metro will begin offering $3 rebates to people who register cards online after buying them. They still will pay $5 for the cards, but registering will give them a $3 credit to the card within five days of its first use.

SmarTrip cards don’t expire. One benefit of registration is that whatever stored value you have on the card can be transferred to a new card if you lose the first one. (You would have to pay for the new card.)

Blue Line worries

This letter writer, a frequent contributor, consulting engineer and former deputy secretary of transportation for Pennsylvania, writes to follow up on the July 5 column in which I linked the performance of Metro’s Rush Plus service with the future of the Silver Line. He says I didn’t give enough weight to the new gaps in Blue Line service under Rush Plus.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You need to pay more attention to the cut in service three times each peak hour on the Blue Line. That won’t and can’t fly. No honest person can excuse Metro officials for not running eight-car trains on the Blue Line after the gaps. But even eight cars cannot cope with [an estimated ridership of] 1,324 people for those trains.

I fully recognize your concern for capacity for the Silver Line in 2013 from Reston to Stadium-Armory. But that is much less of a problem than capacity for Blue Line passengers.

The Silver Line will not create a capacity problem if trains run on time. If trains do not run on time, the Rush Plus service will create far worse trouble than the Silver Line will.

The Silver Line will put the Dulles Toll Road buses out of business, so all those people boarding the Orange Line at West Falls Church will switch to the Silver Line, opening up space on the Orange Line.

I fully agree that the Silver Line will attract many new riders, but they will be split three ways: 1. from Rosslyn to Tysons Corner, 2. from Reston to Tysons Corner and Ballston , leaving seats for present Orange Line riders in Arlington County, and 3. from Reston to Rosslyn.

These will need added capacity, which can come from eight-car trains.

If I am all wrong or if new passengers exceed expectations, add service to some Fairfax Connector routes from Reston directly to the Pentagon and Crystal City.

Ed Tennyson, Vienna

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