But with the postseason three weeks away, no one is ponying up. Not the city, not the team and not Metro, which has an operating budget of $1.6 billion but says it can’t be expected to pick up the costs for providing extra service.
“It’s an expensive proposition,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
None of which matters to many fans, who just want to know how they are going to get home from playoff games, which tend to start later and run longer.
“Nobody will be happy if this issue isn’t resolved,” said Lewis Lowe, 28, a public-relations strategist and baseball fan who lives near the stadium in Southeast Washington. “Can you imagine a situation where the Nationals are tied in the ninth inning and all of a sudden people are exiting out of the facilities to make it home because of the Metro? That would be a nightmare.”
Lara Potter, a Nationals spokeswoman, said in a statement that there “are a number of parties involved in these discussions and we are looking into all options.” Metro officials have not had any recent discussions with the team or the District about the issue, Stessel said.
Fans of other playoff contenders aren’t facing such uncertainty. Transit agencies in other cities preparing for potential playoff games said they will add extra service as needed — and will pay for it.
In Baltimore, the Orioles are pushing for their first playoff berth since 1997 (when they were managed by current Nats skipper Davey Johnson). The Maryland Transit Administration says it covers the cost of keeping Baltimore’s light-rail and subway systems open an hour after the conclusion of a major event like a playoff game.
But in cities including Baltimore, New York and San Francisco, baseball has long been part of the urban fabric, and the transit systems have grown up with stadiums.
By the time major league baseball returned to Washington in 2005 after a 33-year absence, Metro was an established part of the infrastructure, so much so that in deciding where the Nationals’ stadium would be built, having a nearby Metro station was key.
Indeed, on its Web site, the team encourages fans to take the train to the nearby, newly renamed Navy Yard-Ballpark station, calling it “the quickest and easiest way to Nationals Park.”
But Stessel says that keeping the subway system and its 86 stations open late is neither simple nor cheap and that every transit system is different. Baltimore, he notes, has a much smaller subway system, compared with Metro’s five-line system.
With regular delays, perpetual maintenance and severely limited weekend service, Metro has plenty to worry about. Fares have increased three times in the past five years.
To accommodate all the requests for early morning and late-night service, Metro has set up a system that allows organizers of big events to ensure that the folks attending have a way home.