A new team and a new traffic pattern were christened in Washington last night as many routes in, around and under the city filled with thousands of people headed to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium to root for the hometown nine for the first time in three decades.
More than half of the team's fans, bedecked in red, white and blue, took Metro. Rush-hour trains were as crammed with Little Leaguers wearing Nationals caps and carrying baseball gloves as they were with the usual briefcase-laden commuters.
(Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By 8, about 28,500 riders had exited the Stadium-Armory Station, compared with 2,000 on an average day.
As those thousands of fans left the stadium after the game, a line more than a block long and a block wide stretched from the station entrance, leaving many to question their decision to take Metro.
"I think we should have drove," said Jim Edmundson, slumped on a bench in a bus shelter with his mother, Lila, refusing to wait in line. "There's something fundamentally wrong with this system."
"It would probably be quicker to get home if we got arrested, got thrown in jail and released," said Andy Brown of Alexandria as he rode on a packed train.
Throughout the day, the extra riders filled stations throughout the system, some downtown ones to overflowing. About 5, commuter Joyce Wood stared at the crammed Orange Line train as it pulled into Metro Center with a look that bordered on shellshock. When the doors opened, she inched forward gingerly with a throng of fellow commuters and baseball fans and said, simply, "Oh, God" before disappearing into a pile of people.
Such comments as "there are a million people here" and "this is crazy" sifted through the subway air as hurried riders tried to make their way to trains. Some had to let a train or two go by before finding a car with a nook to squeeze into, while others said they were stuck on trains for as long as a half-hour waiting to pull into Stadium-Armory.
But, for the most part, people said their rides were tolerable. "It got a little crowded, but it wasn't too bad," said Tom Morris, who drove from western Loudoun County to Ballston, where he and his 7-year-old son, Thomas, hopped the Orange Line to the stadium.
Transit officials monitored nearly every door of trains at the most crowded stations, stopping people from getting on when cars got too full. Comprehensible announcements advised riders to purchase return fares, and train operators provided constant, and polite, updates.
At Stadium-Armory, a giant banner pointed riders to the stadium exit, and officials lined the mezzanine, urging people to keep moving and helping them through the fare gates.
Nevertheless, baseball fans overwhelmed the small station, turning the entire platform into a bobbing sea of red hats for hours. It took all three escalators to get them off the platform, leaving little room for outbound riders to squeeze by. Also yesterday, Metro announced that the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission will cover costs of keeping subway trains running if games last beyond the system's weekday closing time of midnight.
Traffic was heavy though manageable across the District, transportation officials said. Backups near the stadium worsened as drivers moved from 17th Street SE toward RFK, while many ran into first-game trouble trying to enter stadium parking lots.
Traffic watchers said the real test of whether baseball games will add another regular jam to a gridlock-filled city will come later in the season, when fans are less apt to arrive early.