Tuesday, March 25, noon ET

Getting to and from Nationals Park

Eric Weiss, Lena Sun and Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; 12:00 PM

Stumped on the best way to get to the new Nationals Park? What's the parking situation? Is Metro prepared for the crowds?

Post transportation writers Eric Weiss, Lena Sun and Robert Thomson, a.k.a. Dr. Gridlock, were online Tuesday, March 25 at noon ET to help you make sense of it all.

A transcript follows.


Robert Thompson: Greetings, baseball fans and commuters. This is a rare online rendezvous of The Post's transportation team to address your concerns about getting to and from games, or just avoiding the crowds on your way home from work. Feel free to share your advice, too, since the new stadium will bring a new experience for every traveler.


Arlington, Va.: Will there be a taxi stand at Nationals Park? I'm sure a lot of people will get frustrated with the long lines at Metro and will want to take a cab ride to say Metro Center, etc.

Have the Nats considered running buses to other points besides RFK, i.e. other Metro stations?

Thank you.

Robert Thompson: The taxi stand will be on the east side of Half Street, between M and K streets SE. Remember, though, that your taxi will pull out onto the same streets the other motoring fans are trying to use.

The only bus in the Nats plan this year is the free shuttle linking the free parking at RFK's Lot 8 with 300 M Street, about five blocks from the new stadium. Metro has upgraded service on its N22 bus, so that it will be operating every 10 minutes to link Union Station, Eastern Market and Navy Yard Metro stations. Look for it at the stop on New Jersey Avenue at M Street after games.


Baltimore: What's the best route from Baltimore?

Robert Thomson: I'd come down the BW Parkway to the exit for East Capitol Street and park at RFK's Lot 8, then take the free shuttle to the new stadium.

If I'm taking Metro, I'd probably take the Capital Beltway exit into the Greenbelt Metro parking lot and ride the Green Line from there. Or take the BW Parkway/295 route to the Metro parking garage at Anacostia, and take the Green Line from there.


Bolling AFB: Will there be a shuttle between Bolling AFB and the stadium? Who will be able to park at Bolling (all military? contractors?)?

Robert Thomson: There's nothing about parking at Bolling in anybody's plans for the stadium.


Stampede at L'Enfant, D.C.: Has Metro acknowledged that after games many, if not most, riders to games will need to transfer from green line trains to the Blue and Orange lines at L'Enfant Plaza, or to Red line trains at Gallery Place? Do they have any plans in place to increase service on those lines to ensure that their transfer stations, which can be crowded to capacity during non-game-day rush hours, do not become unsafe by trains dropping off passengers faster than the transfer trains can take them away?

Lena Sun: Yup. Metro plans to run 14 extra trains on the Green Line and up to 4 more trains on the Red and 4 more on the Orange. Also, Gallery and L'enfant are big transfer stations and are better equipped to handle larger crowds.

Metro wants to remind all folks that the Navy Yard station is likely to be even more crowded than Stadium-Armory was when the games were at RFK.

They're going to have pedestrian traffic be exit-only at the new station entrance 3 hours before the game. (That's the entrance closest to the ballpark.) And entrance-only after the game.

Save yourself time and put enough round-trip fare on your farecard or Smart card so you don't have to wait in line.


Alexandria, Va.: Has the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission worked out a deal with Nats/MLB on the parking situation at RFK (for the shuttles for baseball fans)?

Are not DC United fans going to be using those lots (and there are some shared game dates, like on Sunday June 29 when United welcomes LA Galaxy -- and David Beckham -- at noon while the Nats host the Orioles at 1:35)?

Won't those lots at RFK get pretty full and crowded, and how will Nats fans park for free, while United fans likely would be asked to pay?

Robert Thomson: The Nats say they're set on free parking at RFK's Lot 8, and that's where the free Nats Express shuttle will leave from and return to.

When DC United plays, the Nats plan to move their parking over to Lot 7 and operate the shuttle from there.


Oxon Hill, Md.: Will it be possible to park in the Poplar Point/Anacostia Park area and walk across the Frederick Douglas Bridge to ballpark events? Are there any street parking prohibitions in that area like the ones immediately around the stadium?

Robert Thomson: The National Park Service says it doesn't want anybody but Anacostia Park users parking at Anacostia Park. My guess now is that you'd be best off parking at the Anacostia Metro garage if you want to park on that side of the river and walk across the Douglass Bridge. I think I'd hop on the Green Line there and take the short trip to Navy Yard Statoin, rather than walking across the bridge.


Germantown, Md., working in D.C.: Metro is promoting how extra trains will be running on the Green line during games. But how are they going to deploy trains on the other lines as people transfer at Gallery Place (Red line) and L'Enfant (every other line)?

And I think that Metro should look into doing a commemorative SmarTrip card along the lines of what they are doing for the Pope to facilitate ball-goers getting in and out of not only the station but the parking lots if they park at a Metro lot. I can easily see Nationals fans buying one (or several) and the fewer people fumbling with paper farecards the better.

Lena Sun: Hi. I just answered this question about extra trains. See above. Also, Metro DOES have commemorative Smart cards for sale. Go to their website, www.wmata.com. There's a red one with a "W" logo and one showing the ballpark. The card costs $5, same as a regular Smartrip card.

They're also selling the cards at Metro sales offices at Metro Center, the Pentagon, Metro headquarters, the Northern, Western, Landover, Royal Street and Four Mile Run Metrobus divisions, and regional transit stores.

AND they will sell the cards at the Navy Yard Metrorail station at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 28, and before the Nationals games on March 29, March 30, April 7, April 9, April 12 and April 13.


Washington, D.C.: My comment is: take Metro. There are over 1,200 parking spaces at the Anacostia station alone, only one stop from the Navy Yard station. Anacostia is easily accessible from many directions. Park your car out of town for the first game at least, and figure out where to park next time, if you must drive in.

Lena Sun: Yes. And on the weekends, parking is free. And Anacostia is one of the five Metrorail stations where you can pay for parking with credit cards as well as SmarTrip cards.


Fort Washington, Md: Will there be hadicap parking available close to the stadium? If so, which parking lots?

Robert Thomson: The Nats and the District have worked on providing access to the stadium for disabled people, but I haven't seen any plan that sounds ideal for everyone.

There is such parking at the nearby garages and lots, as long as you're a season ticket holder. There are drop off zones on the west and east sides of the stadium, by the elevators, but after you drop off an elderly or disabled person there, you'll still have to find a place to park. (By the way, only the South Capitol Street zone is available for pickups after the game.)

You can park at RFK's Lot 8 and take the shuttle, some of which will be handicapped accessible. But the shuttle drops people off at 300 M Street, about five blocks from the stadium.


Washington, D.C.: I'll be coming into night games by car from Landmark (395 at Duke St) but then going home to NW D.C. (Friendship Heights). How to I maneuver that one?

Eric Weiss: If you must drive, you could park at RFK, take the free shuttle to the game and back and then avoid all baseball-related traffic as you get frustrated instead by all the lights on Mass Ave.


Washington, DC: It seems that the paid parking garages that the Nationals have developed will be a nightmare! How do you envision the Metro system working for the home games?

Robert Thomson: This is a huge test for Metro, and a chance for the transit authority to show off its essential role in keeping people mobile and enhancing the prospects for redeveloping neighborhoods -- or not.

The paid parking, off-street around the stadium, is almost entirely for season ticket holders. If that's not you, park at RFK and take the shuttle, or give Metro a chance to do what it needs to do. I'd definitely try taking the Green Line to the rebuilt Navy Yard Station. That west side entrance will be very convenient.

But if that proves to be too crowded for you, you could try getting off the Green Line at Waterfront Station and walking along M Street toward the stadium, or getting off at South Capitol Street Station and walking south. My prefered route from South Capitol Station is along New Jersey Avenue. It takes me 22 minutes to reach the stadium, at a very moderate pace.


Capitol Hill D.C.: Will there be a taxi stand and drop off?

Eric Weiss: I believe taxis will be able to drop you off in front of the stadium.


Washington, D.C.: How safe would you say the walk is from the Anacostia Metro station, and its parking garage, to the new ballpark? Or, more importantly, the walk back after games? It's nine-tenths of a mile over the Douglass Bridge, but you have to walk a short distance through that park on the south side of the Anacostia and then walk down Howard Road, and at night that area looks like it would be deserted. I just thought this might be a way to avoid crowding at Navy Yard.

Lena Sun: You can park at Anacostia and then take the Green Line one stop to Navy Yard. And if you want to avoid the throngs, don't take the new station entrance closest to the ballpark. Go to the other exit, which is likely to be much less crowded, and just a tiny bit more of a walk.


Tailgators Need Open Air Parking: You can't fire up a grill in a parking garage, so...

Besides parking at RFK and taking a shuttle bus to Nationals Park, is there open air parking available for tailgators? If so, where is it located?

Robert Thomson: Seems like fans will have to re-invent their tailgating culture around the new stadium. There are only two parking garages this season, the ones just to the north of the stadium. The other parking for season ticket holders is in reserved lots to the north and east of the stadium.


The Mall: Is it possible to walk from the Mall to the new stadium?

Eric Weiss: Yes. It's neither pretty nor short, but very doable. I would walk up to New Jersey Avenue and take that down to the stadium.


Alexandria, Va.: Nats Express

Driving to RFK, parking for free and riding a free shuttle to the game makes sense given the parking and traffic headaches around the new stadium. I often bring children and leave the game early. What do you know about frequency of the return trip to RFK during the games? Thank you.

Robert Thomson: The shuttle bus should be operating continually from at least an hour and a half before game time through an hour and a half after the last inning.


RFK Lot 8: Do you have any indication of the level of security will be provided for the free parking at RFK? Given that the parking is free, and that the Nats have the expense of protecting paid parking in several lots near the new ballpark, I am concerned that the cars at RFK will be unattended.

Eric Weiss: Good question, especially after an incident where players' cars got broken into at RFK during a road trip.

It is in the Nats' interest to make the RFK shuttle work, so if people come back to smashed in windows, they are less likely to take that option the next time.


Vienna, Va.: Is there any chance we will see a water shuttle from Alexandria or Georgetown to Nats Park, similar to the water shuttle used in Pittsburgh?

Robert Thomson: Lots of people want that. We won't see it this year. For one thing, there's no place to dock a ferry on the stadium side, but that's in the District's plans. It would be a great way to get to games from the Virginia side.


Arlington, Va.: Will MPD be adding additional patrolmen to write the additional car-theft reports that will inevitably occur?

Eric Weiss: I imagine you won't be able to swing a cat and not hit someone with a badge and a gun around the stadium area.


Round Hill, Va.: I actually went to the Navy Yard station a few weeks back. What genius decided to leave only two escalators coming from the platform to the Half street exit? I know these are going to be one-way, but even then that's not enough. Why wasn't at least one additional escalator added. Not that it would be operational given Metro's record of escalator repair, but still.

Lena Sun: Funding limitations. But Metro put in a new set of stairs from the platform to the mezzanine so here's what impatient folks can do:

When the train pulls into the station, avoid the crowds who will be heading for the escalators and go BEYOND them and walk up the stairs. Depending on how briskly you walk, that will get you to the mezzanine level AHEAD of the folks riding the escalator.


Washington, DC: Earlier you mentioned South Capitol Street Station. It's proper name is Capitol South located on the Blue and Orange lines. Just to alleviate any confusion.

Robert Thomson: Thank you for the important correction. The stadium is on South Capitol Street. The South Capitol Station is not. From the station, the two most likely walking routes to the stadium are South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue. I've tried them both, and prefer New Jersey Avenue. But don't expect you'll find a grand boulevard leading to the stadium. NJ Ave is a work in progress. Last time I tried it, I had to cross the street a couple of times to avoid construction that took up the sidewalk.


Orange Line to Capitol South?: I've heard a few people suggest that Virginians like myself might take the Orange line straight to Capitol South, then walk to the park. I've heard it's only a 15-20 minute walk, with "only a few minutes" through a questionable neighborhood. So how bad IS the trip from Cap South to Navy Yard by foot?

Eric Weiss: Not bad. That will be my preferred route. D Street and New Jersey have a few charming blocks, until you hit a power plant, walk under an interstate and then past construction sites. But there should be many other pilgrims to make it safer and more enjoyable.


Arlington, Va.: How far do the parking restrictions extend away from the park, i.e., would I be able to park around Eastern Market and walk from there? Thank you.

Robert Thomson: The parking restrictions are quite extensive and do reach up into the Eastern Market area. Also, the new rules are complex. There's parking reserved for zone 6 residents only. There's parking that caters to the businesses and restaurants on Capitol Hill. There's parking that's open to everybody, with rates that can vary a great deal. Read the signs carefully.

Yes, you could walk from Eastern Market down to the stadium. I'd walk down 8th Street, then turn right onto M Street. Or you could take the N22 Metrobus from Eastern Market, down 8th Street onto M and get off at the Navy Yard Metro station.


Glen Echo: Last year leaving Stadium/Armory was not nearly as bad as what happened next at Metro Center. Fans expected some pain with crowds exiting the game and converging on the platform at Stadium/Armory. A wait of 15 to 20 minutes at Metro Center, however, was really annoying. During the wait, two or more trains from Stadium/Armory would dump more customers on the platform. If the city and the Nationals want the Metro experience to be as pain-free as possible, service to the connecting stations such as L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place needs to be much better than last year.

Lena Sun: Metro wants people to know that there will be lines to get into the trains and lines to get into the stations. Your trip from L'enfant Plaza to Navy Yard or Gallery Place to Navy Yard is going to be VERY CROWDED.

During the peak crunch time before and after the game, Metro is planning to run trains through the Navy Yard station every four minutes in both directions. Before the game, for example, that may mean having the train hold in the station WITH THE DOORS CLOSED to let the platform empty of people. After the game, that may mean the trains holds at the station for up to 2 minutes to let as many people as possible get on the train, especially if it is an eight-car train.


Washington, D.C.: The extra N22 service is great, but why doesn't Metro just routinely have extra buses going to various places. Several shuttles going useful places would be a big help, just lined up for the end of the game. They don't even have to be free.

Lena Sun: I know some rail riders who have been frustrated with long delays on weekends because of track work have made those same suggestions. A lot has to do with money. Or lack of it.


Washington DC: Parking at RFK is likely to be as unpopular as the satellite lots and buses are at Fedex Field.

How is the area surrounding the stadium for restaurants and pubs?

Eric Weiss: How dare thy compareth Nats Park with that other, suburban, stadium!

This is a city stadium with city-style people-moving solutions. Which might actually require suburbanites to ride a bus for a few blocks. And once you see the prices for parking near the stadium, the bus will look better and better.


N.E. D. C. : I bought two bikes to commute to the park. What does valet bike parking mean? Is there a fee? Is it indoors? Will I need a lock, or to keep bike unlocked and attended?

Robert Thomson: The valet bike parking is a great idea and it's free. You'll find it at "Red Garage C," at the corner of N and 1st streets. Access to the valet is on N Street, just left of the entrance. The valet will accept bikes two hours before game time and will close an hour hour after the last inning.

Besides the valet service, you'll find 250 bike racks all around the outside of the stadium. For them, I'd use a lock.


RFK Shuttle and Lot 8 Security: Late games and long shuttle rides back to the RFK lot create a security issue for my family.

Will the Nationals provide security at the RFK lots long after the game ends to be sure we get out safely?

Eric Weiss: The shuttle service runs until 90 minutes after games, so it would make sense that the whole security infrastructure remain until then as well.


DC: How much is this expected to worsen rush-hour traffic jams on 295, 395, etc?

Eric Weiss: Heading to a game would be against traffic, so not much, says DDOT. But I would avoid SouCap Bridge.


Fairfax, Va.: Is there not a handicapped shuttle from RFK? Looks like any other solution equates to 5 blocks walking.

Robert Thomson: Some of the Nats Express free shuttles from RFK's Lot 8 will be handicapped accessible, but not all of them. And they all go to the same drop off point, at 300 M Street SE, across from the US DOT offices. This is one of the reasons I believe we do not yet have an ideal solution on handicapped access to the new stadium.


Washington, D.C.: Why was Metro so opposed to letting a corporate name get on the Navy Yard station (if Nationals Park has a corporate sponsor) when they have no problem with mentioning the Verizon Center when you get to Gallery Place. I definitely heard the conductor say "Verizon Center" when I got there.

Given how "underfunded" Metro claims to be they really should be selling themselves out. I would love it if every station had a corporate sponsor. I would not mind being bombarded with ads if it means the trains ran on time.

Eric Weiss: But the name of the station is still Gallery Place/Chinatown.

I think what Metro member Jim Graham objected to was changing the name to, say, Navy Yard/GEICO Field.


Capitol Hill: Do Nationals games at the new stadium (with parking and shuttles at RFK) count as a "Stadium Event" for street parking in the neighborhoods around RFK?

In other words, will I need to get visitors' passes if I want to have friends drive to my house during a game that's several miles away?

Robert Thomson: Opening up Lot 8 is not a Stadium Event. And that wouldn't make any sense, would it? There should be plenty of parking at Lot 8, on the far side of RFK. No reason for people to scout for a parking spot on the Capitol Hill streets when they can park for free at Lot 8 and have easy access to the free shuttle to the new stadium.


Kingstowne, VA: Submitting early because I won't be able to get online at noon. I plan to take the Metro to the first couple of games I attend. But I have a question regarding street parking. I'm well aware that most of the on-street parking in SE and SW is restricted to residential Zone 6 permits, and rightly so.

However, looking at the parking maps showing where the Zone 6 restrictions are, I see that the area of Southwest to the south of R Street SW and Potomac Avenue SW (basically, Buzzards Point) is NOT subject to the Zone 6 restrictions. The Nationals were talking about parking charter buses down there, but when I drove through the area last week there were no signs indicating any restrictions along 2d Street SW, First Street SW, S Street or T Street, etc. I do have to admit that it looks like a really deserted, possibly rough area, and that I might worry that my car would be stripped within half an hour of parking there. But what's the story--is this area open to the public for on-street parking?

Eric Weiss: DDOT said they do not recommend parking in the industrial area across South Capitol Street because of a lack of sidewalks and lighting. It also seems dangerous (It is also where, btw, they placed the media lot). I am sure some brave souls will try that option.


Radford, Va.: While the exhibition game tickets aren't sold, is the stadium expected to be full? Will transit options/schedule be the same as opening night (for the most part)?

Lena Sun: No they don't expect the stadium to be full for the exhibition game. Metro is going to have all the same transit options and schedules and use it as a dress rehearsal. Obviously, if the crowds don't materialize, they won't have to run all the extra trains.


Oxon Hill Md: Why can't the Nats Express drop off and pick-up at the stadium?

Five blocks seems excessive espcially for older patrons and young children; and also during hours of darkness.

Atlanta has a metro rail/bus combination and the bus drops off at the stadium.

Robert Thomson: I think the reason is that the Nats and the District government are aware that they need to create an incentive for people to park at RFK and must fulfill the promise of getting fans quickly to the new stadium area. The area right around the stadium will be very congested around game time, and they don't want the shuttle to get caught up in the traffic.

Most people won't find that five block walk a problem, and probably would rather get off the bus and walk than crawl along those last few blocks. It would be a very different story, though, for an elderly or disabled person.

The darkness shouldn't be a problem. It still will be light before most games, and I believe the route will be well-lit and well-populated afterward.


Washington, DC: As a Capitol Hill staffer who currently parks on D Street SE when visiting the office on weekends, I'm curious to know when and how the parking restrictions will be enforced. Am I correct in believing that the new parking codes will extend up into this area? Will they be enforced just on game days, or all summer long? And when on game days do they go into effect -- for instance, if the Nats have a Saturday night game, can I park on the street without penalty during the daytime?

And have the Nats and/or Metro suggested using Anacostia station and parking lot as a less-crowded yet accessible alternative? It may be across the river, but it seems no farther away than Capitol South station -- and could be a solution for folks looking to park within a reasonable walking distance...

Eric Weiss: I asked DDOT about fans using the underused parking garage at Anacostia station and then walking across the SouCap Bridge. They said that there are some gaps in sidewalks and tricky traffic situations, so they are not recommending that for now. But maybe by next season they could look into that.


Metro Shmetro: City slickers are having no problem telling us country bumpkins our only option is "Take the Metro."

Don't the Nationals realize the majority of fans purposely don't live near a Metro station?

Are there plans to expand parking options for non-season tickets holders that aren't millionaires?

Eric Weiss: Ever been to Wrigley or Fenway? That's the experience baseball people want these days.

The days of baseball parks surrounded by an island of parking in some suburb is over.


Bethesda, MD: What is the best way going to be to get from Bethesda (and most of Mont. County for that matter) to the new park? The transfer at Gallery Place is going to be brutal, would I be better served taking the N22 to Union and riding a little farther?

Lena Sun: I would still go the train route and just prepare for it to be really crowded for four stops. Figure about 120 people per rail car, that's more than 700 people for a six-car train. The maximum number of people the N22 can carry is 80 people, every 10 minutes.


Atlanta: What's up with all the negative questions? I hope my DC brethren realize that difficulties getting too/from stadiums are inherent in any city and any country. There's no such thing as a magic carpet ride. It takes time to get to stadiums, and always has... the new Nats stadium is no different.

Robert Thomson: I've traveled to more than a dozen major league stadiums. There will be crowds getting to Nationals Park, there will be problems, but it doesn't look like an outrageous challenge compared with other stadiums across the country.

Plus, the Nats, Metro and the District Department of Transportation and other city agencies will be out watching what happens and making adjustments as the season goes on.

Fans will make adjustments, too. They'll try something, and if they find that doesn't work, they'll try something else.

Francine Waters, who works on transportation issues for the Nats, notes that nobody has a habit yet. The Nats and everyone else involved want fans to form good habits.


Washington, DC: How will cars access Lot 8 at RFK? Can it be accessed from the end of the SE/SW Freeway, or can it only be accessed from East Capitol Street?

Robert Thomson: You'll be able to use the RFK access road from the end of the Freeway to reach RFK parking.


Arlington, Va.: With the freight rail tracks running so close to the stadium, would it make sense to have a rail shuttle from a new platform at Virginia Ave SE and South Capitol that would shuttle people to Crystal City/Alexandria? Wouldn't this provide a sorely needed second rail line?

Robert Thomson: We have the second biggest rail transit system in the nation in Metro. It's unlikely planners will consider the expense of creating a rail shuttle on those tracks at Virginia Avenue, given the assets we already have.


Robert Thomson: Thanks for joining us today, everyone. You've given us some good ideas about what fans and commuters will need to know. Look for more about this in The Post and in the Get There blog here on the site.


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