FOR ANY OF YOU who may have been out of touch for a while, one of the biggest questions has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the pass rush or with Billy Kilmer's chronic limp or with the state of Pat Fischer's pinched nerve. What a lot of fans are asking is: Why doesn't Metro's Blue Line service to RFK stadium seem to be figuring in this season's Redskin game plan? After all, the capability is there to serve RFK stadium during the week. By adding extra trains, perhaps levying a somewhat higher fare to pay for overtime crews, and using a little ingenuity, why couldn't it be possible to provide special service for the six weekend home games, and to extend the normal 8 p.m. weekday closing to handle the Redskins' lone Monday night game? Frankly, the question baffled us-until we put it directly to the powers-that-be at, Metro. THe answers we received seem to us to be worth passing on - along with a suggestion of our own that we think might helpdetermine whether the question is even worth keeping alive for next year.
For what the answers suggest is that, while there is no hope of doing anything about it this year, Blue Line service for Redskins games has not been cut forever out of future planning; rather, it has been placed on what you might describe as injured reserve. The reasons strike us as understandable:
Costs. According to William A. Boleyn, Metro's assistant general manager for finance, the extra cost of running the subway system for a Saturday or Sunday game would be approximately $26,000. That's to cover personnel, power, maintenance, station services and security. It may not seem like an awful lot - until you take into account Metro's estimate of how many fans would ride the subway to the games. Officials figure it would only come to about 5,000 people (if you add the 2,500 who now ride in by special Metrobuses from Virginia and 5,500 others from around town). At $5 apiece, round-trip, you could almost break even; but the average fare of 45 cents, the day's take would total $4,500. For the season, the system would wind up spending about $150,000 more than its revenues for the seervice. Moreover, this does not take into account revenue losses due to any discontinuing of special bus runs.
General Manager Theodore C. Lutz noted in a memo to the Metro board that he feels the system "must exercise considerable caution in using general taxpayer funds to subsidize such special services." It would be best, he added, to focus on extending hours of rail service for the general public.
Given the understandable taxpayer sensitivity to any additional Metro costs, it's true that people who have no opportunity to see a Redskins game wouldn't be thrilled at helping 5,000 not-so-necessarily-under-privileged fans get to the games a different way.
Operational Problems. Metro really can't handle the pre. and post-game crunch yet. Even though the stadium is currently the end of the line, the crossover track system for turning around trains is two stations away, and there isn't the space or the track pattern to set up enough trains for a sudden surge of passengers. Once the Blue Line goes beyond the stadium in the future, Metro should be able to line up all the trains necessary to do the job.
So we're prepared to accept the explanations for no Redskins service in 1977. But as they say in sports, wait till next year. In the future, the question of whether Redskins games, baseball games (well, who knows?), flower shows and whatever else may attract crowds to the stadium-armory are shouldn't be written of as "special services." That, after all, was on reason for putting a Metro station there.
Metro ought to consider general weekend services on any lines that are likely to be reasonably well patronized. In the meantime, why doesn't Metro, in company with the Redskins organization, try to find the subway? Is it only 5,000? That's not a lot, but it may be that many fans enjoy the special buses, which in our experience have been a friendly, efficient way to go. Stilkl, the Redsdkins have a ready list of their fans - and it would be useful to get some hard data on the degree of their interest in riding the subway.