Metro will stay open an extra hour on Thursday night to accommodate the crowds at Verizon Center for the the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. This extra hour may also work out well for people out late celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

On Thursday, the first game starts at 12:40 p.m., and the second game a half-hour after the end of the first.

The third game starts at 7:20 p.m..and the fourth a half-hour after the end of the third.

Because the last game is likely to go late; Verizon Center agreed to pay to keep the Metrorail system open until 1a.m. Friday. Metrorail normally closes at midnight Sundays through Thursdays.

The next round of games is set for Saturday, but the schedule hasn’t been set yet.

Travelers should expect to encounter large crowds on Thursday and Saturday in Chinatown and at the Gallery Place Metro station, under the Verizon Center. Besides staying open late Thursday night, Metrorail also will have extra trains available for service after the first, third and fourth games Thursday and after both games on Saturday.

For those who work near in the Chinatown area, Metro suggests that Thursday you use the Gallery Place Metro entrances at Ninth and G streets NW or Seventh and H streets to avoid some of the basketball crowd. Stations are so close downtown that riders also could walk east to Judiciary Square Station at Fifth and F streets or west to the Metro Center Station at 11th and G streets.

Green and Yellow Line riders might head north to the Mount Vernon Square Station at Seventh and M streets NW, or south to south to Archives Station at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

St. Patrick’s Day SoberRide

For those who need a late-night alternative to Metrorail when they discover they’ve celebrated too well on St. Patrick’s Day, the SoberRide program is again available. SoberRide will arrange for a free ride home in a taxi, up to a fare of $30. The program will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday and continue till 4 a.m. Friday.

To get a ride, call 800-200-8294 (TAXI) or #8294 (TAXI) on your AT&T wireless phone. You must be 21 or older to use SoberRide. Note that you can’t reserve this service, and you must use the 800 number, rather than calling a cab company directly to request SoberRide.