The Nationals have clinched a playoff spot, but with less than a week left in the regular season, fans who rely on Metro are no closer to knowing how they will get home from late playoff games.

It’s the same issue that has lingered for weeks. Playoff games typically start later (like last year’s Sunday night game in Philadelphia that was called for 8:37 p.m.) and last longer, but Metro stops running at midnight on weeknights.

Nationals crowd celebrates after the Washington Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 - 1 to make it to the playoffs at the Nationals Stadium on Sept. 16, 2012 (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Metro refunds these deposits based on the number of riders during the extra service, though only up to the initial $29,500. And the math has changed since the Nationals paid to keep Metro open late for a Sunday night game earlier this season against the Phillies (when 445 people took advantage of the late service).

Due to the system-wide fare increases that hit in July, the average cost of a Metro trip went from $1.81 to $2.68. Metro refunds the average round-trip cost, so for each ride taken during the extra service, Metro will give back $5.36.

It used to take 8,150 rides for an organization to make back their deposit. Now the new magic number is 5,504 trips taken after a late game at the 41,222-seat Nationals Park.

The new average fare didn’t go into effect when the fares went up because it took time to figure out the new average, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. The new average fare was first used to calculate a refund after Metro opened an hour early on Sept. 16 for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon and Navy Five-Miler.

This week offered another example of how the higher average fare makes it easier for event organizers to recoup their deposits. Metro stayed open late on Sunday and Monday nights to help fans get home from a pair of Madonna performances at the Verizon Center.

Metro reported that 5,229 rides were taken during the extra hour after Sunday night’s show, while 5,225 rides were taken after Monday’s concert.

As a result, the Verizon Center was refunded $28,028 for Sunday night’s performance and $28,006 for Monday night’s show. The total cost for extending service on both nights came to $2,966, or just under $20 for each minute between the Sunday concert’s announced start time (8 p.m.) and its actual start time (10:30 p.m.).

The situation for Nationals fans remains unclear. The Nationals reportedly asked the District to pay for extra Metro service, but the team was shot down. Virginia and Maryland could both pitch in some money, according to statements made by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) earlier this week.

Tucker Martin, spokesman for McDonnell, confirmed to the Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella via e-mail that McDonnell’s office was “looking at ways by which all three governments” would keep Metro open late.

At least Nationals fans can take solace in one thing: Metro has canceled major track work it had planned for the first two weekends in October, at least in part due to higher ridership expected during the playoffs.


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