Yes. Yes, they are. And they have. Before Bowser’s unhelpful response to an important question, Nationals fans were making and sharing alternative transportation plans using the hashtag #NatsRide on Twitter.
“One of our writers called me up last night after [the first pitch of Game 5 was set for 8:08 p.m.] and said, ‘We’ve got a problem; let’s come up with a solution,’ ” Steve Mears, who writes for the popular Nationals fan blog TalkNats.com, said in an interview with The Post. “So we came up with the #NatsRide hashtag, and it’s already taken off, which is great.”
Mears published a blog post early Wednesday morning that listed a variety of way for fans to get to and from Game 5. He also encouraged fans to help each other out.
“Get Smart, and plan early,” he wrote. “If you need a ride, get on Twitter and use #NatsRide with the city you live in and hook-up is our solution. There are thousands of empty seats in cars. Be practical and help out Nats fans who don’t have parking passes.”
Mears, who will watch Game 5 on TV from the comfort of his own home in Southern California, updated the post with additional suggestions from readers, and #NatsRide began trending on Twitter. Mears spent part of his day serving as a virtual travel agent for fellow Nationals fans, arranging matches between people who were requesting and offering rides to the game. As of Wednesday evening, he said he’d helped create more than 150 matches and, quickly, counting. (Besides wanting to help people out of the goodness of his heart, Mears would also like the Nationals to avoid a repeat of the mass fan exodus that occurred two years ago during Washington’s 18-inning loss to the Giants in Game 2 of the NLDS.)
“There are going to be enough solutions that people are going to be smart this time,” Mears said. “It was an embarrassment in 2014, and I was there, freezing.”
David Gaines of Rockville doesn’t even have a ticket to Game 5 but wanted to “be close to the action” and watch the game with fellow Nationals fans at The Big Stick, a bar one block from the ballpark. After the Cubs beat the Giants on Tuesday, putting the Nationals-Dodgers game in Thursday’s prime-time slot, Gaines, who almost always relies on the Metro to get to and from Nationals Park and doesn’t have cable, considered staying home and listening to the game on the radio.
“The last time I parked there, I paid $41,” Gaines said. “I remember our tickets to the game cost less than half that.”
(Of the 33 parking passes available on StubHub for Game 5 as of 3 p.m., the cheapest one was $140. Standing-room-only tickets were available for $62.)
Gaines looked up how long it would take to walk home: 6 hours and 18 minutes, or five fewer minutes than that 18-inning loss to the Giants in 2014.
“I’ve run 5Ks and I’m in decent shape, and I love the Nationals, but six hours?” Gaines said with a laugh. “I don’t think so.”
He then stumbled upon the #NatsRide hashtag on Twitter and offered to provide transportation to the ballpark in exchange for parking. Mears helped connect him with season-ticket holder Patti Rodgers, who lives in Columbia Heights.
Rodgers and her husband used to take Metro to Nats games, but they’ve been using Uber or Lyft ever since Rodgers injured her knee this summer. With traffic and surge pricing, their ride home from Sunday’s Game 2 was $75.
“We were going to do that again if we really needed to, but I kind of didn’t want to spend that extra money,” said Rodgers, who bought a parking spot near Nationals Park for $45 through Parking Panda (spots still available), figuring that she could find a ride.
“I’ve never met him before and I hope he’s not an axe murderer, but it’s really no different than having to trust that the guy driving your Lyft isn’t an axe murderer,” Rodgers said of Gaines, who, far as I can tell, isn’t an axe murderer. At least they’ll be able to agree on a radio station to listen to on the ride home after they meet up following the game.
After looking into taking a cab ($47 one way) or paying for a room at the Hampton Inn next to Nationals Park (more than $300), half-season-plan holder Marlene Koenig, who usually parks at the Franconia station and takes Metro to games, booked a $37 round-trip boat ticket with the Potomac Riverboat Company after being reminded of that option on Twitter. Boats depart for Nationals Park from Alexandria and National Harbor and leave the ballpark 20 minutes after the final out. The company added a second trip to Thursday’s schedule because of high demand.
“We’re Nats fans,” said Koenig, who also attended the 18-inning loss in 2014. “We have to do this. We have to be there to see our team win.”
In the spring, Metro announced the suspension of early openings and late closings for special events during its yearlong SafeTrack maintenance blitz, and Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has refused to make any exceptions, except for the presidential inauguration.
“Metro won’t hear any of any changes,” Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner told 106.7 The Fan last week. “They flat-out told us it’s not happening. So if we get deep [into the playoffs] and you have these 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock games, frankly, people are going to have to bring their cars. Metro will be useless, because who wants to pick up in the fourth or fifth inning and go home? It’s crazy.”
The Nationals issued the following statement about getting to Thursday’s game:
As fans know, Metro SafeTrack is in effect. Fans are strongly encouraged to consider alternate ways to get to and from the ballpark tomorrow night, particularly after the game – which may end after Metro has closed.Fans should consider alternate forms of travel to and from the ballpark, including ride-hailing services, the D.C. Circulator from Union Station, biking to the park or the baseball boat from Old Town Alexandria. If you plan to drive and park around the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, know where you are going to park before coming. Visit nationals.com/waytogo for detailed transportation information, including specified routes to the ballpark.For fans using ride-hailing services, there are designated pick-up locations for both Uber and Lyft. Fans using Uber can be picked up at either the intersection of N St. and New Jersey Ave., or the intersection of Half St. and L St. Fans using Lyft can be picked up on L St., between Cushing Pl. and Half St. Fans should not plan to drop off or pick up on South Capitol St. This is a busy highway, and stopping on this road is dangerous.
Some fans will leave Thursday’s Game 5 before the final out for any number of perfectly good reasons, including to catch the last train. Thanks to #NatsRide, the number of fans who will leave solely because of SafeTrack was lessened on Wednesday.
“I know people are going to leave early, and I don’t blame them,” Rodgers said. “Especially if you live in the suburbs, if you live far away, it’s really, really hard and really, really expensive to get home. I’m lucky: I live in the city, and I can take a city bus if I want to. But if you’re coming from Olney, forget that. There’s no way you can get out there on the bus. I know D.C. fans get a bad reputation for leaving early, but I won’t blame anybody who’s trying to make that last train, because if you miss it, you’re pretty hosed.”
Like many fans, Gaines expressed frustration that it had come to this.
“I’m totally down with SafeTrack, and I think everyone is,” he said. “We all understand the need, and safety should be the No. 1 priority. No one’s disputing that, but all of this should’ve been worked out a long time ago. … Look, I’m a musician and I know all about creative, but I shouldn’t have to be forced to get creative just to get to a playoff game.”