It turns out that Washington baseball fans do care when they get back from the ballgame. But Metro again made that difficult as the Washington Nationals face a do-or-die showdown Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs.
Luckily, fans got a reprieve — with a boost from the energy provider Exelon, whose PR department deserves a raise.
In a midday turnabout, Metro announced that the system would stay open with limited service for riders boarding near the ballpark. Exelon, the parent company of Pepco, agreed to pay Metro’s $100,000 fee for extended service.
In interviews before the announcement of extended hours, almost no one was happy with Metro’s decision not to adjust its late-hours train schedule for the decisive Game 5 in the National League Division Series. Some riders focused their ire on the transit agency, but others also expressed their displeasure with the ballclub’s owners, who have declined to put up the $100,000 an hour required by Metro so that the trains could run later.
The initial standoff between the ballclub and the transit agency over late service appeared to be a cruel replay of last year, when the ballpark filled with chants of “Metro sucks.” With the first pitch at 8:08 p.m. and the last train heading out at 11:30 p.m., there would be a good chance that without extended-hours service, Nats fans who came by Metro could have been filing through the turnstiles before the last out.
Without extended service, a lot of people would elect to drive — braving gridlock traffic and extortionate parking fees — or rely on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Earlier, the Nats sent out an advisory urging people to consider using the D.C. Circulator or bicycles. Good luck with that, Granny.
Karna Mital, 28, a D.C. resident who works as an economics consultant and used to work for Chicago’s transit system, said Metro’s decision was shortsighted.
“I think it’s silly and a big loss on Metro’s part to not be adjusting service for big sporting events,” Mital said. He said the Chicago Transit Authority routinely adjusts its schedule for sporting events. “Especially when the Nats are in the playoffs, it’s just sad, and a missed opportunity. . . . For one thing, it’s revenue. But another thing is just that the public perception of Metro has been really beaten down in past years. Even with SafeTrack and the improvements they’ve tried to make, the reputation is still not great. This would be a real way to show they’re responding to the needs of the community.”
“That sounds like yet another Game 5 tragedy for Nats fans,” said Bruce Reed, 57, a policy consultant who was boarding the Red Line at Cleveland Park. Reed, who attended Saturday’s Game 2 in the NLDS, said Metro worked like a champ for that daytime game. “It’s impossible to get to the ballpark without Metro.”
Reed said that the playoffs benefit the city and the ballclub and that they should have worked something out.
“The city and the team have a responsibility to honor our national pastime,” said Reed (who is actually a Pittsburgh Pirates fan). “If the Nats make it past this game, they better figure this out.”
But Charles and Sheila Smalls, who are retired federal employees and live in Prince Frederick, Md., said the Nats should have found the money to keep the trains running later, not the taxpayers, who help pay for the transit system. Both are regular Metro users when they visit the city. Charles Smalls said he also believes Metro has its priorities straight these days.
“Safety comes first,” he said. “The taxpayers have enough on their plate. If the teams want to pay the extra $100,000 [an hour], then so be it. But don’t put it on the taxpayers to fund all these extraordinary efforts that the owners — billionaires — of these teams … can pay themselves if they want to give their customers extra satisfaction.”
Matt Karp, 26, a Denver resident who was visiting his sister in D.C. and wearing a suspicious amount of Nats gear for someone who says he’s a Colorado Rockies fan, said he still can’t understand why Washington hasn’t figured out a way to run its subway the way that London and other places have been able to do.
“It’s frustrating as a fan because of the time of the game,” said Karp, a high school economics teacher who scored tickets to Game 5. “This happens so irregularly, it just seems shortsighted.”
Karp, who was boarding the Green Line at L’Enfant Plaza, said he also doesn’t think the burden should fall to the teams to provide a public transit service.
Deborah Dixon, 66, a retired cybersecurity analyst who lives in Washington, said Metro’s decision not to extend hours was “wretched.”
“I just don’t think that’s good economically for business in D.C.” Dixon said. “You have fans coming into the city, and you encourage us to take public transportation but you cut it off. So if I live in Virginia, how am I supposed to get home? Either I have to pay Uber an exorbitant amount of money or I’m just stuck.”
For now, Washington fans can be glad that, first, the Nats turned things around in Chicago on Wednesday with their 5-0 victory after being down two games to one, and then Metro turns things around with the extra hour of service. But some also wonder whether the nail-biting will continue if the Nats advance to the National League Championship Series or the World Series.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Metro had issued an advisory suggesting people consider biking to and from the ballpark. It was the Nationals that made the suggestion .
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