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The Thin Green Line

The District's plan for parking on the streets around the new Nationals Park and the Nationals' plan for parking in the nearby garages and lots shows how heavily they will be relying on Metro's Green people mover. This will be Washington's first experience in the modern era with a large urban arena served by only one rail line.

The program laid out in Daniel LeDuc's Post story today had better work. Delays on the Green Line during the evening rush when a night game also is scheduled will add to the crowding at the Metro Center, L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place transfer stations. Metro's board of directors today approved a plan to enhance bus service linking Union Station, Eastern Market and Navy Yard, which should relieve some of that pressure, because riders will be able to board the bus from stations on the Red, Blue and Orange lines.

Aside from that, most of the transit preparations have focused on the Navy Yard Station itself, since that's the closest to the new stadium on South Capitol Street. The escalators at the rebuilt western entrance will be used only for station exits before games and for entries as the game ends. Marc Fisher writes in his column today about the badness of driving and the logic of taking Metro.

I think that's the right call, but the potential problem for Metro is that many thousands of others also will see it that way. With that much of a passenger load, we need to focus not only on Navy Yard Station, but also on the Green Line generally, on the transfer stations and on the big parking lots and garages at the outer stations. (We've worried about drivers wandering through Southwest Washington streets looking for parking on weeknights. Will they also be wandering through the levels of a Vienna Station garage?)

Many of the baseball travel issues we're raising will work themselves out over the next few years, as entertainment options grow around the stadium and people find more reasons to get there early or linger afterward. Metro will add more rail cars. More garages will be built. Maybe the novelty of the new stadium will wear off a bit and not all the games will be sellouts. (But that also means hoping the team will suffer the same fate as the Orioles of recent years, and we shouldn't go there.)

But for these first few months, drivers will be learning just how difficult it is to find off-street parking near the stadium and how restrictive the D.C. parking rules are. Transit users, meanwhile, will be figuring out whether they can stand the crowding and occasional delays. After their first game, fans will begin to figure out alternatives.

Traffic and transit planners will be doing the same. During the early season games, city officials will be on the streets and up in helicopters watching the patterns of congestion and making adjustments in such things as the timing of the traffic signals and the street parking plan. Green Line riders will see Metro officials staring intently into the crowds on the Navy Yard platform.

So whatever you experience on your first trip to the stadium may not match subsequent experiences. There will be a first wave -- a shockwave -- of experience with the new stadium, followed by a different set as everyone makes adjustments.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 28, 2008; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Stadium  
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Comments

Didn't I hear something about busses that will go from RFK to the new stadium? That's not a bad idea to utilize the parking that's there at least for the time being.

Posted by: Kim | February 28, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

RFk had the best parking system ever...why we didn't take advantage of that and refurbish the stadium I will never fathom.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

RFK Parking is a great idea until people realize that those busses get stuck in traffic with everyone else...

The parking restrictions are necessary evils so neighborhood residents have a fighting chance of finding a parking spot during a game. I wonder if DDOT would consider some of these "enhanced" resident restrictions (like making one side of the street residents only and/or extending restrictions to weekends until midnight) in other areas of the city....like near the National Zoo...

Posted by: Woodley Park | February 28, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the stadium could be added as a "station" to the SmartBike bike sharing program.

Posted by: Tom | February 28, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the RFK busses, supposedly they'll be taking a back route along the Anacostia from RFK that will only be about an 8-10 minute ride. They won't be taking the normal streets.

Posted by: G-town | February 28, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The proposed busses would use the back access road from lot 8 at RFK to get around some of the traffic. I would guess they have a route marked out. They wouldn't go directly either. I think they're suppsoed to go to M street.

Only issue I can think of is what do they do during DCU games when that's their tailgate lot.

With some slight modifications the Green line will do alright. They need to get the timing worked out better so they're aren't as many gaps going northbound due to yellow line trains turning around. Just run them up to Greenbelt and save everyone the hassle.

Posted by: EricS | February 28, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: The plan to offer free parking at RFK along with a free shuttle bus to Nationals Park should help many fans. And as G-town noted, the organizers are saying that the route takes no more than 10 minutes.

Will fans from Northern Virginia do that, or is it a better bet for Marylanders?

Posted by: Robert Thomson | February 28, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Yet another reason I'm glad I live in southern Prince Georges County. I'll be parking at Branch Avenue, and going 7 (I think, could be 8) stops to Navy Yard. The trains will be less crowded too, I'm sure.

Posted by: Sparks | February 28, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"Many of the baseball travel issues we're raising will work themselves out over the next few years, as entertainment options grow around the stadium and people find more reasons to get there early or linger afterward."

This is absolutely correct. The only real issue here is a human one, not necessarily a physical one. It's a learning process. There will be some growing pains, but the reality is that people are remarkably resourceful when it comes to finding alternative means of travel.

Posted by: Alex B. | February 28, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I can assure you that no (reasonably sane) NoVA resident is going to brave rush hour traffic to cross the Wilson Bridge or the 14th St Bridge for a weekeday evening game to drive to RFK and back-track to Nationals Park. The transportation situation will surely put a dent in the number of families with little kids attending games on weeknights as families decide that a "metro-only option" is often too impractical/cumbersome for sheparding little ones from NoVA to the park.

Posted by: Will Watch on TV This Year | February 28, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Problems:

The bus situation will be great once the busses are away from the stadium. But how will you move a fleet of busses around a crowded stadium, with cars hunting for parking spots and season ticket holders going to their garages? You've got busses just adding to the gridlock.

The RFK situation works great in part because you can contraflow the traffic on one lane of the access road from the end of Southwest Freeway, so you have two lanes in or out. But if you have busses using that access road, it means that you have only one lane of traffic moving in or out of the RFK parking lot onto the freeway, which will make it much slower to get out of RFK than it ever has been.

I'm confused why people think 15,000 people per hour at the Metro station is enough. Metro is the supposed answer here, but if you've got 25,000 fans taking Metro (which, for a sellout game, leaves another several thousand as a gap between the parking group and Metro group), the Metro will be a nightmare. The problems will be at fare gates, fare card purchase points and on escalators. Will there be stairs available? Will there be people encouraging "walk-left, stand-right?" Otherwise, watch out.

Posted by: DC Mike | February 28, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I have a novel idea that Metro should consider, if It hasn't already been looked at. As a Nats fan who always took metro to the games at RFK, I saw that many of the problems of getting people in and out of the Potomac Avenue station quickly. Most riders would be going back on the Orange or Blue lines in the direction of Vienna/Springfield, while few were going in the opposite direction of New Carrollton/Largo, so in essence, the station is only using half of its capacity. I expect the same problem at the Navy Yard station, where I assume most of the riders will be headed in the direction of Greenbelt. Metro should consider offering incentives to travel in the opposite way to Branch Avenue, and one idea would be to offer discounted or free parking at the Southern Avenue, Suitland, or Branch Avenue stations. The lots there are mostly empty on weekdays after 5:30pm, and could easily accommodate an influx of cards for people going to the game. I am not sure that the SmartCard is able to configure that sort of setup, but I think that it is seriously should be looked at. Metro could also empathize that the return trip to any of these stations is $1.35, and even with the full parking garage fare, it's probably still cheaper than most alternatives that involve driving. Fans that will be riding Metro that could use this arrangement, voice your opinion!

Posted by: Green Line Fever | February 28, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Many of the baseball travel issues we're raising will work themselves out over the next few years...Maybe the novelty of the new stadium will wear off a bit and not all the games will be sellouts."
Counting on low attendance to help ease traffic and parking issues, I'm not sure if that would be considered the ideal solution by the Lerners. On the other hand, we won't have to wait years for this to take affect, I doubt if more than two games will sell out this year.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 28, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going at all, so that's one less person to worry about. A few decades ago, teams moved out of cities and cited "lack of parking" as an excuse. The Durham Bulls did this when they moved to a new ballpark which had EVEN LESS PARKING than their old park.

Why waste the time and frustration this summer in trying to fight the Metro, street parking, and garage parking crowds and enjoy the Washington Glory. Plenty of parking available right at Westfield High School, professional athletes and a lot more fun than a pro baseball game.

Posted by: NoVa Fan | February 28, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"A few decades ago, teams moved out of cities and cited "lack of parking" as an excuse."

But this *is* in the city

Posted by: Laura | February 28, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

This blog is like catnip for whiners.

Posted by: Lindemann | February 28, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"I can assure you that no (reasonably sane) NoVA resident is going to brave rush hour traffic to cross the Wilson Bridge or the 14th St Bridge for a weekeday evening game to drive to RFK and back-track to Nationals Park."

To me, coming from Kingstowne, this depends on two things. First, will the RFK Access Road be open to fans wanting to park, or will you have to go through the streets (which takes a lot longer)? Second, how efficient will the buses be and will there be some way to get them out of the traffic in the area? I always drove to RFK (and will still do so for United games) because the trip home by car was far faster at 25 minutes than the trip home by subway at over an hour (counting time to wait for the train, wait on the train whilst the doors opened and closed, walk to the car at the other end, etc.), so if the bus service were efficient I'd consider giving it a try. Metro's free postgame bus service from RFK to Union Station worked well on Opening Day in 2006 and 2007.

Posted by: Rich | February 28, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

For the military, will parking at Bolling AFB and a bus shuttle be an option?

Posted by: Bob | February 28, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I think that was the point. Why are they moving TO the city when there isn't any parking. I always wondered why sports owners these days insist on putting their teams in downtown areas that make it hard to get to the game and if you want to park, you'll pay a ton of money. The Caps/Bullets did that when they moved from Landover to Washington. The Orioles kind of did that when they moved to Camden Yards but had a huge parking lot on site that is now a football stadium.

Go to Philadelphia. They have two major arenas, a football stadium and a baseball stadium all in the same complex with enough parking for two to be sold out at the same time and no need for on-street parking.

I'd rather have a consistent place to park every game than to fight Metro. I went to a Caps game earlier this week and didn't get home until close to midnight because I took Metro. I used to get home from Caps games during the early part of the 10 o'clock news when they played in Landover.

I don't think I'll be going either. We found the Glory last year and they really are very enjoyable. Plus, some of them will join you in the seats during the game (including starters). When was the last time Nick Johnson did that? Those players are accessible and generally nice people who haven't been jaded by multi-million dollar contracts. Now, I just need to find Westfield High School and we'll be good to go.

Posted by: @ Laura | February 28, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm a redliner and will probably stop off to grab a drink at the bars around the Verizon center on my way home from games. Not only will it break up the trip but I won't have to fight with the crowd on the platform to transfer to the redline. Just head to a bar and wait until the platform has cleared out.

The idea of walking from Capitol South is also good. Less than a mile, probably about a 15 minute walk. And I bet a fair number of people will be doing this as well so there will be safety in numbers for all of you who are scared of the neighborhoods in SE. (Walking with other people at night is always a good idea).

Posted by: Laura | February 28, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised we haven't seen some of the local transportation services (i.e. Reston Limo) planning to provide mini-bus service to the stadium from prime Metro stops (Rosslyn, Pentagon City, Metro Center, L'Enfant,etc.). I'd happily pay to metro to a close in metro stop then shuttle to the stadium.

Posted by: jtd1957 | February 28, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiners and crybabies, especially folks from the Virginia exurbs. One cannot have a big house in the 'burbs and then complain because it's hard to get into town or because the commute is "too long." People have choices such as living in closer and having access to urban amenities and services, but paying more for a small place, or living further out and getting a bigger place for the money, but having less convenience and access to urban attractions. Life is about "puts and takes," or as economists tell us, "opportunity cost." So, NOVA people, stop whining and grow up. The reaction to any little thing around here--the weather, traffic, congestion--gets whinier and whinier. Or maybe some people would trade places with folks in some other cities with a 12 percent unemployment rate and few of the cultural attributes we have here? A show of gratitude for what we have here would be appropriate. We have a cultured area, a Metro system, a major league team, and Spring is coming. What more do you want???

Posted by: Ernie | February 28, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

After...and I stress after...the new span of the Wilson Bridge opens this year (it is still scheduled for 2008, right?), it might make sense to drive from some parts of NOVA to Branch Avenue, or to RFK via I-295. With Branch Avenue, you are going to be going the opposite direction from most of the fans on Metro (and remember, there will be enhanced service to Branch Avenue too...whatever trains go to Greenbelt must come back the other way). With accessing RFK from 295...its a little bit of a pain going to RFK, but heading home you have direct access from the East Capitol Street bridge. For weekend games, I would definitely drive to the Green Line if possible...drive to Branch Avenue or Greenbelt. Or...an option many haven't thought of...if this shuttle bus thing works out well, take the Blue-Orange to RFK and the shuttle to the Nats.

Posted by: Woodley Park | February 28, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Holy cow. I read the comments about the Washington Glory and got excited that they might be some independent baseball league team I hadn't heard about. Then I google them and find out it's a women's fastpitch softball team. HA! Yeah, I'm sure that's 1/1000th as enjoyable as seeing Patterson duel with Johan Santana on a warm summer evening. Nova Fan must work for them.

Posted by: Wowsers | February 28, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a great idea for all of you NOVA whiners to head straight to Westfield and avoid Nationals games. Besides, you'd probably get robbed anyways.

Posted by: pgc hustla | February 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"I think that was the point. Why are they moving TO the city when there isn't any parking."

Well technically the stadium was in the city before and will still be in the city. SO i was confused by his argument. Yes it is moving to an area with less parking, but it was deemed that the Nats needed a brand new stadium not a refurbished one (wouldn't have had enough time to re-do RFK during the off season). Also, wasn't there a different design for the stadium with more parking that was vetoed for something that was prettier/had better sight lines? Doesn't do much to complaing about either of these facts at this point. That time has passed.

Posted by: Laura | February 28, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"Also, wasn't there a different design for the stadium with more parking that was vetoed for something that was prettier/had better sight lines?"

I think I recall hearing that there was talk of underground car parks that were rejected as too expensive. Parking garages aren't a great option for sporting events, though, whether they're above or below ground level. Takes a long time to clear the cars out afterwards due to the limited exit points. (The worst are the ones that make you pay on exit. The ones over near the Phone Booth got wise to this problem early on.)

Posted by: Rich | February 28, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Rich says, "Parking garages aren't a great option for sporting events, though, whether they're above or below ground level. Takes a long time to clear the cars out afterwards due to the limited exit points. "

But that actually has its good points too. Sports fans might get stuck in a jam, but remember, they chose to go and chose to drive. Too many exit points means too many cars flooding the local roadway network at exactly the same time which causes traffic troubles for those who did not choose to be there. Witness what happens whenever a Redskins game ends and everyone floods the Beltway from Arena Drive to Springfield and Arena Drive to the Legion Bridge. I've had the misfortune of hitting the Beltway right after a game and it definitely screws up the entire I-95 corridor for several hours.

Posted by: Woodley Park | February 28, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I drove by the stadium last night. I came down 4th st SE to M st. I noticed that a few blocks from the stadium is a lot of empty land. I couldn't tell if the land was/is being developed into somethine, but wondered if a parking garage or lot could be put there?

Posted by: dkf747 | February 29, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Expanding the bus schedule to Union Station is great, but it shouldn't be expanding a service. Metro should be putting on 10s of buses immediately after the game to shuttle people directly to the Orange, Blue, Yellow and Red Lines. No schedule, just buses lined up after the game. They could even charge for it.

Posted by: nashpaul | February 29, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

"Too many exit points means too many cars flooding the local roadway network at exactly the same time which causes traffic troubles for those who did not choose to be there."

This is true, too, but on the other hand, people who choose not to go to the game can also choose to use some other route, especially when it comes to this particular ballpark location as there are lots of ways to avoid the area. I haven't driven to New York in several years, but when I used to make that drive regularly I ALWAYS checked the Orioles' schedule if I were going during baseball season, and if they were playing I would take either the Harbor Tunnel or I-695. Point being, every driver has the responsibility for paying attention to what's going on in deciding what route to take.

Posted by: Rich | February 29, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I don't work for the team, my family's schedule wont allow me to work for the team though it'd probably be fun to do.

Actually watching Patterson and Santana is about 1/1000th the excitement it was to watch Abbott and Osterman, THE top-2 pitchers in the world, battle it out, through extra innings (one throwing a complete game), then meeting the players after the game AND getting home before 11. Between me, my wife, my daughters, and my son, we saw about 20 of their games last season. Last year, we Metroed to a game at RFK and didn't get home until shortly after midnight. Needless to say, we also didn't stay after the sixth inning most times we did go to RFK.

Besides, when was the last time Patterson went into the stands to talk to a fan. What about Fick, Young, Lopez, Nook, Cordero? My oldest daughter learned more about softball after the games than her brother did by going to the camps in the minor league stadiums.

I'll be more than happy to allow others to take my parking spot or our standing area on Metro. We'll continue to trek to Fairfax to catch the women play and probably win another league championship.

Posted by: NoVa Fan | February 29, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Call me dumb but I have on clue what team NoVa Fan is even talking about. A women's baseball (or is softball) team in Fairfax?

Posted by: Fairfax | February 29, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Glory is a women's pro softball team in the National Pro Fastpitch league. The Glory is normally based at George Mason University but will play home games at Westfield High School this season due to renovations on Mason's softball field.

Posted by: Everett W. | March 2, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

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