No Stress Test For Stadium Traffic
Nationals Park will cause no congestion problems at all, as long as the team plays every game in mist and bone-chilling cold.
For the first week night game at the new stadium by the Anacostia waterfront, fans and commuters had it easy. But then the game was played in bad weather on NCAA men's final night, factors that likely held down attendance at the ballpark. Also, Mondays tend to be lighter on commuting than other weekdays.
The worst congestion I saw in a two-hour pre-game tour last night was at L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. The platform was crowded with a mix of commuters and baseball fans, and so were the trains.
Metro had plenty of staffers spread out along the Green Line platform. As trains heading toward Branch Avenue (and stopping at Navy Yard Station, nearest Nationals Park) pulled into the station, they monitored the exiting and entering passengers.
That's good, because this is going to be a pressure point when week night games are played. The Green Line trains were loaded with commuters as they arrived at L'Enfant around 5:30 p.m. Lots of people got off and lots more got on.
Navy Yard Station was a breeze, by comparison. Again, Metro had staff on the platform and on the station's two mezzanines. I saw three transit police officers in the middle of the platform and more on the mezzanines.
Some passengers would ask the Metro staffers to point them toward the stadium exit, but most people getting off the Branch Avenue-bound trains would immediately turn left to head for the west exit, the one that was rebuilt to accommodate baseball crowds.
The platform cleared quickly. It took three minutes for the twin escalators from the platform to the mezzanine to empty. Many people used the stairs just past the escalators.
From the mezzanine, fans use a bank of three escalators to reach the wide bank of fare gates at street level. There were moments around 6:30 p.m. when the gates were completely clear of fans heading to the 7:10 p.m. game a block away.
Traffic on M Street and the other streets near the stadium was very light. Many of the parking lots to the north and east of the stadium were half full. The free Nationals Express shuttle buses easily accommodated fans coming from free parking at RFK Stadium's Lot 8. The buses stop at 300 M St. SE, where fans walk across M Street and then follow a safe route about five blocks long to the ballpark.
This was no more than good practice for fans, commuters and transportation planners. Let's see what happens as the weather warms and attendance grows at the 41,000-seat stadium.
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