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Easy Trip to Nationals Park For Opener

north entrance.jpg
The only real backup was at the centerfield entrance, near Navy Yard Station. (Thomson)

The rails and streets, perhaps lightened Easter Week vacations, easily handled the crowds heading to Nationals Park for the team's home opener this afternoon.

Another getaway option is the Circulator bus, which fans will find just outside the east side entrance to Navy Yard Metro station, at the corner of M Street SE. That goes up 8th Street SE, left on Pennsylvania Avenue passing Eastern Market Station on its way to Union Station.

Metro started rush hour service at 1 p.m., and ran many eight car trains. I boarded a Red Line train at Silver Spring at 2:05 p.m., transferred to the Green Line at Fort Totten and reached Navy Yard Station in plenty of time for the 3:05 p.m. start -- not that I was going in.

This was much more subdued than last year's opener, which inaugurated the new stadium on South Capitol Street SE. I saw few Metro employees on the platforms at the transfer stations, but then, there really weren't significant crowds for them to manage.

I told a commenter during this afternoon's online discussion that I was sure Metro employees would be out with bull horns directing the crowds. I was wrong. When I got off the train at Navy Yard Station, I heard no announcements. (There were plenty of transit police on the platform, but they weren't actively involved in crowd control.)

Fans pretty much knew what they were doing. The majority headed left toward the stairs, elevator and escalators on the west side. It took about four minutes to clear the platform.

Those blue express SmarTrip fare gates are gone, but the crowd moved easily through the exit and turned left toward the stadium.

South Capitol Street was a bit crowded, but M Street was moving very easily as game time approached. The lines of cars to enter the parking garages and lots north of the stadium were short.

The Nats Express buses were bringing fans from RFK Stadium's Lot 8, where they had parked for free, over to 300 M St. SE. It's very convenient, but the dropoff and pickup point is far enough away from the stadium's gates so that an older or frailer person would have to think twice about using this route. An option is the electric-powered car or the human powered jitney, stopping on the south side of M Street in front of the U.S. Transportation Department.

The Circulator bus, which replaced Metrobus N22, doesn't make as many stops as the N22. My midafternoon trip today took 20 minutes to reach the south side of Columbus Circle in front of Union Station.

The first night game is Wednesday.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 13, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
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I normally drive to games, but I took the Metro today and found it painless other than one of the escalators at L'Enfant Plaza being turned off at the end of the upper platform where there is no exit. This meant two-way traffic on the other escalator at that end, which is not a great thing when there's a game. But otherwise, very easy trip in (changing trains twice). Going home, I went to the New Jersey Avenue entrance to the Navy Yard stop. Huge mob scene at the bottom of the escalators due to the limited faregate capacity. As more and more people crushed into the mezzanine area, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if the crowd backed up all the way to the escalators coming from the street (all of which were running). On the other hand, once you were through the faregates, getting down to the platform and onto the train was fast, perhaps because the faregates provide a natural check on the number of people who can stream down to the platform at once. Didn't have to wait long to change at L'Enfant, either.

I think on the whole I'd still prefer to drive because it's still faster for me, but I thought WMATA did a pretty good job with a near-full ballpark (98% of capacity).

Posted by: 1995hoo | April 13, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

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