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Nats Stadium: Getting There Is Half The Game

Let's all chant it together--it's the new theme song of the Washington Nationals and their landlord, the District of Columbia: "Take Metro, take Metro, take Metro!" I'm afraid it's not the most poetic or varied of songs. In fact, the only break in the lyrics comes deep in the third stanza: "Take Metro, take Metro, take Metro, or walk or ride a bus."

Ok, so nobody ever accused sports franchises of mastering the art of the song. But as D.C. Deputy Mayor Neil Albert made crystal clear on today's edition of Raw Fisher Radio here on the big web site, all the months of planning to smooth the way to Nationals Park have resulted mainly in ever more urgent pleas for fans to use mass transit.

A high-ranking Nationals executive told me that the transportation infrastructure surrounding the stadium site was, astonishingly, not even considered when the choice of a location was made. Obviously, the possibility of creating a revenue-producing entertainment and retail district around the new stadium was the paramount consideration. Actually getting to the stadium was secondary.

The good news is that the expansion of Metro's Navy Yard station, which sits but one block from the stadium, is well underway and is expected to be completed in time for Opening Night March 30 (there's also an exhibition game March 29.) But even that huge boost in infrastructure is tempered by the fact that the stadium's location along the Green Line means that most fans will have to switch trains to get to the ballpark--most likely at L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place.

Albert told me today that those transfer points will also be prepared for game day, and longer trains will be run on all lines that carry lots of fans to the transfer points.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky also joined me on the radio show today--you can listen to the full program any time this week--to note the stadium's neighbors' concern that residents don't yet have details of the city's parking plan. Apparently, residents will be protected by having identification stickers that allow only them and their guests to park curbside for more than two hours in the streets anywhere near the stadium.

Albert says the two-hour restriction will protect small businesses over near Barracks Row and other Capitol Hill sections within walking distance of the ballpark.

But no one is denying that traffic and parking will be a major problem for the stadium's first few years (eventually the situation should ease, as underground garages are built beneath all the new retail, residential and office structures that will fill the stadium zone.) Albert said that a casual fan who chooses to drive to the stadium without a season ticket holder's parking pass will come up empty: "If you don't have a pass, don't drive," he said. For this first season, the city and the Nats plan exactly zero parking spaces for someone who decides last minute to just drive on over to the stadium.

That said, when I asked whether local residents might not take it upon themselves to sell access to their personal property--much as neighbors did at the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore--Albert replied that "Folks are entrepreneurial." But Litsky was quick to add that most of the residences near the ballpark are either high-rises or townhouses, and in neither case is there much opportunity to rent out parking spaces to desperate fans.

So prepare for a traffic mess as fans learn the new terrain and pick out their preferred shortcuts in the first couple of months of this season. The longer term should bring an easing of the crunch, and perhaps a better season schedule as well--this year's schedule includes precisely zero weekday day games, so as not to have thousands of fans leaving the stadium into the heart of rush hour. In the future, that restriction should be lifted, Albert said.

The deputy mayor says the stadium project is at or below budget and will be done on time, but for some cosmetic bits. Washington Post Nationals beat writer extraordinaire Barry Svrluga took a tour of the ballpark yesterday and provides a whole bunch of photos for you on his blog right here.

Barry also provides the remarkable news that the stadium concession stands will be hawking Curly W soft pretzels. Can a good pretzel overcome the frustration of roaming a neighborhood for 40 minutes looking for a parking space? Probably not. So what's a fan to do? Remember that song: "Take Metro....."

By Marc Fisher |  February 5, 2008; 2:36 PM ET
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So what about parking at RFK and having buses to and from the game. This would also assist anyone coming in on the subway at the Armory station. This is an easy fix until the parking lots are created.

Posted by: tad | February 5, 2008 3:35 PM

I hope Albert is right about the transfer lines at L'Enfant and Gallery. During the 3 years the Nats played at RFK, trains were always waiting for us at the Potomac station at the end of the game, but once we got to Gallery Pl. it was the usual post-rush hour 15-20 minute wait for our connecting Red line train.

Posted by: eo mcmars | February 5, 2008 3:40 PM

The only way Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza could be "prepared" would be if it were possible to expand them. On any given day a slight delay on Green Line results in not crowded by packed platforms. Throw in 30,000+ (I'm being optimistic) baseball fans, many of whom may not be too familiar with Metro, and you are looking for trouble.

Posted by: Paul | February 5, 2008 3:43 PM

I'm concerned about walkers. I checked it our this weekend and the streets from Capitol Hill to the stadium - South Capitol and New Jersey Ave. - did not look pedestrian friendly. South Capitol involved walking along a narrow sidewalk next to some high speed traffic, and the sidewalks on New Jersey were not in good shape either.

Anyone know if there are plans to improve sidewalks, not just in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, but along major pedestrian routes?

Posted by: capitolcub | February 5, 2008 3:44 PM

Let's all ride an over priced Metro Train to get to the game, since no one thought about parking for the fans. I have been on those trains that are over crowded after events at RFK to only be told that the station was closing and that was the last train with thousands of people waiting to get back to the suburbs. Metro doesn't care since people buy roundtrip fair cards and they already had your money. I had several friends that had to get cabs make to the station. I hate Metro and will decide to not go to any Nationals game unless I have a parking pass.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 3:45 PM

Why doesn't Metro run some non-green line trains to Navy Yard to avoid the need to change at L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place?

Posted by: Ian | February 5, 2008 3:47 PM

Anyone have an idea about the walk from Capitol South metro to the stadium? Distance, Safety, sidewalks (or lack thereof) etc.

Posted by: Section 310 | February 5, 2008 3:55 PM

Some of you folks are "ridic" and need to chill out.

1) Ian--are you serious? It would be physically impossible to take a non green line train through Navy Yard. The only way would be to make it a Green Line train by placing it on the physical green line.

2) Unknown person who hates Metro--are you serious? For starters, it's not Metro's fault that your jurisdiction is ponying up the money to help support this vital service. Secondly, why don't you do some research so that you will know when Metro closes (which is pretty late even on weekdays). And lastly, stop complaining about trains being overcrowded. That's what happens when you live in a thriving metropolitan area--people go out and support the amenities of their city. We're better off with folks like you staying home anyway.

3) Section 310--You're not ridiculous, but I'll address your question. Capitol South is about a ten minute walk. I'm sure that any of the fans with Metro-smarts (that is to say, DC based fans) will probably get off there rather than transfer and walk. Only thing to worry about in the area nowadays is construction, which makes for a dusty, construction vehicle saturated area some days. See for info on the construction in and around the stadium.

4) My take--it's for the better that everybody take Metro. Less emissions and less fuel costs. Plus--the camaraderie! Support and cheer for the Nats with folks from all over the region! Loosen up, have fun! Don't be stressed looking for parking!

Posted by: MRB | February 5, 2008 4:25 PM

"A high-ranking Nationals executive told me that the transportation infrastructure surrounding the stadium site was, astonishingly, not even considered when the choice of a location was made."

"Astonishing" is an understatement, I think. Deciding where to build a new ballpark meant to be a magnet for future development, without even taking infrastructure in account, is like deciding where to build a skyscraper without taking the foundation into account.

Posted by: Andy | February 5, 2008 4:27 PM

As a casual fan, I guess I'll park in front of the tube. And DC wants the Redskins. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Posted by: weave160 | February 5, 2008 4:38 PM

bad enough that at RFK they'd STEAL your water bottle cap.

Now I can only take Metro?

At Camden Yards I get good food, I can bring water or get free diet Coke, and parking is fairly easy.

Both teams suck about the same. Guess Angelos is getting my baseball viewing dollars again!

Posted by: dynagirl | February 5, 2008 4:42 PM

Baltimore is probably the place for you, then.

Posted by: mike8 | February 5, 2008 5:28 PM

I've chewed on the idea of parking at the Anacostia Metro stop's garage and then walking over the Douglass Bridge (or taking the Metro one stop to the game, then walking over the bridge afterwards to avoid the crowds at Navy Yard). How safe is this? It's not that long of a walk, but Howard Road is kind of sketchy and I'm wary of being a white guy walking alone late at night in that part of town. The same concern presents itself as to Capitol South, which requires walking through some very rough areas, although I expect there will be more people making that walk such that the concern will be less.

To answer Ian's question: "Why doesn't Metro run some non-green line trains to Navy Yard to avoid the need to change at L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place?"

The answer is that this is physically impossible as a practical matter because of the way the lines connect. A Yellow Line train originating at Fort Totten or Mt Vernon Square could run down to Navy Yard; it would have to reverse direction after the Anacostia stop (thereby delaying other trains, which would have to wait for this train to change tracks) or else it would have to run to Branch Avenue. But doing this wouldn't help anyone because riders can already wait for the Green Line at the stops along this route, and you'd be reducing the number of Green Line trains. Virginia baseball fans wouldn't benefit because these trains would not enter Virginia. Thus, a non-starter of an idea.

Trains running on the Red Line cannot run to Navy Yard because the only connection between the Red Line tracks and the Green Line tracks is a single-track connection near Fort Totten. This track was formerly used by the Green Line Commuter Shortcut prior to the opening of the Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue stops. Nobody in his right mind would ever ride the Red Line out to there just to avoid changing at Gallery Place, as changing trains would be faster.

The Orange and Blue Line tracks have no direct connection to the Green Line tracks anywhere. To run an Orange Line train from Vienna to Navy Yard, you'd have to run the train to Rosslyn, reverse direction, run it on the wrong side of the tracks to Pentagon (thus severely holding up all the Blue Line trains, and by extension the Yellow Line trains), reverse direction again, run it over the Potomac bridge, stop at L'Enfant Plaza, then use the interlocking (i.e., switch track) north of L'Enfant Plaza to reverse direction (holding up all the Green and Yellow Line trains), and then run to Navy Yard. Doesn't make any sense to do this because, again, it would be faster just to ride to L'Enfant Plaza and change trains or to ride to Capitol South and walk, not to mention the severe disruption to all the other lines.

The one thing WMATA could do, if they wanted, would be to run some Blue Line Special trains from Franconia-Springfield over the Potomac bridge to Mt Vernon Square, similar to what they sometimes do (in reverse) after Capitals games. Riders would still have to change to the Green Line at L'Enfant Plaza, of course, but it would entail changing once rather than either changing twice or riding all the way around via Rosslyn.

Even if WMATA COULD run other lines to and from Navy Yard, I don't think they WOULD. The reason is that the goal is to get riders processed through Navy Yard and onto trains (and off the platform) as quickly as possible to make room for other riders. If you introduce other trains, then people won't necessarily board the first train that comes because they want to wait for the one that goes where they want. Using RFK as an example, WMATA could have run Red Line Special trains from Stadium-Armory to Shady Grove after games at RFK because there is a single-line connection between the westbound Orange/Blue Line tracks (i.e., tracks headed towards Vienna) just west of McPherson Square and the northbound Red Line tracks (i.e., tracks headed towards Shady Grove) just south of Farragut North. But running Red Line trains like this would have meant that people would want to wait for the Red Line at Stadium-Armory, thus crowding the platform, and that's one reason WMATA never did it. The other reason they wouldn't do it is because by introducing another line's trains on the Orange/Blue Line tracks, you reduce the number of Orange and Blue Line trains that can operate because you must keep a minimum distance between trains for safety reasons. (This was the dirty secret of the Dulles Metro proposal--they were going to decrease the number of Orange Line trains and SEVERELY decrease the number of Blue Line trains in order to make room for the Dulles trains.)

Posted by: Rich | February 5, 2008 5:49 PM

The Green Line isn't known as the Homicide Line for nothing; it can be a real adventure. One stabbing and there will be major problems. The good news is that people are slowly discovering that the universe doesn't revolve around the dysfunctional Redskins. Maybe its time to take a deep breath and make this more of a baseball/hockey town.

Posted by: muskrat | February 5, 2008 6:00 PM

Couple of responses ...

"I'm sure that any of the fans with Metro-smarts (that is to say, DC based fans)" -

Yeah, anyone who has the temerity to live outside of DC proper outside of DC couldn't possible be smart enough to read a map. I mean look at all those different colors.

"As a casual fan, I guess I'll park in front of the tube"

You're planning on taking public transport from London to the games! I hope you're not one of these smart DC-ites (see above).

Posted by: TonyR | February 5, 2008 6:05 PM

Or get off at Capitol South and enjoy the nice walk down New Jersey Av. And perhaps one day South Cap Street will be a nice walk?

Posted by: RV | February 5, 2008 6:58 PM

I heard a rumor that the Circulator buses will somehow arrange special routes on gamedays. Anybody know anything about this?

Posted by: Georgetwoner | February 5, 2008 8:43 PM

The lack of parking is problematic. Trust me, those of us whose neighborhood this used to be are just as worried as those who want to drive. Hopefully the plans for garages and such will be fulfilled over time.

But I'm puzzled that people would complain about the location of the stadium itself in terms of access. You have a major north south artery and relatively easy access to and from 395 and 295 and a metro station. Other than RFK, I can't really think of a better spot over time.

When the parking gets here, I think the location will prove to be sufficient and hopefully quite nice.

Posted by: SWDC | February 5, 2008 9:29 PM

Just like everything else in the God forsaken burg, the folks downtown have done a piss poor job in the planning and execution. Where the new stadium sits now is probably the worst place that you could put a stadium. If they had gone to the federal government and asked permission to RFK, they may have had to wait a little longer for building but at least they would have had most of the parking in place and settled. Yeah, I know what you are going to say, that RFK sits on federal government land and the building itself is owned by the federal government. Still, it doesn't hurt to ask.

The only one who wins is Metro. In this area, you are forced to take the subway or the bus if you want to see the game...and by the way that the Nationals have played in the last two seasons, I don't know if they are worth the aggrevation.

At best, stay home and watch the game on tv if you are able to receive MASN on your cable or satellite service. Worst, drive to the stadium and take your chances...I am sure the the DC Parking Authority would be glad to take your money along with those rediculously high prices you will be paying for food, drink and what-not.

Good luck.

Posted by: nitehawksr | February 5, 2008 11:51 PM

1) Give me a break, Muskrat. I used to ride to and fro Anacostia for YEARS. Just as civil as any other line. Latent racism/fear of the unknown is perpetuated when you call the green line the "homicide line." Maybe I should just start calling the red line the "suicide line" to highlight how many stressed out people without color continue to cause delays for the rest of us by jumping trains? Or would that be the pot calling the kettle black?

2) TonyR--I'm convinced that most of the inner suburbs are full of folks with Metro-smarts, by necessity. These folks commute and use Metro regularly. Good for them. But most of these Nats fans that won't be blessed with parking passes will be like deer in headlights when they swarm the tunnels.

Posted by: MRB | February 6, 2008 1:05 AM

Can anyone doubt that hundreds and hundreds of non season ticket holidng folks from Loudoun County or Darnestown will routinely drive to the stadium, not knowing there is no place for them to park? You can bet the rent that will be the case for at least the first month of the season.

Posted by: Jack | February 6, 2008 9:22 AM

MRB, you've almost got it. But...

Not everyone transfers to the green line! Some of actually live on the green line, in the thriving metropolitan areas with numerous amenities, of which you were speaking (think upcoming Target for one).

I just hope Metro runs green line trains through their full route instead of assuming so wrongly that no one, or only poor people, live on the green line. Living in DC I contribute enormously to cost of operating the metro, I wish it would stop marginalizing me and focusing on Virginians who have no dedicated funding source.

Posted by: Jes | February 6, 2008 10:39 AM

ECON 101 - Economics for Dummies

Lesson 1 - Supply and Demand

A) A high DEMAND for something..(parking near the stadium )..equals a major financial opportunity that many will try and cash in on.

B) A high SUPPLY will find it's way to meet the demand.

Look for large garages, open lots across the bridge within walking distance, shuttle services from nearby parking and did everyone forget about the water access? Large water taxi's will be available from many locations with parking lots.

Combine it with a brand new stadium with the biggest screen in baseball and that sounds like a fun experience to me.

Maybe you could work in an extra 20 minutes to your plans for the upcoming games until the SUPPLY catches up to the DEMAND.

This town was very close to not even having a team at all.
So try and keep it positive people!
Instead of kicking and scratching, why not enjoy our city's transformation into greatness.

Anybody with me?

Posted by: 108mm1112 | February 6, 2008 12:14 PM

MRB - I don't know what time you ride the trains, but I get on the Orange line at Capitol South every day 4-5ish. The decibel level drops about 30 points and the threat level goes down about 2 units every day when we pull into L'Enfant Plaza where all the Green Line posse gets off. The only problem is the mountains of cheese puff residue they leave behind.

Posted by: Payne | February 6, 2008 2:50 PM

Mark - According to the Nationals website, there will be free shuttles -I'm sorry, "luxury motorcoaches" - to and from free parking at RFK. Did that not come up in your conversation?


"Nats Express Shuttle
Park FREE at RFK Stadium and board a FREE Nats Express luxury motorcoach to and from Nationals Park. ADA motorcoaches will be made available. The Nats Express will operate continuously from at least an hour and a half before game time through an hour and a half after the last inning."

Posted by: natsfan | February 6, 2008 2:52 PM

You're all babies. I'm from Jersey originally and grew up riding the bus and/or subway to Yankee Stadium in the south Bronx. If I could do that when I was 14, you can take metro on the big bad green line when you're an adult. The situation may not be the best this year, but I plan on walking from Cap South anyway. I guarantee that by the second season in the new stadium more parking garags pop up around the area.

Posted by: JG | February 7, 2008 1:42 PM

Guys...walking to the stadium is fine. I live in one of the high rises off NJ Ave. and the sidewalks are fine. Yes, construction surrounding the neighborhood is going crazy right now. But walking or riding metro is perfectly fine.

Posted by: dvs | February 7, 2008 4:50 PM

Folks, this is foolishness. Get out and walk! Capitol South is 15 minutes, Union Station is 30. There's nothing scary about New Jersey Avenue or South Capitol; people walk these streets daily. Incidentally, the South Capitol underpass was greatly improved earlier this year -- new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping. Get out of your car and take a gander.

Posted by: Ron Burgundy | February 7, 2008 8:51 PM

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