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The Nationals, the Metro and late night games

Aug 23, 2012, 3:30 PM EDT

Metro Map

Last week after that Nats-Mets game I went to, I noted the huge mob trying to take the Metro home.  But mobs getting the Metro after a game are one thing. There not being a train at all — and fans being forced to leave the game early to make the last one — is another issue altogether.

It popped up the other night during the rain delayed/extra inning Braves-Nats game, with a ton of fans leaving early in order to avoid being stranded in the District, far from their comfy Virginia and Maryland homes.  The question a lot of people had in the wake of that is what the Nats will do if, as seems likely, they make the playoffs. When the games start later and end later. And when they matter, rendering an early exit from the ballpark a really bad thing to contemplate.

Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog has been following this for a while and goes over the situation today.  The upshot: the Nats would have to pay nearly $30,000 an hour to WMATA to keep Metro running. Per hour. Per game. And they’d have to sign a contract and place a deposit, meaning that they can’t do it on ad hoc basis. Other stuff about the issue can be read here and here.

One possible response I anticipate is to slag on the fact that Washington’s Metro closes at midnight to begin with. Well, tough. It’s always been that way. It’s a decision that they made a long time ago, most likely because it allows time for maintenance and cleaning (their trains and stations are quite nice compared to subways in other cities). And, oh, because there really isn’t a demand for 24 hour Metro service in Washington like there is in other cities.

So, yeah, it’s a problem. But not one that the city should have to solve. Their trains were running like that long before the Nats moved into town.

  1. bmorelikeme - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    For simplicities sake, assume 30,000 people show up for each home game (Yes I know it’d probably be more). I think the Nationals could sacrifice $2 out of each ticket sold to keep the trains running for an additional 2 hours.

    • atworkident - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      Weekdays… when the metro closes early is the issue and the Nationals rarely ever draw 30,000 during the weekdays. The day in question they drew 22,000… against their division rivals.

      • goskinsvt - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:55 PM

        It was also raining off and on all day (on during the first 2 hours of the game) and it was a Monday.

      • dondada10 - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:58 PM

        And a regular season game. Something tells me they’ll get more than 22K for a playoff game. After all, this isn’t the Braves we’re talking about.

    • bigleagues - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      I agree w/ bmorelikeme.

      However I’m sure the Nat’s first want to compile and review data points on how many fans take the metro to games and how many more would take advantage of it, if they did decide to foot the bill for extending the service . . . and then, of course, examine whether or not there are any legal issues with including an across the board, say, $2 surcharge on tickets next season to cover the costs of extending Metro service during every home game.

      But, at the very least, they gotto do something about it for the playoffs.

  2. southcapitolstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    There are many schools of thought on this issue. Some think the metro should start running three hours later each morning so it can stay open for the late playoff games. Others think that 12pm is an arbitrary number that’s not sufficiently backed up by scientific or medical studies. Skip Bayless thinks it’s pathetic.

    • natslady - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      LMAO!!! How many thumbs up can I give this??

    • umrguy42 - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      Bud Selig thinks the attendance numbers prove that fans don’t want later Metro service.

    • Alex K - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:13 PM

      Congrats! You just won the internet today!

  3. atworkident - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    It’s not like Washington DC is a major, important city or anything. Last train leaves Navy Yard at 11:30 but does not guarantee service when you transfer to the Red line… so if you already live in DC… you are covered. If not, you’re only stuck in SE DC.

    The problems with Washington DC Metro are WAY beyond baseball fans not being able to stay late at a game. Besides a real fan would pony up the $50 it costs to park at the stadium.

  4. illcomm - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    another plus of a phillies game. they always have a train waiting for the patrons.

    • alang3131982 - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      that goes on one line? very convenient that philly train system

    • natslady - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      Everyone in Philly goes home in the same direction? Lives in the same place, maybe?

      The problem here is that you have to keep the entire system open. Well, I guess you could discriminate against riders from Maryland and just run a train to Virginia… I guess. :)

  5. sdelmonte - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    I know a few Washingtonians who think it’s absurd for a major city to shut down its subway at any time.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:45 PM

      In many cities and regions, the central city is part of a single state. The political difference between Virginia and Maryland makes it very hard to fund Metro to the level that it demands. (And I’d guess that most Nats fans are traveling home to the suburbs, not to the District itself, where they’d be able to take a cab for $10 anyway.) I think Maryland would be happy to spend more on Metro. Virginia is not happy to spend more money on anything.

      Thus, it shuts down at midnight.

      • alang3131982 - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:53 PM

        Exactly, get the folks in NOVA to somehow get the rest of their state to invest in the area and maybe the system wouldnt be less than optimal for the rest of us. Basically, tons of virginians rely on metro, yet provide no resources other than fares.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        The Rest of Virginia really likes this arrangement just fine. The rich Democrats in Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax county pay all the taxes and it flows South to the rural areas and to the city of Richmond.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:08 PM

        If I were a Northern Virginian, I’d want to secede. It’s happened before.

      • alang3131982 - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:11 PM

        Oh I agree completely. I couldnt imagine living in NOVA and basically having the rest of your state have completely different values than you. It’s almost as if their votes never count, which is sort of like living in D.C., so they might as well move!

      • voteforno6 - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM

        At least there are some nice roads around Petersburg.

  6. bisonaudit - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    The arrangement with Metro can be Ad Hoc. The team does have to put down a deposit but once that’s done, as I understand it, they can notify Metro that they want to extend service as late as an hour before the system is scheduled to close.

  7. makeham98 - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    This was extensively covered in yesterdays Washington Post as you noted.

    But this terrible situation has had only a token impact in reality. A game delayed by rain went 13 innings and went past midnight. The writers also cited a late game (correct me if I am wrong on the details) where I believe the number of people who took the train late night was 445. Maybe this was an espn sunday night game. Late start, long breaks.

    The real concern is if the Nats have late night playoff games. The post also cited subway closures in other cities. Boston at the least has a similar situation. Philly shuts down but holds a train. Not all subways run 24 hours like NYC.

    • natslady - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:45 PM

      I am curious how other cities handle it. Someone posted they had the same issue in Seattle with people leaving for the last ferry.

      • kopy - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        Minneapolis is unique in that Target Field sits at the end (or beginning) of all 3 of its train lines. If a game goes late, there’s always an extra train that will sit, wait, and leave 30 minutes after the last out.

      • dowhatifeellike - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:04 PM

        Baltimore only has one lightrail line that runs N-S but it goes beyond the city limits in each direction. I don’t think they normally run past 10 but they guarantee to run for at least an hour after home games end.

      • jahwerb - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:32 PM

        The Baltimore light rail is nothing like the metro or subway in DC because the light rail only runs in North and South. They could sit there with 2 trains (1 for each direction and be fine). Plus parking isn’t as crazy around Camden Yards as it is near Nats Stadium. The metro in DC has like 5 lines that go all different directions and they need multiple trains to the people from Nats Stadium. A lot of people drive to Camden Yards because parking isn’t so bad.

  8. bigleagues - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog

    Anytime I see the word ‘bog’ it reminds me of legendary 90’s band The Bogmen.

    And, in the case of the Nats/Metro saga, two Bogmen songs immediately came to mind . . .

    Big Burn

    and . . .

    Highway of Shame:

  9. theotherfamousamos - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    I can’t recall if the citizens of the D.C. metro area paid for the stadium (I’m assuming that they did) but if they paid for a stadium that’s inaccessible for tens of thousands during late night playoff games, I don’t see any reason whatsoever for the Nationals not to pay. Seems to me that at most they pay about $750K from the ALDS through game seven of the World Series. (The Post article doesn’t clarify if it’s $30K an hour or a $30K deposit and how much you have to pay beyond the initial amount). That’s real money, but the concession and sponsor revenue, not to mention the bounce from renewals and next year’s increased popularity would more than make up for the outlay to keep Metro open.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      The metro area, most assuredly, did not pay for the stadium. The District of Columbia did over the complete objections of the people who live there.

      I still don’t understand how it happened.

  10. natslady - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Yes, the city paid for the stadium, pretty much.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      My favorite part of the financing deal is that the taxpayers built the stadium, but the team owns the (unused) naming rights. My second favorite part is that the taxpayers built the parking garages, but the team gets all the parking revenue.

      • voteforno6 - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:17 AM

        This is normal for pretty much every sport, in every city. That doesn’t make it any better, though.

  11. workinthebeard - Aug 23, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Local TV outlet WTOP is reporting today that “Nationals officials are asking the District to pay to keep the Metro system open late should the team make it to the playoffs”

    “It’s on their wish list,” says Allen Lew, the District’s City Administrator. “In the past two seasons the city took the position that we’re not paying for the overtime. We haven’t changed that position,” he told me. “We’ve taken our position, mostly due to budget pressures, that we wouldn’t be on the hook for the additional costs.”

    Sounds like if the Nats don’t pony up, it’s not happening. The Caps pay for it when their games go late.

  12. dw3dw - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    This can’t be about the money. Say the Nationals end the season with home field throughout: they would have at most 11 games in October (3 DS, 4 LCS, 4 WS). If some of those are Friday or Saturday games, when the Metro stays open until 3 AM, there is no problem. The total cost of keeping Metro open for late weekday games would probably be less than $300,000.
    Hardly worth mentioning. Also, I heard on WTOP that the Nationals did pay for late Metro until two years ago, then stopped. The Redskins and Caps pay and it is not an issue.

    • bisonaudit - Aug 23, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      If the Nats secure home field throughout there may be 1 Friday NLCS home game depending on which schedule they get but all others will be on nights w/ midnight METRO closing.

      I can’t remember for sure but I believe that the city picked up at least a portion of the cost of METRO running overtime the first couple years of the new stadium but that agreement wasn’t renewed when it expired.

  13. spideysdog - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    it is the responsibility, the duty, of local government to provide and maintainfor the needs of said city. that is exactly why we pay taxes and why we elect officials to manage and oversee that money. the team and city should work togethet to provide a solution. you can say that metro ran on this schedule long before the expos became the nats, but local officials WANTED a baseball team. they, like local business reap the rewards of having a major sports organization.

    • danaking - Aug 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM

      Very few District residents benefit materially from the Nats. They ate the bill for the ballpark, and the Lerners nickel and dimed them all the way. The Lerners will make a fortune from playoff games. They can afford to pay to keep metro open for their fans. The amount of extra money Metro would cost is a pittance compared to the income generated, which would all to the Lerners. There is no renaissance around Nats Park like there is around the Verizon Center. The city’s benefits are less than bountiful; the advantage to most residents non-existent.

  14. jfian24 - Aug 23, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    The problem is not with Metro or the city. This is just the Nationals being nickel-and-dime artists. Both the Caps and the Wizards have a standing deposit with Metro to keep the trains running when necessary. The Nats refuse to pay and farcically try to pin the costs on the city. The city foolishly picked up the tab in the first year of the stadium, but have not done so since then.

    If the Nats don’t pay, it’s certainly not the sole responsibility of the city. The stadium draws fans from DC, MD, and VA, with the majority coming from VA. DC should not be on the hook to transport the VA types back to their forlorn suburbs.

  15. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    I hate to say this, but the Washington DC Metro map looks like an advertisement for heartworm tablets in Modern Veterinarian magazine.

    • nolanwiffle - Aug 24, 2012 at 8:40 AM

      I course through that left atrium everyday……

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