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The Nationals can’t pay for late Metro service because of … MLB policy?

Sep 10, 2012, 1:30 PM EDT

Metro Map

We’ve talked before about the Nationals Metro problem. As in, the Metro is really the best way to get to Nats Park but, because it closes at midnight, it often causes fans to choose between staying for the whole game and leaving early to get the train.  And how, because of late starting playoff games, this may become a bigger problem in the future. And how, if the Nats wanted to, they could do what other teams in D.C. do and enter into a contract with WMATA to keep Metro open late on game nights at the team’s expense.

The Nats thus far have refused to do that.  We learn today, however, that the reason for this is not that they don’t want to pay. Rather, because of league policy:

OK, then. Can someone at MLB explain to me what this league policy is, why it was developed and where it has been employed before? Because I’m unaware of any other city where early-closing mass transit is an issue for ballgames. At least a problem large enough to where it has been suggested that teams pay to keep it open before.

But I do love the concern over a “precedent” being set.  What’s the precedent the league is worried about?  A baseball team, for once in its friggin’ life, having to actually pay for a service that directly benefits them and their fans as opposed to having the local government cover it?

  1. illcomm - Sep 10, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    I have a feeling that cities flip the late night train costs. MLB prob does not want to be responsible for a substantials costs of ifs.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM

      Probably. Though this may only affect a handful of teams. It wouldn’t affect the Yankees and Mets, whose fans can take the subways late. It wouldn’t affect teams like the Dodgers, whose fans lack mass transit options.

      Craig, a clarification. This situation does not happen “often.” Maybe 2 or 3 times a season. However, it has been a particular concern lately for 3 reasons:

      1. It has happened within the past couple of weeks. It almost happened twice; after another game, I got on one of the last trains from Navy Yard around 11:15.
      2. The previous arrangement, where Metro was kept open, no longer applies. Metro wants the owner of the event to help pay Metro’s extra costs, which seems reasonable. MLB in general, and the Lerners in particular, seek to avoid responsibility.
      3. The prospect of weeknight playoff games, possibly starting around 8:30, increases the liklihood of the Metro problem happening.

      • clydeserra - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:33 PM

        West coast playoff start times are 530, so they don’t have a problem.

        This is a DC issue only

      • natstowngreg - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:57 PM

        True, forgot about those pesky time zones. Not sure how much of an issue it is in Baltimore or Philly or Pittsburgh, where there are transit options not far from the ballpark. Though the transit systems in Baltimore and Pittsburgh aren’t nearly as extensive as Washington’s.

      • pipkin42 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:18 PM

        Caltrain sometimes keeps an extra, later train after events in San Francisco for people who want to head back to Silicon Valley afterwards. I dunno who pays for it. Who knows who pays for anything in California?

        I also recall from going to a couple of Mets games that they make sure to have extra trains around afterwards. Dunno who pays for that, either.

      • hackerjay - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:30 PM

        The ferry in San Francisco leaves 15 minutes after the game ends on days when there is a baseball game. I wonder who pays for that. I’m guessing it’s just the ferry company trying to get one last full boat in for the day.

      • deepstblu - Sep 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM

        Philadelphia’s subways shut down after midnight (although there is overnight bus service in place of the trains), but SEPTA’s web site says without qualification that there will be trains waiting for passengers after sporting events end. Perhaps they do run trains after the normal shutdown time to get everybody home.

  2. cur68 - Sep 10, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Bud says that there’s no appetite for spending on the needs of the fans. That’s the problem right there.

    • cosanostra71 - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      this is just more proof that fans don’t want instant replay

  3. stlouis1baseball - Sep 10, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    “A baseball team, for once in its friggin’ life, having to actually pay for a service that directly benefits them and their fans as opposed to having the local government cover it?”
    Alright…I am confused Craig.
    I thought you of the pro “entitlement” mindset. No?
    Okay…which is it then? Entitlement programs or NO entitlement programs? ***

    • Craig Calcaterra - Sep 10, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      See what happens when you assume that the people with whom you disagree politically are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts designed to play into your worst opinions of people different from you? ;-)

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 10, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        Hahaha! Yeah really.
        I want the record to reflect that I disagree with everyone (on both sides of the aisle) as much as I possibly can. *** But that’s okay…after all…it’s what makes the world go around.
        On a totally different topic. I am digging Kiwi’s new sarcasm notification (***).
        It makes things far less difficult.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:08 PM

        You mean they’re NOT one-dimensional cardboard cutouts?

        *faints*

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      Wow…based upon the number of thumbs downs it is obvious everyone missed Kiwi’s sarcasm awareness training.
      Sarcasm = ***
      Disclaimer:
      As a rule…I try to put ZERO stock in thumbs up OR thumbs down.
      A lot of people are nothing more than penis heads.
      The thumbs up and/or down tend to reflect most peoples “penisheadedness”.
      I am only making this post to do my part for sarcasm awareness. ***
      Everyone is welcome.

  4. ThatGuy - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    It can be an issue at Twins games sometimes, as the light rail goes right up to the gate. I’ve been to some extra innings games that people had to leave in order to catch the train and not be stranded. Its mostly an issue for people in the suburbs surrounding the Twin Cities though.

    Some googling shows that during the 2010 playoffs, Metro Transit added extra trips to and from Target Field for the games. Doesn’t say who picked up the tab though.

    http://metrotransit.org/TransitArticles/Story.aspx?pageid=247&mid=395&articleid=185

  5. bigleagues - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Well, it’s quite simple really.

    At one of those thar owners meetin’s, some owners probably complained about their host cities putting the squeeze on them for reimbursement for various costs and cities services that related directly to their franchise operations. And they probably discussed it and agreed that a “league policy” would certainly make it easier to say no.

    And because they Bud so much to deal with this kind of stuff, Bud probably said, “I don’t mind having one of our attorney’s say NO to them. And if that city wants to pursue it further, it will get nasty before it gets better”.

    There is no other reason other than that. And this is a tactic used even in individual Minor League Baseball league offices.

    Having said all of that . . . Ted Lerner is one of the most successful real estate magnates in the country. I’m quite sure if he really wants to make sure the extended metro service gets paid for, he can find a way to do it on his own, independent of the Nationals and outside and beyond the control of MLB.

    i.e. finding a third party to set up a not-for-profit concerned with safe mass transit or a deep pocketed business partner ‘willing to foot the bill’ (and getting “reimbursed” off the billing on the other end of an independent project).

    • natstowngreg - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:27 PM

      True, though it’s unclear how much of this is MLB HQ not wanting teams to pick up tabs, and how much is MLB HQ cover the Lerners’ unwillingness to pick up the tab. After all, in their real estate development model, getting others to pay as much as possible is a good thing.

      I like how the Lerners have (at least, after their first year of ownership) supported the front office’s efforts, which have yielded one of MLB’s best organizations. But when it comes to the business side, I don’t have the greatest trust in them.

  6. dowhatifeellike - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    A few ideas:

    Add a 50 cent surcharge to tickets for night games.

    Sell special “after hours” WMATA passes at an increased rate.

    Increase property taxes by a tiny fraction.

    IIRC, Baltimore does this, though it only has two lines: trains run normally until an hour after the game ends. When they get to the end of the line, they head back to the depot. I believe this is done at no extra charge as stadium attendance = tax revenue.

    • danaking - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:24 PM

      “Increase property taxes by a tiny fraction.”

      DC taxpayers still have bloodstains in their shorts from paying for the stadium. Now they should pay again so people from Maryland and Virginia can ride metro home from games? (I am a Maryland resident who takes Metro to Nats games, but fair’s fair.)

      • shawndc04 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        >>DC taxpayers still have bloodstains in their shorts from paying for the stadium<<

        That's incorrect. The only "tax" involved is in house. That is,the only people who pay a tax related to the park are those who attend a game.

      • dowhatifeellike - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:50 PM

        Those people from VA and MD are spending their money in DC. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

    • clydeserra - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      seriously? Taxes to pay for the Nationals?

    • byjiminy - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      or how about this: the Nationals pay to add some late trains

      • dowhatifeellike - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:51 PM

        We’ve already established that they aren’t going to do that.

  7. lilprofsports - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I’m curious how the Red Sox deal with this, since the last trains on the Boston subway leave at/around 12:15 am. And as we all know, Red Sox games take forEVER, even when they lose.

    • kalinedrive - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Wouldn’t games they lose tend to take longer than games they win, what with having to play the bottom of the ninth?

  8. shanabartels - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Obligatory obnoxious comment from a Yankees fan: If your city’s trains stop running altogether at whatever o’clock — especially if the city’s bars are open later than that — your city should really think about running the trains later. Or just run them 24/7 like a real city and don’t implicitly encourage drunk driving by failing to provide adequate transit options that are more affordable than taking a cab.

    This doesn’t only apply to DC, of course. If there’s a rain delay and/or extra innings at Fenway, good luck getting home. I know it’s not cheap to run trains 24/7, but people trying to get to graveyard shift jobs should have options other than driving themselves. It amazes me that New York is still the only city with a 24-hour transit system.

    • alang3131982 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:01 PM

      Why does that amaze you? You realize New York City is a completely different city, with far different demographics and amounts of citizens. Somethings are profitible or stomachable (very few, if any, transit systems make money) in one locale that arents in others.

      Not having transit late at night does not implicitly encourage drunk driving. Everyone knows when transit closes. It is a person’s responsibility to get home safely. it’s not the government’s job to get further into debt to ensure a handful of idiots dont drive drunk.

      If a “real city” runs trains 24/7, how many real cities are in the world? isnt it actually outside the norm for a city to run trains 24/7, considering the majority of the top media markets/biggest metro areas dont have 24/7 public transit service.

      in addition, Metro is in such a mess financially, it’d be totally ridiculous for them to extend hours for several baseball games at most…

    • byjiminy - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      Mass transit requires mass ridership to be efficient.

      I like the idea of 24 hour service too. But what if it costs $20 per rider? How much are you willing to pay per capita before you say, we just can’t subsidize such a small number of people? You don’t send a train to pick up six people. You send a cab.

      New York is great because no matter what you’re talking about, a zillion people are doing it. There’s a market for anything. But it’s not typical.

  9. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I hope it doesn’t take some tourists getting mugged and beaten for lack of safe transportation to fully address this situation.

    Who paid for the swanky new MetroNorth station connected to Yankee Stadium? (I’m sure there is not a simple answer to that question.)

    • alang3131982 - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      Umm, why does the lack of metro lead to tourists getting mugged?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

        People unfamiliar with a big city, slightly intoxicated, obviously confused and meandering about unsavory neighborhoods trying to figure out their transportation needs/walk back to their hotel etc.

        This is the exact description I was given of what not to do when I first moved to New York, as these behaviors tend to alert muggers of an easy target.

        I am not saying that the individuals lack personal responsibility for their well-being. At the same time, an abundance of minnows will attract sharks.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Sep 11, 2012 at 7:02 AM

      In fact (I live about 10 minutes’ walk from Nats Park), several people *have* been beaten and mugged in the neighborhood recently, specifically after night games. But as alang3131982 correctly asks, what has that to do with Metro? The people who have been victims of crime in DC after ballgames were walking home, going over or under the expressway and back to SE DC or Capitol Hill, or to the bars on 8th St. They weren’t trying to find a Metro station.

      I think the Nats and DC Police should try to monitor New Jersey Ave., especially where it goes under the expressway, and 2nd St. where it goes under 395, and the city could do a better job in general of seeing that folks get safely out of the Navy Yard. As it is, the crowd is pretty much gone 15-20 minutes after game time and it gets pretty spooky walking home at 10:30 at night past dark alleys, with only two or three other people in sight.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 11, 2012 at 11:30 AM

        The point is that people who do not live near the park may not realize that Metro shuts down early and walk out of the park with no means of transportation to get to their home or hotel. When left to their own devices to arrange transportation, they are more likely to wander about looking for a cab, bus etc in a neighborhood they are not familiar with, and have an increased liklihood of stumbling upon one of the mugger havens you describe. You live there, so you know which blocks and underpasses to avoid. Some tourist from St. Louis may not, and would be more likley to stumble upon trouble if he had to find his own way home because the Metro stopped running.

  10. jmcnick - Sep 10, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Let me get this straight. The Metro shuts down at midnight and Strasburg shuts down at 160 innings. I think Rizzo runs the Metro..

    • natstowngreg - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:47 PM

      Actually, it’s Rizzo who shuts down Metro at midnight on weekdays.

      [Hey, if I'm gonna get trolled about this for the next God knows how long, I'm gonna have a little fun with it. :)]

  11. woodenulykteneau - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Of course, it bears repeating that the only that sucks more than the D.C. Metro is an ugly prostitute.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 10, 2012 at 5:32 PM

      Wouldn’t an ugly prostitute have trouble getting customers?

      I’m so confused.

      • lilprofsports - Sep 10, 2012 at 10:17 PM

        Not if the attractive prostitutes shut down at midnight.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Sep 11, 2012 at 7:06 AM

      Actually, compared to Chicago, especially, the DC Metro is the greatest thing, ever. It’s clean, trains run frequently (when it’s open), and the stations are large and attractive. Only people from the suburbs who commute into DC during peak rush hour, and hipsters who jam the Red Line hate the Metro, because it’s crowded. I feel for them, but if you work in the city, why don’t you move to the city? The biggest excuse I hear is that people like all the space they have in the suburbs, but they don’t use it or need it, they pay through the nose for it, and they lose hours of their lives commuting everyday. Sorry for the slight digression, but you’re just wrong: the Metro is great for those who need to get around DC. It’s not meant to support a gigantic workforce of people who irrationally want to live 30 miles away from where they work.

  12. recoveringcubsfan - Sep 11, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Going all populist here – and I realize this is a site for sports talk – but before DC puts any money into late Metro trains for Nats game, WMATA should open the goddamn system earlier. How many people know that the trains don’t start running until 7am on Saturday? All us blue collar people have to take taxis to work. I am serious. Also, if you’ve ever tried to Metro to the airport for an early flight, you know how irritating that is!

    That, and only that, is the one thing about DC Metro that infuriates me. Other cities can do it. DC is largely a poor, working-class city, so what was the thinking about Saturdays and Metro?

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