Metro Headaches

Brooke Family

From Carol: What's the best way to get to the new stadium? We've been told to take Metro. We've heard rumors about expensive, difficult-to-find, remote parking lots that ought to be avoided. So on Wednesday night my family tried Metro again.

Picture this - my husband with a toddler in a backpack carrier and me with a newborn strapped to my chest. We needed our trek to go smoothly. Everything went fine until we got to L'Enfant Plaza station. There, we had to watch two Yellow line trains and two overfilled Green line trains pass before an empty train finally pulled up. The crowd became more agitated as they waited, and the transit staff was clearly overstressed. We got to the game late, and by then my toddler was pretty cranky. Not a good way to start a long evening of baseball. Apparently, we were not alone.

My husband and daughter had a similar experience during the last Nationals home stand, spending 15 minutes on a packed platform at L'Enfant Plaza waiting for a Yellow line train to take them home after a game. He was running out of tricks to amuse a tired toddler.

Last night, we had parking passes. Yes, they cost $35, but we parked easily within view of the stadium and walked in on time. The price of the permit and crazy cost of gas these days will not allow us to do that on a regular basis. I'm going to give Metro more time to work out the kinks, but my patience is waning.

By Brooke Family  |  April 25, 2008; 1:45 PM ET  | Category:  Brooke Family , Taking Metro
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Use the Nats Express shuttle from RFK. Take whatever time it would normally take you to drive to RFK, add 15 minutes, and you're at the game. The shuttle drops off and picks up just a couple of blocks from Nationals Park. If you could walk from the Stadium/Armory Metro station to RFK, then you can walk from Nationals Park to the shuttle pickup spot. That's all the further it is (actually it's closer than the RFK walk). And best of all, it's free.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2008 2:02 PM

Metro's train crowding at L'Enfant isn't just limited to game nights. Used to work near there transfer between lines every day. Try taking a Green or Yellow train up to Archives or Gallery Place and then walking across the platform to board a stadium-bound Green line train from there. I used to find that it was much easier to get on/off that way.

Posted by: little tip | April 25, 2008 3:10 PM

I wonder how easy it is to attend any sporting event in a major US city via subway with a toddler...just sayin'.

Sometimes I think people have unrealistic expectations of our metropolitan infrastructure. While there's definitely need for accountability, is it really realistic to think it's not going to be a SLIGHT pain in the butt - or take extra time - to get to a ballpark with 25,000 fellow fans? And 15 minutes: seriously, that's the patience threshold these days?

Posted by: Emilie | April 25, 2008 3:36 PM

ditto Emilie.

You're talking about going to a huge, crowded public place with an infant and a toddler. Of course it's going to be a PITA! Why are you taking an infant and a toddler to a baseball game, anyway? If your kid can't spend 15 minutes waiting for a train, how on earth does s/he handle and entire, long baseball game?

Get a babysitter, and get real with your expectations about public transit.

Posted by: mccxxiii | April 25, 2008 3:53 PM

Its not the kids that are the problem, it's the long, crowded waits on the packed platform at L'Enfant Plaza and the overcrowded Green Line trains. And we're not the only ones who feel that way. The crowds we were mixed in with during these incidents were not happy!

Last year we took the Metro to RFK and back with one infant about 50 times. It was a straight shot with no transfer and no hassles. We never had to watch full trains go by or fear being crushed by a crowd.

We will definitely be trying the RFK Express and I like the idea of going north on the Green or Yellow line and turning around.

As for taking kids to baseball games, look around. You'd be surprised by the number of infants at NatsPark! And if we don't start educating these children immediately, Lord knows what might happen. They might become football or basketball fans...or worse yet, Mets fans.

Posted by: Tom Brooke | April 25, 2008 4:42 PM

Do you actually go down the platform, or just stand in the middle with everyone else?

I find that if you actually go down the platform, you will find non-crammed standing-space on a Metro train.

Posted by: Brandon | April 25, 2008 4:45 PM

I definitely didn't mean to instigate a silly suggestion like "don't take your kid to a ball game", as was possibly inferred by mccxxiii.

Obviously the Brookes (and most families) are well aware of the "risks" of taking their wee ones to a major sporting event. However I would agree with mccxxiii's suggestion of "getting real."

That being said, I'm sure Metro will have to reexamine L'Enfant Plaza at some point due its intersection with two major Northern Virginia lines and, thus, babies.

Posted by: Emilie | April 25, 2008 5:05 PM

The article you linked to was fictional. "Nationals Enquirer" is a satrical Nats blog.

Posted by: Umm... | April 25, 2008 8:41 PM

Wait. You're going to a CUBS game, on a Friday night, on a beautiful spring night when EVERYONE is heading out somewhere, to a brand new ballpark that not everyone has seen yet, on only the second weekend series, and you don't anticipate crowded trains? The Cubs have a National Following (not, like, following the Nationals)!

A 15 minutes wait for a train is nothing. What this sounds like is you should consider seeing only the Marlins or other low-popularity teams on a Wednesday night.

Metro is great. Period.

Posted by: DanD187 | April 26, 2008 12:11 PM

You link to Nationals Enquirer and expect anyone to listen to you with some credibility? Thats like using the onion as a reference. Lame.

Posted by: Jrlemx | April 28, 2008 11:22 AM

I have always said in a city that produces nothing, the Metro is one of the most efficient services we have. However during sporting events such as Sunday where you had and NBA Playoff game starting just about the same time as the Nats/Cubs game the Metro was not good at all. We have to understand here that the Metro works well for the Verizon Center which holds less that 20K fans? The new ball park holds 44k and probably averages 32k so far this year. Getting Nats fans in and out of the park at the Navy Yard is no simple task, however having trains arrive every 9-10 minutes is just not going to work. It takes a matter of seconds between the 7th and 9th innings where the platform fills up and creates a real mess. During this period they need trains at least every 4 to 5 minutes to keep the flow. I am pretty sure at least 75% of the fans come from Northern VA, so the same needs to happen at L'Enfant Plaza for the Orange ling going west. In fact going to the game the Orange line is packed before you even get to West Falls Church!! I am a season ticket holder and the Metro is a pain point in the game experience. Metro is the weak link here. I don't mind if parking is limited near the park, as long and Metro can get me there somewhat comfortably. I would rather see the area around the park developed into restaurants than a bunch of garages and lots. Even if they Metro raised fairs on game nights and weekends that would be ok, just make the experience worth the trip. It will only get worse if the Nats actually start winning and the attendance increases. This is a new experience for everyone so give it time; however Metro is what needs improvement the most.

Posted by: Todd Culotta | April 28, 2008 11:25 AM

"Last year we took the Metro to RFK and back with one infant about 50 times. It was a straight shot with no transfer and no hassles. We never had to watch full trains go by or fear being crushed by a crowd."

let me guess -- you're coming from Virginia on the Orange line or the Blue Line. So don't transfer: get off at Capitol South. It's a 14-minute walk downhill to Nats Stad from there. Save the Navy Yard Station experience for the way home -- you'll probably leave a litle early with two little tots anyway, and L'Enfant seems to work better on the way home than the way to the game.

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | April 28, 2008 2:06 PM

To and from Alx on the yellow line I have so far had good success, even twice with a four-year old. The longest I waited at L'enfant was 12 minutes, including watching a packed train go by. When my daughter gets cranky I let her listen to the I-Pod.

During the weekdays I have travelled to and from the Navy Yard station at off-peak hours, and have often had to wait much longer. So even with the crowds I have been happy with the travel time.

Yesterday I used the RFK shuttle (with four-year-old along). It was very easy to get there, but had a twenty-minute wait to get on a bus back to RFK. I think I prefer the metro.

One option if the there is a long wait for the Yellow Line at L'enfant is to check the Blue Line on the lower level. It is a longer ride to Alx but you are at least moving.

Don't forget the playground behind right-center. It is a lot of fun for the younger kids and they can work off a lot of energy.

Posted by: TRF | April 28, 2008 2:31 PM

To echo OutsideTheLaw, Orange line riders should walk from Capitol South. It is a nice walk through a few blocks of row-houses and a few blocks of condos-under-construction. On a day for baseball, when you're preparing to sit for about three hours that's not a bad thing to do. It is a lot better than getting agitated in a crowd underground waiting for a green line train.

Posted by: i hate walks | April 28, 2008 8:10 PM

I went to 3 Nationals games last week, including 2 that occurred at the same time as the Wizards home games. Transferring from Red to Green at Gallery Place was no problem, even at the end of Thursday night's game (when I arrived at Gallery Place as the Wizards game was ending.) Based on three trips to the stadium, all against teams with large fanbases, I think Metro is doing a better-than-expected job so far.

Posted by: P.A. | April 29, 2008 10:56 AM

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