The Wash

Metro extends hours, but local sports fans want more

Fans wait inside L'Enfant Station just before being told to leave by police.

Fans debate using the metro for Washington Mystics’ Game 4 after thousands were stranded last week traveling home from the Nationals’ Wild Card Game.

As thousands of fans head to the Washington Mystics’ Game 4 tonight, many plan to use the metro.

On Sept. 30, WMATA announced they would extend metrorail service to accommodate fans by running additional trains later than the regular cut off time if the game ended later than 11:30 p.m. 

The service ran on a set “flex” schedule of 20 minutes after the end of the game, and WMATA encouraged Nationals and Mystics fans to use the service. 

But after the Nationals’ Wild Card game on Oct. 1, thousands of fans headed to the Navy Yard Station, causing large crowds, a long wait time and stranding fans at connecting stations. 

Many fans took to Twitter, sharing their issues getting to trains before they stopped running. Others reported 30 minute waits at connecting stations if they were able to ride at all.

Despite the blowback, WMATA announced on Oct. 3 it wouldn’t make any changes and would instead continue the same flex schedule for the duration of postseason games.

Fans weren’t pleased with WMATA’s continuation of the same plan despite a number of complaints.Following the Oct. 3 announcement, Andrew Moore, who attended the Wild Card game, said he was unhappy with WMATA’s disregard for the amount of fans, like himself, who were stranded at L’Enfant Station.

“WMATA clearly didn’t accommodate the folks that they let into the station. If you can only get to L’Enfant station and no further from the ballpark, what’s the point of using metro?” Moore said.

The Wild Card game had ended a little after 11 p.m., sending thousands of fans like Moore with what he felt was too short of a window to get to Navy Yard Station. 

Fans who made it in time were made to leave L’Enfant, a connecting station, after the wait caused them to miss the last train, according to Moore. 

Rudi Riet, a transport analyst specializing in “micro-mobility” transportation like cycling, and walking accessibility, said the issues fans experienced during the extension occurred for multiple reasons.

Riet said the 20 minute time frame in conjunction with connecting metro lines closing too soon was cause for major backup in the circulation of trains.

“Typically when the metro extends hours, they extend them on the whole system. What happens with playoff games is that they’re only allowing entrance to the system at Congress Heights and Navy Yard,” Riet said. 

This meant a major standstill in connecting stations like L’Enfant for fans like Moore, who arrived too late after waiting in the crowd to board a train at Navy Yard Station. 

When factoring in the 20 minute window fans had to make it from the stadium, Riet said the chances of catching your train are even lower.

“They really pinpointed where the entrance points would be, but you can guess with a game like the Nats had, everybody was there until the bitter end. That’s 40,000 plus people filtering out at once,” Riet said. 

Riet also noted a disconnect in communication between WMATA statements and instruction by metro staff on the night of the event. 

Alexa Polito, a fan who attended the game, echoed Riet’s observation when she took to Twitter to share her experience. 

“Metro employees informed us there were no more trains to Virginia on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines. So hundreds left the stations, only to find out later that the employees had been misinformed by the confusing policies. They’re going to try to be more consistent this time,” Polito said. 

In reference to her tweets about the metro confusion, Polito added Metro was in contact with her the next morning and she was compensated $55 for her cab ride from the station.  

In a press release issued by WMATA on Sept. 30, both the locations of entry stations and a one-hour limit on metrorail extensions were addressed. 

Looking forward to tonight’s game with the Mystics, and future Nationals games, Riet said he hopes WMATA officials are listening. 

“It’s one of those things where sports fans have been waiting for years for owners to pony up the money to keep the metro running later,” Riet said. “Maybe even WMATA will keep a second station open in the future, just to alleviate the pressure of that many people.”

Riet also noted for Nationals games filtering into Navy Yard Station, the high number of people is more concerning than for Congress Heights, which he said was made to accommodate more people.

“I hope for seasons to come they will continue to extend the service. But I think extend it by an hour, not twenty minutes,” Riet said. “That would be my first solution.”

Maya McKenzie

I’m a graduate journalism student at American University in Washington, D.C., who is passionate about culture and social justice.

In the past I was an editorial intern at Louisville Magazine where I covered local cuisine, like Kentucky-fried quail. During my undergrad I worked on a project that reported on the aftermath of urban planning in Louisville, Kentucky.

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