As if raising a family weren't complicated enough, here's something new to worry about:
When it's time to go to an Orioles game, will you and your relatives fit the Mass Transit Administration's definition of family?
If you're taking a regular MTA bus, an express bus, the subway or a light-rail car to a game, you'll have an easy time getting a family bargain. Any group of four humans, young or old, can use the "MTA Baseball Card," the agency's new family discount fare.
But, if you travel by the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system, you won't get a bargain unless your family consists of two persons 16 or older and two children between 5 and 15. No more, no less. One adult and three children? They'll have to pay more.
Sound complicated? You haven't heard the half of it.
The discounts vary depending on where you pick up your ride.
On MTA, inside the Beltway, an $8 Baseball Card will take any four people to and from the stadium. Outside the Beltway, it's $14 -- unless you take light rail, which is $8 no matter where you pick it up.
For MARC riders arriving by way of Camden Station or Penn Station, family fares vary by distance. The farther away, the more the cost, but also the greater the discount, generally.
Dianna Rosborough, a spokeswoman for both MTA and MARC, said the new discount fares result from an attempt to make public transit more convenient for families. She said MARC was able to define a family more narrowly than did MTA because a conductor on a train can sort out groups more easily than can a bus driver.
"I don't think it's an arbitrary definition," Ms. Rosborough said.
MARC does offer a significant discount to those who can qualify. For example, taking the commuter train round trip from Union Station in Washington to Camden Station will cost $20 under the family fare plan instead of the regular $28 for two adults and two children.
On MTA lines, the discounts are not quite as great.
In at least one case -- four people taking the subway from Owings Mills (regularly $13.20 round trip) -- the family fare ($14) is more expensive.
The discount on regular bus service and light rail is essentially 20 cents per person -- the difference between the regular $1.10 one-way fare and the $8 MTA Baseball Card. Express buses will charge $2 each way.
"The thing to stress in that instance is that we're looking almost solely at convenience," Ms. Rosborough said. "It means spending a lot of dimes and buying a lot of tickets otherwise."
To use the Baseball Card, you'll have to display the card and four Orioles tickets when you get on your bus, train or trolley car or enter a Metro station. That means you'll have to buy tickets ahead of time to qualify for the discount fare.
The MTA Baseball Cards have not been printed yet, but officials hope to have them available before Opening Day at the new stadium April 6.
The cards must be purchased at MTA's transit store at 300 West Lexington St. or at one of three Metro stores at Owings Mills, Mondawmin or Charles Center. Ms. Rosborough said the MTA eventually plans to have the cards available at all Orioles ticket outlets.
An MTA Baseball Card, displayed with four Orioles tickets, will pay for all-day, game-day-only service for any group of four on a bus, subway car or new light-rail car.
The cost is $8 for transit inside the Baltimore Beltway, $14 outside, except on the light-rail line, which is $8 everywhere. The discount can be used for:
* Regional Park and Ride buses. The express service from 13 regional lots otherwise costs $2 each way.
* Light Rail. One-way passage on the Central Light Rail Line from Timonium will cost $1.10 for individual travelers.
* Metro. Regular fares vary from $1.10 to $1.65 each way.
* MTA buses. Twenty-four routes come near the new ballpark. The normal fare inside the city is $1.10 one-way.
New family rates on the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system vary depending on the distance.
Only groups of two adults (persons 16 and over) and two children between the ages of 5 and 15 qualify for the fare.