Reflexes are hard to break. So are deeply ingrained travel patterns. Tens of thousands of Oriole fans will have to develop new habits with the opening of the new downtown ballpark today and Monday. The engineers and planners have been working hard for several years to make getting to and from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as easy as possible. But fans need to do a little thinking ahead of time as well.
For one thing, fans will have a lot more choices. For some, walking from their downtown workplaces will be an option. If fans drive, there will be dozens of garages to park in, not just a couple of lots as at Memorial Stadium. If they choose not to drive, they will have multiple choices, not just a handful of bus routes. Deciding where to park, or whether to use Metro, light rail, park-and-ride lots, MARC or buses requires some forethought.
There is no correct choice for everyone, or even for the majority. But if most drivers head reflexively for the ballpark's own lot off Russell Street, clearly there will be a monstrous traffic jam. The 2,600 parking spaces available to the general public south of the ballpark will not come close to handling all the automobiles even at a sparsely attended game. And they will not be easy for everyone to reach, or to leave.
So the best advice is to weigh the alternatives in advance. Motorists may find it quicker to park and depart from a garage several blocks north of the ballpark than to buck traffic immediately around the stadium. Others will get to and from the park a lot more swiftly by using Metro, or the new light rail line (but not too many at first, please) or the MARC trains from Washington, College Park, Laurel, Halethorpe and points in between, or the dozen park-and-ride lots around the city, or the 24 bus lines that run within a few blocks of the stadium.
In many ways, the variety of mass-transit options is almost as exciting as the new ballpark itself. The special buses, the MARC trains and the light rail will deliver fans practically at the gates. In fact, those transit stops are closer to the right field foul pole than is home plate. This is not a city that has had much mass transit to brag about for decades.
State and city officials are eager to introduce the new light rail line (with their fingers crossed that it is not overtaxed at first), attract new passengers to the Metro and convince suburbanites to leave their cars at the park-and-ride lots. They are going to knock themselves out making mass transit work for the fans Monday and thereafter.
The opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards begins more than a new era for Baltimore baseball. It launches new opportunities for getting to, from and around the city. Venturesome fans who try them out starting as the baseball season begins may find that more than their sports lives have been enriched.