All routes lead to Easy Street for far-flung fans
With the Orioles nestled into their Camden Yards home, baseball fans had to break in some new migratory routes of their own yesterday.
For 38 years, they navigated uptown to 33rd Street and Memorial Stadium. Yesterday, they turned tail and headed downtown.
Those lucky enough to have Opening Day tickets found a variety of travel options: light rail, Metro, buses and trains as well as the family car. About a third used mass transit. The remainder drove along interstate highways and around Inner Harbor thoroughfares.
The Opening Day journeys chronicled here provide a sampling of what Orioles fans are likely to encounter this season.
Driving the JFX
"This is decent."
That was John Schmidt's assessment of his easy drive down the Jones Falls Expressway some two hours before the game.
Schmidt, a pension consultant with Alan N. Kanter and Associates in Pikesville, left his office about 12:45 p.m. He tossed his binoculars and video camera into the back of his 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit and headed east on Old Court Road to the I-83 exit.
Twenty uneventful minutes later, he was parked in a lot at South President and Fleet streets downtown, a 15-minute walk from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He paid a flat $3 fee for the parking space.
"I thought for sure I'd hit a backup at the Maryland Avenue exit, but this was a piece of cake," said Schmidt, 38. The same was true of the return trip, which also took 20 minutes.
"Anybody who drives to that stadium is a fool."
Bob Reuter of Baltimore spoke like the mass-transit advocate he is as he waited with the crowd to buy his ticket at the Timonium light rail station before noon yesterday. Reuter, vice president of the Baltimore Area Transit Association, said his organization supported construction of the light rail and is now pressing for an east-west commuter line. The light rail, he said, "is the best advertising for the east-west line that could possibly happen."
But then everyone sounded like a mass transit advocate yesterday, as the trains ran full and ran promptly, even if the 13-mile ride from Timonium to the ballpark took 10 to 15 minutes longer than the 30 minutes the MTA had anticipated.
"I debated, I was afraid it was going to be so overcrowded," said Ken Frank of Cockeysville, who boarded the train at Timonium at 12:30. A season-ticket holder who lives about a five-minute ride from the Timonium station, Frank said: "I think I'll take this all the time. I think I'll have to get a portable radio to listen to the highlights" on the way home."
The ride back to Timonium took 45 minutes. The train had to stop three times between stations to wait for trains up ahead, because the system is not yet double-tracked all the way through.
When the train operator announced the third delay, Janet Nestor of Bel Air said with a sigh, "What month is it?"
She said she meant no complaint by that. "All in all, it's been a long day."
Metro from Owings Mills
With 2 1/2 hours to go before the first pitch, the parking lot at the Owings Mills Metro station was three-quarters full. Inside, lines for the ticket machines were three and four people deep. Several change machines weren't working, and people had to stand in line twice -- first to get change from an operator and then to get a ticket from the machine.
The crowd was friendly, in a lighthearted mood. Each car was nearly full. Passengers at later stops had to stand.
Talk centered on the Orioles, especially the release of Rick Dempsey. Barbara Varga of Sykesville showed her displeasure by wearing a Rick Dempsey badge on her coat. "I was going to put a black border on it to show that I'm in mourning," she said, "but my husband didn't think it was such a good idea."
Varga was going to the game with her son, Patrick, 8.
She said she wrote on the note excusing him from school that Patrick "will be on a field trip to Camden Yards."
"I hope they honor it," she said.
The ride from Owings Mills to the Charles Center stop took 26 minutes, and the walk from there to Camden Yards was 10 minutes. Returning, the walk was still 10 minutes, but there was a 10-minute wait for the train to arrive, and the subway ride took 38 minutes.
Catonsville Park and Ride
Three seniors from the University of Maryland-College Park took an afternoon break from studying to travel up Interstate 95 for Opening Day.
Jeff Schechter, Jon Mortimer and Melissa Shefrin, along with Jon's brother Eric, pulled off at the Southwest Park and Ride at I-95 and Rolling Road in Catonsville to catch an MTA bus to the game.
"Opening Day is so crazy that the convenience of going halfway and having public transportation take us the rest of the way is definitely a benefit," said Shefrin, 21, a Randallstown High graduate.
The students said they expected it would be a "hassle," especially coming back on I-95 after the game, if they drove the whole way.