Smooth travel to Camden Yards

April 08, 1992

So far, so good. The feared traffic gridlock around the new ballpark has not materialized -- at least not yet. Baseball fans have taken to mass transit with surprising alacrity, and motorists have heeded warnings to head for downtown garages rather than clog the streets around Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The only congestion Monday was around the souvenir stands, and the only irritated fans were those who couldn't buy programs an hour before game time.

There are more tests ahead, such as the first beautiful spring Sunday when throngs head both for the Inner Harbor and the ballpark. And one of these days something is going to break down and cause a massive snarl. There won't always be as many police, traffic agents and MTA aides on the streets and stations. But the years of planning by state and city transit and traffic officials have paid off initially, and the fans largely followed their advice. Can it be that Baltimoreans are not, as it has seemed for so many years, inextricably committed to their automobiles to the exclusion of all else?

It's much too early to tell. But the initial evidence breeds a little hope. About 30 percent of the opening day crowd arrived by mass transit, according to the MTA. That percentage ranks up with metropolitan areas that have had extensive transit systems for decades. Many of those riders were on Metro or the light-rail line for the novelty of it. Some had not used a park-and-ride lot or ridden a transit vehicle in decades, if ever. The uncertain factor is how many will stick with it, perhaps even when they are not going to the ballpark.

The hoopla over the new ballpark will die down in coming days, and the novelty of getting there and back home again will wear off. But the tall ships in 1976 and Harborplace four years later brought people downtown for other attractions, too. It is certain that the ballpark will wear well with fans. If we also take permanent advantage of the new travel opportunities, the Baltimore area will be doubly blessed.

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