Buses bail out light rail as fans swamp station

April 09, 1992|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

The Orioles' first night game turned out to be standing room only for Baltimore's newest transit system, and a fleet of buses had to be dispatched to move hundreds of customers who might otherwise have been stranded.

Maryland Transit Administration officials reported that the Central Light Rail station in Timonium was so flooded with passengers that they were forced to load 570 into eight buses and drive them to the game.

Planners had been worried that the light rail system might be unable to handle the crowds if a large number of riders showed up in a relatively narrow time frame, as they apparently did yesterday.

The 13-mile Timonium-to-Camden Yards rail line normally requires a 15-minute interval between trains, each of which can hold up to 400 people.

Officials estimated that light rail carried about 4,600 people to last night's game. That is about the same number the system handled Monday, but few customers arrived three hours early, as they had done for Opening Day.

"We accommodated a lot of people," said Ronald J. Hartman, MTA's administrator. "It was a huge crowd on light rail, bigger than we've dealt with so far."

Rail turned out to be the popular way to get to last night's game. The Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train system carried about 1,282 people. The trains were so crowded that some fans were forced to stand in the aisles all the way from Washington's Union Station.

Metro recorded about 3,000 customers, down significantly from the exhibition and season opener at Camden Yards. The use of express buses from park-and-ride lots also was off slightly. Buses accommodated about 2,100, with some of the smaller lots -- such as Columbia and Bel Air -- recording bigger-than-usual crowds.

In all, about 11,560 people rode some form of mass transit to the game. That is about 3,000 fewer than MTA handled Monday.

"The message for tomorrow [Thursday] is for people to arrive early -- we can't handle a surge," said Dianna Rosborough, an MTA spokeswoman. "The other message is to take Metro. We had plenty of room."

Rosborough said service on the $446.3 million light rail system will improve as more rail cars are brought in line. The system is not scheduled to open for regular service until mid-May.

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