State: Let mass transit take you out to ballgame Officials renew traffic concerns

March 26, 1993|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

Driving in to Oriole Park at Camden Yards could be a hassle this season.

With the first baseball game of 1993 at Camden Yards 10 days away, there is growing concern that fans will be more likely to drive their cars to Orioles games than before. And that could mean more traffic jams downtown.

Last year, one in five fans took some form of mass transit to the ballpark at the beginning of the season. By September, the ratio was down to one in seven.

State officials yesterday expressed concern that the relative ease of traffic around the stadium last season might have caused fans to lose interest in transportation alternatives such as Metro, bus and light rail.

"Mass transit is like medicine, and sometimes people stop taking their medicine when the symptoms go away," Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer said during a promotional tour of light-rail facilities yesterday.

"The people's love affair with the automobile goes on, and if transit use really drops off, we're going to start having traffic jams."

Potentially riding to the rescue is the Central Light Rail Line. Next Friday's 3:05 p.m. exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates marks the first day of operation for a three-mile light-rail extension into Anne Arundel County.

Beginning next Friday, the electric trolley line will run south from Patapsco Avenue to four new stations: Baltimore Highlands in Baltimore County and Nursery Road, North Linthicum and Linthicum, all in Anne Arundel County.

The North Linthicum station, on Camp Meade Road near Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, will add 162 parking spaces to the system. Nursery Road has 37 spaces, and Baltimore Highlands 50 spaces.

The light rail extension will be open only for baseball service until mid-April. Light rail is scheduled to extend three miles farther south to Ferndale and Cromwell Station in Glen Burnie in July.

Last year, more than 500,000 of the 3.5 million people who attended Orioles games came by some form of mass transit. The most popular turned out to be light rail, with slightly more than 250,000 customers, an average of about 3,000 per game.

Mass Transit Administration officials yesterday unveiled other changes to the bus and rail service to the ballpark. They include:

* An end to the little-used Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) baseball train from Brunswick. It will be replaced by an express bus from Brunswick ($13 round trip) and Frederick ($11). Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance.

* New express bus service from Owings Mills and a park-and-ride lot in Havre de Grace. The Owings Mills stop will be used only on Sunday and Labor Day when Metro is not running.

* No more downtown shuttle bus service before and after games. The 50-cent shuttles were intended to get people from distant parking lots, but were empty most of the time.

* Three Metro stations -- State Center, Reisterstown Plaza and Old Court -- now close after 8 p.m. because of recent MTA cutbacks.

* MARC trains no longer will depart at midnight, meaning customers will be able to stay until the end of extra-inning night games. However, the MTA will continue to offer a train leaving at 10:30 p.m. on the Camden Line to Union Station for people who need to catch Washington's Metro before it closes at midnight.

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