And the winner of the car vs. light rail stadium commute is . . . Round trip to ballpark via station wagon is a trifle lonely -- but 36 minutes faster

September 26, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Articles in Sunday's editions of The Sun that compared the costs of driving and taking light rail from Timonium to Oriole Park at Camden Yards mistakenly omitted the return trip from the driver's mileage total. At 28 cents a mile, the 30-mile round trip cost $8.40. Including a $5 parking fee, the cost of driving and parking was $10.90 greater than the $2.50 round-trip rail ticket.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The run was on at straight up six. The light rail train shot for the harbor, and the Subaru steered out of the parking lot for the Jones Falls Expressway and the labyrinth of downtown Baltimore.

At 6:01 the sun was a wavy disc of white behind a blanket of blue-gray clouds, and the late Sam George of the Capitols belted out the 1966 dance hit, "Cool Jerk," on WQSR radio. Traffic was light and the green woods of the county zipped by on both sides of the expressway.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

After eight minutes, there were signs for the Baltimore Zoo and no sign of a train on tracks parallel to the Jones Falls.

Alone in the car -- dialing up and down the radio for rock 'n' roll as the tin heart dangling on Mardi Gras beads from the rearview mirror swayed with the car -- the sailing was swift, and a bit lonely.

How to get there from here: Interstate 83 south to Guilford Avenue, Guilford Avenue south to Lombard Street and right on Lombard toward the ballpark. Passing the backside of The Baltimore Sun building on a nearly deserted Guilford, the sign atop the newspaper plant said 6:16 p.m. and 70 degrees.

On Lombard Street, also uncongested, a few pedestrians appeared to be heading for the game. A middle-aged woman in a Department of Transit and Traffic uniform directed motorists with a big smile on her face.

Hanging a left onto Greene Street at the University of Maryland dental school at 6:21 p.m., traffic became heavy, but moved steadily.

In a blink, Greene turned into Russell Street. Getting to the far right lane to reach the access ramps to stadium parking was difficult. The move engendered a scowl and harsh words from a sports car driver who imagined that the Subaru had closed in too soon. He did not respond to a neighborly shrug of mea culpa.

At 6:23 p.m., the sun dropping fast behind Westport on the other side of Russell Street, an attendant with a glowing orange baton waved the Subaru onto Lot E. Five dollars was traded for permission to park, the car left in a sea of other shiny metal boxes, and, in a brisk gait, the parade was joined for the coliseum in the distance.

Among those making a beeline for the stadium was a man in a silvery-green "Nixon's Towing" jacket, who, like the rest of the crowd, ignored hucksters scalping "good seats" and homeless people rattling cups for change.

At 6:30 p.m. the stadium gates at Eutaw Street were reached, 30 minutes and 15 miles from Timonium -- a distance that cost about $4.20 to drive, figuring a typical 28 cents a mile.

On a ledge, Bill Nesbitt waited with his wife, Pat, readying himself to sing the national anthem at game time an hour later.

"There's some butterflies," said Mr. Nesbitt, who favors Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" over Robert Goulet's. "But I tell myself that most people wouldn't know if I made a mistake or not."

Played out at 2 hours and 11 minutes, the Orioles' yawning, 2-0 loss to Detroit is the shortest game this year at Camden Yards.

At 9:48 p.m., just after the last out, it's time to head home.

People wander the vast parking lots trying to find the spot where they had left their cars only hours before.

For more than a few, memory and perception are dulled by beer.

"I see it, I see it!" yells one woman, pointing over rows of vehicles on a lot that could pass for the docks in Dundalk after ships have unloaded thousands of foreign cars.

At 10:02 p.m., a gang of friends unwilling to let the night end asks for directions to Bohager's, a nightclub just east of Little Italy that is popular with young people. In exchange for the lTC information, the revelers extend an offer to join them.

But Timonium beckons.

Through slow, thick traffic, it takes a long time to get from the lot -- taking Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pratt Street, Calvert Street, and Centre Street -- to the northbound ramp of the Jones Falls Expressway next to the Maryland Penitentiary.

At 10:28 p.m., traffic is heavy but steady on the JFX as a radio preacher on WRBS argues that doing God's will, and not our own, is the easier way to live.

There is no mention about the best way to travel from here to there.

Nine minutes later, at 10:37 p.m., the Subaru pulls into the Timonium light rail station.

On the wooden steps that lead down to the platform, an old man sits by himself, waiting for someone to get back from the game.

How late, he wants to know, does the last train run?

CAR VS. RAIL

The contest pitted a family's Subaru station wagon against the state's sleek light rail train in a jaunt from Timonium to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Which way to and from the ballpark would prove faster? Costlier? Nerve-wracking or fun?

Friday night, two Sun reporters found the round trip by car was 36 minutes faster than by rail, while parking and driving the car cost $6.70 more than the train ticket. Here are their accounts of what happened along the way.

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