MTA buses left Ravens fans waiting Angry crowds queue for rides more than an hour after game

Vehicles stuck in traffic

Transit officials plan larger fleet for Saturday's game

August 11, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Some of the horde bolted into the street and others jumped out of moving vehicles in a scene that one witness described as "bordering on pure chaos."

No, it isn't the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It's the description of public transit by scores of angry football fans who waited for MTA buses after the first Ravens game Aug. 3 at Memorial Stadium.

"It was terrible -- reminded me of an out-of-control cattle drive," Gaynele Bess of White Marsh said of the thousands who pushed and shoved outside the stadium. She and her husband, Carl, waited more than an hour for a bus that, along with more than 100 others, had become caught in postgame traffic.

Mass Transit Administration officials said they are confident that the problems can be corrected, and they assured the public that the bus rides will be smoother from now on. Another sellout crowd of more than 63,000 is expected for the Ravens' second home exhibition game Saturday.

Bess and a half-dozen other riders used the Internet last week to describe no-show buses, ugly mob scenes and poor crowd control in the lines of people awaiting buses.

MTA officials had hoped that the first Ravens game -- where 18,000 fans rode by bus -- would showcase Maryland's public transportation.

Instead, several thousand bus riders got a taste of what can happen when things go wrong.

"It reminded me of the bugging out of refugees under fire in the Third World," John J. Snyder of Columbia wrote to The Sun's Intrepid Commuter column. He described "crushing hordes" outside the stadium, yelling for MTA buses that were supposed to be awaiting them.

"At one point I felt it prudent to take my wife by the arm and pull her off to the side as things were getting uglier than need be," he wrote. "Tempers flared and harsh words filled the air."

Doug Granzow, a Ravens fan who waited more than an hour to catch a bus back to Timonium, said via the Internet: "The cop who was directing traffic out of the parking lot even radioed in to find out where the bus was, and was told they were all stuck in traffic. When a bus finally stopped to pick us up over an hour after the game, hundreds of people were waiting in line."

The bus driver who arrived had been pulled off his regular route to help at the stadium and didn't know how to get to Timonium, Granzow said. He eventually reached home, after a passenger gave the bus driver directions.

"Thirty percent of those who went to the game went by bus, and that is an unheard of percentage," said Dianna D. Rosborough, MTA's deputy director.

Between 6 percent to 12 percent of fans in other NFL cities ride buses to games, she said.

"Unfortunately, when you have that many people -- and it's the first game -- you're going to have problems," she said.

"We've done some Monday-morning quarterbacking and found out where we can tweak things to make them work better."

The chief problem Aug. 3 was buses arriving late to pick up crowds after the game, MTA officials said.

About 70 buses transporting fans to Owings Mills and Reisterstown Plaza were ready for fans in the stadium's back lot when the game ended, and those fans had smooth, timely departures, MTA officials said.

But the remaining 230 or so buses had to travel to stadium pickup sites from staging areas along Hillen and Gorsuch roads and Loch Raven Boulevard, said Charles Carnaggio, the MTA's transit operations director.

When the Hillen Road buses came to Loch Raven Boulevard and 33rd Street, a traffic control officer mistakenly directed about 130 buses to go south on Loch Raven instead of proceeding west on the more direct route to the stadium, Carnaggio said.

The buses found themselves mired in thick traffic, barely able to squeeze by the parked buses on Loch Raven. "As you could expect, it caused a terrible backup," Carnaggio said.

For the next game, the MTA expects to have an extra 96 buses waiting in the stadium parking lots and near Ednor Road, so fans will be able to walk out of the stadium and onto buses more readily, says Carnaggio.

Most of the fans who contacted The Sun saying they were critical of the first game's bus service said they'll give mass transportation a second chance, despite the problems.

"I'll give them one more chance," said Granzow. "It was the first game, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn't know what to expect."

Some, such as Richard Witte of Baltimore -- who rode to the game via the Owings Mills park-and-ride -- sent the MTA a letter thanking it for "a job well done."

"Thanks for helping make the return of the NFL to Baltimore an enjoyable day," Witte wrote.

But the MTA has lost the patronage of some who'll not forget their first Ravens game.

Wayne Rosenbaum, 44, of Towson said his trip to the stadium was marred by a bus driver who inexplicably would not let several people off his bus. A friend of Rosenbaum's, who had their game tickets, had just walked off the bus when the driver slammed the door shut before Rosenbaum could get off.

"My buddy was banging on the door and I was saying, 'You better let me off this bus!' " Rosenbaum said. "The other passengers were screaming and cussing and pressing the emergency buttons. Then they were jumping out the back windows. It was unbelievable."

The driver eventually let him off about 40 feet up the street. But after the game, there was no bus waiting for him. Fed up, he walked a mile to a pay phone, called his girlfriend and asked her to pick him up.

"Here I was thinking I was doing the right thing by taking public transportation," Rosenbaum concluded. "I'll never do it again. It was a nightmare."

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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