Game plan: Ease commuting pain Agencies want fans to be thinking ahead

Stadium Watch

July 22, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Besides offering a preview of the 1998 Ravens, the team's first preseason game Aug. 8 will be a test not only of the new stadium, but of what it takes to get there.

For two years, the Ravens, Maryland's Mass Transit Administration and Baltimore's Department of Public Works and other city and state agencies have been working on plans to smooth the commute for 69,400 fans flocking downtown to the stadium.

Today, the groups will launch a program titled: "What's Your Game Plan?" which will offer fans alternatives to driving to the stadium. The groups came together six years ago to launch a similar campaign when Oriole Park opened.

"We want to make sure fans don't fall into the Oriole trap," said John Wallace, an engineering contracting partner for RK&K Engineering, who chaired the committee that planned the program.

"We want people to think ahead of time about how they are getting to the stadium, not just drive to the stadium and try to find a parking space then."

On Aug. 8, more than 200 workers from the Ravens, the MTA, State Highway Administration and city government will be observing the flow of people and vehicles.

"There will be lots of people hanging around seeing what went well and what didn't go well," Wallace said. "We'll just have to react from there."

Among the potential problems for the first preseason game are the traffic flow connected with the permanent seat license holders who have bought 5,000 stadium parking spaces and with commuter competition from those attending the concert by country music singer Reba McEntire at the Baltimore Arena the same night.

One major option for many is the use of public transportation, including Park and Ride buses and light rail.

Crowd and boarding control will be monitored at the new Hamburg Street light rail station east of the stadium.

The station will be open only for stadium events and has a bridge connecting it with the stadium.

For the post-game rush, the MTA will have available an extra train in a pocket track. Light rail is expected to bring 11,000 fans to Ravens games, but with limited parking spaces at light rail stations, the MTA warns fans to expect packed trains.

The MTA is also encouraging fans to use the Park and Ride system. The percentage of fans traveling to Ravens games via public and charter buses last year at Memorial Stadium was 30 percent, an average of 11,000.

One hundred forty-three buses will run from the seven Park and Ride stops, which have 8,000 parking spaces. Busing will start three hours before kickoff for each preseason and regular-season home game.

During each game, MTA officials will compute how many riders have come from each station, so that the correct number of buses will be available to satisfy return-trip demand.

The MTA is offering the option of pre-purchased season passes for light rail and Park and Ride routes in an effort to prevent purchasing congestion.

But for the Ravens' season opener, Sept. 6, fans planning to use light rail should arrive early at the stations, because that day falls during the Maryland State Fair, and there will be added congestion and a lack of parking spaces in Timonium.

Another option will be the subway, which will be available for the two preseason games in August (the other is Aug. 24), but not during the regular season, because the subway is not in operation on Sundays.

"The subway is a good option for those games because they have unlimited capacity," Dianna Rosborough, deputy MTA administrator, said.

"Plus, it is a quicker commute. Nobody gets in the way and it doesn't have to deal with traffic like the light rail." If fans must drive to the game, they are encouraged to avoid the I-395 and Russell Street entrances to the stadium, which are expected to be heavily congested. Fans who live north of the city are encouraged to take alternate routes through town.

"There is just not the capacity on I-95 for all the traffic," Wallace said. "We are encouraging fans to be creative in getting around the city. We hope to give fans alternate suggestions."

An estimated 15,000 cars will be driven to the stadium on game days, but there will be 30,000 parking spaces available in garages within 30 minutes walking distance of the stadium.

The Ravens have organized a partnership with 21 downtown garages within one mile of the stadium. Fans can purchase season passes directly from a garage. The Ravens will send out a list of those garages to PSL holders as parking options.

"We know that we don't have enough parking spaces for everybody, but we've gone to area parking garages and checked them out, that they won't scam you," said David Cope, the team's vice president for sales and marketing.

To help reduce traffic after games, the Ravens are offering a program called "the Fifth Quarter," which they hope will encourage fans to stay late.

The stadium and concession stands will remain open after games, and 4 p.m. NFL games will be shown on the stadium scoreboards until the end of each game's first half.

The "What's Your Game Plan" campaign will be spread by radio announcements featuring Ravens players. Mailings to PSL owners have already been completed.

For more information on Park and Ride and light rail, call the MTA at 410-539-5000.

The cost to you

A comparison of costs of traveling to Ravens games (year includes 10 games):

Mode ........... Game ..... Year

Light rail ..... $2.70 .... $25

Park/Ride ...... $6 ....... $50

Stadium lots ... $15 ...... $150

Garage ......... $3-13 .... $30-130

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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