- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Washington Nationals fans are saying railway repairs are making it difficult for the subway to take them out to the ballgame, but Metro and ballpark officials say there has been no noticeable drop in attendance.

The transit system’s yearlong repair project, which began in June, includes partial closures of some lines, single-tracking of trains and decreased service hours. It drew an immediate response from Nats fans on social media.

On June 10 the Nationals advised fans on Facebook to “allow extra travel time to and from the ballpark,” and to use Metro’s trip-planning resources. Fans quickly took to the social media platform to voice their concerns.

“I would suggest leaving yesterday!” Virginia resident Sheldon Kalmus said in a comment. “The crush at game’s end has always left me speechless. I cannot imagine the delay single tracking will cause.”

Ken Turner, who attended the June 10 Nationals’ game with the Philadelphia Phillies, wrote that his trip to the stadium took an additional hour and the trip home took two.

Nationals fan Andy Johnson wrote that he will avoid the subway by driving to games, but then decided not to purchase his usual season pass due to Metro’s “SafeTrack” maintenance plan, the increased traffic and the lack of parking that will follow.

“I’ll still try to get to a game every homestand, but I will pick a weekend game, drive and park,” Mr. Johnson said in the post.

In the past, the Nationals have offered free shuttle buses from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport when the Nats and D.C. United games have coincided, resulting in parking shortages at the stadium in Southeast. Some fans have said a similar parking-and-shuttle system is necessary this season.

Still, turnout at Washington Nationals home games has remained high, with only a slight dip in fan attendance, which experts say may be the result of factors other than SafeTrack such as weather, opponent lineup and the team’s road game performance.

Baseball culture has been on the rise in the nation’s capital since 2005, when the Nationals were founded. Last year, about 32,343 fans attended each home game, ranking the team 11 out of 30 Major League Baseball teams in turnout, according to ESPN.

With the second half of the season to go, the team’s current average attendance figures — 31,301 fans per game, a dip of just over 3 percent — exhibit a slight decrease and in line with turnout over the last four seasons.

The Nationals did not respond to comment requests about SafeTrack-related matters.

As the vast majority of fans continues to take the subway, there are two options: They can take the Orange, Blue or Silver lines to the Capitol South Station and walk 15 minutes, or take the Green Line to Navy Yard-Ballpark, the station closest to the stadium.

Scheduled repairs will affect only the Green Line in November and early December, but Metro officials have warned that repair efforts will affect entire lines and may cause delays throughout the system.

The 15 phases of SafeTrack will affect fans differently depending on where they are traveling from. Metro and stadium representatives encourage riders to check service disruption announcements and to plan their transportation.

Long waits at station platforms and crowded train cars are usually common after games, but shortened weekend service as a result of SafeTrack may leave some fans stranded. Suspension of weekend night owl service means the rail system will close by midnight.

When games start or run late due to rain delays or extra innings, stadium speakers will issue reminders to fans about rail service hours. To ensure a ride home on the subway, fans may have to leave a game early.

The Nationals’ next home game is Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. SafeTrack repairs will continue through March.

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