The question has been looming over who should pay to keep Metro open should a Washington Nationals game run late, especially given the team's berth in the playoffs that start even later than regular season games.

But how much does it actually cost to keep Metro open?

The transit agency requires a $29,500 deposit to operate the system for an extra hour for late games and special events, such as Sunday and Monday's Madonna concerts. But the agency then refunds the money made back in fares to the group that paid for the extra service.

In real terms for the Nats, that amounted to $27,889 for a May 6 game against the Phillies, when the Sunday game ran past midnight. The team was refunded $1,611 for 445 trips taken after midnight, said Metro spokesman Philip Stewart.

It's likely far more riders would use the system to get home after a playoff game than the paltry 445 who did for the early season game on a work night. The stadium seats 41,546, after all. And at that rate, the team -- or whoever decides to pay up -- would need about a fifth of the stadium, or 8,150 of the fans and workers, to ride the system after midnight to break even.


Metro spokesman Dan Stessel suggests that the 445 trips taken after the Phillies game in May was unusually low. The game ended just before 11 p.m., he said, but the Nats asked for the late service to help their employees get home.

"So, that might help explain the low number," he wrote in an email. "Also, because the call was made very late in the game, there wasn't as much opportunity to let fans know about the additional service. Ridership is higher when there is advance notice."


Goods news for whomever steps up to the plate to pay for extra Metro service following a Nats game.

Our calculations did not take into account Metro's recent fare hike, which raises the average fare cost that Metro uses to calculate refunds for such events.

The agency estimates each rider who boards the system at Navy Yard after the last train normally would have departed pays an average fare of $2.68, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. The agency also gives the funding entity credit for the initial trip to the event. So bring the tally to $5.36 per rider, up from the $3.62 figure used during the May game. That dramatically reduces the number of riders the event would need to get a full refund.

Thus the Nationals would need 5,504 fans and workers to board the system at Navy Yard after the normally scheduled last train for the extra cost of the service deposit to be covered. That's 13 percent of the stadium's seats.