Metro will take Nationals fans out to the ballgame this Thursday when the team hosts the Chicago Cubs in an exciting must-win Game Five of the National League Division Series. Getting them back home though? That's complicated.
The Washington Post reports that the city's subway system had planned to shut down at the regularly scheduled closing time of 11:30 p.m. That set up a difficult decision for the team's faithful: miss the ninth inning or miss the train home. It was a central planning pickle.
While the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority couldn't find a way to make the trains run on time, the private sector luckily stepped in at the last minute to fix the public sector's problem. Energy and power company Exelon announced Thursday that it will pick up the tab and pay Metro the $100,000 necessary to keep the Navy Yard station open for another hour.
If Exelon hadn't done that, forget about waiting for the fat lady to sing. You would've risked getting stranded or stuck paying for a pricey cab ride home. Yuppies could still stumble to their lofts in southeast D.C., and the wealthy could always amble a bit farther to their townhouses on Capitol Hill (the walk is a bit dangerous). But anyone outside walking distance would have just been out of luck.
It's almost like the stadium was built with just the urban D.C. elite in mind. Why else would the city borrow $670 million to build a world-class stadium while neglecting a third-world subway system?
That swanky ballpark seats around 41,000 fans at maximum while Metro regularly packs the unwashed masses into always-crowded and sometimes-combustible train cars. On any given day, upwards of 760,000 passengers are climbing aboard. Wouldn't that money have been better spent on public transit?
Granted, some of the financing for Nationals Park went underground to Metro. The city paid around $80 million to upgrade the Navy Yard Metro station, just one block from the stadium.
Baseball is America's game and the Nationals are Washington's team. The politicians and the lobbyists and the professional class can stomach the increased taxes, the increased utility costs, and the 4.25 percent special tax on all sales inside the stadium. Whether tickets are $100 or $1,000, do you really think fans like Mitch McConnell would miss a playoff performance from Bryce Harper? That's a clown question.
But all those people in non-gentrified and less-fashionable neighborhoods — the ones living far from the gelato shops, yoga studios, and dog parks — weren't going to be as lucky. Even if they managed to get a ticket to the game, they weren't going to get a Metro ride but for the grace of a private corporation. Indicative of an increasingly exclusive city, the problem is aggravated by stupid central planners.
A certain senator was fond of pointing out that there were more building cranes on the Washington skyline than any other cityscape in America. Much of that development is welcome. America's capital should be something of a national jewel, glimmering for the rest of the world. But more often than not, those new buildings come at a high social expense.
In a dozen years, D.C. has made the Nationals into a decent team. They haven't done the same for the urban poor thanks to stupid zoning regulations and foolish federal laws like the one that limits building heights to 110 feet, thereby creating a shortage of building space. After pouring hundreds of millions into the Nationals, now that the team is finally good, the city can't even Metro its fans back home after the game.
That said ... go Cubs, go!
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.