Kaid Benfield Archive


Unbelievably, getting to the game is now even more inconvenient

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 3, 2008 at 1:09PM

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The NFL season starts this week, accompanying the beginning of fall, my favorite season.  And, for me at least, football is an integral part of fall, always has been, always will be.

For a decade I was a season ticketholder to our city’s once-glorious team, the Washington Redskins.  My significant other and I gave up our tickets last year, though, deciding that we no longer wanted to commit to all 8 regular season home games plus two preseason games.  We still planned to pick a couple of games to attend each year.

This change was in no small part because getting to the games and back was such a hassle.  I never tried it, but by all accounts driving to the suburban stadium, FedEx Field (which seats over 90,000), is a nightmare that will ruin your weekend, and would do so even if the team were better.

FedEx Field on game day (by: Kevin Coles, creative commons license)We usually opted for a very popular public transportation option: take Metrorail’s Orange line to the Landover station and hop on a shuttle bus.  It still was far from convenient, an hour on Metro given a required transfer and then a long ride out to the end of the line to the shuttle, plus another 15-20 minutes of waiting for and riding the shuttle.  The waits for a shuttle after a game could be especially long, given how popular the system was.  But at least you weren’t spending the same amount of time fuming in traffic, and it worked out well enough.  We eventually got in the habit of driving part way, but still taking the Metro shuttle.  It’s definitely the way to go.

Er, it WAS the way to go.  Unbelievably, that option no longer exists.

According to the team’s web site, “new federal regulations prevent Washington’s Metro system from continuing to lease buses to the team for fan shuttles from the Orange Line’s Landover station to FedEx Field.”  Apparently the Bush administration’s Federal Transit Administration has exercised its wisdom to the effect that taxpayer-supported entities like Metro may not “compete” with private transportation providers.

Never mind that in this case there are no such private providers, because they have determined that the fan base wouldn’t pay the $20 fare (compared to $6 under the old system) they apparently deem necessary.  Crapola.

surrounded by parking lots, with Metro a mile away (original from Google Earth) 

The team’s web site cheerfully volunteers that there remains a Metro station within walking distance (see the purple Ms on the Google Earth image above), but fails to mention that it’s over a mile away, and basically you have to walk another half mile or so to get to your seat (at least up where we sat!) once you get to the stadium.  How many people are going to want to do that, especially in December?

Contrast that circumstance with that of the downtown Verizon Center, the basketball/hockey/concert arena where we still hold season tickets to see the Georgetown Hoyas play, below.  Heck, it’s within actual walking distance of my office, about six blocks away.  In addition, look at all the Metro stations nearby, to say nothing of multiple lines of frequent bus service, and ample parking in private lots for those who prefer to drive.  The image is to the same scale as the one of FedEx Field, incidentally.

now this is convenient (original image from Google Earth) 

The city's new green baseball stadium, Nationals Park, is also close to downtown and only a block from Metro.

To the football team’s credit, in the early 1990s they wanted to build their stadium in the city, on the site where their old location, RFK Stadium, still sits, also very close to Metro.  They were going to do it with their own money, too.  But a combination of inept city government at the time and NIMBY outcries chased them to the suburbs.  Fans are now paying the price, and so is the environment.

However: the team lost its last two preseason games by a combined score of something like 74-6.  Maybe staying away from FedEx is an OK thing after all.