Public Transportation To The Ballgame

Posted by Kurt Smith on Wednesday, March 14, 2012
In years past ballparks were built for easy access by train, which was how most people in the first half of the 20th century traveled through the city. These days, ballparks are built in the heart of cities once again, also with public transportation access in mind, and so taking a train to the game simply becomes an easier option than driving a car on streets that were rarely if ever designed to have two lanes.

Camden Yards in Baltimore is a good example. Memorial Stadium, the Orioles’ previous home, was in a more suburban area of town; most people arrived at the game by car and there was ample parking (you took forever to get out, but just saying). At Camden Yards, there is enough parking in garages and such that you can take your car to Baltimore and get in and out relatively easily, but actually driving in downtown Baltimore is no picnic, so it’s nice to have the option of the MTA Light Rail dropping you off at the ballpark’s center field entrance.

Whether or not public transit is a better option to get to the ballpark mostly depends on the city. In Boston, New York, or Chicago, you’d be crazy to drive your car…not only is city traffic very frustrating, parking is outrageously expensive. Even at U.S. Cellular Field, there’s a lot of parking but it’s more expensive than it should be. In Philadelphia, Cleveland or Atlanta, there are perfectly viable public transit options, but driving to the game isn’t all that terrible, so you have a choice of whatever works better for you that day. In Detroit, St. Petersburg (Rays), or Milwaukee, public transit options are minimal, and chances are you’re going to drive to the ballpark.

I generally don’t mind taking a train to a game…at Wrigley or Fenway, it’s almost a must and it’s part of the experience to be crammed on a train car with a hundred other fans. Cubs and Red Sox fandom has a way of weeding out the less dedicated. But there are times I’d rather drive, say when I’m with someone that may not be quite ready for standing and holding on to a pole, dark tunnels or the occasional smell of urine. The Red Line in Chicago may be efficient, but it’s not always pleasant.

Last Christmas, my wonderful wife had my still-in-the-womb daughter present me with a Christmas gift, which was a day in New York City touring Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

I just recently cashed in on that gift, and in the interest of both saving money and gaining knowledge to share with readers, I rode a lot of trains. Seven to be exact, three of them twice. Yikes. In the city itself, I had the pleasure of riding the D, the 4, the Q, the 7, and the E. It’s easy to get confused at the alphabet soup of the New York MTA, but the system is amazingly efficient.

The day was a blast, and I’ll touch on ballpark tours in another post, but riding all of the trains does get old at times. I get occasional back pain, so sitting in one position gets uncomfortable, and seating on most trains is no help there. On game days most public transit systems will run express trains…but if you’re on a local train, you could be on it a while. The 7 to Citi Field can be particularly slow. 

You’re also, of course, at the mercy of when the trains arrive…not usually a long wait in the heart of a city like Washington or Chicago, but if you’re using a commuter or suburban rail the wait can be upwards of a half hour or more. Not fun sitting and waiting around at a train station, although I suppose it’s not much better than sitting in your car waiting for traffic to clear out.

Don’t misunderstand, not saying that driving is preferable to taking the train. In New York or Boston it’s definitely not. Just that you’re better off knowing what to expect.

A rule of thumb I like to use is this: use public transportation if you don’t like city traffic or want to save a few bucks going by yourself or with one other person. But if you do, try to limit the amount of transfers, to one if possible. Most of the time it can be done. If you’re transferring more than once, you may get confused and get on the wrong train, or you’ll just plain get sick of riding trains or buses. Been there. (But of course, all in the interest of sharing knowledge with you!)

Most times locals will tell you which option is best for getting to the ballgame. It’s best to know every way to do it, though, because you might prefer one way that most people don’t mention.

Elsewhere on this site I share ways to get to individual ballparks that I have found; click on the ballpark page to learn more. Getting to the ballpark should be part of the fun.


Tags: getting there  citi field  camden yards  wrigley field  yankee stadium 
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