The only train wreck is the Dodgers
GETTING TO Dodger Stadium other than by car has never been easy, but a new service makes public transit more feasible for those of us in the hinterlands.
This year Metrolink has begun running later trains to ferry us to Union Station, pairing nicely with a shuttle service between Union Station and the stadium.
In brief, you can park your car at a Metrolink station in, say, Rancho Cucamonga and get to a home game in Elysian Park without battling traffic or paying for parking.
The shuttle and Metrolink service are funded by a $450,000 clean-air grant. the money comes from vehicle registration fees.
"We have not done this before," Metrolink spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt told me. Service began March 28.
I was immediately intrigued.
With the Dodgers' ownership seemingly in doubt, the team flatlining on the field and security at the stadium an issue after the beating of a Giants fan, this struck me as an excellent moment to try the service.
Any self-respecting journalist has a masochistic streak.
Wanting to experience the service on a weeknight, I went to Monday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers. three friends came along. we figured that was enough mass to protect ourselves if mayhem broke out.
Metrolink ticket packages are sold online at the Dodgers website and include a round-trip Metrolink ticket.
We got four reserve-level seats for $25.25 each, including the $2.50 fee to print the tickets. (You can't opt for will-call because you need your ticket to board the train.) Pricier seats are also available.
Have you ever ridden the train? despite its 19 years of operation, my guess is that most people still know Metrolink only as the name on those trains that blow past their car at a railroad crossing.
I love Metrolink, but its shortcomings are obvious. the main one is the limited schedule.
From Pomona, the 4:38 p.m. departure was out of the question, Monday being a workday. the next train was at 6:04 p.m. we boarded that. had we missed that, the next train was at 7:28 p.m.
On the 6:04 train, we would not make the game's 7:10 start time, but we would be close enough. This will be a recurring theme in today's column.
One of our group was a Metrolink virgin who admired the commuter train's rows of high-backed seats and carpeted floor.
"This is like an airplane!" he marveled. you get more legroom on the train, though.
Arriving at Union Station at 6:55 p.m., we followed the signs for the Dodger Stadium Express outside the station and up a short flight of stairs to Bus Bay 3.
More than 20 people were waiting for the shuttle. Most had not come via Metrolink but rather by subway or car.
A sign explained that Dodger Stadium Express service "begins 90 minutes before game time and ends 45 minutes after the final out."
I knew that "45 minutes after the final out" would not be an option for us. we might not even see the final out. our choices for a train home were 9:30 and 11 p.m. That's it.
I asked the employee organizing the shuttle when he recommended leaving the game.
"The game will be over by 10," he assured me. But if it isn't?
"If you leave at 10 o'clock, you'll definitely make the 11 o'clock train," he said.
Forget the final out – we might not see the final inning.
The MTA bus that serves as a shuttle arrived, we piled on and the bus was soon standing room only. the trip took 10 minutes and let us out in a lot a few yards from the outfield. Nice.
We were inside the stadium at 7:35 p.m., the bottom of the second inning.
Police officers were a frequent sight. so were runners stranded on base.
By 9:30, many in our section were heading for the exits. and they weren't even taking the train.
At 9:50, a Giants fan left, waving his cap obnoxiously and shouting "World champions!" at Dodger fans. no one took a swing at him.
At 10 p.m., with one out in the top of the ninth, the Brewers ahead 2-1, we got up to leave. (The game ended at 10:15 and the score didn't change, so all we missed were five outs – and further heartache.)
After some parking lot conversation, we boarded the bus at 10:20, which again was standing room only, and were at Union Station at 10:30. Guess we could have seen those final outs after all.
I'd forgotten what Coffelt, the Metrolink spokeswoman, had told me last month: "You could leave the stadium at 10:45 and make the train."
Likely true, although with buses leaving every 10 minutes and the trip lasting 10 minutes, and a five-minute walk required from the bus to the train, I wouldn't risk getting to the shuttle stop after 10:30.
At the platform Monday, two Dodger fans, Bob and Robin Porter of Yucaipa, were waiting to board after their first Dodger game by train.
Bob, a retired Rancho Cucamonga traffic engineer, was relatively positive about the experience but said he would defer to his wife about repeating it. and Robin was less positive.
She had been anxious for much of the evening in fear of missing the 11 p.m. train home. the uncertainty of the shuttle bus – how long would walking there from their seats take? how long would the wait for a shuttle last? when would they actually arrive at Union Station? – meant the couple left the game at 9:45.
"We usually stay for the whole game," Robin said. "But you don't want to miss the last train."
(Having missed the last train once, and having almost missed it the day before, I knew how she felt.)
At Padres games in San Diego, the Porters said, a trolley lets off right in front of Petco Park and runs continuously, allowing fans to forget about the clock.
In L.a., we have no such luck. Dodger Stadium, for all its charms, is as remote and inaccessible as the Getty Center, and train service is spotty.
Compared to San Diego, "you have to make a little more effort to do it," Bob said.
My friends had mixed feelings too.
We liked the shuttle. One friend thought driving downtown, parking near Union Station and taking the free shuttle to avoid the $15 stadium parking might be preferable.
Public transit alternatives to Metrolink include taking the Gold Line from Pasadena or the Silver Streak bus from Montclair or Pomona, either of which run later and more frequently.
The free Metrolink ride along with the game ticket was a huge plus, my friends admitted, and yet leaving before the final out was a bummer.
"The man at Union Station said `the game will be over by 10,"' one recalled. "But games are unpredictable."
And when will Frank McCourt leave and the slumping Dodgers improve? That, too, is unpredictable.
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, all too predictably. Email email@example.com, call 909-483-9339 or write 2041 E. Fourth St., Ontario 91764. Read his blog at dailybulletin.com/davidallenblog
<a href="http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_18081449tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_18081449Tue, 17 May 2011 22:45:13 GMT 00:00">The only train wreck is the Dodgers