Metrorail Brought One-Third of Fans to Nationals Park in 2014

December 22nd, 2014

Carrying an average of 11,000 riders to every Nationals home game, Metrorail maintained a 34% mode share to Nationals park in the 2014 season.

How many baseball fans take Metro to Nationals Park? Metro’s rail planning team tracks this statistic, by looking at activity around game times at Navy Yard-Ballpark and Capitol South stations that exceed our typical baseline ridership.  On game days, Metro provides special game-day trains on the Green Line to handle increased loads to and from Navy Yard-Ballpark station.

Over the 81 home games in 2014, Metrorail brought an estimated 890,000 total riders to the ballpark, or about 11,000 riders per game.  Compared to the average attendance of 31,000 at Nationals Park this year, this equates to a 34% mode share for Metrorail at Nationals Park.  Including both entries and exits, Nationals games generated about 1.7 million total trips for Metrorail this season. A few more observations:

  • Interestingly, ridership to the game is typically 8% higher than ridership from the game – some spectators must be finding another way home!
  • Metrorail’s mode share was highest for Friday games (38%), and lowest for Wednesday games (32%)
  • Mode share increases slightly for high-attendance games, but the relationship is weak.  Metrorail’s market share remains mostly stable in the 30-40% range, whether attendance was 20,000 or 40,000.

We’ve posted additional visualizations and the raw data, in addition to the charts in this post. What do you think? What patterns do you see?

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  1. Matt Dickens
    December 22nd, 2014 at 11:49 | #1

    Great stuff! It’s obvious that tons of fans take Metro to Nats Park – good to see the numbers reflect that as well. Are these numbers counting all exits, or exits during a certain time period, or exits over some average value? It would be interesting to look at the playoff games as well – I wonder if the mode share is higher or lower for Metro on those days?

    If you have access to any online journals, there is also a paper from 2008 on the subject that looks at all MLB parks:
    I believe it used RFK (since Nats Park was not open yet) but that stadium had the highest transit mode share of any MLB park – even higher than New York’s stadiums!

  2. Justin
    December 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 | #2

    @Matt Dickens
    Thanks! These numbers are all exits over a certain time period (usually +/-3 hours from the game start time), and then we subtract a baseline ridership that we saw in the same time period on a similar non-game-day in the same month. Then we do the same for entries, only we shift the time period later. E.g. for a 1pm game, we count exits from 9:30am to 3:00pm, and entries 3:00pm to 7:00pm. That way we get pretty close to isolating game-related ridership only.

    Thanks for the link – it’d be something if it’s really the highest transit mode share in baseball…

  3. VA Resident
    December 22nd, 2014 at 12:23 | #3

    I take Metro since I live in Alexandria. But I was wondering if there would be a market for park-and-ride shuttle from Virginia’s southern suburbs (Springfield, Fairfax County, etc). It’s cost prohibitive for a family of four to take Metro to the ballpark from the outer ‘burbs vs. parking, so why not charge something like a “Family Rate” which equates to $20 for a family of 4-6 people, including the cost of parking at suburban park-and-rides like Springfield.

    It would shift revenue from local parking lots to Metro, it would be a “reverse commute” on either 395 or 295, and you could sell it along the lines of “Easy guaranteed parking without circling around for a spot, save on gas, don’t worry about drinking too much alcohol before or during the game, and get dropped-off right next to the ballpark (as opposed to several blocks away).”

    Since people coming from the suburbs tend to bring families, you would only need a few families to fill up a bus.

    And don’t think it wouldn’t work…the free shuttles from RFK free parking to Nationals Park were a resounding success, so people are willing to take an option like that.

    The time factor should be a net positive: Again, the traffic would be the same whether they’re in a car or a bus, but the bus riders wouldn’t have to worry about finding a spot or walking to the park, and at $20 or something like that, it’s cost competitive with gas+parking.

  4. VA Resident
    December 22nd, 2014 at 12:29 | #4

    @VA Resident

    I checked online and the only such service existing right now tends to come from the further reaches of the area (Ashburn etc).

    I know that this would “compete” with Metro’s terminal Blue and Yellow line services but at $30+ for a round-trip service for a family of four, not including parking at the station, I doubt that many families from those regions are taking that option anyway.

    You could also market it along the lines of having one Metro-commuting parent working in DC/Arlington/Alexandria, and instead of coming home and going back into town, he or she could wait for the rest of the family in town and then take the bus back home after the game.

  5. Joe in SS
    December 23rd, 2014 at 09:44 | #5

    A few things on the lower mode share leaving games. I was at a couple of extra inning, weeknight games last year. That meant that with the requirement to leave the stadium at ~11:15 for the last Green Line train, I was on my own. In one case, that meant Uber, in another, it meant walking all the way from Nats Park to the Verizon Center at 1am (I was far from alone doing this, btw), to take a 70 bus back to Silver Spring.
    Also, I know from attending Caps games, there are lots of times where one person drives, but people who work downtown may meet them for the game, then ride home with them.

    Both of the above issues could be solved if Metro would implement night buses, like other world class cities do, with buses that (roughly) mirror the subway lines when those subway lines are closed, to provide an option 24/7.

    Lastly, both Metro and Dr. Gridlock encourage people using the Blue/Orange line on nice nights to talk to Capitol South from the ballpark, which makes sense when the Navy Yard station has a long wait to get in, but doesn’t when people are arriving (over a longer period of time).

  6. Mikey
    December 23rd, 2014 at 10:03 | #6

    I suspect, after many games, especially wins, people walk, take a cab, or bus (circulator) or pedicab to other close neighborhoods, such as 8th street/barracks row, or the Southeast Waterfront. They then take the metro home from there, but since it is considerably after the game, and it is not Cap South or Navy Yard stations they aren’t counted here.

  7. guest1
    December 23rd, 2014 at 10:22 | #7

    @VA Resident
    $20 for a family of four.. so a bus that holds 80 people would earn $400 in fare? Given that the bus needs to be driven to the suburb, then into the District, then either sit idle to wait for end of game or make an empty return trip, plus gas, plus the driver, plus possibly marketing… this would be cost prohibitive, especially when there is a train that goes pretty much the same rout which is travelling regardless.

    Part of living in the suburbs is a higher price of coming into city for amenities such as games, shows, museums. Part of living in the city is convenience and low-cost of getting to such events.

  8. Steve
    December 23rd, 2014 at 10:45 | #8

    Here’s another idea about the 8% drop between arriving baseball fans and departing baseball fans. Some of those people may not be going the game but instead coming to hang out at the Half Street beer garden. I also agree that some baseball fans are coming to the game from work locations and then using the Circulator, other buses, cabs or walking home to residences in nearby SE or SW.

    Interesting that Metrorail’s market share does not rise for high attendance games. NYC Transit sees a noticeable increase in their market share for sellouts or near sellouts. Perhaps this is because parking is more finite at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

  9. Matt Dickens
    December 23rd, 2014 at 11:00 | #9

    What do people think about the three outliers – September 25, 26, 27?

    1. Was there any calculation change made on the 25th & 26th to account for the fact that these were day-night doubleheaders? They required two separate tickets.
    2. On the 27th, what made the difference there?

  10. Justin
    December 23rd, 2014 at 11:36 | #10

    @Matt Dickens
    Good catch. The 25th and 26th were double-headers, and our method for estimating game-related ridership isn’t super great when that happens. We could probably take a deeper look with more closely-tailored timeframes for those two days. Also, in the scatter plots the attendance for both games are summed for the day.
    For the 27th, I’m stumped too. It was a 4pm game, but we only saw ~6,000 exits more than normal.

  11. Kevin
    January 30th, 2015 at 15:07 | #11

    Is this ridership information roundtrip or one-way?


  12. Justin
    January 30th, 2015 at 15:40 | #12

    @Kevin The data shown in the charts above is one-way trips – exits at Navy Yard, primarily. The full data also shows post-game entries, but this isn’t visualized.

  13. Neil
    June 19th, 2015 at 09:55 | #13

    I’m trying to figure out just how long the trip is on the Metro from Greenbelt down to the Navy Yard to get to the stadium tomorrow (6/20). I’ll have my grandsons with me so I don’t want to leave too early and have too much idle time once I get there … or get there too late and miss some of the game. It’s a 4:05PM start tomorrow. Sorry to ask that here but couldn’t really find anything else that was clear about the times.

  14. Michael
    June 23rd, 2015 at 15:02 | #14

    Hi, Neil: Sorry for the lack of a prompt reply but I guess you figured out that a planning blog isn’t the best place to ask for trip planning advice.

    You can use Metro’s trip planner available at to plan future trips. Enter your start and end locations, desired departure or arrival times and it will determine the route for you including travel times and fares. I hope you had a successful trip to the ballpark last weekend.

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