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American University Will Bail Out the Nationals for Metro During Playoffs

Odds are AU won't have much trouble getting its money back.
Photograph by Flickr user bootbearwdc.

Playoff baseball is thrilling, but it also runs later than regular games, raising the possibility that Nationals fans might need a ride home after Metro’s usual weeknight closing at midnight. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will keep the trains running late for a cost, and just as they did in 2012, the Nationals have wiggled their way out of paying up.

The Nationals’ playoff schedule isn’t set yet, but Metro announced Monday that if any of the upcoming games run late, American University will put up the cash to keep the system open. Metro asks for a $29,500 deposit for each additional hour of service, with a two-hour maximum. The Capitals have fronted the money when their games run late, and even Dan Snyder pays up when his football team plays a night game, but the Nats are stingy about it. In 2012, the team held out until LivingSocial offered to make the deposit.

“AU is known for helping people in Washington ‘get to where they want to go’—and now supports Nats fans in post-season play,” the university’s president, Neil Kerwin, says in a press release. The school is also one of the team’s major sponsors, an arrangement that includes stadium signage and in-game promotions.

American University is a more financially stable benefactor than LivingSocial, but its willingness to cover Metro’s possible expenses is being met with skepticism and hostility from a few alumni.

But the thing that AU grads can take to heart—and what makes the Nationals’ reluctance to put up the money in the first place so irritating—is that their alma mater is very likely to not lose a cent in making sure Nationals Park visitors get home. When someone puts up the late-train deposit, Metro credits them back $5.36 (double the average fare) for each passenger boarding up to $29,500 per hour. (Metro keeps any balance.) That’s about 5,500 customers, or 11,000 if Metro stays open for two hours. 

If a Nationals playoff game runs past 10:30 PM on Sunday through Thursday, the Navy Yard-Ballpark station will accept customers until at least 12:20 AM, and 5,500 riders boarding per hour isn’t much of a stretch for a Nationals game. The Navy Yard station records 9,229 passenger boardings on an average weekday, but that figure goes up by 9,400 when the Nationals play, according to Metro statistics.

Of course, this is all predicated on the Nationals actually playing on weeknights. With the Nationals securing home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series, the only games that could run late are the fifth game of the Division Series, the second and seventh game of the NLCS, and the fifth game of the World Series. The only late-night game the Nationals played in 2012 was on a Friday (don’t ask what happened), when Metro was already running past midnight. LivingSocial never had to open its wallet.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.