Tagged: Getting There

Free Parking At Tropicana Field

At most ballparks you can find free parking somewhere, if you’re willing to walk at least a half a mile and/or risk getting your car towed. But for Tampa Bay Rays games, you need only find three other people to carpool with you–admittedly a challenge in a lesser venue featuring a team unlikely to be very competitive this year, but at least a viable option.


The Rays list this under “The Rays Go Green“, but apparently they’re most ecology-minded after getting out of church, since this option is widely available on Sundays, while for the rest of the week it’s the first 100 cars that arrive in the lot. The applicable lots are 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9; 6 and 7 are closest to the field and are off of 10th Street.


Not a bad deal, unless you’re one of those antisocial tightwad types who only goes to the game with other people only so that they’ll chip in on the parking. In that case, there are further lots that charge about half of what the Trop does, but it’s a bit of a hike.


The best thing is that the “premium game” parking rate is even waived for this–the Rays say “all other games”, so from that I assume that it applies to when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. I probably shouldn’t mention this, since it may have been an oversight on their part. So shhhh…


Tropicana Field will never win any best ballpark awards, but it does have some things going for it, and one of them is that it won’t break your wallet in half. The upper reserved and upper box seats are perfectly reasonable, and if you’re early enough you can bring some friends and park for free. And you know the game won’t be rained out.


And if you’ve gotten those occasionally available all-you-can-eat seats in the tbt* Party Deck, your food and parking is paid for. That’s a significant chunk of change at the ballgame these days.


The MARTA Braves Shuttle (?)

The task of going to an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field used to offer several options–among them simply driving and parking, taking a MARTA Blue or Green Line train to the Georgia State Capitol station and walking, or taking any MARTA train to the Five Points Station and hopping on a free (for train riders) “Braves Shuttle”, which took riders directly to Turner Field and back to Five Points after the game.


This last option was probably the most popular of the three, Atlanta traffic being what it is and Turner Field parking costing as much as it does (although it is cheaper than many ballparks, I will grant). It was a rather simple, inexpensive way for Braves fans to get to a game.


Apparently though, as I write this, the Shuttle is no more. MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) has been losing money in a struggling economy, being funded by suburban counties that have lost considerable tax revenues. As a result, along with upwards of 300 MARTA employees being laid off, services like the Braves Shuttle are being cut. Needless to say, Braves fans are not happy about this development, and I’ve read a few angry comments on blogs suggesting that they will not be attending Braves games this year.


It’s understood the new dilemma that has been created. The latest I’ve read from the excellent Braves blog called “Talking Chop” is that the Braves are considering funding the shuttle, but this was in July, and I have not yet heard word since then. The Braves do still, however, mention the Braves Shuttle as a way to get to the game on their own website–and if it’s not going to be available, I would hope they would let people visiting Atlanta this summer for a game (myself, for instance) know well enough ahead of time.


And of course it causes me stress; not only was I going to use the Shuttle myself, but it is a key tip in the (coming in 2011!) Turner Field E-Guide. But Ballpark E-Guides never backs down from a challenge, and I will get on this and find alternatives as soon as possible.


One thought that comes to mind is the same thought I had when I heard that the Nationals were discontinuing the Nats Express from RFK Stadium–why not charge people a buck or two to ride the shuttle? Surely someone could figure out how much to charge to make the option break even or even be profitable. I am sure Braves or Nationals fans would pay a small fee to have a convenient avenue to get to the game, and in the case of the Braves Shuttle, MARTA would be keeping the Braves fans riding the trains to games as customers–which they need in times like these.


But working for a government contractor like I do, I know whether or not an idea makes sense is rarely a consideration for its implementation. All the same, I contacted MARTA and asked anyway.


In the meantime, Braves fans can either drive to the game and park at Turner Field, or make the rather lengthy walk from the Georgia State Station. Quite frankly, neither seems all that great, especially with presumably more folks needing them.


I’ll let you know what MARTA thinks of my idea.



UPDATE 2/12/2011: As expected, MARTA did not give my idea any consideration; I doubt they even read it. I was sent a very generic e-mail saying that the Braves Shuttle has indeed been discontinued. Well, heck, I already knew that.


The New Metra Station at Sox-35th





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U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox,
doesn’t present near the congestion challenges as does Wrigley Field, its
venerable neighbor to the north. There are a few reasons for this; the White
Sox offer more parking, they don’t draw as well as the Cubs, and there isn’t
much else in the area drawing crowds, at least not at the moment.

But this isn’t to say that you won’t run into your own set
of difficulties on the South Side. The Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) in Chicago
was recently called one of the worst bottlenecks in America by some Highway
Commission; the Red Line gets packed before games–and people often complain of
the odor of urine, although I don’t remember it; and the neighborhood, while
improved, is not a place where many folks remain after the game, and there isn’t
much in the way of watering holes to wait out the train crowds.

But as of 2011 the nice folks at Metra Rail, one of the
public transportation arms of Chicago, have introduced a new remedy to all of
this, and I expect it will take quite well.

Metra is the commuter rail service serving the metropolitan
Chicago area. Train lines run from towns as remote as Kenosha, Wisconsin and
Manhattan, Illinois. Trains run frequently during rush hours but about an
hourly basis at other times. It is a highly regarded service for commuters,
with quiet and efficient trains. It could be used for getting to Sox or Cubs
games, but it involves a transfer to the Red Line downtown, and sometimes that
includes a walk of a few blocks.

In 2010 Metra has been feverishly working on a station located
at 35th and Lasalle Streets, a very short walk from U.S. Cellular
Field. The new station is called the “Lou Jones/Bronzeville Station” named
after Lou Jones, a state majority leader who passed in 2006.

The new station will be part of the Rock Island Line, which
has its suburban terminus about 40 miles southwest of Chicago in Joliet. Along
the way are several park-and-ride stations. The daily fee for parking is
usually $1.50, and it’s free to park on weekends–a much better deal than you’ll
get anywhere close to the ballpark. Depending on how far away you start, the
fare for the train one way can be between $2.25 and $6.00. By yourself or with
maybe one other person, it’s probably cheaper than gas and parking, not to mention
the saved aggravation of driving in downtown Chicago, never a picnic but
especially irritating for a Sox game.

I don’t know if the Lou Jones Bronzeville Station is
operational yet; the target date was December 2010, but I haven’t yet seen an
announcement on Metra’s website. Nor do I know what the service will be like
after games and whether extra trains will run at night. But once it does open, the
Rock Island Metra Line will definitely be an option worth considering for
getting to a White Sox game.

Especially when you can enjoy a beer on the train.


Find Great Parking Easily With ParkWhiz

Some time ago I wrote a blog about the wonderful website called “Precise Seating“, that provides  all sorts of details on nearly every seat at Fenway Park–how close the seat is to home plate, how much of the view if any is obstructed, whether you’ll have to crane your neck to watch, and much more. It is recommended in the Fenway Park E-Guide.


It’s sites like Precise Seating that makes the Internet such a valuable tool for so many things. Think about how we used to buy tickets, book hotels and flights, look for restaurants, even find our way somewhere. Good old Yellow Pages…I sure don’t miss them. Remember writing down directions to someone’s house that they gave you on the phone? These kids today, they just don’t know how good they have it.


Anyway, while working on the coming Ballpark E-Guides booklet for Wrigley Field (hopefully available sometime in 2011, although I can’t promise it), I stumbled on a site called ParkWhiz, and driving to the game, or even to the city in general, will never be the same.


ParkWhiz could best be described as StubHub for parking spots. You go to the ParkWhiz website, enter the date and time and location (including sports venues) that you wish to declare a spot your own, and ParkWhiz will list for you the addresses of all of the available nearby spots. There is a map to show where each spot is, and even customer ratings and whether tailgating is permitted for each spot. Click on a button to reserve it, print out your reservation, plug it into your GPS and head to the game knowing that a spot will be yours and you’ll have more time to spend grazing around the ballpark. These days, you could do it all with your phone if it’s advanced enough. ParkWhiz does charge a 10% commission…they do need to make a profit…but that’s worth its weight in gas money saved by a couple laps around the park.


For just one example, as of this writing, for the December 12 Bears game at Soldier Field in Chicago, there are spots available for just $11. That’s quite a deal, although it is 1.7 miles away (which is just a short train ride in Chicago).


ParkWhiz guarantees your reservation too…full refund if you don’t get your reserved spot.


Not only does a site like ParkWhiz help motorists find a spot without searching endlessly around a ballpark, it helps parking lot owners or anyone else offering spaces to fill them at market value prices. How many times have you felt ripped off after shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for the only space you could find? With ParkWhiz, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll pay what a space is worth, and you don’t have to be gouged anymore. Well not as much anyway.


ParkWhiz probably wouldn’t be as great in a city like Philadelphia, where there is a sports complex taking up a great deal of space that has ample parking anyway. But if you would really prefer not to take a train, ParkWhiz would be a great boon to your party heading to New York, Boston, Chicago or any other city where parking is always a challenge.


One less hassle for the ballpark visitor thanks to the Internet. If this keeps up, there won’t be a need for Ballpark E-Guides. But until then, I soldier on!


ParkWhiz website: www.parkwhiz.com