Saturday, July 26, 2008

Take Me (Up) To The Ballgame: Trolley-Dodgin' with the Dodgers Trolley

Friday was the inaugural night of the Dodgers Trolley (which, as the Militant mentioned, is not really a trolley, but since it's a reference to Dodgers history, he'll bite his lip this time). So naturally, the Militant had to be there!

Earlier in the evening, the Militant just happened to pass by the Union Station area at 6 p.m. and caught part of the festivities there. The local media, Dodger officials, politicians named Antonio, Tom and Wendy and nearly a hundred blue-clad Dodger fans in line were waiting for this service to finally start, kicking off approximately at 6:10 -- 90 minutes before the 7:40 p.m. start of Friday night's game.

But first the Militant had to return to the compound to finish some matters and put on his Dodger gear!

Great Dodger in the Sky, forgive the Militant as he was late to this game (his first time missing the National Anthem and opening lineup call since the 2004 season). He didn't catch his subway ride until 7:30 p.m. and the bus didn't leave until 8 p.m. or so. A couple women there on the bus recognized the Militant (er, not as the Militant, only as his mild-mannered alter-ego...that had him wondering for a second, as he wore his trademark "LA" camo cap to the game). Hey, for the Militant, Los Angeles is really just a small town (with a lot of concrete).

First, here's a few things you should know about the Dodgers Trolley shuttle bus:

A Few Things You Should Know About the Dodgers Trolley Shuttle Bus:
(Oh wait, already said that...)

  • Dude, it's free (Though apparently not free for the City of Los Angeles, whose Department of Transportation contracted an operator to run the buses for $70,000). You do not need a game ticket in order to board the bus.
  • The five buses and one shuttle van are powered by biodiesel fuel.
  • At Union Station, you catch the bus on Alameda Street, not in the taxi curb in front of the building.
  • Connecting transit at Union Station: (M) Red, Purple and Gold lines, Metrolink, Amtrak, a bunch of Metro buses.
  • The bus' route heads north on Alameda, makes a left on Cesar Chavez, which turns into Sunset at Figueroa and stops there to pick up passengers. It also stops at Sunset and Marion Ave. near Angelino Heights and then makes a right on Elysian Park Avenue, into the Sunset gate, and stops at Lot G, behind the outfield Pavilions (no, not that one).
  • The entire route from end to end, traffic allowing, takes about 10 minutes.
  • The service is continuous from 90 minutes before game time, through the duration of the game, to 60 minutes after the game ends. The five buses work the route until about the third inning, and then only the shuttle van operates. Service is supposedly stepped up after the 7th inning stretch, but on this night none of the buses left until after the end of the game.
  • After the game, the bus encircles the parking lot, exits the Sunset gate and traverses the same route in reverse. It enters the Union Station parking lot at Cesar Chavez and lets out passengers in front of the station building.

Since the Militant didn't have a ticket, he had to buy one there. Top deck was sold out, mainly because of the Brad Penny Bobblehead giveaway that night (yes, the Militant got his). He settled for an upper reserve ticket in left field. After wasting two innings in line for the slow- as- molasses- in- slo- mo- I'm- gonna- take- my- own- sweet- time- oops- this- cup- of- beer- is - all- head- let- me - try- again service at the concession stand for his his hot dog and beer, he finally got to his seat, where he was able to see the buses parked on the same curb they dropped us off at (pictured left).

Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals (which included some punk named Paul LoDuca) 3-2, thanks to a couple bases-loaded RBIs in the 6th courtesy of Nomar and James Loney, and the Saito-less team relied on Jonathan Broxton, who pitched 1 2/3 innings, to get the save. Not just that, but the Militant finally got to see Nomar as a shortstop, Juan Pierre returned to the lineup and Andruw "Swings At Every Pitch" Jones actually got a hit (a double)! Cue the Randy Newman!

But even as the "We Love It!" Chants blared on the PA system, the Militant navigated his way through the crowds down to Lot G so as not to see a smaller, yet just-as-inconvenient version of the shuttle bus fiasco that the folks that used it to get to the Coliseum game back in March.

The Militant managed to hop on the second bus that left, which was full, yet not to sardine can magnitudes. He also ran into the same ladies from the bus ride over, and sat next to a Canadian tourist from Alberta who brought his two sons to see a baseball game. A flatscreen TV screen aired Dodgers trivia, shuttle bus facts, images of Dodger greats, and footage of the great Kirk Gibson you-know-what. Interestingly, about half of the riders did not take transit to Union Station, but instead parked there ($6), which still saved them $9 as opposed to doing it at the Stadium.

It took 20 minutes to get out of the Stadium parking lot, which was probably the only real flaw in the shuttle service on Friday night, and it took a traffic-less 9 minutes to return to Union Station. According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 600 riders used the rookie shuttle on its big-league debut.

The Militant joined about 80 or so Dodger fans in the subway platform on the train ride back. It was totally an awesome sight to see people dressed in Dodger blue riding the Red Line; now Dodger fans can finally join Lakers, Kings and Clippers fans (USC fans, you're next, in 2010!) in riding with their fellow fans to the game.

So far, so good. The Militant would like to see, though, a dedicated bus lane so us Trolley Dodgers don't have to sit in traffic. He's glad that this service is there for every game, as opposed to the half-assed Friday-only 2004 sorry attempt at a Stadium shuttle. $70,000 for 32 games is only about $2200 per game, so he wouldn't mind paying a buck for this service - It's still waaaaay cheaper than parking. And since it just started, he expects the service to grow,

There's other, unquantifiable effects of this service. It gives Dodger fans a chance to connect before or after the game - to gloat about a win or commiserate a loss. And though Metrolink doesn't operate after the games, perhaps it will soon. Imagine Metrolink service between Union Station and Anaheim for the Freeway Series games...Or how about a special Metrolink or Amtrak train going down to SD when we play the Padres? This could be the start of something big, folks.

Pictures Of The Dodgers Trolley Opening Festivities:

Open Open Open: About a hundred fans queued up for the inaugural bus.

Pimp My Ride: The eternally happy shuttle van. They see me rollin', they hatin'...

Councilpeopletypes! Tom LaBonge and Wendy Greuel meet with the media.

The VIP Section: Dodgers Community Affairs VP Howard Sunkin (left) and Mayor Villaraigosa (center) get ready to finally unleash some Stadium transit goodness on the Dodger fans of this City.


Miles said...

Awesome report. Though I live so close, I could bike, I would the feeling of being on the gold line after the game with fellow fans (as I often was on green line in Boston after a Red Sox game). This is great for the city and for the team and I think a dollar is totally reasonable.

Simon said...

Great report.
I worry about what would happen if a game ran long though. With the subway and other rail lines shutting down around midnight, seems like there'd be a lot of potential to get stranded if you were stuck waiting for buses that hadn't started yet because the game wasn't over before twelve.

Militant Angeleno said...

Simon: Right you are! And all the more reason for Metro to get with the times and expand their service hours!

Janna Banana said...

I've been known to hang out with other USC fans on the 81 bus heading down to the Coliseum. And sometimes we stare down the fans from the visiting team as they ride from their hotels downtown.