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"Metro to the Mariners" service ends


King County Metro Transit won't run extra buses to Major League Baseball games this year, forcing hundreds of fans to rearrange their travel plans.

The buses went to and from weekend games, and left Safeco Field after weeknight games when regularly scheduled transit was unavailable. They carried 300 to 500 passengers per game last season, said Rebecca Hale, spokeswoman for the Seattle Mariners . That included special service to 13 outlying park-and-ride lots.

But the "Metro to the Mariners " service has been banned by the federal government, which ruled a public-transit agency cannot operate a sports charter if private operators are available to do so.

The team's home opener is Tuesday afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels; a night game Wednesday is the first affected by the bus cutbacks.

Starline Transportation of Seattle offered in 2008 and again this year to carry fans, said Chief Executive Gladys Gillis.

The Mariners say Starline's costs would have been around $15-20 per passenger. Fares would have paid $5 and the team would have paid $300,000 or more to defray the rest, Hale said.

Last season, the team got a temporary waiver from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to hire Metro, which charged $3 a ride, while the Mariners paid a $159,000 subsidy, said Hale.

In a letter to fans, the team is encouraging them to contact the FTA and ask to lift the ban.

Hale said that in Boston and Los Angeles, public-transit agencies simply add trips to their normal routes, without billing the ballclubs.

"There's no requirement that we provide any of that special service," said Hale, who said the team has funded Metro service for 10 years.

Starline argues that if Metro were to charge for its full costs, including the buses themselves, the bill would be much higher than what Starline seeks.

"The Mariners want the taxpayer to pay for it," said Gillis.

Generally, rider fares cover one-fifth of Metro operating expenses countywide, and the agency is subsidized mainly by the sales tax.

A couple road projects will also complicate game-day travel.

? Work on new ramps to Interstate 90 will limit traffic to Royal Brougham Way South. However, there will be access to the Qwest Field parking garage.

? Street reconstruction on First Avenue South has reduced the street to one northbound lane and two lanes southbound.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 14, 2009

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