As I’ve mentioned over the years, and as recently as last week, I’m a fan of good mass transit. The key word there is “good.”
On Sunday, TW and I decided to add the Mets’ home field, Citi Field, to the list of stadiums where we’ve seen baseball games.* Last year we saw the Pirates in Pittsburgh, where PNC Bank Park has a beautiful view of the city. Earlier this summer we saw the Pirates play the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which is charming in its own right (and near an El station). This weekend the Pirates were playing the Mets, and I had never been to a Mets home game, so we gave it a shot.
For the record, it’s not about the Pirates; we have no strong feelings about them one way or the other. They just keep showing up and losing. (On Sunday, they committed an impressive four errors.) They’re the Harold Stassen of baseball.
We live in Freehold, N.J. The Mets play in Queens, N.Y. New York City has the most developed mass transit in the country. How hard could it possibly be?
Ugh. The game started at 1:40 and was over slightly after 5:00. We left the house shortly after 10:00 and got home around 8:30.
To be fair, much of the day was fun. The weather was great, the Mets won and I had no complaints at all about the grilled Italian sausage and green peppers on a roll, which I think of as one of the official foods of the Jersey Shore. (The other is enormous, glistening slices of floppy pizza—the kind you blot until the napkins turn transparent.) The anthem singer blew the lyrics, but in his defense, it’s a hard song. Before the game started, a bunch of kids took the field at various positions; when the players came out, they met the kids at the respective positions, signed balls for them and chatted a bit. The players were trying to be role models. I thought it was charming.
The whole “role model” thing got a bit more complicated in the bottom of the first, when the Pirates pitcher hit a Met batter and both benches cleared in anticipation of a fight. Nobody punched anybody, luckily. Whether the kids from earlier noticed the field of grown men about to settle an interpersonal dispute through large-group violence, I don’t know. Kudos to the music director who played “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” as the scrum dissipated.
Pro tip: apparently, stadium vendors don’t take cash anymore. It’s all cards. One unofficial bottled-water vendor outside the stadium just had a cardboard sign reading “VENMO.” Even the gray market has gone electronic.
Ah, but the transport …
Getting there from here involved a half hour drive to a train station (Metropark), followed by an N.J. Transit train to Penn Station N.Y.C., followed by a Long Island Railroad train to Citi Field. Coming back involved the same, plus a thirty-minute delay at Penn Station behind a disabled train and another delay at Metropark when someone apparently couldn’t process the idea of prepaying the ticket before getting to the gate.
These delays are roughly equivalent to what many community college students face daily if they rely on mass transit. One day of them was enough to swear me off that stadium indefinitely. We ask students to tolerate that, and be in a good mental space to learn, for months at a time. It’s an unreasonable ask.
The solution can’t be “cars for everything!” Cars are expensive, as is insurance, as is gas. And even for folks who can afford them, traffic and parking can be real issues. And that’s without mentioning pollution, repairs and fender-benders. What we actually need is public transportation that’s worthy of the public. It’s expensive, yes, but so are gridlock and opportunities lost for lack of reasonable transportation.
One day of this kind of transit hopping was enough to turn me against a stadium. Years of this kind of transit hopping are just not fair to ask of anyone. We can do better. As can the Pirates.