Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park gains momentum with first five area locations

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park appears to be here to stay.

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park - LogoSince we first wrote about the venture, which aims to give suburban Nats fans a new transportation alternative, the fledgling company has established pricing, lined up its first five official Ballpark Bus Stations, and begun taking reservations at www.BallparkBus.com with ticket prices as low as $15/game.

“The response we’ve received from Nats fans has been excellent,” said co-founder Brian Bowman. “As baseball season creeps closer and closer, we expect our reach to expand exponentially.”

BallPark Bus to Nationals Park - Official Station

Participating restaurants are pitching in to market the service in the hopes of becoming suburban hubs for Nationals fans

Initial demand was strongest in suburban Virginia, where all five of the first Ballpark Bus Stations are located. They include Clyde’s restaurant in Ashburn, The Greene Turtle in Ballston, Velocity Five in Centreville, Glory Days Grill in Reston/Herndon, and The Greene Turtle in Sterling.

“A lot of folks in Maryland are asking when they’re getting a station, particularly along I-270,” added Bowman. “They can rest assured that we are looking at several potential locations.”

How it works

The Ballpark Bus system is modeled after regional bus models, where discounts are provided for booking early and routes are added based on meeting a minimum level of demand.

Reservations for each series will open three weeks prior to the first game, and those booking in the first three days of availability get a discounted price. Riders can sign up for email alerts to get notified when discount tickets go on sale for future series.

What if they don’t hit the minimum number of riders? Bowman says if they are unable to reach the minimum, they will notify all reservations via e-mail “several days before your game.” No payments are processed until the bus is confirmed. When a bus is confirmed, tickets are sent via email and remaining seats are sold up until game day.

Bowman says participating restaurants are playing a big part in getting the word out, as they try to establish themselves as suburban hubs for Nationals fans. At least one, the Greene Turtle in Sterling, is offering 20% off food purchases when you show your Ballpark Bus ticket.

Expect the Ballpark Bus team to try to inject a little fun for riders as well, such as a free Ryan Zimmerman autographed baseball for one lucky rider to the Nats home opener. “We’ll be doing fun stuff like that all year,” says Bowman, “Guess how many strikeouts Strasburg will have on the way to the game, and we’ll reward gift cards and other prizes to the winners on the way back home.”

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park gives suburban Nats fans a new transportation alternative

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park - LogoBrian Bowman was a Nationals fan with a problem.

A Nats fan “since the beginning,” Bowman, 33, never bought season tickets because his family lives in Ashburn, Virginia, and could only take so many taxing rush hour drives through suburban traffic to reach Nationals Park. “I’m not near the Metro,” Bowman says, “and the drive can be hard.”

This season, he’s teaming with two friends to do something about it.

The three Virginia natives have joined to launch Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park, a service that shuttles fans en mass from restaurant parking lots in suburban Maryland and Virginia to Nationals Park and back.

“We want to turn something mundane like getting to the game into something relaxing and fun,” said Bowman. “The Ballpark Bus adds to the total fan experience.”

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park Website ballparkbus.comThe service will start taking reservations at BallparkBus.com in March, well in advance of the Nationals April 12 home opener. Until then, the website points to their new Facebook page, where they are asking for feedback to determine which locations have the most demand.

The service will rely on the web and social networks to schedule fan buses based on need. “It’s a new concept of mass transit on demand,” says Bowman.

Fans can request a free reservation to any game from the participating restaurant that’s closest to them. Once a request has been made, “social tools” help fans recruit additional passengers from their own social networks and on the website. When enough reservations are made, the location is officially added to the ticketing schedule, with those early reservations receiving a discounted seat price.

Ballpark Bus will drop fans off just outside the first base entrance to Nationals Park at Potomac Avenue on the Anacostia River, which should add to the appeal compared to remote parking or Metro.

In addition to the Facebook page, Ballpark bus has posted a video showing how it works:

Bowman, who is an Art Director at a local agency, plans to add some “fun promotions” for bus passengers, but isn’t pitching Ballpark Bus as a party bus. The team is still working out whether alcohol will be allowed.

Pricing has not been published, but “will be competitive with other forms of transport to the park such as Metro and parking,” said Bowman. “A top priority for us is to keep the price down so its family friendly.”

Bowman is hoping the service can help grow the ranks of Nationals fans from locations as disparate as Loudon, Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Prince William and Anne Arundel counties, adding “We want to get information from the riders and build it around what they want.”

As of this morning, the site’s Facebook survey showed an early preference for locations along I-66 (Tysons, Fairfax, Centerville, Manassas), followed by the Dulles Toll Road (Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn), I-270 (Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown), and I-95 South (Springfield, Lorton, Woodbridge).

Photos courtesy Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park

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