Unlike many of my fellow Houstonians, I'm one of the lucky ones that doesn't battle rush hour gridlock everyday. I'm able to slip in and out of the city without checking a traffic report and never really feel my patience tested. But then there are Dynamo gamedays.
No matter how much I prepare, I usually am scouring the area around BBVA Compass Stadium, looking for a free spot on the curb rather than shelling out $10, $25, $30 for lot parking. And, as has recently been the case, when the Astros have a game scheduled for a simultaneous start, the East End starts to feel a bit like Mad Max.
Those moments, when I sympathize with those that sit in rush hour, may be over. As of May 23rd, METRO has their new Purple and Green rail lines open to the public. These lines both stop right at BBVA Compass Stadium's front door and should provide parking relief to Dynamo fans unsatisfied with the limited parking around the East End.
Thursday's Dynamo Charities match versus Manchester City provides an opportunity to hop on and test out the rail as an alternative transportation to games. For those who maybe have never used the rail but really would like an easier commute to the match, here's a quick breakdown!
This is the current layout of METRORail lines in Houston. Red runs North-South and provides stops in Reliant Park, the Medical Center, Museum District, Midtown, Downtown, and Fifth Ward. Just north of Market Square Park (think Treebeards, La Carafe, and Niko Niko's) is Central Station Main, the new hub of rail transfers. From the CSM stop, you can hop on the new rail lines at either Central Station Capitol (running west into the Theater District) or Central Station Rusk (running east to the stadium and into the East End or Third Ward). Both green and purple lines stop in front of BBVA Compass Stadium (the stop is named EaDo/Stadium) so feel free to board either line. From the central transfer station, it's just a quick two stops to the stadium.
The cost to ride the rail is $1.25 and is good one-way for three hours (transfers included). You can buy the ticket on the platform and won't need to show the ticket upon boarding. That doesn't mean you can skip out on paying the fare, however. METRO PD perform random inspections along the rail and, if you don't have a valid ticket, you may face fines up to $500. Faced with paying as much as $25 for parking in front of the stadium, the $2.50 you'll pay for a round trip makes the rail an attractive alternative.
So that covers how to use the rail to get to the stadium but you still have to figure out where to put your car. It's up to you how far you want to use the rail to travel but keep in mind that in the City of Houston, metered parking is free after 6:00PM on weekdays and all-day Sunday. Sites like Parkopedia can help find parking rates for garages in downtown as well as some streets for metered parking close to or along the rail lines. Since most of the Dynamo's matches are after 6PM, that means you shouldn't have too many issues finding free street parking -- especially if you're willing to walk a few blocks to a rail stop.
- When exiting the rail at BBVA Compass Stadium, consider buying your return ticket to beat the crowd after the game. It's good for three hours so, if you're headed out as soon as the final whistle blows, you can skip the inevitable lines at the pay kiosk.
- If you think you might be using the rail often, consider getting a Q Card. The Q Card is a rechargeable fare card that allows you to tap a sensor on the platform rather than going through the kiosk lines. This is helpful if you're trying to rush to catch a departing train and don't have time to pay using a credit card.
- If you're riding a bike and plan on boarding the rail, you're allowed to do so, provided the bike is not in the way of passengers. When the rail is crowded, METRO may restrict bicycles being brought onboard (though that doesn't stop many from trying).
- Finally, if you're combining using the METRO bus system with rail service, you can use METRO's online trip planning service or Google Transit to figure out the best way to get the stadium.
Other helpful tips can be found on METRO's website along with service hours. With the Dynamo Charities match kicking off at 7:30PM on Thursday evening, fans should have plenty of time to find free parking and try out the new rail lines.
(METRORail graphic courtesy of RideMETRO.com)