Long shuttle rides test fans' patience

Congressional Country Club may be a golfer's dream, but it's a commuting nightmare for the more than 45,000 daily visitors to the course this week for the U.S. Open Championship.

On the first day of the highly anticipated tournament, the U.S. Golf Association's transit plan of shuttling most visitors from remote lots in Maryland and Virginia was put to the test as the two-lane roads around Congressional and the distance from public transit tested golf fans' patience.

The system, which shuttles fans at no charge from two lots in Gaithersburg and a third parking lot at Washington Dulles International Airport, barely received a passing grade from attendees who have been to other golf championships. A fourth shuttle costs riders $8 per day and runs from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station, but has sold out its available seats.

"I've been to five Opens, and this is the slowest of them all," said John Bush, of Toronto, as he waited on the shuttle at Grosvenor for 20 minutes Thursday.

Metro to add to frustrations
Metro has scheduled track work on the Red Line this weekend, meaning single-tracking on the three Red Line stations south of Grosvenor-Strathmore, where about 3,500 golf fans a day are using the shuttle service to get to the U.S. Open Championship.
Metro warns riders to add at least 20 minutes to their travel time because of the single-tracking, which will be done Friday night through Sunday night.
The agency is also conducting track work on the Blue and Orange lines.

Bush's comments were echoed all day by other shuttle riders who said they understood why golf tournaments operate satellite lots but the free lots for the Open seemed farther away than is typical.

As it were, advice from seasoned shuttle riders roughly paralleled advice for a long road trip: Avoid traveling during rush hour, use the restroom before you get on the bus, bring a book or other entertainment, and be prepared to wait.

Pat and Ian Serguson and their friend Brian Marion said they tried to hit the shuttle early their first day out but got nailed by traffic on the Capital Beltway just trying to get to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds lot. The trio left the Eastern Shore at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and didn't make it to the golf course until 10 a.m.

"I don't know if I'd come back here again just because of the traffic," Pat Serguson said.

The USGA's website advertises the free shuttles as a 25-minute ride to the golf course. But some riders reported 90-minute shuttle rides during rush hour.

And even with the shuttles, the service doesn't totally take people off the region's strained roads. Friends Chanwadee Rompothoug and Katherine Mowat are staying in a D.C. hotel but drove to the Gaithersburg satellite lot because Rompothoug said reserving the Grosvenor shuttle seemed like a hassle.

Mowat said the 2004 U.S. Open in Long Island provided free shuttles from the rail stop just two miles away on a state route. Grosvenor is a more than seven-mile drive along one of the hairiest parts of the Beltway or along two-lane roads.

"I've been to a lot of tournaments, and this [parking option] seems the farthest away," she said.