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MLB Playoffs 2017: How to avoid the traffic crush at Dodger Stadium

And, some tips on good local food choices before you go to the game.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please welcome Brian Hennessy, better known as BCBer The4Star, who lives in the Los Angeles area and has some useful tips on transportation for any of you who are heading to Dodger Stadium for the NLCS.

I'm here to provide a bit of guidance in getting into and out of Dodger Stadium via the Dodger Express Shuttle. Dodger Stadium is somewhat isolated from the city at large, and is in a place called Chavez Ravine. It's surrounded by freeways and a neighborhood, but do not think of Wrigleyville when I say neighborhood. We're talking a solid 10-minute walk up a hill at best from the area known as East Hollywood, if you choose to park in that neighborhood — something I wouldn't advise on game day — and then you can only come up on the third-base side of the stadium. If you are in the right field bleachers or deep along the right field foul line, tack on even more time. It is just not a fun walk, believe me.

Parking directly at Dodger Stadium is $20 general admission or $50.00 preferred parking for the NLCS. Preferred means two things: you get to park closer to the stadium, but because you're closer to the stadium you can get buried in the crush to exit. That can be extremely frustrating. I've heard horror stories of up to an hour just to get back on the freeway and have experienced times close to that myself. My honest suggestion is to get downtown via the subway and use the shuttle back and forth from there.

L.A. has a reputation as not being public-transit friendly, but there are actually some good public transportation options to get to Dodger Stadium, and here’s how to use them.

The Dodger Express Shuttle runs out of Union Station, which is located downtown. It generally takes 15-20 minutes from departure to arrival at the stadium and is free to ride if you have a game ticket. To be honest, they usually don't check for tickets, but I'd be sure to have proof handy just in case they do for the playoff games. You are dropped off behind the outfield bleachers and the pickup point for departure back to Union Station is behind the right field foul pole. The line might look long when leaving, but they turn out a ton of buses for departures and they load them fast. On the way out, the buses are usually accessing a dedicated lane, which can get you back to Union Station rather quickly as well.

One thing you are going to have to do, regardless of where you're staying is to visit the Metro’s map/timetable page and locate the closest spot for you find the most convenient place to enter the transit system. An important feature of the L.A. Metro is that they use what are called “tap cards.” These are credit card sized pieces of plastic that carry your stored payment. When going through the turnstiles or getting on a bus you “tap” the cards on a receiver and your fare is taken off the card. To find a place to acquire a card that is NOT at a train stop (they are located at every subway stop in L.A.) click here.

Two things about tap cards that are somewhat problematic: first, they add $1.00 to the cost of your fare when purchased (but can be reloaded without that charge) and second, you can only purchase one at a time (don't ask me why, it drives me nuts!). So if you are with a group you need to make one separate purchase per person after waiting in line. Keep that in mind if you are estimating how long your trip might take.

If you're a visitor to L.A., I recommend keeping things simple — just buy the tap card and purchase a Day Pass. That costs $7 and allows you all day access to any subway train OR bus. That is very important because it gives you the freedom to enter and exit the system all day without having to stand in line and pay each time. Also, if you somehow make a mistake and don’t tap your card, you shouldn’t get in trouble if they check to see if you paid a fare, and the police are out and checking at any number of stops every day.

Getting to Union Station from points around the city is as easy as getting on a subway line. If you are staying in the Pasadena area, that would be the Gold Line; Universal City would be the Red Line; midtown the Purple Line and if you are by Culver City/Santa Monica/Venice it would be the Expo Line. There are train stops as far south as Long Beach, but I'd recommend driving north to the Expo Line and taking the train from there. Long Beach is close to a two-hour ride into Union Station otherwise.

The plan is simple: get to Union Station taking a subway train, use the shuttle back and forth to Dodger Stadium and take the same train back to your end point that took you to Union Station.

The train stations have recently begun charging $3.00 for 24 hours of parking. You need to know your license plate number upon purchase because this is how they monitor payments — you are not given a ticket to put on your dash. The pay stations look like this:

And your interface is this:

If you are visiting from out of town, don’t worry about not having a tap card when paying for parking. It’s a convenience for those of us who live here: it assigns my license plate number to the card I keep refilling so I don’t need to re enter it every time. Visitors should just hit “no” on this screen, enter the license plate number of your rental car and then pay. Just be sure to write your license plate number down accurately!

Once at Union Station (via the Red or Purple Line) you want to take the stairs marked “Exit to Alameda St/Gold Line...” which will save you a bit of walking:

There are two sets of stairs up, and taking the other one means you need to circle back through the entire station and adds 100 yards to your walk. At the top of the escalator start looking for signs like this:

I was there Friday and they look to be setting up the buses on the west side of the building. I was hoping they would have the queues set up, but no luck. However, this is the general area where you’ll end up boarding:

One thing I do recommend is eating prior to getting to the game. Yes, there is interesting food at Dodger Stadium, but the prices really aren't worth it in my opinion. Beer, for instance, can run $12.00-$15.00. I say eat and drink up prior to getting there and then have a classic Dodger Dog there with a beer, if that. After living here for over 20 years that is now my go-to plan. Reason being is that despite the food choices in the stadium you can find much better fare on the way in, and it will be more reasonably priced in most cases. And if you are visiting L.A., you should try the real local food.

I always come in from the Red Line, and on that one (this also applies to the Purple Line) you have at least four solid options for getting food: you can exit Westlake/MacArthur Park and two blocks from that stop is a deli called Langers. You go there for one reason only: order the #19 Pastrami sandwich which is ranked as the best pastrami sandwich in the country on a ton of lists (sorry, New York). The only catch is they close at 4 pm each day. This is your classic three-inch-thick pastrami on rye bread that is out of this world. It feeds two people easily, and is a $15.00 sandwich. One stop further is 7th/Metro and you can enjoy a bevy of bars and pubs within a few blocks radius from there. One stop past that one is Pershing Square which is a few blocks from the Grand Central Market. That’s basically a semi-upscale food court with Mexican, Italian and Asian cuisine, as well as a few bars. It has something for everybody. Finally, you can go straight into Union Station and Lyft (or walk 8-10 minutes) over to Philippe’s French Dip, which I HIGHLY recommend. If you go there ALWAYS order your sandwich double dipped – they don't provide a cup of au jus. That’s the Local Tip. My Pro Tip is get a double dipped lamb with blue cheese. You're welcome.

Two final notes: first, when leaving Union Station, the Red and Purple lines follow the same tracks and leave from the same platform. If it is loud there, you might not be able to hear the intercom well and can easily get on the wrong train. Despite their color designations, they look nearly identical except for a stripe and small marquee that is on every other car:

My final tip is if you get to the stadium via other means, you can always get on the buses back to Union Station, buy your tap card and get on the subway from there. That’s handy if you want to see the neighborhood close to the stadium and are staying close to a subway stop for your return. If you want to go to the Short Stop for instance, which is near the base of the hill I don’t recommend walking up. I’ve taken a bus there, hung out with the baseball crowd (they open two hours prior to first pitch on game days) and then taken a Lyft into the stadium, and the shuttle bus out.

So the long story short is this: take the time you would spend sitting in your car getting in and out of the stadium and turn it into a small adventure on your way to visit the third-oldest park in Major League Baseball. You won’t regret it, and it will give you a better taste of L.A. than you would otherwise get. The first time I used the buses I was back home 45 minutes after the game ended, and I know there were folks still in the parking lot waiting to get on the freeway. I live close to a subway stop but still, you don’t want to do that. Just be sure to check how late the trains run each night, they do vary at times, and do run less frequently after 8 p.m.

I hope you have a great time visiting, and I hope you see a Cubs win!