Sunday, May 3, 2009

On the bus to Belmont (and no one apparently likes to go the the racetrack anymore)

As I've mentioned, the MTA eliminated train service to Belmont Park race track. (You can take a shuttle bus now courtesy of the New York Racing Association.) Yesterday, the Times paid a visit to the park to see what was what as fans watched live races and the Kentucky Derby simulcast.

Here are a few passages:

For more than a century, the Belmont Special carried throngs of thoroughbred lovers, inveterate gamblers and people who just craved a festive day in the Belmont Park grandstand to the doorstep at one of the grand palaces of American horse racing.


The Belmont Special has been losing ridership for years — a sign of a sharp decline in racing attendance across the nation. Railroad officials say that made it a logical choice to cut. “We’re talking about 100 customers a day, on average,” said Joe Calderone, a railroad spokesman.


On weekdays, the train carried 30 to 35 people last year; so far this spring, the shuttle has carried 7 to 9 passengers a day, Mr. Cook said.

It is a far cry from when train service to Belmont began, on May 4, 1905, the day the park opened. Forty thousand people journeyed to see the inaugural running at the track, most traveling by train in a “pall of soft-coal smoke,” The New York Times said, adding that “when the trains were full the throng had to stand wherever it was when the gates closed until fresh trains could be run in.”

and some logic...

Racing association officials, who lobbied against the elimination of direct train service, estimate that the park will lose more than $5 million this year because of the cut, while the authority says it will save about $112,000.

[Photo: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times]

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