Monday, December 15, 2008

INAUGURATION REALITIES

Washington Post - Even if only half of the projected 2 million to 4 million people show up for next month's presidential inauguration, the Washington region's roadways and transit systems will be too pressed to handle the crush, planners say. . .

People who live near the Arlington Cemetery Metro station, for example, and are planning to take the subway to the swearing-in ceremony might want to think about walking, because trains will be packed. On foot, the three-mile trek from the station to the Reflecting Pool at the Capitol should take about an hour.

And anyone planning to drive in from Virginia might consider a boat: the Roosevelt, Memorial and inbound 14th Street bridges will be restricted to buses and authorized vehicles. Maryland and D.C. officials are also considering bus-only corridors. . .

Widespread street closures will severely restrict driving, parking and taxi availability, and delays are likely to be extensive. City officials are working to designate pedestrian-only streets.

But getting into town might be easier than getting out: If 1 million people try to board the subway at the same time after the main festivities end, it could take more than eight hours to move everyone.

According to reservation data, the biggest travel days for airlines are going to be the Saturday before and the day after the inauguration. For Amtrak and local commuter rail services, the busiest times are expected to be Jan. 19 and 20.

Officials at National and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall airports said they had not made special arrangements for parking and are urging travelers to check the airports' parking hotlines and Web sites for availability.

Thousands of passengers have booked sleeper-car berths on Amtrak trains heading to Washington from Atlanta, New Orleans and Chicago, but some seats were still available as of late last week, spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

Bicycles will not be allowed within the still-to-be determined security cordon, said Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

The most the subway system can carry is about 120,000 people per hour, officials say. And that doesn't factor in the inevitable delays caused by out-of-towners confused about how to use the system. That number also assumes "nobody gets sick, no one jams the door and all the people cooperate," Metro Board Member Peter Benjamin said. "What do you think the odds are for that to happen if we get 4 million people?"

Glitches can be caused by a number of other factors. Metro has just two tracks, like a two-lane highway. When trains are taken out of service, delays can be lengthy. Doors often malfunction because passengers mistakenly think they are like elevator doors and try to hold them open. And if a passenger becomes sick and can't move, emergency personnel must be called and passengers have to get off the train.

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