Monday, December 15, 2008

Washington Metro’s Answer to Inauguration Crowds: The Schleppin Plan

Expected Inauguration Day turnout will vastly exceed Metro’s capabilities, forcing hundreds of thousands of visitors to walk to and from the noon swearing-in ceremony and the afternoon parade.

Area transportation experts told the Washington Post that even half the expected two to four million attendees will swamp a transit system designed to move 120,000 people per hour.

Coupled with massive street closures in the heart of the city and an estimated 10,000 charter buses expected Inauguration Day, the transportation infrastructure of the greater Washington area will be strained to the brink.

Southwest, United Airlines and US Airways have all added flights into the three airports serving DC, but in the case of National and Dulles airports, arriving passengers will be bottled-necked crossing the Potomac.

Passengers arriving at Dulles lack a rail link into the city and their schedules will be at the mercy of northbound traffic trying to navigate the five bridges connecting DC to Virginia.

National Airport is linked to the city by Metro and is much closer to Washington and the outlying cities of Arlington and Alexandria where tens of thousands of visitors are likely to stay. But with Metro ridership expected to exceed capacity, passengers should remember to pack their senses of humor.

Arriving into the city from Maryland’s BWI could prove easier. Maryland’s MARC commuter train, which serves BWI, will run on Inauguration Day, but southbound traffic on the I-95 corridor likely will be punishing. Amtrak, which also serves BWI, has added additional trains into Union Station.

East Coast visitors still looking for tickets to Washington might consider taking the train. With Metro and vehicle traffic likely to be paralyzed, Amtrak’s service to Union Station could be the most convenient way in and out of downtown Washington.

At the northern foot of Capitol Hill, Union Station is a short walk to the National Mall. On January 20, it looks like walking is going to be the transport of choice for visitors and residents alike.

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