WASHINGTON – Long lines on Metro platforms, crowded trains, no parking spaces and major backups on interstates near end-of-the-line stations. That is a bad memory for thousands of people who went to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Now with another inauguration just weeks away, Metro is using lessons learned from four years ago to prepare for the president’s second inauguration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors heard during a presentation Thursday.
Lesson Learned No. 1: Drivers will pay on the way out of Metro’s commuter parking garages, not on the way in. Four years ago, traffic backed up along local access roads and nearby highways as drivers waited to pay and enter the garage.
Metro will also post signs further out on highways warning that parking garages are full.
About 800,000 people are expected to attend the Jan. 21 ceremony, about half as many as the 1.5 million revelers who attended President Obama’s historic inauguration in 2009. Organizers are planning for a maximum crowd of 1 million well-wishers.
Metro will begin service that day at 4 a.m. and continue operating until 2 a.m. on Jan. 22.
Metro also plans to position more staff on train platforms to help direct the flow of people and will bring in 200 police officers from neighboring suburbs to supplement the Metro Transit police.
The perimeter around the Capitol, where the president will be sworn in, is large. Two Metro stations, Smithsonian and Archives-Navy Memorial, will be closed within that perimeter. And with many streets in the area blocked to traffic, many other stations will be accessible only on foot.
Lynn Bowersox, who gave a presentation to the WMATA board, says tour buses will be prohibited from discharging or picking up passengers at all Metro stations. Buses will instead be directed to the parking lots at RFK Stadium, where the buses can park all day and passengers can catch the Metro at Stadium-Armory.
The transit agency is advising customers to buy SmarTrip cards in advance. Two commemorative cards are now sale. One commemorates this inauguration, and one is left over from 2009. You can find out more here.