D.C. Transportation Tested By Swarm Of Tourists
REBECCA ROBERTS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Rebecca Roberts.
(Soundbite of song "Lean on Me")
Ms. MARY J. BLIGE: (Singing) Lean on me, when you're not strong. I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on...
ROBERTS: And that is Mary J. Blige carrying on today's massive concert on the Mall here in Washington. Despite the huge crowds, it was something of a dry run for the really big show - Tuesday's inauguration and parade. NPR's Laura Sullivan has been monitoring the logistics of handling the millions expected in town on the big day. I talked to her earlier outside the Foggy Bottom Metro Station.
LAURA SULLIVAN: What we have here is a Metro station on the brink of chaos.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SULLIVAN: There are probably a thousand people, if not more, lined up all the way down the street, filling the entire street, just trying to get into the Metro station. And then at every point - at every point down the way and there are three levels going down, they're stopping people and holding people because they simply cannot fit one more body on the Metro platform, one more body in the ticketing area, one more body in the waiting area in between. And so, it's been pretty crazy.
ROBERTS: How has it been working out logistically, so far?
SULLIVAN: So far, this morning, it worked out pretty well. It looked like a heavy rush hour, you know. It was a situation where just tons of people were coming, but it was staggered over about eight hours. And at that point, you know, they've seen about half a million people so far ride the Metro today which is - that's a very, very heavy use for the Metro. And at that point, it was working OK.
The problems started when they would end up in line at the security checkpoint in order to get into the Lincoln Memorial. That took about two hours, and then some people weren't even able to get into the Lincoln Memorial at that point, because it was so full that they had to send people back. So it was at that point that we started seeing a little bit of frustration with people.
And here again, what I'm looking at now at this crowd of people is, you know, some frustration and a little bit of patience waning. I'm looking, you know, at six officers right now barricading the escalator entrance to the Metro. And people who are halfway down the block don't understand why the crowd isn't moving forward. So it's got that sort of, you know, panic sense about it when you've got this many people trying to get into one area.
ROBERTS: And are people starting to get kind of grouchy?
SULLIVAN: I mean - yeah, because it's been a long, cold day. I mean it was this remarkable festive feeling, but now people are tired, and they want to go home, and they're cold and their handwarmers aren't working anymore. And they don't understand why they can't get into the warm Metro where, you know, where a thousand other people are standing (laughing). It looks like, you know, when the trains come, the problem is that the trains are full, and so, the people on the station platform, there isn't anywhere for them to go. So, I think that that's sort of what's backing all of this up here.
ROBERTS: Now, this concert today has been billed as kind of a prelude, a dress rehearsal to the big event. What do you suppose this means for Tuesday?
SULLIVAN: This is a problem. If this is what's going to happen after the concert at one Metro station, and they're expecting even more people for the inauguration, they're going to have some serious Metro problems on Tuesday. They're also going to have some serious problems with their checkpoints. I've seen the Fourth of July a number of times here in D.C. It runs pretty smoothly. They can get a lot - hundreds of thousands of people onto the Mall with their bags checked.
Today, for some reason, it was simply more people than they could handle, and they just couldn't get the people moving through the line fast enough. They're going to have even more people and security checkpoints along the entire parade route. Hopefully, people will know that they can come in the back side without having to go through security. If people are aware of that, it might ease it up, if not, they're going to be looking at a lot of what I'm looking at right now.
ROBERTS: NPR's Laura Sullivan standing outside the fabulously named Foggy Bottom Metro Station, just off the Mall in Washington. Thank you, Laura.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.
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