I’ve been told that I should tell everyone a thing or two about logistical nightmare that is the upcoming Inauguration, from a local point of view. Am I going? The jury is still out. Here are some of the things I’ve heard…
First of all, let’s talk about traffic. Sometimes when I drive to school it takes me 45 minutes to go 12.5 miles, with sort of bad traffic and decent weather conditions in regular rush hour, with all bridges and roads open and the typical amount of people coming in and out of the District. On a good day with optimal conditions it takes me a half hour.
Now let’s fast-forward to January 20. They’re closing ALL bridges going into DC from Virginia to all traffic except buses and public transportation. Lots of taxi drivers aren’t even going to bother working that day, and I don’t blame ‘em. They estimate that if you line up all the incoming tour buses end-to-end, they would be able to circle the Beltway, and then go on to Baltimore. That’s 109 miles. Where will they put all those? The biggest parking lot in DC, the Nats Stadium, fits 6,000 buses. They’re planning on 10,000.
Okay, so what about the metro? If you get to the metro by 6:00am, you probably won’t make it to the 12:00 Inauguration. It’s suggested that you try 4:00 or 5:00. Typically, metro cars hold 140 people, or 160 with relative discomfort. For this day, they’ll probably be cramming in 300. This is in the DC winter, where everyone will be bundled up and may have umbrellas and all the extras. It brings images of Japanese trains to mind. I hope no one is claustrophobic. Can you imagine if someone passed out? Would anyone even notice?
There are estimated to be four million people coming. The most we’ve ever fit onto the National Mall before is one million on July 4, 1976. There was a six-hour gridlock when everyone left. And that’s in the summer, with no bad weather conditions! (Granted, at that time, the metro was about 4 months old.) Now multiply the worst case by four, and put it in the dead of winter. What if there’s black ice all over the roads? I’ve done a more “regular” July 4 when there were closer to 300,000 people. They know what they’re doing to get everyone out – they implement an emergency exit traffic pattern that is really quite ingenious. All roads turn into one-way roads that take you straight out of town. Still takes awhile.
Speaking of the weather. Remember, it’s January, and this takes place outside. Average temperature for this day is 37° F at noon, but everyone will be standing around long before that time. And after. This is not dry Idaho temperature, it’s humid DC temperature, which feels like a lot less than 37°. What if it snows? Or, the more likely result in 37° weather, what if it sleets? If you are watching from the ticket holder section, you can’t even bring an umbrella into the security area. And by the way, the only restrooms are porta-potties (for four million people), and there are definitely no refreshment stands. So bring your own food…just make sure it’s not in a backpack or big bag. They’re not allowed. Oh, and leave the kids at home if they can’t walk, because the stroller’s got to stay behind, too.
They’re bringing in police forces from DC, VA, MD, and PA for traffic and crowd control. And you know the security’s got to be higher on this one than it has ever been before. How is this all getting paid for? They’ve appropriated $15 million for this thing. Four years ago, with a crowd of 300,000, it was $17.5 million. Huh.
A masochistic part of me wants to be there, just to see the mayhem. If I've got nothing to do that day (and it's not raining) I think I might walk over...I mean, I live only 9 miles from the epicenter, and it is a pretty significant historical event. Shouldn't I take advantage?