Friday, December 26, 2008

Two million guests are expected. Some advice: Show up early to the Inauguration.

Here is a guide to navigating the Inauguration Day crowds:

Getting Around. To get everyone to the 11:30 a.m. ceremony on time, Washington's Metro subway system is urging attendees to head out as early as 4 a.m., when trains start running. Planners for the aging system predict they can move 960,000 people to inaugural sites by noon, when Mr. Obama takes the oath of office -- but only if 120,000 people ride before 5 a.m.

Barring mechanical delays or medical emergencies, Metro is predicting a one-hour wait just to get into some stations, followed by another wait for a train, during peak travel hours. Even one jammed door can have "a tremendous ripple effect," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. Metro officials advise those starting out for inaugural sites from within a two-mile radius to walk.

Washington's transportation department says that so far it has found parking for only half the tour buses that have permits to enter the city for the four-day inaugural weekend. It's asking Maryland and Virginia to find space for the rest. In all, it expects some 10,000 tour buses -- 10 times the number that arrive each day at the height of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Secret Service will close roads around the Capitol and the parade route (it won't announce which ones for a few more weeks). Some will be open only for buses, pedestrians or emergency vehicles. Virginia is closing three bridges to cars. Not that there will be anyplace to park. Most of Washington's 160,000 metered and garage spaces won't be accessible.

The Ceremony. Workers are building a giant podium with 1,600 seats on the west front of the Capitol, with seating for former U.S. presidents, the Obama and Biden families and members of the House, Senate, Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs of Staff, diplomatic corps and new cabinet. Almost everyone else can expect a long wait and sore feet. A quarter-million people, including many who swamped their congressional representatives with requests, will score tickets to watch from the Capitol's west lawn. There are 30,000 tickets for seats below the podium; the rest of the tickets are for standing-room sections (with big-screen television sets) as far as four blocks away. Come early: Ticket holders who arrive after 11:30 a.m. won't be let in.

The Parade. You won't need a ticket to stand along 70% of the 1½-mile parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Secret Service expects parade-watchers to begin lining up at security entrances soon after the Metro starts running. Abandon hopes of bringing lawn chairs, coffee thermoses or picnic baskets, though. The Secret Service won't let them onto the Capitol grounds or the parade route.

How about watching from the comfort of a Pennsylvania Avenue hotel room? Forget about it. The Willard Hotel, where Abraham Lincoln lunched after his 1865 inauguration, says most rooms with a parade view sold out soon after the 2004 inaugural. The Newseum, with giant windows overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, says it has sold out of Jan. 20 admission tickets and expects hundreds more museum members to pile in. But unless they camp out early by a window with a view, most visitors will probably end up watching on the museum's big-screen TV.

The Mall. The day's biggest crowd is expected at the National Mall. If that many show up, the crowd will be bigger than the crowds at previous landmark Mall gatherings: Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I have a dream" speech drew an estimated 250,000, and the 1969 Vietnam War protest drew 500,000. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association plans to offer valet bike-parking at three sites around the Mall.

Food will be available from six Mall kiosks and from hundreds of licensed souvenir and snack vendors in the surrounding area. The Smithsonian museums lining the Mall -- including restaurants, restrooms and gift shops -- will be open, but security people will close the doors when a museum reaches capacity, letting in 10 people at a time as groups of 10 leave.

The Inaugural Committee hasn't announced how it will deal with the needs at the Mall for portable toilets. For one million people, the Portable Sanitation Association International recommends 12,510 porta-potties -- which by themselves would occupy 4.6 acres.

The Mall will be open all night, and chairs, picnic baskets and umbrellas will be allowed. (The expected degree range is from the high-20s to mid-40s.) But Mr. Line urges revelers to carry as little as possible and dress in layers of clothing that can be doffed as the day warms up; "Do not wear open-toed shoes to this event," he says.

Whole Article Here. 

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