Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will the METRO be chaos on inauguration day?

The METRO might be chaos on inauguration day. It might also not be chaos.

My bet is with some of each, but more not-chaos than chaos. I think all the chaos-hype has scared at least some people away. There's at least some precedent for this sort of thing: when the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago was getting major work a couple of years ago (with long-term lane closures) the hype led to a situation where on the first day of construction the remaining open lanes were actually under-used.

I think the problem spots will be at the downtown stations, and particularly the transfer stations. They are already messy during rush-hours, and that's with people who know where they're going. Union Station is another stop that's already beyond its capacity.

A danger with large crowds of people who don't know where they're going are the escalators and, to a lesser extent, stairs. Metro has said it will be turning off the down escalators and leaving the up ones on. I tend to think that's a decent balance. The danger is that a fair number of people abruptly stop walking within a few feet of the end of the escalator. It's not usually a problem during rush-hour because people know where they are going, and are in a hurry, no less. On inauguration day, it could be an issue.

I think there will be some messy situations here and there. But I think it will mostly work out well enough because the travel will be spread out across so many hours.

UPDATE: I missed this earlier. On Tuesday, Metro announced their plans specifically for how they will deal with the heavy volume in the downtown stations. From 4am to 10:30am, Federal Triangle, Federal Center SW, Farragut West, Capitol South and McPherson Square will all be 'exit only' stations. Many of the other downtown stations will be enterable through just one entrance. I like it.


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