Ticket info blamed for some Metro crowding

Metro officials said  one reason stations like Federal Center SW become so overcrowded with riders was because of a move by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, The Post’s Dana Hedgpeth reports.

Transit officials said the inaugural committee printed the names of four Metro stations on 250,000 tickets — Union Station, Federal Center SW, Capitol South, Judiciary Square — as stops that were close to particular seating areas.

Roughly 105,000 inaugural tickets, for example, had Federal Center SW printed as being the station closest to a particular assigned seating area.

But not all of those stations could handle an onslaught of people and it contridicted advice Metro had given to use all stations and be prepared to walk.

At Federal Center SW it became extremely crowded as riders tried to get out around 9 a.m.

Crowds of riders tried to get through faregates that typically have no more than 15,000 riders coming through on a rush hour week day.
For the most part, people were orderly and polite as they were packed elbow to elbow.

The fare gates were opened to allow passengers to get through faster but there were heavy crowds all the way to  the platform.
“This is nothing compared to four years ago,” said Lakay Wilkerson, 54 of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Four years ago she said she waited two hours to get on a train at New Carrolton at 4 am because the platform was so crowded with people. On Monday she walked right on at New Carrolton at 8:30 am.
“This isn’t bad,” she said, even as she waited in a crush of people inching to the fare gate exit.

As of 10 a.m., Metro said 266,000 riders had entered its rail system. That compared to 473,000 riders who had entered at the same time in 2009 inauguration.

In the morning crush, Metro Transit Officer Tracie Anderson was the voice of authority on the overflowing platform at Federal Center, The Post’s Lyndsey Layton observed.

“Do not cut the line! All the way down! All the way down!”she instructed the masses, and they obey.

Of more than a dozen Metro workers and transit police who are trying to impose order on what could easily devolve into chaos, Anderson was the loudest, strongest figure.

Her voice cut above the din of the crowd and the rumble of the trains.

She started her shift at the station at 4;30 a.m and it began to get nutty around 6:30 am, she said. She barked out directions to a new crop of passengers every 30 seconds or so.
“Please do not cut the line, stay in one line!”she yelled.

Anderson, who has worked as a transit officer for 12 years, does not know how many hours of this cajoling and corralling lie ahead.

“Until relieved,” she said, repeating her marching orders.

An earlier bottleneck, which was causing delays for elderly and disabled shuttle passengers headed from RFK toward downtown, has cleared, according to District Department of Transportation officials.
There are currently no waits for shuttles and officials are allowing anyone to board, including those who aren’t elderly or disabled, The Post’s Emma Brown reports.

DDOT prepared for inaugural bikers in a big way, constructing a bike “parking lot” with room for 700 and adding two corrals for Capital Bikeshare bikes north and south of the Mall.

But as of 10 a.m., the bike parking lot is almost empty.

“Um, #BikeDC, where are you?” DDOT tweeted. “Only 65-70 bikes at the lot so far.”

The empty lot is something of a disappointment to DDOT, which has invested heavily in bike infrastructure and trumpeted the inauguration as a chance to show it off.

A few bikers braved the cold and beat the crowds, cycling in from
Arlington for the inaugural events.

Sally Baird, 48, Sharon Mckew, 54, and Ryan Foster-Baird, 12, faced
the half hour ride this morning. They said not too many bikers were on
the streets, and it was much less crowded than the Metro.

Baird said they have tickets to watch the inauguration from near the
Capitol Building, but won’t stick around too long after.

People told them if you bike in, you can usually get out much quicker,
she said.

Baird-Foster had a ski hat and mask covering his face and said the
bike ride was very cold, but definitely worth it.

The parking areas at both the Greenbelt and Vienna South Metro stations filled up shortly after 9 a.m., WMATA reported. Seven stations’ parking facilities are now full: Greenbelt, Vienna South, Rhode Island Ave., Fort Totten, Van Dorn St., Franconia-Springfield and East Falls Church.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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Ashley Halsey III | January 21, 2013