Metrorail Will Open at 4 to Help Early Birds Get the Bargains

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Metro will start running trains an hour earlier tomorrow -- at 4 a.m. -- to accommodate early shoppers looking for Black Friday bargains on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

The announcement came as the Washington region experienced a smooth getaway yesterday, with travelers heading into and out of the area for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Travelers and transportation officials described a busy but orderly day on highways, in airport terminals and on the rails.

"It's busy but not crowded," Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the authority that runs Dulles International and Reagan National airports, said yesterday afternoon. "The weather is cooperating."

"Looks like we're making out okay so far," said Chuck Gischler of the Maryland State Highway Administration, which scheduled extra safety patrols and suspended all planned lane closures.

Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said only slight delays were reported.

But tomorrow, the traffic will turn toward malls and shopping centers. Metrorail is helping shoppers get to the stores before they open and all the specials are sold out. For the first time, the Metro system will begin service at 4 a.m. to help shoppers get to stores that open before dawn.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is also on the Metro board, said the District would pay an extra $27,000 to open the system an hour earlier.

Best Buy in Columbia Heights, in Graham's ward, will open at 5 a.m. tomorrow instead of the normal 9. A nearby Target nearby will open at 6 a.m. instead of 8.

"This is the first Black Friday since this neighborhood shopping center opened in March," Graham said in a statement. "We are happy to offer a unique holiday shopping option inside the District."

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the system frequently opens early for special events, such as marathons and marches. On Saturday, the system opened early to accommodate a march for the homeless. But Taubenkibel said he could not recall a time when the system was opened earlier for shopping.

Metro officials said that because many workers are taking the day off tomorrow, parking spaces at Metro lots and garages should be plentiful.

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