Navigating Washington During the Inauguration

Monday, December 15, 2008

Washington area officials estimate that 2 million to 4 million people will try to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20. Information about getting to Washington and getting around:

AIRLINES: Tickets were still available as of late last week.

US Airways is adding 27 flights into the area's three main airports Jan. 17 and 18 and 16 departing flights Jan. 20 and 21.

Southwest has added 26 flights to Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall airports.

United is adding nine flights and flying larger planes for 35 flights.

AIRPORT PARKING: Allow extra time. Reagan National Airport travelers can check live parking conditions at

BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said he doesn't expect many inaugural visitors to use regular airport parking lots, because the BWI rail station has 3,200 spots.

ROADS: Roads will be closed Jan. 20 within a still-to-be-determined security cordon near the Mall and the Capitol. Bridges across the Potomac River and certain major roads into downtown Washington will be restricted to buses and authorized vehicles.

PARKING: Meter fees and parking regulations in Washington will be suspended for the day. Garages outside the security boundary can open at their owners' discretion; those inside will be closed.

TAXIS: It is unclear how many or where cabs will be available until security officials disclose how much of downtown will be blocked off.

AMTRAK: Amtrak is adding service between Boston and Washington based on reservations. Some cars with sleeping berths were nearly sold out.

METRO: Metrorail will operate rush-hour service for 15 hours Jan. 20 (4 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and will stay open for an extra two hours (until 2 a.m.). It will also offer free parking at its lots. Capacity is 120,000 people an hour, in the best-case scenario. Officials urge riders to spread out their trips, especially after the main events, by going to restaurants, movies or museums. Riders are also encouraged to pay fares in advance, such as by using the commemorative Farecard. For information, visit

Metro officials say that people who live or are staying within two miles of the Mall should walk. That includes an area bordered roughly by the Metro stations of Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, Navy Yard, Stadium-Armory and Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood.

COMMUTER RAIL AND BUS: MARC and Virginia Railway Express commuter rail and Maryland commuter buses plan to run special service Jan. 20. Together, they will be able to carry about 50,000 people that day. The trains will arrive at Union Station; the commuter buses will travel from park-and-ride spots to Metro stations on the region's fringe.

MARC and VRE tickets for the day must be bought in advance. Bus fares can be bought Inauguration Day.

VRE tickets go on sale Tuesday; forms can be found at

MARC tickets will be sold between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at the Camden and Monocacy MARC stations; only cash will be accepted. Riders can also visit or call 703-228-7433.

CHARTER BUSES: About 10,000 charter buses are expected in the Washington area. Washington has found parking for 5,000 and is working out how to get people to and from events. For information about charter bus permits, visit Charter bus companies can register for parking at

About 4,700 buses will probably park at Metrorail-accessible locations, including RFK Stadium and Metrorail parking lots.

BICYCLES: Bicycles will not be allowed within the security cordon. Bicycle valet parking might be set up in areas just outside the cordon. Metro officials have not decided whether to allow bikes on trains.

-- Lena H. Sun and Eric M. Weiss

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