By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 25, 2008
About 10,000 charter buses arriving for Inauguration Day will be parked in the District to lessen the burden on the area's roads and transit systems and prevent would-be visitors from being stranded in parking lots far from downtown Washington, officials said yesterday.
The plan marks a U-turn from earlier thinking. Previously, officials wanted to park only half of the buses in the city, including at RFK Stadium and locations south and east of the Mall. Now, officials plan to set aside a huge chunk of downtown south of P Street NW and another area around Union Station to accommodate an additional 5,000 buses, City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said yesterday.
With the exception of some residential areas, all curbside parking will be set aside for buses; streets will be restricted to charter bus, transit bus and official inaugural vehicles, he said. In the downtown area, there are 11 north-south streets between 11th and 21st streets, and almost all blocks of K, L, M, N, O and P streets will be for charter bus parking. In the second area, streets bounded on the east by the Union Station railroad tracks north to Florida and New York avenues NE, west to Sixth Street NW and south to Massachusetts Avenue will be for charter buses. The charter bus restrictions will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 20. Other vehicles parked on the streets after that will be towed.
No buses will be parked in front of residences, Tangherlini said.
Until last week, officials had planned to park about half the buses in the city. An additional 1,200 charter buses will be parked at six designated Metrorail stations in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs: Greenbelt, Morgan Boulevard, Van Dorn Street, Shady Grove, West Falls Church and Vienna. That part of the plan will not change.
But the remaining buses, carrying about 200,000 passengers, were going to be parked at other suburban locations, which were not finalized. The biggest hurdle had been figuring out how to get those passengers from outlying spots to downtown Washington.
"Even if they were near a Metro, they could have overwhelmed the station," Tangherlini said. "If we parked them somewhere else with no direct access to Metro, the amount of shuttling [to downtown] would be Herculean."
So last week, city officials went back to the drawing board.
"It was clear to us that the ideal is to get as many buses as close to events as possible so people could walk off the bus and to the events," he said. The two new areas for charter bus parking are within two miles of the Mall.
Officials estimated that the city will be able to accommodate 10,000 charter buses, which, if stretched from end to end, would circle the Capital Beltway and then stretch to Baltimore.
The D.C. government recently conducted a telephone and Internet survey of charter bus companies east of the Mississippi River, which concluded that about half of their 23,000 vehicles are booked for the inauguration. Estimated number of passengers: 500,000.
The city is directing companies to go to http://bus.dc.gov to reserve parking spots and to apply for the required permit to drive through and park in the District that week.
This week, city officials briefed regional transportation and police officials, business and parking groups, the Maryland and Virginia governors, and military, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security officials on the plan. Tangherlini said the designated parking zones would allow the Secret Service to maintain its routes for motorcades and a sufficient buffer between the security area and the buses.
City personnel will be in charge of managing the parking zones to help passengers find their way to inaugural events, he said. But the city might also ask the National Guard and downtown business district associations for volunteers to help.
Officials are planning to mail brochures about bus parking to the more than 5,000 motor carrier companies within 1,000 miles of Washington and e-mail the information to interested parties that have contacted the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The city also plans to work with the committee to identify religious groups and other organizations that are planning to travel to Washington.