Thoughts on the Inaugural Upon Encountering Kaput Escalators

There must be some sort of grand behavior modification/revenue enhancement experiment going on here in Washington, D.C. in preparation for next month’s inaugural events. See, the theory is if you can drive enough local residents out of the city by the third week of January, more people from elsewhere can travel here and spend money much more liberally.

How else to explain the growing multitude of out-of-service escalators in the Metro? Arriving at the Van Ness/UDC Metro earlier than normal Wednesday morning, all the main escalators up-and-down were kaput. This morning at Cleveland Park, no functioning down escalators to the station proper. It’s been getting worse for weeks, now.

Normally you just shrug your shoulders and chalk the deescalation up to urban decrepitude and incompetence and the failure of the federal government to provide the billions of dollars the system needs, a new Manhattan Project of infrastructure investment (except it would be D.C., not Manhattan).

But we spot other indications of efforts to shape the behavior of the autochthonous public…

  • Washington Post, “Inaugural Nudge: Leave the Little Guys at Home“: “Officials are banning all strollers and backpacks and make a point of saying on their Web site that ‘there are no childcare facilities provided to attendees.’ If that hint isn’t enough, they suggest that ‘extra consideration’ be taken by those planning to bring children, noting that “a vast majority of attendees will be in standing room sections and should be prepared to be on their feet for several hours.”
  • Washington Post, “Inauguration-Bound? Just Walk, Metro Says.”: “Here’s the latest from Metro on attending the inauguration festivities for President-elect Barack Obama: If you live or are staying within two miles of the Capitol, walk. “
  • Washington Post, “Metro Officials Expect 10,000 Charter Buses“: “Metro officials said they are expecting 10,000 charter buses, carrying an estimated 500,000 people, to arrive in the Washington area for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. But the transit agency will only be able to handle parking for about one-third of the charter buses. The remaining buses will have to be routed to parking lots throughout the region, and those passengers will have to be ferried downtown by shuttle bus or will have to walk.”

Who’s reading these accounts? Folks in Philadelphia, Peoria, Petaluma? Well, maybe — and the Post’s Inauguration Watch site is good — but it’s more likely the news about the inaugural is being consumed  by Washington metro residents, whose dread has to be growing. Picture it: a week of disruption, like Rolling Thunder with ball gowns and charter buses and visiting relatives and  bars open 24 hours. In comparison, a bunch of guys on Harleys is no big deal.

We’ll resist the metropolitan manipulation and stick around. Inaugurations are history, and President Obama’s official taking office has more historic oomph than others. The NAM is also sponsoring a Gala Celebration, a good reason to stay in town.

And if the warnings, cautions and columns of advice seem scary in sum, consider them just sincere efforts by the locals to make the inauguration experience as pleasant as possible.

Except how do you explain the escalators?

Leave a Reply