Inauguration ’09: The Bridge and Tunnel People

From today’s front page, Washington Post, “Virginians See Bridge Closings As Dose of Northern Hospitality“:

“First was the hysteria of announcing over 4 million people might be flooding the Mall. Later, they amend that number by half. Then they announce there will be no parking, few toilets and that everyone will be standing and waiting for hours. Then they tell people not to bring children and, finally, they close all the bridges,” fumed Virginian Holly Kenney. “Do they think we’re dense? Clearly, the public is no longer welcome.”

But to some business and political leaders in the region, the plan represents more than a snub. They are concerned that the unprecedented closings and restrictions will turn away visitors, hurt businesses and employees, and tip the balance too far toward security over access.

The plan unveiled by the Secret Service and area transportation officials Wednesday closes all Virginia bridges across the Potomac and interstates 395 and 66 inside the Beltway to personal vehicles. It also cordons off a large section of downtown Washington to help manage the unprecedented crowds expected. Maryland, in contrast, has no planned road closures.

Guess asking too much to expect the re-opening of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th.

If crowds are the big threat, seems like the easier approach would be to have a massive, systemwide failure of public transit. Sort of like today’s Metro snafus on the Red Line — “an emergency situation,” i.e., mechanical failure, that lead to such comments from the announcements as, “Customers on the platforms, this train is crowded.” Customers? Metro should follow the example of the coffee chains around here and refer to the masses as “guests.” We used to be called “passengers,” but apparently that’s too theoretical.

If people complain at the delays, well, Metro can just claim it’s the fault of the cheap federal and local governments. More from the Post, “Metro Facing Layoffs, Cutbacks“:

Metro faces a 13 percent shortfall in its $1.3 billion operating budget for next year, and officials have suggested cutting almost 900 positions and enacting the largest-ever cuts in train, bus and paratransit service, even as transit ridership in the region and across the country is soaring.

Agency officials said the budget difficulties reflect the grim economic reality facing local and state governments, which provide a substantial portion of Metro’s funds. Transit agencies across the country also are facing service cuts.

Add it to the economic stimulus.

Forced humor aside, Metro plans to beef up for the inaugural events, “Bus Service to Grow For Jan. 20 Crowds“:

Metro is running 23 special bus corridors on Inauguration Day to carry 300,000 people in and out of downtown Washington who might not be able to get onto jammed Metro trains or live too far to walk to inaugural events, officials said yesterday.

We’ll take that under advisement.

Finally, the Post is doing a bang-up job of covering the inauguration, packaging coverage at Inauguration Central.

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