Transit’s Success at the Inauguration

Transit’s Success at the Inauguration Shows the Possibilities of Growing our Economy without Growing Traffic

Rail, bus, walking and bicycle access made possible record-breaking crowds who attended downtown celebrations for the Presidential Inauguration.  Metrorail marked three days of unprecedented ridership in a row, providing 2.6 million trips for people during three days of inaugural celebrations.  Officials decided against any significant role for private automobiles and encouraged visitors to take transit or bus, walk or bicycle.

“The success of Metro, buses, trains, walking and bicycling to move millions of people demonstrates the potential of a transportation system that could offer a real alternative to increased driving and traffic congestion. This shows we can grow the economy without growing traffic,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Two to three times as many people traveled downtown for inaugural events than a typical weekday. On inauguration day, the 14th Street bridge and all other major arterials to the downtown and monumental core were empty of cars, yet close to 1.8 million people shared in the celebrations.

On a typical weekday, over 400,000 workers commute to downtown D.C.  Daily commuters add 160,000 cars to area roadways leading to downtown as 40 percent of these workers drive alone.

While the Metrorail system strained to accommodate unprecedented use, authorities were able to maintain service and avoid serious injuries for the three day period. Known bottlenecks encountered by unprecedented crowds illustrated the lack of long term investment in the system’s capacity.  In response to the transit agency’s severe budget shortfall, 900 Metro positions will be eliminated, after staff worked overtime to help move the inaugural masses with relative success.

“Just as Metro shows what it’s capable of, we are making deep cuts operations because our governments can’t find the money to pay for the service. Expanded Metro capacity, better walking and bicycling conditions, and bus priority lanes are the keys to improving transportation choices and supporting an economic recovery for the area. These investments provide the basis to our region’s competitive advantage as a thriving place where jobs, housing, and services are easily accessed by a variety of modes that don’t require driving your own car and getting stuck in traffic,” said Cort.

The success of the transit system to handle the inauguration events points to the need for the Washington, D.C. region to make transit, walking and bicycling top priorities for future transportation planning, immediate budget decisions and the federal stimulus.