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Getting to Jon Stewart rally

[Updated.]

During my online chat Monday, a reader asked about getting to the rally that Comedy Central's Jon Stewart has scheduled for Saturday on the National Mall: "how much lead time do you think people need to have to get downtown via Metro (Red Line from Glenmont)? I have friends coming from out of town to go."

The rally is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m., between 3rd Street and 7th Street NW, the side of the Mall nearest the U.S. Capitol. It's hard to say how many people are going to attend. The Metro transit system is anticipating a travel impact similar to that for August's Glenn Beck rally. More than half a million people rode Metrorail on that Saturday, about 200,000 more than on an uneventful Saturday.

Here are some travel suggestions for people from near and far who plan to attend.

Metro
Metrorail is always the best way to get to an event on the National Mall. On weekends, parking is free at Metro lots and garages. You can drive to one of the outer stations, park and take the train into downtown D.C. But keep in mind that this is a common tactic for people from outside the immediate area. Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein advises that the parking areas at the ends of the lines could fill up in the hours before the rally. There's no system for checking in advance to see if an area is full.

The alternative: Drive to a parking area one or two stations from the end of the line. They tend to be less crowded.

Weekend work: Metro almost always schedules track work for the weekends. This coming weekend, the transit authority plans work on the Red, Orange and Green lines, which will cause delays.

Red Line riders taking the train from Glenmont should add at least 20 minutes of travel time to get around work on the elevated tracks at Rhode Island Avenue. Passengers coming in from the western end of the line, the Shady Grove side, should add at least half an hour for the trains to get around work on the Rockville platform.

Orange Line riders should add at least half an hour to a trip between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly stations. This is where Metro will be doing some preparatory work for a big effort to stabilize the tracks on the following weekend.

Green Line riders should add at least 20 minutes between Fort Totten and Prince George's Plaza, where maintenance workers will be out on the tracks.

Trip Planner: Metro's Web site has a very helpful scheduler called Trip Planner -- at least it's helpful under normal circumstances. It doesn't account for delays caused by weekend track maintenance.

Closest stations: The most crowded station for Mall events is Smithsonian. It's the one everyone knows is on the Mall. You're likely to find less crowding by getting off and on at L'Enfant Plaza or Federal Center Southwest on the Blue and Orange lines, Archives-Navy Memorial on the Green and Yellow lines, or Judiciary Square on the Red Line.

Paying the fare: Whether you're using the plastic SmarTrip card or the paper Farecard, it's a good idea to go in with enough value on the card to cover a round trip, so you don't have to wait on long lines at the vending machines when you're heading home. If you haven't used your SmarTrip card in a while, it takes a second or two longer now for the electronic target on the fare gate to communicate with your card. Just be patient and hold the card down on the target till the barriers part.

Note to regulars: Be patient. Things won't go at the pace you're used to. As with any big event on the Mall, this one will draw many out of towners unfamiliar with the Metro system. That means longer, slower lines at the fare vending machines and at the fare gates. More people will be wandering around at transfer stations like Metro Center.

Parking
There's limited street parking in the Mall area. The District enforces parking rules on Saturdays. That means you'll need to put money in the meters and follow the time restrictions on how long you can park in your spot. On most downtown streets, it costs $2 an hour to park at a meter, and in many places the time limit is two hours.

The District uses a variety of parking meters, but you're most likely to encounter either a traditional single-space coin operated meter or a green multi-space meter. See a District Department of Transportation parking guide.

There are some experiments going on with different parking systems. For example, on Independence Avenue, south of the Mall, you may encounter a pay-by-space meter that will ask you for the number of the parking space, which you'll find on a short post by the curb.

Street closings
The National Park Service is planning these street closings from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.:
* Jefferson Drive, Third to Seventh streets NW
* Madison Drive, Third to Seventh streets NW
* Third Street, Independence to Pennsylvania avenues
* Fourth Street, Independence to Pennsylvania avenues

D.C. buses
Metrobus operates one of the largest public bus systems in the nation. See Metrobus route maps here. The fare is $1.50 with a SmarTrip card and $1.70 with cash.

If you're new in town and looking for a bus on rally day, a best bet is the D.C. Circulator bus system. The buses operate on just a few basic routes, but they're a distinctive red, black and gray, are scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes and cost $1. See Circulator routes here.


By Robert Thomson  | October 25, 2010; 4:40 PM ET
Categories:  District, Driving, Events, Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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Comments

If taking the Red Line, I would suggest getting off at Union Station or Judiciary Square. The 4th street exit for Judiciary Square is closed on the weekends, so you will come out of the station on F St. (right across from the National Building Museum). Turn right and walk to 3rd St.(2 blocks), then turn right and walk down to the mall (5 blocks). Or get off at Union Station and walk down Louisiana Ave. Another option is getting off at Gallery Place (7th and F Streets Exit) and walking down 7th Street to the mall.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | October 25, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

People could bike there too. They could even take advantage of the Capital Bikeshare system (station at 7th and C SW). Your blog could give advice on bicycle lanes and trails passing near the area (like the Penn Ave lanes), or where to find bike parking in the area. But as with all your travel suggestion entries, like your Nats Park ones, bicycling doesn't rate.

Posted by: TheBoreaucrat | October 25, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The FAQ on the rally's website, http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/faq/ says that Metro is opening at 7am on Saturday morning.

Posted by: jcepler1 | October 25, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

It's no longer enough to quote bus fares as $1.50 for SmarTrip and $1.70 for cash. Anyone needing to make a transfer to another bus will pay $1.70 for EACH bus trip, while SmarTrip users pay only $1.50 once, as long as they board the next bus within 2 hours. The rally's 3 hours long, so you'll have to pay twice unless you duck out early, but for $3.00, you can turn Saturday into an all-day adventure using as many buses as you wish, while paying cash for even two 2-leg trips will cost you $6.80.

Posted by: jeffq | October 25, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

All of the transportation options that are mentioned in this article plus more are available on one website, www.goDCgo.com.

Posted by: crc99 | October 26, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Will the 14th Street Bridge be open to pedestrians (and bikes)?

Posted by: ChillAboutMilitaryHummers | October 30, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

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