How It Worked, Part 2: Introduction to Walking
One of the reasons our transportation system performed so well under great stress on Inauguration Day was that people made their feet part of the transportation system. Perhaps it will become a habit.
Rarely has walking for distance been such a widespread activity here. Many people did it because they knew that the roads and transit systems would be crowded on inaccessible. Some did it because the walk could be part of the day's experience.
Many of the practical-minded got off Metro's Red Line at stations well north of the Mall and walked south. Metro had done a good job creating and distributing walkers' guides on how to reach the ceremonies from stations without having to transfer from train line to train line. And many people going to the ceremonies had done a good job getting acquainted with the walking routes ahead of time. But Metro also was handing out printed guides in the stations.
This didn't always make the walker's task easy. Pennsylvania Avenue, with its parade route, was a serious barrier to north-south progress. And there were plenty of areas where walkers were absolutely baffled about where to go after their first choice, a Metrorail station for example, proved inaccessible.
Once again, that's where the good mood of the crowd counted for so much in the overall success. Many people showed great patience under trying circumstances, and they eventually found alternative routes.
The thousands who crossed the Potomac Bridges to reach the Mall included many who were walking for the pure pleasure of it. They had great views of monumental Washington, particularly from the Memorial Bridge. Many discovered that the Potomac isn't such a great barrier to reaching the District.
I asked Peter Owen, who routinely commutes by foot from the Union Station area to Clarendon, for his take on what happed Tuesday. These are some of his thoughts.
"On this happy occasion," he said, "many people learned how relatively easy it was to get around our city by walking."
"My guess is that many will choose walking such distances more often now that they know how to go about it.
"Walking -- the form of transportation least reliant on government -- and transit -- the form most reliant on government -- proved the most effective ways to get around," Owen concluded. "Perhaps this is an embodiment of some of the new President's words when he spoke to us: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works ... "
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