4 AM at a Maryland Park & Ride
The first car arrived here at 3:45 a.m. The occupants keep the engine running while they wait for the bus due at this lot 12 miles north of the Capital Beltway in half an hour. Makes sense. It's 24 degrees, and the one bus shelter beneath the crescent moon looks uninviting.
There was snow here on Monday morning, but the lot has been well treated by highway crews and there's no trouble driving or parking. Very few cars were on Route 29 as I drove here. At 4 a.m., three cars are in the lot.
Big as this event is on our national calendar, we still don't know at this late hour how many people will show up, when they'll start in and how they'll get there. The planners and participants have just one chance to get it right.
Me, I've got broken-in shoes, a cell phone, a smartphone, a portable radio, a walkie-talkie, a laptop and three power bars. That ought to hold me against any breakdowns in communication or transportation as I move -- or try to move -- from hub to hub today.
Sunrise is at 7:23 a.m., and after nine hours and 53 minutes, the sun will set at 5:16 p.m. One of the few things we know about travel to and from Washington today is that the people waiting for buses now are unlikely to see this spot in the daylight.
The start of this trip is relatively simple: Park, get on the bus, pay the $10. In many places this morning, people will be doing sort of traveling they're not used to, and they'll be doing it in the dark.
Here at Scaggsville, 17 buses are scheduled to leave, one every 15 minutes, between 4:15 and 8:15 a.m. After a stop at the Burtonsville lot, also on Route 29, they'll head for the Silver Spring Metro station on the Red Line. Here's a link to the schedule.
The Scaggsville lot in southern Howard County has 416 spaces where commuters can park for free. It's part of a Maryland commuter bus system that on regular weekdays funnels workers to downtown Washington.
Today, the MTA's buses are set up to shuttle about 9,000 people between some of the park & rides and Metrorail stations on Washington's outer perimeter. The inbound trips will continue until about 9 a.m. The returns will start at 4 p.m. and end about 9 p.m. Unlike the MARC trains, reservations are not required. Tickets can be purchased on board buses for $10 roundtrip. You need exact change.
MTA Inaugural Day commuter bus park & ride locations:
* Frederick (Monocacy Park & Ride) to Shady Grove every 15 minutes
* Columbia (Broken Land Park & Ride) to Greenbelt every 15 minutes
* Scaggsville and Burtonsville to Silver Spring every 15 minutes
* Annapolis to New Carrollton every 15 minutes
* Kent Island to New Carrollton every 15 minutes
* Prince Frederick and Dunkirk to Branch Avenue every 15 minutes
* Upper Marlboro to Branch Avenue every 15 minutes
* Charlotte Hall to Branch Avenue every 15 minutes
* Waldorf (Blue Crabs Stadium) to Branch Avenue every 10 minutes
Here's a map of the Scaggsville Park & Ride.
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