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Concert Crowd Exits Downtown -- Slowly

Crowds leaving the National Mall following Sunday's inaugural concert clogged the streets and Metro stations of downtown Washington.

On streets where vehicles were allowed, traffic creeped by. On streets where cars were banned, pedestrians couldn't move much faster. At 17th Street, some of the people crowded against a security fence eventually moved a large portion of the fence aside, so they could cut through. Some jokingly yelled, "Storm the bastions! Revolution!"

Officers tried different methods at packed subway stations. At Smithsonian station, where thousands waited in line to enter, a policeman standing on concrete wall at the edge of the escalators used a bullhorn to direct the crowd to "stay to your left, take your time, do not hurt yourself."

Meanwhile, at Foggy Bottom station, hundreds were held outside the packed station as police waited for trains to clear more space below.

Janet Allen, 46, of the Stone Mountain Ga., was among those waiting to enter the station. She came thinking she'd watch the Inauguration in person. That plan changed when she saw the crowds: "It's certainly not the Metro's fault. It's the droves of people and the cold weather. They're doing the best they can."

One woman from Wisconsin approached a pedicab near the station, and asked how much it would cost to take her family to 4400 Connecticut Ave. When he replied $80, she said she'd go to a coffee shop and wait out the crowd.

As thousands pounded the grass and cement trying to beat the crowds to the Metro, Victoria Wheeler, 42, of Bethesda, sat on a blanket in the grass -- the sea of people parting around her -- calmly eating an apple.

There's no point in rushing out, she said -- "they're all gonna be standing in line for a metro for another hour."

She said that she had ticket for Tuesday and that this was "kind of a dry run" -- a good one, judging by her subway ride south from Bethesda. "Metro was nothing like Fourth of July," she said.

-- Chris Twarowski, Jonathan Mummolo and Michael Birnbaum

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 18, 2009; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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The secret is not following the crowd. Going we exited at the empty Federal Triangle Station. Returning the line to get into Federal Triangle was too big so we went down the street to Archives, where there was no wait to get in - evidently the crowds all head to Gallery Place where the train became a freight car.

Posted by: dre7861 | January 18, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Also, being willing to ride backwards (if necessary).

I worked the 4th several summers ago, and ended up riding the Orange Line back into Maryland until I could cross over and pick up an emptier train to go back home to Arlington.

It may take a while, but at least you can get a seat.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 18, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

I say I waited less than 10 minutes to board a train at Smithsonian, and when transferring to red line all I had to do was wait for the next train. I didn't even leave the concert early!

Posted by: josh703 | January 18, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

It was nice and warm at home and I'm sure we were able to see much more of the festivities than most of the people there. We will do the same on Tuesday.

Posted by: mortified469 | January 18, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

If you know the secrets you can avoid the crush. I had a seat in mostly empty cars leaving for and returning from the concert.

Posted by: hakafos44 | January 18, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I got onto a Blue Line bound for Virginia at McPhearson Square. I had absolutely no problem getting onto the train. Of course I got on the first car, which was empty compared to the middle cars that were packed.

Overall I thought Metro did a good job.

Posted by: thetan | January 18, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Used DASH and Metro today, and had no problems. Waited 10-15 minutes to let the crowds thin out to enter L'Enfant after the concert.

Anyone know where to get more information on the special bus corridors? The routes based on 28 and 7 are closest to my neighborhood, but I ride a different route, and I cannot figure out where to go to get to the special inauguration route.

Posted by: the_moo | January 18, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

It appears that the powers-that-be have already started ignoring their published list of what is open and closed. When we left the concert we tried to walk toward the Memorial Bridge, since every official publication said that it was "only" closed from 5 am to 5 pm. When we got to the blockaid the officers were turning people away who were trying to get to the bridge, even though it was after 5 pm. When someone said that the paper had said it was only closed until 5, the response was "You believe what you read?"

Posted by: beachy1 | January 19, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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