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
Christopher Dean Hopkins
January 18, 2009; 5:07 PM ET
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