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L'Enfant to Third Street Tunnel to Union Station

I got on an Orange Line train at Foggy Bottom as the speech was ending, and it was so empty, I was about to blog that people should head for the trains at that moment. But by the time the train reached L'Enfant Plaza on the south side of the Mall, the moment was over.

A group of us went through the fare gate only to be turned back at the escalators, because they had been converted to an entrance only. Crossing the station to the 7th Street and Maryland Avenue side, we found the way out was one stopped escalator.

But the incoming crowd -- cold and tired after hours on the Mall -- was at the top of the bank of escalators. Their ranks had swelled so quickly that the outbound passengers had trouble breaking through at the top of the escalators. The outbound crowd backed up into the station. But it was a really good idea not to have that escalator actually moving upward.

For a while, there just was no good way to get in or out of L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, and the crowd on the stairs up to the VRE platform was backed up to the street.

This was a bad moment for a lot of people. No one knew where to go.The authorities on the scene were trying to be helpful, but often wound up sending people walking into the heart of the jam.

The only way to move against the prevailing current of pedestrians was to find an eddy heading your way and fall into it. The eddy I followed helped me get to the Third Street Tunnel, open to pedestrians only today

It looks worse at 3 mph than it does at 45. And even with 15 minutes to walk through it, I still got confused about whether I should be in the right or left lane.

Thousands used it as the north-south corridor. I wound up at Union Station, but the crowd for Metrorail at about 2:15 was daunting. So I walked west on Massachusetts Avenue and found a D6 bus, with a very patient driver, for a slow crawl along H Street.

There's no single cause of the jam. The security zone squeezed traffic north and south onto routes that weren't clear. Pedestrians added to the problem by spilling across the streets against lights. But they were chilled, and it was difficult to figure out where it was okay to walk and where it interfered with traffic.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 20, 2009; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Next: Huntington Ave. Near Metro Reopens


I was going to try to take Metro, but after prodding from officials about the bus options, I decided to do that instead. The L2/L4 service on Connecicut Ave was great! First bus to pass me was full, the second one let us on. We drove through Adams Morgan and into the restricted zone, and got dropped off at Connecticut and M. The ride back was similarly great. Waited in a well formed line, got on the second bus, it west west on M, north on 20th, west on Massachusetts, north on 22nd/Florida, then up Connecticut and dropped me right in front of my apartment. Two thumbs up to the Metrobus inaugural service...they should try this more often, like for 4th of July!

Now crowd control leaving the mall was a different story. We got stuck in a mass of people jammed up against the fence near 16th and Constitution. We stood there for the better part of half an hour. People were so desparate to move they climbed up onto the Port-a-John's and walked along the rooftops!!

Posted by: thetan | January 20, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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