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Metro Ridership Tops 1 Million, Shattering Record

Inauguration-bound throngs. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)

Metro set an all time record for rail ridership on Inauguration Day, with riders taking about 1,120,000, Metro officials said today.

The transit agency was open from 4 a.m. Tuesday until 2 a.m. Wednesday, and ran an unprecedented 17 hours of rush-hour service. The previous record was set on Monday, when riders took 866,681 trips.

The agency yesterday also provided 423,000 bus trips and 1,721 MetroAccess trips for a grand total of 1,544,721 trips, the highest ridership day ever in the transit authority's history.

Metro General manager John Catoe said months of planning paid off. "Our Metro system wasn't designed to transport this many people in such a short time, but we did it," he said.

See the full press release.


By Mike McPhate  |  January 21, 2009; 11:04 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration , Metro  
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I believe that since many people went through the fare gates without having to swipe SmartTrips or tickets (because station managers opened the doors), they will not be counted as riders (since the count is based on people at the faregates). In other words, whatever number is released is likely to be smaller than the actual number of people who rode the system yesterday.

Posted by: bjackrian | January 21, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Our Metro experinece leaving yesterday after the inauguration was EXCELLENT - once we got to the Metro Station at L'Enfant Plaza. It took my husband and me an hour and a half, in a shoulder to shoulder crowd to get from the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel to the Metro entrance; however - the line did move, everyone was patient and in good humor (and warm) and - best of all an EMPTY train was waiting once we got to the track level. Our Kudos to Metro for an outstanding job on this most wonderful of days.
Elizabeth Lawson, Charlottesville

Posted by: ewl2m | January 21, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse





Posted by: FutureJumps | January 21, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

For the most part, I thought Metro did a great job. However, I would suggest that in similar future events, Metro require an event specific pass that will work for that day only, have people only swipe on entry and not on exit. I experienced a huge bottleneck as people tried to swipe out on exit.

Posted by: yister | January 21, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Metro trains get an A+++++++++++!!!!!!!!!!!! What an amazing, painless, efficient operation. At 7AM we rode from Vienna to Farragut West. Metro staff had us enter the station in groups, there was no panicked pushing or shoving,and crowds on the platforms were hardly evident as the trains ran like clockwork. The way back was no different. WHAT A GREAT JOB YOU DID, METRO!! Now why can't Metro do this when there is a train delay during rush hour and everything is chaotic and dangerous?

Posted by: IslanderAloha | January 21, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

FutureJumps nailed it!

Posted by: kappagara | January 21, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse





Posted by: FutureJumps | January 21, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

If everyone has to swipe their card for the ride to the event as well as the ride home from the event, than wouldn't it mean that only 550,000 people rode the system instead of 1.1 million, since the system (might) only keep track of entrance swipes and each person would have entered twice.

Posted by: knycks1 | January 21, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"If everyone has to swipe their card for the ride to the event as well as the ride home from the event, than wouldn't it mean that only 550,000 people rode the system instead of 1.1 million, since the system (might) only keep track of entrance swipes and each person would have entered twice"

Yes, but each time you enter the system, you are a ccounted as a single rider. The system carried your body twice. It should not count you only once if you took more than one ride in a day. If someone who walked to the Inaugural used your farecard on the way back and you decided to walk home, it is the same thing (to Metro) as if you rode the trains twice in the same day. Hence, two riders. (Maybe they should count 'trips' instead of riders?)

Posted by: RJD1 | January 21, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

METRO gets an A++ for getting us to the Inauguration Event. However, there should've been more thought put into the Exit strategy. Upon leaving, most of us felt locked in the "District". We discovered L'Enfant and Federal Triangle were closed to passengers. This forced us to walk to Capitol South, The line to get into Capitol South seemed a mile long. We then went to Union Station, where A Metro Station Employee, effectively managed the crowds entrance into the Station.

Additional Problems: There were volunteers who couldn't seem to tell us when or if L'Enfant would re-open or what other options were available to us..
The closure notices regarding the 7th street exits, displayed on the JumboTrons during the Inaugural Events, were confusing.

In any event, You should defintely give yourself 2 separate scores on this. A+ - for getting us there. C-/D for getting us out.

Posted by: curious_resident | January 21, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I know that the count should be much higher because I witnessed several people going through the gates without using a farecard. I would increase their count by 30-40%.

Based on my experience I had to give Metro a 'Fair' rating. At 5:30am I took a bus to West Falls Church station. There wasn't anybody doing crowd control. I had to wait for 4 trains to pass before I could squeeze onto one. That took an hour.

After our full train entered the next station, the doors opened and more people tried to squeeze on. There wasn't any room so they didn't fit and they blocked the doors. There wasn't anyone handling crowd control at many of the stations. Many times the conductor had to tell people to stop blocking the doors.

We almost had a fight on a train because one man was refusing to stop blocking a door. It wasn't until 2 men on the train threatened him that he finally moved and allowed the door to shut. At the next station we had to yell at people to stop blocking the door again. Out of 8 stations I only saw 1 that had a guard to keep people from trying to get on our crowded train. Metro should have been better prepared.

Posted by: ZebraLover | January 21, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Why wasn't Metro charging riders? I thought they announced they would be charging rush-hour fares for the day and instead they gave the service away for free on their busiest day. I think it's horible that they will now turn to the taxpayers for money when they are being dishonest about collecting fares and not even bothering to collect money from their customers. And don't say they were overwelmed. The initial estimates were that that would be 8 million people attending and it ended up being less than 2.

Posted by: justanotherguy | January 21, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

It is indeed trips that are counted. This very article that we are posting on says around 1.1 million trips were taken on Tuesday (not riders). WMATA's website also lists ridership figures in trips.

Plus, everyone who rode metro yesterday weren't all going to the National Mall or parade. And, everyone didn't make two trips. I was one of them. I took the train, then I rode back on the bus.

So, it's not just simple math of cutting the figure in half.

Posted by: otavio | January 21, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I parked at West Falls Church and took Metro to the Mall yesterday. I got to Metro at about 4:30 a.m. (I knew bridges into DC would be closed, but I must have missed the announcement that highways would be closed all the way out to the Beltway.) The line to park moved very slowly as everyone had to merge into just one lane to pay the $4 cash. The Orange Line train came right away, but stopped frequently and took an hour to get to L'Enfant Plaza.

Exiting the Mall was a mess, but when I finally reached (on foot) the Foggy Bottom station, I found Metro's handing of the situation to be spectacular. Employees at the top of the escalators blocked entry to prevent overcrowding on the platforms, but no one minded because they had a bullhorn and explained what they were doing.

When I finally got on a westbound Orange Line train, it was crowded but ran quickly.

Posted by: pkalina | January 21, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I voted good.

The special 16S bus that metro had promised didn't exist -- all of the 16 buses that were running terminated at the Pentagon. In theory there were shuttle buses available from there, but since 14th street bridge was full, they weren't running any. Got on the train, but wasn't allowed off at L'Enfant Plaza, which was a pain, but understandable.

On the way back, didn't even try to get on the metro -- walked across the 14th street bridge to the Pentagon and caught my bus within minutes.

Posted by: Izbit | January 21, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I mostly took the bus yesterday and was amazed that they weren't full. One that I took from Rosslyn was completely empty at 7pm, but people could not get on the Orange line it was so crowded. It just goes to show how bus-phobic most people are, that they would rather wait hours and get squished on the Metro.

Posted by: Venae | January 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Since Metro collected rush hour fares all day yesterday by a million plus riders, crying of a revenue shortfall should be no more; and this should null the fare increase plans; and don't be at the Gov't step asking for any of the TARP money. METRO - you use the inauguration satisfy your suspected financial woes. GREAT JOB METRO.

Posted by: ClintonVoter4Obama | January 21, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I took the bus from Reston. Fairfax Connector had plenty of buses and had personnel directing us which bus to take, and reminding us how to get back. But they only took us as far as West Falls Church Metro.

Metro was running special buses routes from West Falls Church Metro direct to the mall. However, they did not drop us off at 23rd and Constitution (like the Washington Post had indicated on Monday.) They dropped us off a 24th and Pennsylvania Ave, about a mile north. I asked the bus driver and a supervisor where we should pick up the shuttle back to West Falls Church, and they said at the same place across the street (normally a route 31/38B bus stop.)

But when we returned, there were no shuttle buses. The Metro personnel at the 31/38B stop didn't know about them, nor did any of the bus drivers. I will give credit to the Metro employees on the spot for helping us all find a way back. But there was a breakdown somewhere in the planning for the special shuttles.

Posted by: BarkerDavidL | January 21, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Puhleez!!! Its obvious that many of the positive comments were written by DC Metro employees. I was at the L'Enfant Plaza station and I witnessed people needing medical assistance from the DCFD for being half frozed to death to extreme sickness for waiting more than 2 hours on line to get inside. I waited 2 1/2 hours. Also, I don't know about riding the trains for free. I, as well as the million that rode the subway that day, paid our fares. Its fairly obvious that DC Metro did not planned properly for this historic occassion. They need to learn from this diaster.

Posted by: donluv | January 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Orange line service into DC was terrible. A trip from Vienna to Foggy Bottom which normally takes 30 mins at the most, took one and a half hours on Inauguration Day.
I don't know what it will cost, but I say Metro needs to build a tunnel under the Potomac that separates the orange and blue line no matter what the cost. I can only imagine how much worse things will get once the silver line starts using the same route.

Posted by: jonnie74 | January 21, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday was my very first Metro experience. I have never travelled on the NYC subway, either. And for someone who is claustrophobic in large crowds, my experience was positive. The ride in got a little packed and hot with wall to wall people (from Bethesda), but I got a seat on the ride out - we just had to wait for a few cars and get toward the front car to get seats. I have a question...I saved the ticket with Obama's face on it. Were these special Metro tickets for the inauguration day only, or has his likeness been on the cards for awhile?? Thanks!

Posted by: meewee | January 21, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I did fine from Silver Spring but a friend got snarled at New Carrolton at ~8AM. He was waiting there for over an hour, during which time only THREE trains left.

Further, the "choking" of platform crowds was such those trains departed with empty seats, not just standing room.

Then the trip downtown was almost another hour with long slow stretches. Power supply problems, as some predicted?

I'd love it if WMATA actually released an honest after-action report.

Posted by: j_oper | January 21, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's my experience on the orange line from Vienna on Inauguration Day: over 3 hours to get to Foggy Bottom.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | January 21, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I count myself among those non-Metro employees who had a pretty good experience yesterday. At first we were told L'Enfant Plaza was closed, so planned to go to Waterfront and walk back, but they reopened it by the time we arrived.

Leaving, we saw the huge crowd at the north entrance and started walking to Waterfront and saw the south L'Enfant entrance was working smoothly, so were able to get into the station and on a train pretty quickly.

I found everyone to be really happy and friendly, and the Metro workers and security people were very nice. Could it have been better? Sure. For instance, they could have split the crowd between the two entrances. They also should have had the yellow line going to Fort Totten instead of ending in Chinatown. But overall it was pretty well done, especially with the great crush of people.

Posted by: mtpresident | January 21, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Any word on how the ridership numbers were estimated, given that no fares were apparently collected from at least some rail riders, and many of the buses were free?

Posted by: RichardatCourthouse | January 21, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse


If the card was a SmarTrip card, it is good for as long as you keep it. Of course, you periodically need to increase the value of it if/when the card value runs low.

Further info is available at Metro's web site, specifically at

Posted by: critter69 | January 21, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I had a great experience riding the bus down from Woodley Park to downtown. And no, I don't work for Metro.

Everyone was saying the trains woul dbe full before they got to the city, so I didn't even try getting on. So instead of walking 10 minutes to the metro, I stepped outside my front door to a bus stop. There were about 7 or 8 people already waiting, and they said they had been waiting about 10 minutes when I got there. About 5 minutes later, a bus came, but it was full, so the driver motioned that there was another bus behind him. About 3 mintutes later that bus came.

There were no seats, but plenty of standing room. There seemed to be a good mix of locals and tourists on the bus. The driver was extremely helpful and friendly. He explained that we would be taking a different route down to the mall than we would take coming home, but all stops from Woodley Park Metro and further north would be served. He was giving directions to tourists on how to walk to the various tourist attractions. And he was reasonable about fare collection. He collected fares from everyone, but when a man with a crinkled dollar bill was backing up the whole line of people, he told the man "don't worry about it".

So we go down Calvert and 18th Streets and hit the blockade at R Street. We were supposed to be let through, since we were a transit vehicle, but the National Guard forced us to turn right onto R with everyone else. So we go a block down back to Connecticut, and as we made the turn, the National Guard there removed the cones and we were in the outer secured zone. Bus took the tunnel under DuPont, and dropped us at M Street, which was as far as he was allowed to go. He told us to pick up our return bus right there at the exact same spot.

And he was right, there was a line of people (short line!) waiting to get back on the bus when all was over. We got onto the second bus. As soon as the bus was full, we left. Took M to 20th to Massachusetts, to 22nd/Florida to Connecticut. No one got off before me...I was the first to pull the cord, so I practically got door to door service. I was very pleased.

Posted by: thetan | January 21, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

We took a Loudoun County bus to the West Falls Church metro and boarded a train at 5:15. It filled to capacity about 2 stops later, and then it was stop and go, with several long stops, until we reached the Federal Center SW stop where we exited at about 6:15. The platform was packed --we could barely get off the train, but metro staff organized people into an orderly line and we made it out of the station within 10 min. They handled everything so well that morning. (Then we succumbed to 4 1/2 hours of fun standing in a mob crowd of thousands of people awaiting entrance through the blue gate security checkpoint to the inauguraiton -- but that's another story -- a story of incompetence unrelated to METRO!)

Anyway, when we left the inauguration, every metro stop we visited -- Capitol South, Federal Center, and L'enfant Plaza -- had lines outside the station and around the corner, so we decided to walk across the 14th street bridge back to Virginia, where we caught a cab back to the West Falls Church metro stop . There we found a free Loudoun County bus waiting to take us back to Leesburg.

My grades: Metro -- B
Inauguration Security -- F
Loudoun County Transportation -- A+

Posted by: Susan_in_VA | January 21, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately my experience on the metro was not one I would not like to experience again. When we arrived at L'Enfant the Metro security did not allow passengers to exit the building. We were delayed about 1 1/2 hrs. with passengers getting sick and very impatient. When trying to return to New Carrollton station, we waited in the line outside of L'Enfant a Metro security directed us to another entrance which that line was longer than the one we had been in previously. When we returned to our original line, by that point the line had increased and we had lost our spot. We decided to enter L'Enfant Plaza at which point we got on another line to the Metro. We waited in line for about 3 hrs. before we were able to get on the train. As we waited, several people were passing out due to extreme heat. Security guards were asking passengers to remove layers of clothing. When I approached a security guard and asked why they were not turning off heat and to turn AC I received a blank stare and a shrug of shoulders. I also asked them to start passing out water, but I got the same response as before. As we approached the doors to enter station area security guards had only one double door opened while other guards thought they could have a gossip session instead of holding all the doors open. Many people squeezed there way in and could have been seriously hurt. I truly believe that Metro handled the entire day poorly. Security was very unpleasant. Washinton DC area Metro needs to take pointers from New York City on how to handle large crowds, since they do very well every year during New Years Eve at Times Square.

Posted by: tyjmm93 | January 21, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I had an excellent experience. My trip from Silver Spring to Farragut North took only marginally longer than it would on an average weekday.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 22, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

"Were these special Metro tickets for the inauguration day only, or has his likeness been on the cards for awhile?? Thanks!"

Obama's picture has been on the paper farecards for about a month now. So no, they weren't special just for the day.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | January 28, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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