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Something went right

Getting around downtown Washington on Monday morning was almost blissful. There were a few trouble spots, but travel conditions were a lot better than normal for most drivers, walkers and transit riders. It's unlikely this afternoon's rush period will be much worse, since it appears many people didn't come in.

[11:30 update: Karyn LeBlanc, spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation, said she also anticipates similar conditions this afternoon. One potential difference she noted: There might be more motorcades this afternoon to conflict with home-bound traffic. This morning, she said, there were some minor delays on New York Avenue and on 11th Street, but nothing that would match a normal morning rush.]

The streets near Mount Vernon Square were much as they would be on a day in late August, only people are dressed a bit more warmly. Traffic moved very easily and there was an unusual calm among both drivers and pedestrians.

Street lots had plenty of spaces. I didn't see a garage with a "Full" sign. It was easy to find street meters.

Metrorail trains and platforms were uncrowded, compared with a normal weekday.

What went right? Did people get the messages that we in the media, the transportation agencies and downtown employers have been putting out for the past week? The last time we all issued warnings like this was for Inauguration Day, which also turned out to be a transportation success.

Or did it have only a little bit to do with transportation? It seemed to me that people weren't altering their travel plans as much as avoiding travel. I saw no evidence of a traffic shift to an early or late commute, and no evidence of a heavier than normal reliance on Metro.

In our transportation poll, a little over a quarter of the people who work outside the home said they have telecommuted, but only 4 in 10 of them said they did it at least once a week.

Did they pick today to chose that transportation option? How much did the nature of the event have to do with their choices? Did people stay home because they were worried about personal security rather than the annoyance of a crowded commute? Did a summit with so many world leaders and a heavy police presence seem more threatening than the distracted drivers on our commuter routes?

By Robert Thomson  |  April 12, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion , Driving , Events , Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail  
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