What Inauguration Day Means for DC Streets

3187568977_e73f4a1b29.jpgInauguration parade rehearsal. Photo: Travir/Flickr

As many as four million people are expected to descend on the National Mall today for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th President. Contending with that mass of humanity has left officials with no choice but to implement temporary policies to get people in and out of the city as efficiently as possible. All of which has been great fodder for DC’s thriving livable streets blog scene. Some are hoping today will prove to be what Obama might call a teachable moment, showing residents what downtown Washington feels like with fewer cars and more freedom for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses.

The discussion online has covered chokepoints in the Metro system, proper pricing of park-and-ride spots, and the advantages of banning private auto traffic on Virginia-DC bridges. And bike valet parking and the utility of pedicabs. Predictably, AAA came out strong against the restrictions on car traffic, apparently contending that the optimal "mobility" solution would be to let streets completely clog up with private motorists.

This weekend I spoke to a relative of mine in the DC area who predicted carmaggeddon on the Maryland side of the district, as drivers attempt to bypass the ban. I suppose we’ll know soon enough whether Virginians are that attached to their cars.

  • Larry Littlefield
  • Doug

    There’s the old saying that tough cases make bad laws and I think it applies here.

    One should hesitate from reading too much into a day when millions of people descended on the nation’s capital to gather in one concentrated location for a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. It would be like trying to make a judgment about Phoenix’s annual climate on snowy day.

    There’s no question that people will seek alternate means of transportation and deal with street closures in extreme circumstances such as today, but it’s probably tough to glean too much information about how it would apply in a situation where a city had to get through a normal day. People will gladly park outside the city and then walk or take transit to hear a historic speech, but would they do the same to get to work every day or go shopping?

  • Doug

    Oh, and I would add that there probably was not “more freedom for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses,” as many streets were closed even to pedestrians and you certainly could not ride your bike down Pennsylvania Avenue today. If anything, there was as much if not more of a headache for peds in some parts of DC as there is at any other time.

  • yeah I think if they shut down all those streets and bridges on regular workday it would produce more interesting and significant results.

  • Sam

    “All of which has been great fodder for DC’s thriving livable streets blog scene. Some are hoping today will prove to be what Obama might call a teachable moment, showing residents what downtown Washington feels like with fewer cars and more freedom for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses.”

    I think you’ve had your “teachable moment.” It’s just that the lesson wasn’t what you expected.

  • Lee Watkins

    I had a great time! However, the streets were so packed with people downtown DC yesterday, I almost couldn’t breath. I literally shuffled my feet in the crowd for hours to get short distances. The buses were a godsend. The pedicabs were also a godsend. I never took metro but heard it was packed. On the outskirts of downtown the bicycle traffic looked like a video of Copenhagen rush hour, expecially 16th street. There would not have been anywhere to drive a car, let alone park it. All the off-street parking spaces were taken up by charter buses, and I do mean all of it.

  • Lola

    The French news reported on the 19th that DC had been shut to car traffic at the “peripherique” or beltway and that it was foot-only traffic allowed in from there. Even bicycles were excluded, they reported. However, in their film footage near the Mall, a pedicab showed up with passengers. Sounds like bikes were allowed in some parts of the city, maybe just not downtown. http://jt.france2.fr/20h/

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