There’s so much hullabaloo and disaster mongering going on about the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. The list of potential things that “might” happen is getting longer by the day.
If half a million people show up, the infrastructure should be okay, except for major issues such as transportation and dining near the mall. But if a couple million people converge on the Mall, the infrastructure, along with the food service industries will be pushed to their limits.
So here’s a few of the potential “disasters” that might occur due to massive crowds attending the inauguration celebration, and my estimation of how likely it will happen.
- Multiple hour waits to get on Metro trains leaving the National Mall — With crowds expected to run at least five times more than a typical July Fourth event, it’s likely that Metro will be overwhelmed, even with 15 hours of consecutive rush-hour scheduling. Likelihood – very high.
- Mobile phone service will cease — Due to overwhelmed cell towers around the Mall, especially during the hours just before and after the ceremony, the cellular carriers will likely not be able to handle all of the call traffic. Considering at times all over the Washington, DC area, especially during rush hour, it can be sometimes tough getting a call through, so don’t expect to place a call phone call on the first attempt 3 minutes before Obama takes his oath. Likelihood – medium/high.
- Chartered busses might not find parking – With upwards of 10,000 chartered busses potentially bringing people to the inauguration, where are they all to park? So far, potential places include Wolf Trap, JFK Stadium, Hanes Point, and more so parking should not be an issue. Likelihood – low.
- Getting people from chartered busses at remote parking areas to the National Mall — Getting upwards of a half a million people to the Mall and then back again quickly will be an issue. So see #1. Likelihood – high.
- Grocery stores will run out of staples – With a million-plus people who are not staying in hotels looking for items such as as bread and milk, grocers may run out quickly. While the hint of a snowfall in the area causes some people to rush out and hoard 200 rolls of toilet paper and 40 gallons of milk, I doubt that retailers will miss the opportunity to stock up and make big bucks form our out of town visitors. Likelihood – very low.
- Parking at Metro rail station will not accommodate all the cars — With only 60,000 parking spaces spread out over 42 stations, if you don’t get to the Metro very, VERY early, chances are you won’t get a parking spot. Again, see #1. Likelihood – very high.
- Getting a meal on the Mall will require an act of Congress — You should be able to find plenty of hot dog vendors around the Mall on inauguration day. But if you want to wait out the exit rush after the ceremony, at a restaurant anywhere near the Mall, expect a multi-hour wait. Likelihood – high.
- Restroom facilities will be tough to find – DC does a great job at having enough porta-potties at most major events in the Mall, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Likelihood – low.
- Finding a taxi to get to or from the Mall – With all the expected street closures, security checkpoints, rerouted traffic patterns, and the massive crowds all heading to the same place, finding a cab (or for that matter, a cabbie willing to bring his cab anywhere near the expected gridlock on Mall that day) is unlikely. Likelihood – medium.
- People will simply grin and bear it — In the crowd that descends on Washington, DC, there will be some complainers who expect a seat on the Metro train, a table at a restaurant just blocks from the Capitol, parking garages to have open spots an hour before the inauguration ceremony and no hassles getting to and from the Mall. But I hope people will just expect the worst and smile when things go well. Likelihood – high.
So what do you think? Will Washington, DC handle the crowds or will it be a tourism nightmare? Make a comment below.
Image – Flickr – 2005 inauguration