WASHINGTON – Reginald Luckett said that he could not remember the last time inaugural events drew such heavy security measures.
“Never in my time,and I'm 62 years old,” said Luckett,a native Washingtonian and the dispatcher supervisor for Capitol Cab. “Well I don't know,we've had some large events,but I've never seen security like this.”
In anticipation of Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday,local and federal officials have imposed security measures that include closing bridges across the Potomac River from Virginia into Washington. Access will be limited to commercial vehicles with permits,and many streets near the Capitol and White House will be closed or set aside for official use or charter bus parking.
The anticipated record attendance for Obama's historic inauguration has prompted transportation authorities and businesses in and around the D.C. area to plan for the crowds.
“They should feel safe because we are going to have an enormous amount of security at every one of our 86 stations,” Taborn said. “We want to assure that their ride here on the Metro is a safe and pleasant one.”
Metro expects about 120,000 passengers per hour,system's capacity,to use Metrorail. People who live within 2 miles of downtown are being urged to walk.
Metro Transit Police is working with other local transit agencies,the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI.
Taborn said Metro is supplementing its force of 400 officers with 20 to 30 retirees and roughly 150 officers from 17 other transit law enforcement agencies – including Boston,Chicago,Houston,Cleveland,Delaware,Milwaukee,Minneapolis and New Jersey – will join Metro transit police in rail stations,at bus stops and on buses and trains.
Passengers will not be screened before they board.
“Metro is an open environment,” Taborn said. “Again,we will transport hundreds of thousands of people in a quick,efficient manner,and if in fact,those types of measures are employed,it will drastically slow down the movement of people.”
He said increased security measures include random K-9 unit station sweeps and officers at every station prepared to conduct random bag searches that would take 10-12 seconds.
Approximately 60,000 parking spots will be available at suburban Metrorail stations for $4 in cash.
Karyn LeBlanc,director of communications for the D.C. Department of Transportation,said roughly 4,000 charter buses are registered to park in 12 designated areas scattered about the city. That's down from an earlier estimate of 10,000 buses.
“The number increases every day,” LeBlanc said Thursday.
She said the department extended the deadline to register from midnight Thursday to midnight Saturday to give businesses “ample time” to register vehicles.
LeBlanc estimated the buses will bring 200,000 passengers from around the country,including all along the eastern seaboard and Detroit.
“It's very exciting,” she said. “We anticipated plenty of room in the tour bus plan. We don't expect bunching up since there will be coordination of a lot of volunteers and department of transportation personnel to direct people in and out of areas.”
LeBlanc said the added traffic would create an impact,but she said passengers and parade goers should remain patient.
“There's an impact on traffic during regular rush hour,” she said. “And I think people realize that they just need to plan ahead and realize that it will be crowded and that they will get where they need to go and just to be patient.”
People also can travel in one of the roughly 7,500 taxicabs in the area,said Luckett,the Capitol Cab dispatch supervisor.
“It's hard to say how many will be out there in the daytime,” he said. “In terms of traffic,it will be hard to say what drivers will or won't do. They won't have traffic in neighborhoods,but when it comes to downtown,it's a different story.”
Luckett said fewer taxicabs will be working downtown during the day,but he expected more to turn up after roads reopen.
Luckett said “wise” taxicab drivers will check weather conditions,road closures and expect intense traffic.
“We understand we won't be able to get in perimeters,and we do expect traffic to be intense in the surrounding area,” Luckett said. “There will be plenty of cabs – don't worry – because of the business.”