While organizers behind the inaugural parade aren’t expecting the historic turnout of the 2009 inauguration,getting a space to watch the ceremonies from the National Mall or the parade from Pennsylvania Avenue is still going to be an ordeal – whether it’s to watch a second-term Obama or a newly installed Romney.
The area’s transit agency is also getting ready.
“Because of the historic nature of the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president,that really led to ridership numbers and attendance numbers at the event that were greater than anything that we’ve seen before,” Dan Stessel,spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority,said.
Even choosing the day of the ceremonies is more trouble than it sounds. This is because Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday in 2013 for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985. The public inauguration will be pushed back to Jan. 21 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – but the president will be sworn in during a private ceremony the day before.
Army Master Sgt. Jerry Amoury works in the Band Control Office of the Presidential Inaugural Parade Management. He said he’s already received 200 applications for groups wanting to march in the parade. After Election Day,he’s expecting 600 to 700 more.
Though the numbers are down from 2009,when the parade management received 1,400 group applications,Amoury said his office still has plenty of talent to choose from.
“You’re going to have a whole menagerie of different types of groups,” Amoury said. Contenders include college and high school marching bands,dance troupes and vintage vehicles such as a World War I ambulance and a 1950s police car.
While the parade management reviews the submissions for quality,the Presidential Inaugural Committee – the organization of the incoming president – makes the cuts and compiles the final list.
As for security for the parade and on the Mall,Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said information would be available to the public after Election Day.
Meanwhile,the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies will oversee the inaugural ceremonies at the Capitol.
On Sept. 20,construction workers began building the inaugural platform and media stand on the west side of the Capitol.
Eva Malecki,communications officer for the Architect of the Capitol, said the inaugural platform will be finished just after the new year. The last two weeks,she said,will be spent decorating with carpeting and bunting.
“Obviously,you don’t want to put things that are cloth out too soon in the middle of winter,Malecki said. “So we always are doing the last of those things closest to the ceremony.”
In those last two weeks,Malecki said the AOC will also have to place 30,000 chairs in front of the platform. As for who gets those seats,she said the JCCIC makes that call.
While the ceremonies will be sure to draw crowds,Stessel said getting everyone to the ceremonies will require some special efforts.
Stessel said 500,000 to 800,000 riders will ride the Metro to see the swearing-in. While this is a significant decrease from the record 1.12 million riders who rode on Jan. 20,2009,he said customers should still expect crowds and delays.
Stessel advised that people avoid stops closest to the Mall and the parade route.
In 2009,a number of Metro stations were closed for most of the day. Stessel said no plans have been made to close any stations,but admitted this subject to change.
“There may be a handful of stations that are closed on inauguration day or closed for periods of time due to security needs,depending where the events are,” Stessel said.
Another bottleneck Metro is trying to avoid is tourists fumbling with paper farecards.
Starting in December,WMATA will sell commemorative plastic SmarTrip cards that feature the image of either President Barack Obama or President Mitt Romney.
“We’re trying to incentivize the SmarTrip cards because SmarTrips are a little faster in processing people through the fare gates,” Stessel said.
Reach reporter Jory Heckman at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.