WASHINTON -- The Washington Port reports that a decision by the federal government to allow workers to stay home tomorrow is taking pressure off Metro and commuter railroads and should make it easier to move around the District, transit officials said yesterday.

"We just breathed a collective sigh of relief," said Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann, after the Office of Personnel Management announced that it was encouraging the region's 300,000 federal workers to take a vacation day tomorrow. "We would anticipate a lot of people would not come to work at all that day. And if that's the case, we will most likely provide a normal level of service that we would provide on any Thursday."

The development allowed Metro to concentrate on planning for Saturday, when about 400,000 people are expected to gather along the Mall and at the Capitol for inaugural activities. The transit system is preparing for crowds from morning through midnight and beyond.

For tomorrow's inaugural kickoff, Metro can add cars to its regular service if crowds develop, Feldmann said. Some commuters may decide to work half a day, creating an afternoon rush that is earlier than usual, he said. "We'll watch conditions and provide the level of service that's needed," Feldmann said.

To help people reach the afternoon festivities at the Lincoln Memorial, Metro will run free shuttle buses from the Foggy Bottom-GWU and Smithsonian stations to the Lincoln Memorial, beginning at 1:30 p.m. After fireworks end about 6 p.m., Metro will run free shuttle buses from the memorial to the Metro Center, L'Enfant Plaza, Farragut North and Farragut West stations, Feldmann said. There will be no return shuttles to the Foggy Bottom-GWU or Smithsonian stations, he said.

Virginia Railway Express, on which passengers make about 10,000 trips a day, is preparing for a jump in ridership tomorrow on its early afternoon trains between the District and Virginia. VRE will add cars to the first two afternoon trains bound for Virginia, spokeswoman Wendy Lemieux said. In addition, VRE will double the number of Jumpstart buses, from three to six, that meet the early Manassas train at the Backlick station at 2 p.m.

MARC officials were assessing the situation last night. "If there's a need for capacity, we'll add [cars] onto earlier trains, in case people want to get home early," spokesman Anthony Brown said. Passengers make 22,000 trips a day on MARC's three lines.

Metro's highest ridership day was President Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, when 811,000 trips were made on the Metrorail system. Transit officials don't expect to break that record during President-elect Bush's inauguration; because it falls on a weekend, daily commuters will not be riding the subway system.

Still, Metro will provide more frequent service and longer trains than it does on a typical Saturday. The subway system will open 2 1/2 hours early, at 5:30 a.m., and will run until 2 a.m. Sunday. Metrobus will run on a Saturday schedule, with some routes detoured around street closings near the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro will deploy hundreds of employees throughout the system to assist first-time users, out-of-town visitors and regular customers.

For the first time during an inauguration, Metro will close stations. The Secret Service has asked Metro to close the Smithsonian and Archives-Navy Memorial stations.

Off-peak fares will be charged on Metrorail and Metrobus all day on Inauguration Day, and parking will be free at all Metro-operated lots. Metro workers will sell fare cards by hand at busy stations and will also sell a $5 one-day inaugural pass.

Metro will also distribute a walking map illustrating the locations of various Metrorail stations in relation to the swearing-in, inaugural parade and inaugural ball sites. Customers can find the maps this week at racks in Metrorail stations.

For more information on inauguration service on Metrorail and Metrobus, customers should call 202-637-7000. For TDD, call 202-637-3780, or visit Metro's Web site at www.metroopensdoors.com.

(First Story)



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January 17, 2001


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers