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D.C. to raise Metro fares, parking during Inauguration

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Record numbers of riders expected

D.C. Metro will charge riders more than it initially planned on Inauguration Day, hoping to recoup some of the cost of running extra service to accommodate the expected record-breaking crowds.

RIDING THE RAILS

• No bicycles will be allowed on Metrorail from Saturday through Tuesday of Inauguration Day weekend.

• The Archives/Navy Memorial station on the Yellow, Green, Orange and Blue lines will be closed Jan. 20 until after the parade, D.C. Metro officials said, because of Secret Service's safety concerns.

• No bathrooms will be open in the rail stations but Metro plans to bring in more than 150 portable toilets to be placed outside some of its stations.

PARKING

• Metro parking facilities will cost $4 for all day; the system's 60,000 spaces usually cost $3.25-$4.75.

• Drivers must pay cash as they enter, instead of using SmarTrip cards when they exit.

• Cars parked overnight before Inauguration Day will be towed. The lots will open at 3:30 a.m. that day, before the 4 a.m. start of rail service.

• Three stations -- Greenbelt, Van Dorn Street and Morgan Boulevard (near the Redskins' FedEx Field) -- will be closed to regular vehicles so charter buses can park there. The Minnesota Avenue parking area on the Orange Line also may be closed.

• Metro is setting aside parking spots at six rail stations for an estimated 1,200 charter buses. Charter buses need to pre-register at www.clickandpark.com.

The transit agency's board voted Thursday to charge rail riders peak fares for the extended 17 hours of rush-hour service it is offering Jan. 20 when Barack Obama is sworn in a president.

It also plans to charge $4 -- cash only -- for parking that day instead of free access as it would on a typical federal holiday. Additionally, the system will collect a premium next month for $20 commemorative SmarTrip fare cards, loaded with $10 of fare and featuring an image of Obama's face. Basic one-day passes will cost $10 on the day of the event, up from the usual $7.80.

The additional revenue will not cover the costs of providing extra service for the inauguration," Metro's General Manager John Catoe said, "but it will help."

Metro does not have exact projections of how much the inauguration service will cost the financially challenged agency, but Catoe said he plans to ask the federal government to pay for any costs not covered by the increased fares.

Initially the transit agency had said it would offer free parking and regular fares all day as it does on other federal holidays. But Metro is expecting unprecedented crowds as a projected 2 million to 4 million people descend on the region for the historic event.

Metro plans to extend its schedule and run trains from 4 a.m. until 2 a.m. to accommodate traffic that day. It also decided Thursday to expand rush-hour service for an additional two hours beyond already-stretched service, from its early 4 a.m. opening until 9 p.m.

Still, Catoe has said the Metro system cannot handle more than 1 million passengers on its rails and 600,000 on its network of buses, well below the number who may want to ride.

"You can expect large crowds, a long wait," Catoe warned.

The agency is urging D.C residents to walk to the swearing-in ceremony or their jobs that day. Bikes will be another option, though, they won't be allowed in the secured perimeter around the ceremony, nor on Metrorail.

rkweir@dcexaminer.com

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