Metro surpassed the 1.5 million ridership mark on Inauguration Day when unprecedented crowds flooded the nation’s capital for the historic swearing in of President Obama.
The transit system says it provided about 1.12 million rail trips, 423,000 bus trips and 1,721 MetroAccess rides for those with disabilities for a total of 1.54 million trips, the highest ridership day in the transit agency’s history.
The actual rail numbers may be higher, because Metro officials at times opened the turnstiles on Tuesday to unclog backed-up crowds.
Before Tuesday, Metro officials had estimated the most they could carry would be 1.6 million trips: 1 million on its rails and 600,000 on its buses. The prediction was remarkably close. And the inauguration produced much of what Metro officials expected: crowds and delays.
Still, the historic event presented some surprises the system had to juggle as they arose. “Several things we can control. And several things we cannot,” said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “You can control how you react.”
On Tuesday, a 68-year-old woman from Nashville, Tenn., slipped onto the tracks from a crowded platform at the Gallery Place station. She was not seriously injured, but the accident stopped Red Line trains there for about 45 minutes.
Metro also had to re-route buses from Virginia to the Pentagon station when the 14th Street Bridge became a pedestrian-only crossing, Farbstein said. The system also had to close the Federal Triangle station for four-and-a-half hours unexpectedly because of local law enforcement’s concerns about crowding on the National Mall.
And when lines of vehicles backed up onto local roads outside of station parking lots, local police told Metro to let some motorists into lots without paying.
Metro officials had expected the busiest times to be after the swearing-in ceremony and parade ended. Yet the morning logged some of the heaviest traffic inside the rail system, with more than 213,000 riders entering Metro stations between 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Some of Metro’s parking lots filled up by 5:30 a.m.
After the swearing-in ceremony ended, the system encountered large crowds trying to get into stations close to the National Mall. Local fire and medical crews went to the L’Enfant Plaza station twice for what Metro officials had described as passengers crushing each other, according to the D.C. fire department. Several people reported injuries, but none of the injuries were serious.
One pleasant surprise: A delay to the parade diffused some of the expected traffic crush in the evening.
The system also had to handle more than just one day of major crowds. Metro had three record-breaking days in a row. The We Are One opening ceremony helped tip Metro’s Sunday rail ridership to 616,324 entries, the highest for any Sunday since it opened in 1976.
Then Monday broke the rail record with 866,681 rides, well over the typical weekday ridership of 770,000 trips. Tuesday quickly bested that record by hundreds of thousands. The system ran for 60 hours during a 72-hour period.
Examiner reporter Scott McCabe contributed to this report.