WMATA opens its Customer Service Operations and Safety Committee (PDF) presentation on Inauguration Day preparations in the words of the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference." Well, not in exactly those words, but close enough that I saw the parallel right away. WMATA clearly feels that this is going to be an unprecedented event for the transit agency, but they’re doing the best they can to get ready for it.
The presentation summarized the inauguration planning, which up to now has been a pretty fluid process. I’ve been satisfied so far with WMATA’s candor and the effort they’re putting into this process. They’ve taken some shots for some of their decisions early on, from me as well as others, but it looks like they’re willing to reevaluate those decisions, like free parking and reduced fares. More recently, they’ve cut back on reserved Metrorail parking lots for charter buses, after the demand wasn’t sufficient for the amount of reserved parking planned.
The big change announced yesterday is that WMATA is planning on running new major bus corridors with 10 minute headways, as reported in the Washington Post. In addition to accepting cash and Smartrip cards, WMATA will sell a $5 all day bus pass to speed boarding (more than three times a bus fare? what a deal!). There’s a great summary in the presentation on what to expect each day during Inauguration Day weekend, including hours, fares, restrictions, and service enhancements.
Some of the highlights and surprises: Bikes will be prohibited on Metrorail throughout the weekend. WMATA will be running extra bus service to the airports (Dulles and BWI) on Saturday. Cars have to be out of WMATA lots by 10pm on Monday or be towed.
On another note, I’m going to admit when I was wrong. The Obama Smartrip cards were not as hot an item as I had originally thought. With crowds expected in the millions and apartments offered for thousands (though maybe not actually renting for that amount), I would have expected the market price for 35,000 commemorative Obama Smartrip cards to be much higher than $10 (in the comment on GGW I think I went crazy and guessed $100 or $200!). In fact, during the Board meeting when the cards were first announced, Board Chair Chris Zimmerman seemed to agree with me, reacting to the limited number of available cards by joking, "I think the price just went up!" But here we are, just a couple weeks ahead of the big day, and WMATA is still offering them for $10 (unloaded) on their website. There are dozens offered on Ebay for more than face value, and as far as I can tell there haven’t been many takers. I picked up a couple of them when they were first offered, thinking that in case the prices on Ebay went crazy I could sell at least one of them. The backup plan is that they make great gifts for Obama-supporting friends. It looks like it’s not so much that they’re not selling that well, it’s that the supply is much greater than expected.