- Yes, the Washington Monument's still standing. (Photo: flickr/ryanjreilly)
Despite the fact that the Earth rocked with the force of the biggest quake in decades yesterday shortly before 2 p.m., I woke up today and completed my morning commute with zero complications. No delays, no fear, no shaking, and no broken equipment.
How did people react to the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the East Coast yesterday? Panic and confusion may have initially reigned, but people quickly took control, and we're now back to business as usual. Metro is running smoothly (or at least as usual), as WMATA told customers just before 5 a.m. this morning. There are "no outstanding issues" affecting the system, the organization confirmed, after running inspections of 106 miles of track and stations throughout the night. Bus and MetroAccess also continue as usual today. D.C. school kids are off due to building inspections, but otherwise, life continues.
The dust is settling, and what I'm observing is mostly positive.
Capital Bikeshare's statistics show a notable spike in usage yesterday. There were 5,847 rides on Tuesday in total, according to DDOT, nearly 1,100 more than the day before. The real spike occurred right after the earthquake as people rushed home. These stats reflect the empty bikeshare stations I observed yesterday, which the Wash Cycle spotlighted in a screenshot today. People walked around. They took advantage of quake happy hours.
And why? Feet and bikes won the day yesterday for the simple reason that our major transit systems were overwhelmed.
Delays snarled through the traffic systems of the road and Metro, as necessary inspection procedures occupied work crews all over. Here's an image of the traffic jam that hit much of Washington, D.C. in the hours after the quake. Some traffic lights were out, and drivers suffered as a result in the initial hours of gridlock. Fears about Metro delays likely led to a greater number of taxis on the road as well. DDOT issued updates on different problems affecting intersections and accidents, and a glance at traffic reports showed high congestion on major roads. City crews began inspecting bridges and other structures that may have been affected by the shaking.
Metro also seemed to experience a rush of customers in those first hours, especially at the Rosslyn station where a train was offloaded shortly after 4 p.m. WMATA slowed its trains to 15 miles/hour during the track inspections, which continued for several hours until 10 p.m., when they increased the speed to 30 miles/hour. Normal speeds run up to 60 miles/hour.
Social media emerged as a refuge for people who sought information about the disaster, and organizations responded. Metro's communications duo of Dan Stessel and Brian Anderson tried to inform and respond to Metro riders as much as they could on the @WMATA account. Anderson kept updating the Metro Forward Facebook page reiterating any big updates. By midnight, WMATA had released a half dozen press releases on the state of their system, and they were able to reassure this morning's riders that the rails were open for business before 5 a.m. DDOT provided a human voice on its own Twitter account along with many relevant bits of news.
Amid all that insecurity and the delays, bikes and walking were the two relatively reliable ways to travel in the District, and it's no wonder that people took advantage late yesterday afternoon. By early evening yesterday, D.C.'s transit had begun to calm down though. The car I left in encountered literally no trouble or congestion as it passed through the District a little before 7 p.m. The ride was a dream.
Today business is back, at least for now. "Expecting a fairly normal rush hour this morning," DDOT tweeted about the sanity of our morning commute. "No traffic signal issues. @wmata has resumed regular service." Damage is still being assessed, but remarkably, I've heard no reports of anyone being hurt. We're still seeing about the National Cathedral and other affected structures. Here's a photo of WMATA workers fixing a cracked platform from earlier this morning.
All in all — not bad, D.C. We're still standing, riding, walking, and working.