Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

The MLK Memorial transportation nightmare has arrived

August 22, 2011 - 04:00 PM
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(Photo: MLKMemorial.org)

The moment has arrived — the epic monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. is finally being unveiled on the National Mall for the District's residents to see. Luckily, the capital's government and transit agencies realized that this would be, well, kind of a big deal. The official, ticket-free unveiling for D.C. metro area residents was supposed to happen tomorrow but people are already getting through to the memorial today. "MLK" is already an international trending topic on Twitter today, and lines have begun forming.

And you, my fellow D.C. residents, will have to navigate the thousands of bodies struggling to get to the National Mall today, tomorrow, and for the 11 a.m. dedication on Sunday. Both Metro and DDOT have begun to present a few tips for the ambitious among us who will venture to the ceremony this Sunday. Here is a guide to surviving the chaos that will surely accompany its debut.

Keep the following points in mind as you embark into the center of our fair city when the memorial is officially dedicated this coming Sunday:

• The Metro will be open longer on Sunday, August 28, from 5 a.m. until midnight. Luckily we'll be spared the "major track work" we've become accustomed to this weekend and have been even been promised more frequent trains, coming every 8 to 12 minutes.

• Don't expect to find working escalators. Metro says they're turning off many of the descending escalators as a way to meter the traffic coming into their system. Elevators should work just fine, however.

• The Circulator costs just a buck, and DDOT recommends the Convention Center-SW Waterfront stop.

• Many in D.C. will still be biking to the memorial site. The MLK memorial website refers to bike racks being built there, but there's not likely to be a surplus of spaces in the area.

• Remember, Metro's rules for Sunday include a ban on bikes in the Metro, which means that many bike commuters won't be able to hop on like they're used to. Bikes just take up too much room, I guess.

• Parking at all the commuter lots is free on the weekends as usual. But arrive early ... these will fill up quickly. Free shuttles will travel from the RFK stadium parking lot to the memorial dedication site.

• Metro advises that riders avoid the Foggy Bottom station because it's getting new escalators and the Smithsonian station because it'll be so outlandishly crowded. WMATA also will feature a special trip planner, in which you can just enter your destination as "MLK Memorial."

• Buy your Metro tickets, passes, and whatnot ahead of time. Remember, WMATA's offering a commemorative pass for the occasion. See a photo of what it looks like here.

• Here's some planned bus detours to keep in mind.

• Capital Bikeshare is likely to experience some heavy usage as well, and I would recommend grabbing a bike early if you can. Biking to or near to the Mall would save a lot of hassle on the Metro if you can manage it. I imagine the bikeshare racks will be empty pretty early, however, given the size of the event. DDOT refers cyclists to the station at 19th & Constitution Avenue, NW and makes note of others at Virginia Ave & 21st St NW and 19th & E Street, NW. Expect availability to be "limited," DDOT cautions.

• The Post's Robert Thomson says to prepare for a long walk to get to the site and recommends heading out from the Arlington Cemetery station for the scenic stroll it's likely to provide. He adds that the grounds, near the Tidal Basin, are difficult to reach. "The location is remote and the directional signs aren’t very good," Thomson concludes.

Good luck with the traffic craziness, everyone. I'm curious to see the effect of so many thousands of people coming into the capital. There'll be more MLK Memorial transit news and tips to share as the week goes by, but the information above should be a good start.

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