It’s either a ghost town or a party, depending on where you are in the nation’s capital.
Sherry Watkins, 51, and her daughter Cathleen, 17, of nearby Centreville, Va., breezed onto trains with little apparent delay at the Vienna Metro station in northern Virginia, and reminisced about the mob scene of 2009. ‘‘Four years ago, it was all standing and we couldn’t get our hands up’’ on the Metro, Sherry Watkins says.
Indeed, by mid-morning, Metro subway trains through downtown Washington are no more crowded than they would be on a typical workday — except virtually no one was going to work. Although Metro is urging riders coming in from the suburbs not to change trains, passengers had little trouble switching at the busy Metro Center station.
Terry Alexander, a Democratic state representative from South Carolina, and his wife, Starlee Alexander, were taking a leisurely ride from their downtown hotel to Union Station. Four years ago, they had to ride a bus to the Pentagon from their Virginia hotel and walk across the 14th Street Bridge to the National Mall. ‘‘This is calm,’’ Terry Alexander says. ‘‘Last time, we couldn’t even get down in the tunnel to get to the trains.’’
The east side of Capitol Hill is virtually empty, devoid of people for several square blocks, except for police officers. It was the west side of Capitol Hill that was jammed, as people waited to get into the secure area to watch Obama’s public swearing-in. Near the podium, folding chairs hold blue blankets and place cards. Former Democratic leader Tom Daschle is to sit next to Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The president and vice president get padded, wing back style blue chairs.
Parts of the parade route also are filling up. Thousands of people are waiting in security lines that stretched a block to gain access to spots that are accessible to the general public without a special ticket. And the crowd is growing thicker around the National Mall. Long lines snake from a refreshment stand near the National Air and Space Museum.
Michael Kimbro of Atlanta, Ga., has been in the line for an hour and is still 30 feet from the stand’s window. ‘‘It’s a little frustrating,’’ Kimbro says, ‘‘but it’s well worth it.’’
—Matthew Barakat, Stephen Ohlemacher, Ben Nuckols, Donna Cassata, Richard Lardner
Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama’s second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.