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Paradegoers urged by MBTA to arrive early

The last-minute extension of today's Red Sox victory parade route to the Charles River didn't change MBTA officials' fears that the bus, subway, and commuter rail system will be overwhelmed by a record number of riders.

And it didn't change their advice: Leave early, be patient, and expect a lot of walking, jostling, and waiting.

The route change is expected to help with crowd control and ease the burden on some T stops along the Green Line, but T officials were still bracing for a sizable portion of the projected 3.6 million paradegoers.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's system can only handle about 100,000 people per hour, a typical weekday rush hour.

With service beginning at 5 a.m. today on subway lines and the "rolling rally" starting at 10 a.m., that would give the T five hours to move 500,000 people. But service on some lines today will be slower than on weekdays.

"We can't handle 3.6 or 5 million by ourselves," said T spokesman Joe Pesaturo. "The system cannot handle either number."

For motorists, the closure of Storrow Drive from Massachusetts Avenue to the Leverett Circle and the Longfellow Bridge will make it harder to get to and from downtown Boston, putting more pressure on Interstate 93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The turnpike will lift tolls from 6 to 10 a.m. today at the Allston-Brighton plaza to help speed eastbound traffic.

Officials at the news conference announcing the change said the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and possibly some lanes of Memorial Drive would also be closed, but Shawn Feddeman, Governor Mitt Romney's spokeswoman, said later that they would be open. Longfellow Bridge will be open for pedestrians only, she said.

Because of all the unknowns and the dire predictions, MBTA officials and others last night urged paradegoers to expect some overcrowded T stations to close and to get familiar with the location of nearby T stations, but most of all to get an early start.

"If people take advantage of the fact that subway service begins at 5 a.m., they will have less company on the trains," Pesaturo said.

The new extended parade route opens up the Charles River shoreline for viewing, as amphibious Duck Boats carrying the Red Sox entourage make a loop up the Boston side of the river to near the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, then back along the Cambridge side before the parade ends.

As a result, stations on the Red Line -- especially Kendall/MIT and under-repair Charles-MGH -- will get heavy use as fans seek shoreline seats for the parade.

Turnpike chairman Matthew J. Amorello also recommended that fans take the T, even while offering the free ride on the Pike.

"We're encouraging people to use the T, if possible, but we're also realists and understand that a lot of people are going to drive in," said Turnpike Authority spokesman Doug Hanchett.

After the "rolling rally," commuter trains leaving Boston for the suburbs will leave when full, regardless of their scheduled departure time, officials said.

During February's parade celebrating the Patriots' second Super Bowl win, which saw an estimated throng of 1.5 million, the MBTA system worked fairly well.

Mac Daniel can be reached at mdaniel@globe.com.

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