You Might Want to Rethink Going to the Stewart/Colbert Rally!

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    If my experience is any indication, you might want to seriously rethink going to the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally today. I waited at the Virginia Square Metro stop on the Orange Line for a about 1/2 hour with hundreds of other people. During that time, two packed-liked-sardines trains went by – running, I’d add, on normal, weekend service schedule – and basically nobody got on. I left, with the next train supposedly coming in 13 minutes. I asked the Metro person there, and she seemed completely exasperated, said that the organizers of the rally wouldn’t pay for more Metro trains or something, hence no extra train capacity to carry hundreds of thousands of people. As far as I can tell, this is a major FAIL, I’m just not sure by who exactly.

    P.S. It’s really sad, because people were there from all over the country. I spoke to an older couple from Franklin County, Virginia, as well as a woman from New Haven, Connecticut (had taken Amtrak down this morning).  Will they ever make it to the rally?  Who knows. The Franklin County couple was considering, along with their grandchildren, heading out on the Metro to Vienna, then seeing if they could get on there. Good luck with that!

    UPDATE: Someone told me the rally organizers only put in their permit application that they expected 60,000 people?!? If true, that’s completely bonkers; more likely, 600,000 people want to go to this thing!

    UPDATE #2: Having completely given up on Metro, I’m now going to hitch a ride with my friend Eric and try to get down there by car of all things. Crazy, but what the hell.

    UPDATE #3 (2:19 pm): Well, I made it to the rally – sort of.  I say “sort of” because I actually made it to a huge crowd of people many blocks from where the rally was rumored to be taking place. At that point, it was complete human gridlock, or something close to it. Took me about an hour or so just to get out of there. Also, we could barely hear anything of what was being said, and there didn’t see to be big screens set up down the Mall a bit.  Basically, these guys are comedians, not rally organizers, and it showed today!  Also, I still can’t really say what this “rally” was all about, exactly, but whatever it was, it was huge! Hopefully, I’ll have a few photos of the crowd, some fun signs, etc. to post. Other than that…just watch it on TV!

    UPDATE #4: A few photos on the “flip.”























    • kindler

      I guess comedians are not known for rheir organizational skills…

    • dan

      if you are thinking about leaving for the rally right and you don’t live within walking/biking distance good luck.  even for the inauguration with all the extra capacity metro was busting at the seams and it was impossible to get on a train that was not one of the terminal stations.

    • Old Redneck

      My daughter, fueled with a breakfast of Pabst Blue Ribbon and SOS is in the midst of the crowd.

      Steve Colbert has tweeted that the crowd is around 6 BILLION.  No wonder Metro is crowded.

      I’m watching on Comedy Central — DirecTV channel 249 — the crowd is ENORMOUS, much larger than anything the Teahadists and Glenn Beck produced.

    • JimWebster

      My daughter reported shortly after noon that it was not possible to get on a train at Dunn Loring …. train after train was packed.

    • jack russell

      You see the little elevated booth back there – that was for the Park Police.  But there were actually two of the things – and we were maybe 100 yards further from the back one (down and to the right of the Smithsonian castle.

      I am not sure – I think it was 4th St in the foreground.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      outdrew Beck, but look what WAPO says:

      “where conservative commentator Glenn Beck led a similarly vast and homogenous crowd two months ago.”

      Tsk…

      Their objectivity is not showing.  Sometimes trying to look “fair and balanced” does the opposite.  There was no comparison between the two crowds.  Today has it.  Thanks, WAPO for sucking up to Beckland (snark).

    • snolan

      My wife and I heard via facebook that Metro Vienna was mobbed and hard to get into as early as 9:30am, so we continued driving into Crystal City where we knew we could park where she works even if public parking was full.  Public parking was not full; but the Crystal City Metro station was mobbed at 9:45am when we were there – so glad we already had Smart Trip cards with money on them…

      Everyone in Crystal City Shops and Metro was friendly; I got several comments of praise for my “The Onion” t-shirt.  There were many rally-goers in costume and carrying fun signs.  Lots of cheerful jostling and banter, everyone in a good mood.

      The platform waiting for the train into DC was packed full, completely full – not quite unsafe yet, but I hear they got that way later.  The opposite platform had one lonely guy with a suitcase clearly trying to figure out what event in DC was drawing such a crowd.

      Train was packed, not quite as packed as Tokyo subway trains during rush, but close; standing room only, no real need for hanging onto hand rails we were packed so tight.  We picked up many more at Pentagon City and a few more at the Pentagon…  train nearly emptied at L’Enfant Plaza…  

      We were supposed to meet a friend at the rally who was parking where she works in DC and walking.  We’d agreed to call her once out of L’Enfant Plaza station, but could not hear her over the noisy, laughing crowd.  We agreed to switch to text and that was the last my phone worked until we were well out of the crowd hours later.  Pretty much all carriers were completely overwhelmed by the crowd.

      We spent a frustrating 45 minutes looking for our friend and trying to text/call her – and gave up and randomly grabbed a small patch of grass that just happened to be next to a friend we did not expect to be there.  The crowd filled in around us… we were about 200 feet to the East of the police tower at 7th Street, had a view of a Jumbotron but could not see either the front or the back at all.  If I looked to my right we were in a straight line off the West edge of the Air & Space museum, about center of the mall.

      By noon we could no longer move much and it was clear that this crowd was HUGE.  I am guessing about 1/2 the size of the inauguration.  When the Mythbusters guys did the wave thing, we were very close to the middle where the front started-wave and the rear-started wave collided.  So, solid packed people with no free space from the stage to us at 7th, and probably close to that density all the way back to 12th or 13th before it began thinning out.  Crowd covered the steps of the museum on our left (American History?)…  Mobile circuits continued to be useless through the entire show/rally.

      Here are pictures I took at the rally:

      http://gallery.me.com/scottdavidnolan#100358

      The humor was a bit campy and delivery live at this huge rally was a little off – but generally funny.  The speech at the end was awesome.  Spotted some co-workers, never connected with the friend we were supposed to meet.  Walked back to L’Enfant Plaza and there was a three block line to get into the Metro from the North side; so we walked around to the South side and boarded a train as packed as a Kyoto city bus during Sakura Matsuri!  It got less crowded with every stop back though and our ride was free as the machines were not working at either end and the Metro folks just urged us on through (with hundreds of others).

      We stopped at Jaleo for tapas and a drink and some quiet after the crowd (which was fun, but loud) before driving back to Haymarket to meet friends for dinner.

      Every Metro escalator going the direction of the crowd was turned off…  I was told by others that this was to preserve the motors from the huge crowd’s impact.  The escalators the opposite direction were all functioning normally.  Visitors from out of town were very overwhelmed by the crowd and confusion and not knowing how the system works…  thankfully many people in the crowd were very helpful and pointed out how trip cards and smart trip cards worked and how to get money on them.

      The signs were a delight and people were very creative.

      My phone got bombed with backed up texts and voice mails once were back in Crystal City and had signal again.

      • jack russell

        at West Falls Church at 10AM.  Parking wasn’t an issue.  But there were huge lines to get into the station (extending out into the parking lot) – mostly people trying to buy farecards.  We were able to bypass that and get down onto the platform.

        The first train rolled in, and it was stuffed to the point where nobody could get on.  So we went to the other side of the platform, and caught the next train heading west to Vienna.  As we were rolling into that station we saw a long line of cars trying to exit and get into the parking lot, and there was a long line of people waiting to enter the station.  We just stayed seated and waited.  By the time our train left Vienna, it was again stuffed to the point where nobody could get on.  These were all 6-car trains, but they were running at 10-15 minute intervals.

        We got off at Smithsonian, and then walked up.  But we were only able to get as close as 7th St, and were barely able to see one of the jumbotrons, and we were barely able to hear.  We were there for a bit of it, and after a while we had had enough and the crowds were packed so tight that it took us a good 15 minutes to just work our way out by the Hirshorn.  There the crowed thinned out a bit and we worked our way back to Smithsonian station.

        Again the crowds were huge going west (Metro employees were preventing people from going down the escalator due to the fact that the platform was full), so we got on an eastbound train to Capitol South.  As we rolled into the station a westbound train was just leaving so we had to again wait.  The board showed something ambiguous (an unidentified train arriving, with an Orange shortly behind it).  As the unidentified train came in, it was marked “No passengers”, but it slowed to a stop and turned on the Orange line signs.   This was an 8-car train – I have never heard of them running these on weekends.  But by the time we got to L’Enfant it was packed to the point where nobody else could board.  But it sounded like they had a couple of other orange line trains a minute or two behind ours.

        In talking to people there were a considerable number of people that were doing what we did – riding the reverse direction in order to even be able to get onto a train.

        On the whole it seemed like Metro wasn’t expecting such crowds on a weekend, but it seemed like they made efforts to adapt (mainly by running longer trains – no 4-car trains at all), and possibly bringing extra trains into service.