Residents of Washington D.C. have been bracing for a logistical nightmare on Inauguration Day, with Mayor Adrian Fenty previously estimating that 4 to 5 million people could descend on the city on January 20th.
But as the Washington Post reports, the crowds might not be as daunting as originally feared. Yes, the challenges of getting around the city on January 20th will still surely be a source of consternation for D.C. commuters, not to mention the hordes of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama's swearing in. But officials now say that the crowd will likely be closer to half of Fenty's estimate.
"It's more of an art than a science," City Administrator Dan Tangherlini told the Post. "The fact is, earlier it was speculation. Now we're beginning to flesh it out and what the physical capacities of the system are." The revised estimate is based in part on conversations with transportation companies and others.
In 2005, 400,000 showed up to see President Bush be inaugurated for a second term, and there is little doubt that the crowd for Obama's swearing in will dwarf that figure. Hotel rooms in and outside the city have been booked solid for weeks, and Obama showed his capacity for attracting unprecedented crowds while on the campaign trail. Officials now say that as many as 2 million people could turn out for the historic event; if the turnout is higher, some spectators are likely to be out of luck, as the city lacks the transportation infrastructure to get larger numbers of people to the Mall or parade route.
There is little sense of how many people will ultimately show up: The Secret Service and the Presidential Inaugural Committee won't make their estimates public, and the Post quotes educated guesses of anywhere from 1.5 to nearly 5 million. Tangherlini said about 3 million could fit on the Mall if need be – and it's safe to assume that's standing room only.