Thursday, January 22, 2009

Purple Tunnel of Doom

Wow. I only made some brief comments yesterday about what it was like trying to get to the Purple Gate for the Inauguration. I didn't want to appear churlish or to let anything spoil the happiness of the day. But it seems that I'm hardly the only one who noticed how bad things were -- over 2600 people have joined the Facebook group Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, apparently founded by one Dave Meyer, and they want an investigation into what went wrong.

In my opinion, it's pretty simple: the organizers had planned well for what would happen once you were inside the gate, but they planned badly for getting people to the gate. The organizers announced where the Purple Gate was (First and Constitution) and where the Purple Ticket Screening Point was (First and Louisiana), but not how to approach the screening point. Purple ticket holders were told to take the Red Line to Judiciary Square, but were not told how to proceed to First and Louisiana from there.

Upon leaving the Metro station, it seemed natrual to proceed to the Screening Point by the shortest route, which was to go to First Street and take a right. No one told us (and given the crowd it was almost impossible to see) that there was a fence that made it impossible to approach the Screening Point along First Street. You had to go down Louisiana.

A couple of simple signs that said "Purple Ticket Holders This Way," or one person with a megaphone, could have made a big, big difference. Instead, there was no one outside the gate with any information. There were no official Inaugural representatives, and the very few police who were present didn't know the crucial information.

Situations like this always come down to information and communication. If people had known that they had to approach the gate on Louisiana, they wouldn't have spent (literally) over an hour uselessly crushed up against people at First and D.

I don't think this was the only problem -- even if everyone had known how to get to the gate, there still might have been the same crush at the gate itself, which, as I remarked yesterday, looked about what it would have looked like if that gate had led to the last ship leaving the dock of a war-torn country. But, in my opinion, the biggest problem was the failure to communicate the crucical information about how to approach the gate.

Well, I still don't want to appear churlish. I made it through the gate, and the real point of the day was that Barack Obama became President! But a couple of signs could have made it a lot better.

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