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Not Quite 2009: Inauguration Crowds Smaller, But Still Leave Their Mark

WASHINGTON -- The inauguration for the nation’s first African-American elected president drew the largest crowds in the history of the nation’s capital in 2009, but President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration was scaled back with organizers lowering their turnout estimate the day before the event from less than half the 1.8 million people that gathered four years ago to between 500,000-700,000.

But it still didn’t mean there were short lines or a lack of crowds.

While Metrorail trains had plenty of room in the early morning, they soon became crowded. And the National Mall was reported as “full and closed” at 11:35 a.m., four and a half hours after opening at 7 a.m., according to the U.S. Park Police.

At the end of the day, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reported Metrorail ridership was at 695,000, which caused “heavy crowds” at all Metro stations near the mall, the U.S. Park Police said.

Businesses in the area welcomed the crowds. Eighteen restaurants held extended hours to accommodate the influx of inauguration-goers, including Carmine’s at 425 7th St. NW—a few blocks from the Inaugural parade route.

“We weren’t open in 2009, but this is fabulous for business,” said Jill Collins, Carmine’s spokeswoman. “Thousands of people are walking past our restaurant and it’s been packed all weekend.”

Collins said a lot of thinking ahead went into preparing for the day’s festivities, including arranging deliveries ahead of time before the road closures, and gearing up for security. “The Secret Service has been very accommodating,” she said. “We’ve been having briefings for weeks.”