- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

A record 850,000 riders used Metro on Wednesday during the casket procession of former President Ronald Reagan, fueling a surge of activity at downtown restaurants and hotels.

Wednesday’s was the highest one-day ridership in the transit system’s 28-year history, Metro officials said.

At midnight Wednesday, the system’s closing time, 850,636 trips had been taken on the subway, spokesman Steve Taubenkibel said. The previous highest one-day ridership total was 811,257, during President Clinton’s first inauguration on Jan. 20, 1993.

“It’s so unpredictable when there are big events in town,” said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “When you set a new record that has held for 11 years, it is just incredible.”

Daily Metrorail ridership during the spring is usually 670,000 to 690,000, officials said, adding that no major problems handling the large crowds were reported.

“We had no operational problems. It was very similar to July Fourth — staggered arrival and quick mass departure,” Miss Farbstein said.

Restaurants on Capitol Hill said the procession made for some odd business patterns, keeping typical customers — Hill staffers, residents and softball teams — away but resulting in a burst of business after the ceremony.

“We did have a pretty good surge from 7 to 9,” said Paul Meagher, general manager of the Hawk & Dove on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. “Our chef had gone home, but we had to call him and get him back.”

Numerous downtown streets were closed Wednesday by security measures for the funeral procession along Constitution Avenue, and city officials encouraged commuters and visitors to use the Metrorail system.

Many looking to avoid the rush-hour traffic during the ceremonies took Metro on Wednesday, as city officials and police urged the use of mass transit to ease road congestion during the procession.

Metro provided free shuttle-bus service to the Capitol from RFK Stadium throughout the night Wednesday and last night. Three 60-seat buses ran every 15 minutes, from 11:30 p.m. until 6 a.m., with free police-monitored parking at RFK Stadium.

Mr. Taubenkibel said that as of 4 p.m., 446,749 subway trips had been taken yesterday, less than Wednesday’s total at that time of 489,623, but substantially higher than the average of 360,000 at that hour.

“We’re expecting another high day of ridership [today],” Mr. Taubenkibel said.

Wednesday’s record numbers were “astronomical” but likely the pinnacle of the increased ridership during the funeral proceedings, he said.

“When the funeral was going … it was slow,” said Wais Moorzai, manager at the Red River Grill on Massachusetts Avenue NE. “After that was over, it looked like the whole Capitol was here to eat. We were slammed.”

Brisk business continued at some places yesterday.

Customers waiting in line at the U.S. Capitol to pay their respects to the former president about doubled business at Peter’s Diner on Second Street SE yesterday morning.

“We’ve had much more coming in and out since 5 in the morning,” said Gum Tung, the diner’s owner. “A lot of people finish with the line and then come in.”

Hotels started preparing for an influx of visitors this weekend.

“We had a flurry of phone calls on Saturday,” said Barbara Bahny, director of public relations at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.

The 341-room hotel inventoried its remaining stock of rooms and worked with embassies to make sure dignitaries attending the funeral had a place to stay.

“We’ve been sold out on several occasions [this year], and we’re just about sold out [Thursday night],” she said.

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