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DC Subway Strains from Inaugural Crowd

Washington D.C.'s subway system - called Metro - was pressed to the limit on Inauguration Day. Riders began streaming into the system eight hours before Barack Obama was sworn in as America's 44th president, and subway stations close to the Capitol were near paralysis. After the inauguration, Metro was overwhelmed again as the huge crowds sought to leave the National Mall. VOA's Jeffrey Young rode the rails for this historic event.

The Washington, D.C. subway system, called "Metro," opened at 4am to move record crowds to the Capitol for President Barack Obama's inauguration.

Trains were nearly full before they moved out from their first stations. By 6am, parts of the subway system were packed. But people kept coming nonetheless. And they were festive.

The closure of two of the system's most heavily used stops on the National Mall compounded the passenger crush.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel explains. "The Smithsonian and Archives-Navy Memorial stops are closed Inauguration Day because those stations fall within the secured perimeter of Inauguration Day activities at the request of the United States Secret Service."

Subway station escalators were turned off for safety, sending hordes of people trudging up the steps. And the human wave continued at street level, with many people walking long distances to the Capitol and the Mall.

Metro's capacity is 120,000 riders an hour. By 11am, an hour before Mr. Obama's swearing-in, Metro had already moved more than a half-million people.

Several stations were made exit-only in the morning and the flow was reversed in the afternoon.

But nearly everyone's mind was on the day's festivities, not the inconveniences.

And despite the massive loads, Metro kept moving. And, moving, on what subway officials say may be its biggest day since opening in 1976.