Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Take the Train

Virginia Railway Express - VRE - is warning riders who want to take its trains on Inauguration Day that they need to buy their tickets in advance. The special Inaugural tickets are available by mail order only. Anyone who does not have one of these tickets will not be allowed on the train.

Riders will need to pick three choices on either the Manassas or Fredericksburg Lines for January 20th.

Tickets are $25 and are round trip only. No regular tickets will be accepted. There is a whole set of regulations on VRE's website. There are no refunds regardless of the reason and you can only use the tickets for the trains you choose - no substituting and no exchanges. Don't even try to buy a ticket on the platform - they will not be for sale. Also, expect security to be high - bomb sniffing dogs and stuff like that.


The first rain leaves Broad Run in Manassas at 5:05 am and reaches Union Station at 6:18 am. The last train from Broad Run leaves at 7:50 am and reaches Union Station at 9:05.

The last train out might put a damper on your Inaugural celebration plans - it leaves Union Station at 6:50 pm and arrives at Broad Run station at 8:03. Again the time of arrival is an estimate, because it is highly likely that all these trains will be full.Manassas Line VRE Gallery Car (C)

For the Fredericksburg line, the first train leaves at 5:15 am and reaches Union Station at 6:52. The last train in leaves Fredericksburg at 7:50 am and reaches Union Station at 9:19.

The last Fredericksburg train leaves Union Station at 6:40 pm and arrives in Fredericksburg at 8:08 pm. (Note: These downtown arrival times are estimates at best. Depending on how long it takes to load the respective trains at each station there could be delays. Also if there is inclement weather or if there is a mechanical problems, obviously arrivals will be later ).

When you arrive

The closest station to the Mall - to the West side of the Capitol - is L'Enfant. If you leave the platform on the 6th street side, you will see the Holiday Inn and the Federal Center in front of you and the Air and Space Museum is down 6th street to your left. Walk towards the Air and Space museum, past the Department of Education building and you will reach Maryland Avenue. Look to your right and you should see the Capitol.

Do not confuse this station with Metro's L'Enfant Plaza Station. They are not the same. VRE's L'Enfant station is between 6th and 7th streets SW and has visible railroad tracks above the street. You have to climb stairs to get to it. Metro's L'Enfant plaza is close by - Maryland Avenue and 7th street - but you have to go underground to get to it.

All VRE trains run what are called Gallery cars, which are double-decker cars. The Fredericksburg trains tend to have the newer cars, which have better seats, better lighting and better bathrooms. The Manassas Line tends to have refurbished older gallery cars, which are adequate, but have older seats, poor lighting and fewer bathrooms. Fredericksburg Train interior

But for all the special steps necessary it is still better than trying to drive - one local radio station is reporting that the Potomac River Bridges in DC - the Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge from Arlington Cemetery, and the 14th Street Bridge - the one that was hit by the Air Florida plane in the 1980s - will all be closed to traffic. Also several streets around or near the Mall in downtown DC are expected to be closed.

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