Photo by selected pixels on Flickr.

Union Station, built as a grand gateway to Washington DC, is today more of a beautiful big hall with a bland train station stuck on the back. A mall operator runs the station with an eye more toward shopping than transit. And inauguration planners saw it first as a great place for a ball, with its transportation role an afterthought. That’s why Union Station was possibly the inauguration’s greatest fiasco.

A Huffington Post article analyzes the debacle. Reporter Matthew Harwood quotes a Greater Greater Friend’s parents who were stuck outside the station for hours, missing their VRE train home, while the Secret Service closed the station and food court hours before the Eastern States Ball.

Why would the Secret Service, the lead agency securing the Inauguration, allow an inaugural ball in one of the District’s most critical transportation hubs during an day anticipated to bring record crowds flooding into the District? ...

In the end, average rail travelers using Union Station got the same treatment they always do when their interests cross those of our nation’s elite: They were told to be patient and calm and to wait in line.

"And for what,” asked the New York businessman, “so someone could have champagne tonight?”

If you were lucky enough to get into the Eastern States Inaugural Ball, according to the Boston Herald, you could see a few Kennedys, Congressman Barney Frank, and the Senator John Kerry’s brother and sister, before the Obamas made their entrance.

Enthusiasts and critics of Obama are right: maybe this is the new Camelot.


Union Station is our city’s grand entrance hall. It’s not a private ballroom for Congressional leaders that we use with their forbearance until they kick us out when they need the room.

Eleanor Holmes Norton has been a great advocate for Union Station. She should take a close look at how the decision was made to take away our space for this ball. The station’s policies should allow rentals only when the public isn’t likely to need the space. As for future inaugurations, they can pick someplace else.

We've just launched our brand new website and are working out some kinks. Find something that looks like a bug? Please help out by sending us an email with the details!

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.