Much of Metro’s transit network was pushed to its absolute limit Saturday as marchers descended upon Downtown LA yesterday to take part in a Women’s March corresponding with Donald Trump’s first full day in office. The transit agency has not released ridership numbers yet, but trains and buses heading in and out of Downtown were packed full for much of the day.
It’s also not clear exactly how many people turned up to the event itself. March organizers estimate the number to be around 750,000. LAPD stopped counting.
Lines for TAP Cards were dozens of people deep at many subway stations, while trains were full enough that some riders began boarding on the opposite side of the track—simply to ensure a spot when the train turned around at its last stop.
Crowds were large enough that it may be hard for the agency to get an accurate count. Complicating things: a rumor began circulating on social media in the morning that Metro was offering free rides. The Agency quickly dispelled that notion, but this Curbed writer noticed bus and train operators waiving fares as vehicles became more crowded and lines of people waiting to board grew longer.
After boosting normal weekend service in advance of the event, Metro began adding cars along the Red, Blue, and Gold Lines as the day went on. Blue Line riders heading out of Downtown after the march were then asked to board on the opposite side of the platform—presumably to space out the enormous crowds at the 7th Street/Metro Center station.
It seems likely that Metro, local law enforcement, and even the organizers of the march were caught off guard by the attendance numbers. The march was, in fact, so large, that the planned route could not contain all of the participants. Throngs of people began pouring onto streets around Pershing Square and City Hall, turning the march into something of an impromptu open streets event.
We’ll have to wait for Metro’s official ridership numbers, but the event certainly drew some of the largest crowds any of the system’s Downtown-serving trains and buses have likely seen. In Washington DC, where a crowd of at least 500,000 gathered on the National Mall, the city’s train system had its second-busiest day ever, serving more than 1 million riders.