Ticket Troubles
Thousands of purple and blue ticketholders waited for hours but were unable to gain access.  The Facebook page "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom" documents their experiences.

"This is a group dedicated to all those with purple,
blue, and silver tickets to the inauguration who braved
the early morning cold (and the crowds) only to end
up in the proverbial or literal Purple Tunnel of Doom."



January 21, 2009
Statement from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Washington, DC—The 56th Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony was the largest event in Washington, DC history. Months of planning by the staffs of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol Police, and the United States Secret Service resulted in an extraordinarily successful and peaceful event that was enjoyed by well more than a million people.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies deeply regrets that some ticket holders to the ceremonies were not able to get to their ticketed sections, primarily in the purple and blue zones. The number of tickets issued for these sections was based on historic precedent, and calculations of the number of guests that could safely be accommodated in each area.

Many of the problems appear to have been due to the unprecedented crowds, and a huge flow of unticketed people toward the U.S. Capitol and into the 3rd Street Tunnel from the National Mall, after it had reached capacity very early that morning and was closed to additional unticketed entries.

The JCCIC, U.S. Capitol Police and our federal and local partners will thoroughly examine every aspect of our planning including ticketing, screening, pedestrian flows, gate numbers and placement, to provide a foundation of lessons learned to future inaugural planners, so that they have the information they need to prevent similar problems.

We realize how important this inauguration was to so many people and the difficulties they endured to get here, so once again we deeply apologize to those guests who were not admitted.


January 21, 2009
Senator Feinstein Statement on Incidents at 56th Presidential Inaugural Ceremony

Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, today issued the following statement in response to reports of incidents which prevented a large number of ticketholders from reaching their designated areas at the 56th Presidential Inaugural Ceremony:

Following is Senator Feinstein’s statement:

“I have just spoken with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, and I have asked him to convene along with the U.S. Capitol Police, all law enforcement and other parties involved in planning for this Inaugural to conduct a prompt investigation into two serious incidents that have been reported. These reports have prompted great concern by members of the Inaugural Committee, including Senator Bob Bennett, and by Congress in general.

The specific incidents include the report that a decision was made to cut off access to Purple and Blue standing areas, which meant that a large number of ticketholders could not reach their designated areas.

I am also aware of the incident involving the 3rd Street Tunnel, where thousands of people were stuck for several hours and apparently without any law enforcement presence.

There may have also been other irregularities, but I have heard enough to know that something went wrong and we need to find out what happened. Mr. Sullivan has indicated that he will provide a full report.

I would encourage people who have direct information about these incidents to contact the Secret Service, in addition to contacting the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies at feedback@jccic.senate.gov.”

January 22, 2009
Senator Feinstein Issues Statement Following Meeting with Inauguration Officials

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement after meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss the Inauguration Swearing-In Ceremony:

“Today I met with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, Philip D. Morse, the Chief of the Capitol Police, and Terrence Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms, along with other law enforcement officials to discuss the 56th Presidential Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony.

An unprecedented number of people, estimated at nearly two million, converged on the National Mall area for this ceremony, and there was not one major arrest or injury at the event, apart from various medical emergencies. All law enforcement agencies worked very hard to keep the nation’s capital safe during this historic event, and they deserve our thanks. But the purpose of the discussion today was to learn more about what led to thousands of people not being able to get into their designated ticketed areas.

It is clear that there were significant problems with managing crowds, especially in the Third Street Tunnel and the agencies involved are in the process of sorting out exactly what happened. There will be an after-action report compiled, not to cast blame, but to help us understand what mistakes were made so that we can make sure they are not repeated at future Inaugurals.”


March 23, 2009

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein On the Law Enforcement Review of the 2009 Inauguration Review

Washington, DC—The multi-agency law enforcement team, led by the U.S. Secret Service, today released an executive summary of its review of security and crowd management issues that developed during the 56th Presidential Inauguration.  In addition to the Secret Service, the agencies that participated in the review included the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police. The following is a comment by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who served as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies:

“An enormous amount of preparation and planning went into this historic event, and I am grateful to all those who worked so hard to make the day a success.  More than 1.8 million people attended the inaugural ceremonies, the largest public gathering in the history of Washington, DC, and there were no major arrests or injuries. But for those with tickets who could not get into the swearing-in ceremonies, or were turned away from the parade or one of the balls, it was a tremendous disappointment and a cause for outrage.  To address the concerns raised by thousands of people who wrote to the Committee, I asked Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to commission this comprehensive analysis.

While this review cannot change what happened, and may not satisfy all of those who were shut out of the event, it does provide a good assessment of both the successes and deficiencies of the planning for 2009.  It also uses the lessons of 2009 to provide important and thoughtful guidance for the next inaugural planners.

The law enforcement review showed that a number of factors led to thousands of ticketed guests not being admitted to the Capitol grounds in time to witness the inauguration. These factors included the unprecedented crowds of non-ticketed guests trying to view the inauguration and merging with people who had tickets; different understandings of street closures between various law enforcement agencies; inadequate crowd management tools to direct, sort and queue the people seeking to get onto the Capitol grounds or gain access to the National Mall; and a failure to properly monitor or respond to the unexpected queuing of thousands of people in the northbound Third Street tunnel tube.

Among the extensive recommendations made by the review team are for the law enforcement agencies that have been solely responsible for crowd management to adopt a more integrated approach to crowd issues, including directly involving the Congressional and Presidential Inaugural Committees in the planning process and turning over responsibility for pre-screening and way-finding to these committees to hire staff or recruit volunteers for this function.

The report also recommends that the authority be better centralized within an executive steering committee established as part of the National Special Security Event designation to help resolve conflicts that might develop between the various law enforcement agencies involved and ensure that all agencies are working together on a common mission.

Some of the other key findings are provided below:

  1. The tickets printed in July did not have the most up-to-date directions because changes were made to the silver ticket gate location to accommodate revised parade and security plans, and a supplemental map handed out with the tickets could have done a better job of explaining the changes. The chief recommendation was to print the tickets much later in the process—but an alternative might also be to continue printing them over the summer, without a map, but include a reference to a centralized web site and telephone hotline and ensure that the map is printed at the latest possible date, and handed out with the tickets.  Much more extensive information on pathways to the gates and queuing areas also should be made available on the centralized web site utilized by all the agencies and committees involved in the planning process.
  2. The review found that contrary to initial reports, no gate was closed because the purple or blue areas and  their overflow zones had become too crowded.  Nevertheless, a key recommendation is to revise future plans to consider decreasing the number of standing room guests to assure no problems in case of crowd surges or other unexpected developments.
  3. The review concluded that adequate numbers of screeners and magnetometers were used in the purple and blue areas, and the 16-foot-gates to get into the screening areas were wide enough for the crowds.  However, as a layman, I believe this should be examined further in making preparations for the next inaugural.
  4. The Purple gate situation was aggravated by a nearby entrance to the parade screening area, a nearby pedestrian exit from the southbound tube of the Third Street tunnel through which crowds of non-ticketed guests came, a proximity to Union Station and large crowds of non-ticketed guests, and the compounding issues created by people queuing in the northbound tube of the Third Street tunnel.  There were insufficient law enforcement resources at the scene, and no public address system by which to communicate with the crowd at large.
  5. Also, the problems were worsened at Purple, Blue and Silver because of insufficient resources and signage to keep the ticketed guests and non-ticketed guests separated, and to form good queues for arriving ticketed guests. The report makes a number of very good recommendations for improving queuing, having better signs and distributing them much more widely for both ticketed and non-ticketed guests and for having public address systems at all the gates and queuing areas.  It also recommends transferring authority for pre-screening and way-finding services from law enforcement and to JCCIC for the swearing in and to PIC for the parade so they can hire staff or volunteers to do this in place of law enforcement.  I agree that there is a major need for a much greater number of pre-screeners and way-finders and other guides.  I believe future inaugural planners need to assess the best way to accomplish this and whether to also utilize more National Guard or outside law enforcement provided from other areas of the country.
  6. Regarding the Third Street Tunne—The northbound tube of the Third Street tunnel had been reserved for emergency vehicles only—no pedestrians—but according to the report, there were no barrels, signs or other devices in place to block entrance and very early in the morning, people started using it as a queue for the purple gate.  When a police team saw the queue, the report said they sought to redirect people, but when that was not possible, they began telling people to line up in the tunnel.  However, it appears no police report on this made its way to the multi-agency command post (MACC).

Later in the morning, when calls came into the MACC from people who felt trapped in the tunnel, the information was misinterpreted and officials were not aware of the extent of the problem.  These are very serious problems and need to remedied for the next inaugural.  The report recommends a number of changes to improve joint planning and the use of tunnels and roadways, and ensure high-level executive steering committee signoff of all such plans.  Another important recommendation was to create a much better reporting system at the joint command center, along with a future integration of social network tools such as Facebook, Twitter  and text messages from civilians to ensure more comprehensive awareness of problems as they develop in real time.

Attached is a copy of the executive summary of the multi-agency law enforcement report.  The Secret Service has classified the full report as “law enforcement sensitive” and not for public release.