Exactly one week out from Inauguration Day, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies is battening down the hatches to prepare for many of the logistical challenges that affected the event four years ago.
And the committee is doing more than just closing off the Third Street Tunnel, now better known as the “Purple Tunnel of Doom” that shut thousands of purple-coded ticketholders out of the festivities in 2009.
This year, JCCIC’s primary tool to help combat the crowd and communications issues of 2009 is the committee’s first ever mobile application, according to Chairman Charles E. Schumer.
The Democratic senator from New York held a news conference Monday to describe the app, which can be downloaded on any smartphone by going to the JCCIC website (www.inaugural.senate.gov). When prompted, the user can “allow” the site to use GPS technology to access his or her location in relation to the National Mall and Capitol Grounds.
Since official inaugural tickets are color-coded to correspond with specific seating and standing sections, ticketholders will be able to use the application to map out their current location with their ticket’s entry checkpoint.
“You don’t have to memorize anything before you leave for the ceremonies,” Schumer explained, adding that the app “will show you . . . your best route, for where you are at the moment, no matter how lost you might be.”
The application will also run the official Twitter feed for the event to keep crowds updated throughout President Barack Obama’s public swearing-in ceremony.
“A lot of that’s important,” Schumer said. “Let’s say there’s a huge traffic jam or pedestrian jam; that will be tweeted to avoid this location.”
Among the many issues on Inauguration Day four years ago was that the unprecedented crowds and inefficient signage made it difficult for attendees to know whether they were in the right place. With millions of people simultaneously plugged in to their mobile devices, it was also a challenge to get adequate and consistent signals to call, tweet or text.
Schumer said on Monday that not only would the mobile phone apps make crowd control easier but that there would also be additional signal towers in place around the National Mall. In other words, the technology created to help the event run smoothly will be widely accessible.
The Monday news conference was also an occasion for Schumer to unveil the design for the official inaugural tickets, which will be made available this week for lawmakers to distribute among their constituents.
Though it is not illegal to resell the 250,000 tickets specially printed by the Government Printing Office, the practice is frowned upon, and Schumer renewed his call for online marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay to prohibit users from auctioning off their tickets. StubHub, on its own accord, has agreed to ban inaugural ticket sales, and eBay has removed inaugural ticket sales.
An eBay spokesman told CQ Roll Call that “the tickets that were up for sale for President Obama’s inauguration have been removed from eBay.” The spokesman said the company was not responding to Schumer’s request but, rather, because the sales were in violation of eBay’s ticket policy.
“Having an inaugural ticket is a privilege,” Schumer said. “It is not something that should be used for profit.”