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March for Our Lives: How teens are using transit for this weekend’s big protest

How organizers, agencies, and transit providers are prepping for an expected 500,000 people in D.C.

Students hold up their hands as they participate in a protest against gun violence February 21, 2018 outside the White House in Washington, DC. Hundreds of students from a number of Maryland and DC schools walked out of their classrooms and made a trip to the U.S. Capitol and the White House to call for gun legislation, one week after 17 were killed in the latest mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
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This Saturday’s March for Our Lives protests to advocate for gun control at the nation’s capitol and at sibling marches across the country are drawing comparisons to last year’s inaugural Women’s March.

Both were quickly organized protests that became massive events—local officials estimate over 500,000 people may show up for the march—despite numerous logistical hurdles. The 2017 Women’s March set ridership records for many transit agencies, some of whom were overwhelmed by the number of first-time riders.

March for Our Lives will be a little different. Coming after two years of successful organizing by the leaders of the Women’s March, it’ll have something of a template to draw from when trying to solve the logistical challenge of organizing the march, which is set to go from the Federal Triangle to the Capitol Reflecting Pool near the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. Like the Women’s March, this event will have an official app, designed by DoubleDutch, providing day-of information and transit recommendations.

However, it’ll also have an added challenge—the large number of protestors and participants under the age of 18 creates additional hurdles to figuring out transit and overnight accommodations.

According to Brian Young, executive director of the Action Network, a progressive nonprofit that’s built some of the organizing tools used for the recent school walkouts and the upcoming march on D.C., this weekend’s protest will be somewhat decentralized due to the many smaller organizations converging on D.C. And while he says it has become a cliche at this point, he’s very impressed with how the teens have organized so far.

“The kids did a really good job of making connections with other students in Chicago and elsewhere,” he says. “I’ve been impressed by the ability of teens to organize themselves without any help at all.”

Here’s a look at how the protestors, organizers, as well as public and private groups, are helping solve the challenge of getting marchers to the Capitol. We’ll be updating this page throughout the week.

Public transit plans ahead

Perhaps using lesson learned from past Women’s Marches, the D.C. transit agency, WMATA, is planning ahead for potential record ridership. (Cherry blossom season, a huge tourist draw, coincides with the march).

The agency posted plans and advice for the March 24 event, and will run rush-hour service levels throughout the day to accommodate the expected crowds. WMATA suggests users purchase fare cards ahead of time, follow the agency’s Twitter feed for updated info, and travel light (bikes and coolers will not be permitted on trains that day).

Ride-hailing apps offering discounts

At the beginning of the month, Lyft said it would provide free rides to rallies across the country. The company says its still working on finalizing logistics and will announce a more formalized plan this week. Curbed has also reached out to Uber to see if it is offering similar discounts. Organizers have also arranged for an Uber and Lyft drop-off site at 7th and Independence.

March for Our Lives

Bus companies booking trips

As they did last year for the Women’s March, bus companies and charters expect to bring lots of marchers to D.C., and plan to park dozens of vehicles in the parking lot of RFK Stadium (parking for 400 vehicles has been set aside). Adam Nestler is CEO of Skedaddle, an on-demand bus-sharing startup that brought more than 11,000 marchers to the 2017 Women’s March. This year, the company is also organizing on-demand, round-trip travel to D.C. Rally, another bus service, already has 50 charters booked, with some coming from as far away as Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to its paid routes, Skeddadle will send two buses worth of students to DC for free via a partnership with LIPSTICK, a program that empowers women to prevent gun violence, mass incarceration and trauma. The company will also donate $5 to the March for Our Lives Action Fund for every rider that joins a Skedaddle route to D.C. from Boston or New York City.

Housing for teens who can’t rent hotel rooms

Many of the teens coming to the march who are under 18 won’t be able to rent cars, book hotel rooms, or use Airbnb, creating a need for safe, alternative lodging for those staying overnight.

To help fellow protestors make the trip, a group of four area teenagers from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, have set up an alternative home-sharing network, recruiting local families, as well as churches and synagogues. The student organizers at Walter Johnson plan to host a dinner the night before the march, and head in together as a group to D.C. that Saturday via the subway. Those applying for space who are under 18 need to include a parent’s phone number, for safety reasons, and need have parental permission to stay. Those wanting to host can contact the group via email.