Cherry Blossom Festival Brings Record Days for Public Transportation and Garbage

Peak bloom and perfect weather meant lots of public transit and lots of trash.

By: Benjamin Freed

With temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, sun-filled skies, and the Yoshino cherry trees in peak bloom, the Mall and Tidal Basin were clogged with tourists on the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors milling through the city meant boons for Capital Bikeshare and Metro, both of which had banner days on Saturday. Bikeshare logged 15,746 rides on Saturday, busting past its previous record, set last August, by more than 4,000 trips. (The system counted another 14,575 trips on Sunday.)

Metro was also extremely busy its last weekend before gripe-inducing track work resumes, with 638,474 people boarding trains on Saturday, nearly double what the rail system gets on an ordinary Saturday. It made for the heaviest weekend day since October 30, 2010, when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

But as much as the last days of cherry blossom season were big for multimodal transport, they were just as huge for garbage. Hundreds of thousands of tourists teeming around the Mall left generous amounts of refuse, overflowing receptacles and leaving public areas dotted with trash piles.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson says the tourists that came through the Mall over the weekend left park workers with between 27 and 30 tons of trash to pick up. So far, NPS maintenance crews have topped off five 20-yard containers and are filling a 30-yard bin. While there’s always a lot of garbage to clean up after a cherry blossom festival, Johnson says last weekend’s combination of tourists, peak bloom, and perfect weather produced a trash heap on par with Fourth of July celebrations.