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Which Metro stations are busiest?

Thanks to data from Metro's planning department, we have the ability to analyze many different ridership patterns. Today, let's take a look at stations, and see which are the busiest.


During the weekday morning rush period, many people are entering the Metro system to get to work. The busiest stations for entering customers fall all across the region.

Here's a table of the top 10:

Metro AM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations
RankStationAvg. entries
1Union Station9,711.7
3Shady Grove9,557.4
4West Falls Church6,816.1
6New Carrollton6.320.9
8Silver Spring6,026.7
10Pentagon City5,714.9

Half of these stations are end-of-line stations with large park-and-ride lots. Pentagon and West Falls Church are both major bus hubs, as is Silver Spring. Union Station, of course, is at the top because it's where many commuter rail riders enter the Metro system.

The entries at these 10 stations account for 30.7% of all entries during the AM peak across the system.

And where are these riders going? The busiest stations for exits are all in the region's core. Here's the top 10:

Metro AM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations
RankStationAvg. exits
1Farragut North16,573.7
2Farragut West15,497.7
3Metro Center15,358.6
4L'Enfant Plaza13,143.5
5Union Station12,029.7
6McPherson Square11,185.4
7Gallery Place10,682.5
8Foggy Bottom10,529.9

Of all the people who exit the Metro system during the morning peak period, 50.3% of them exit at one of the top 10 stations. These 10 stations account for more exits than all the other stations combined, with 118,757 people exiting these stations on average each morning.

Also of note, the 2 Farragut Square stations combined handle more than twice as many exits as the third place station, Metro Center. Without the objection of the National Park Service, the Farragut stations would have been one station, and a crowded one at that.

Afternoon rush

We can see similar patterns during the evening rush hour.

The top 10 evening entry stations are all in the regional core, with just one, Rosslyn, outside downtown Washington. The only station in the AM peak top 10 exit list that is not in the evening entry list is Pentagon (which is 13th place). It's been replaced by Smithsonian (which is 14th in the AM exits list).

The top 10 entry stations for the PM peak represent 45.7% of all PM peak entries systemwide, a slightly smaller share than the share of the top 10 morning exit stations.

Metro PM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations
1Farragut North15,948.4
2Metro Center15,675.7
3Farragut West13,594.5
4L'Enfant Plaza13,196.7
5Union Station12,563.9
6Gallery Place12,089.8
7Foggy Bottom11,099.5
8McPherson Square9,830.1

And where are these evening commuters headed?

Metro PM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations
1Union Station11,587.7
3Shady Grove8,320.5
4Pentagon City7,636.7
5Gallery Place6,985.8
6West Falls Church6,555.5
7Dupont Circle6,282.5
9Silver Spring5,782.3
10New Carrollton5,645.5

The evening exits top 10 looks a lot like the morning entries top 10. But Huntington and Franconia-Springfield, which are the #7 and #9 top entry stations in the morning have dropped to #12 and #11, respectively. In their place are 2 central stations, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle.

This difference can probably be attributed to the entertainment venues and restaurants near these stations. Dupont Circle and Gallery Place are known for their nightlife opportunities, and passengers headed there probably drive the numbers up a bit.

The top 10 PM peak exit stations account for 28.3% of all exiting passengers systemwide on average.


The time between the morning and evening rush hours is what Metro calls the midday period. It's probably marked not just by people running errands or going to lunch, but also by workers who commute slightly later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon than most or who have jobs that don't have 9-5 hours.

Metro midday period entries and exits: Top 10 stations
1Union Station6,209.51Union Station7,114.5
2Metro Center5,003.62Metro Center7,085.3
3Gallery Place4,419.53Gallery Place6,151.8
4Foggy Bottom4,311.34Farragut North5,866.7
5Farragut North4,308.05Smithsonian5,135.9
6Dupont Circle3,776.06Foggy Bottom4,812.2
7L'Enfant Plaza3,721.17Farragut West4,488.9
8Farragut West3,572.98L'Enfant Plaza4,076.9
9Pentagon City3,532.59Dupont Circle4,055.2
10Rosslyn3,437.510Pentagon City3,781.6

I think the fact that the top 3 midday entry stations are the same as the top 3 exit stations is interesting. Union Station makes a lot of sense, considering its role as an intermodal hub. The reasons for Gallery Place and Metro Center are less clear. Keep in mind that people changing trains aren't counted; only people leaving or entering the faregates appear in these numbers.

Additionally, 9 stations are in both lists. Rosslyn, #10 in the midday entries list does not appear in the exits list because it has fallen to #12. Instead, Smithsonian appears in 5th place on the exits list. This is probably because many people (especially tourists) are headed to see the monuments or museums in the vicinity. Few are leaving the Mall area yet, though, perhaps accounting for Smithsonian's absence from the top entry stations list (it's 16th).


The period after the PM rush is the evening period. Note that these numbers do not include the average ridership for the after midnight service provided on Fridays.

Metro evening period entries and exits: Top 10 stations
1Gallery Place7,489.01Dupont Circle2,884.3
2Metro Center5,897.42Gallery Place2,803.5
3Foggy Bottom4,533.83Columbia Heights2,772.5
4Farragut North4,523.34Pentagon City2,512.6
5Union Station4126.55Silver Spring2,493.6
6Dupont Circle3,963.46Shady Grove2,349.8
7Farragut West3,875.47Vienna2,261.1
8Navy Yard3,494.18Rosslyn2,163.7
9Pentagon City2,519.49Union Station2,034.9
10McPherson Square2,345.810Fort Totten1,969.5

As expected, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle, major nightlife areas, appear in both the evening entry and exit top 10. Most of the other entry stations are in the core. Navy Yard comes in at number 8, perhaps due to Nats games during May, when the data were collected.

Shady Grove, Vienna, and Silver Spring are all major suburban hubs, and their presence in the top 10 exit list isn't surprising. Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven't appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising.

What surprises you about these numbers?

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


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I'm intrigued by Pentagon City's presence and Crystal City's absence. It certainly presents a problem for the Streetcar detractor's cries of "Nobody wants to go to Pentagon City!"

by Chris Slatt on Nov 26, 2012 10:29 am • linkreport

I too was struck by the absence of Crystal City. There is a study currently in progress that would open up the station to a second entrance, close to the corner of 15th St and Crystal Drive. This certainly doesn't add a lot of momentum to that effort.

While the station feels busy and crowded, it obviously sees nowhere near the usage as that encountered at Pentagon City, which gets a bump from the retail presence.

What it does show is the need to improve the flow at Union.

by Jack Love on Nov 26, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

I wonder if the BRAC relocations from the past few years have had a negative impact on passenger counts at Crystal City Station. If I recall correctly, a lot of the DOD offices were BRAC'ed to not so transit friendly locations, such as Ft. Belvoir and the now massive Mark Center complex along I-395 at Seminary Road.

Surprised to see how low Franconia-Springfield is on the list for commuters; not surprised at all by Vienna. The Silver Line will probably knock West Falls Church out of the top ten when service begins.

by Transport. on Nov 26, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

Just a note from a colorblind reader: The colors used for "rank by entry" and "rank by exit" are almost indistinguishable for me unless I view the full-size images.

by AL on Nov 26, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

Regarding Crystal City, just because it's not in the top 10 does not mean that it's not a busy station.

For the AM Peak, Crystal City is #16 in entries and #16 in exits. For the PM Peak, Crystal City is #15 in entries and #18 in exits.

For context: At Crystal City, there are 4,105.1 AM Peak entries and 4,911.5 AM Peak exits. There are 2,757.0 PM Peak entries and 2,176.6 PM Peak exits.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

Surprised to see how low Franconia-Springfield is on the list for commuters;

Don't just look at the rank, look at the tables.

For AM entries, there are three big stations with 9k+ entries: Union Station, Vienna, and Shady Grove. Then there is a big gap, followed by a bunch of stations in the 6k range.

by Alex B. on Nov 26, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

I would hazard that a good many passengers traveling through Pentagon and Pentagon City are people transferring to 395/PikeRide buses; those stations serve both major local destinations and as "terminals" of a sort.

Interesting to see that the Blue/Orange main line's peak downtown demand is spread among more stations than the Red's. That, plus the tight conditions at Union Station and Gallery Place, might contribute to Red Line riders' greater perception of crowding on the system.

And just as a friendly reminder to the always-resourceful Mr. Johnson, 8% of men (including me) are red-green colorblind and can't easily distinguish between the two colors -- so please consider using a different pair of colors (or outlines, shading, patterns, etc.) to distinguish between categories. Thanks!

by Payton on Nov 26, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport


almost everyone boarding at Pentagon in the AM is transferring from a bus (except for folks getting off an overnight shift at the Pentagon) there are no residences or non DoD parking thats closer to there than to Pentagon City.

I dont know how much of Pentagon City boarding is bus transfers

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 26, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven't appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising.

Columbia Heights doesn't surprise me at all, considering the nightlife and new housing in the area, but what is up with Fort Totten?

by kinverson on Nov 26, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

"Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven't appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising."

Columbia Heights has a lot of young people that get home a bit later than the standard PM rush period (conjecture).

Fort Totten is a working class area and there are a lot of bus transfers there. My guess is that workers who work later shifts (say, 11-7 or 12-8) go to Ft. Totten and go home later. Fort Totten is not your standard 9-5.

by Nick on Nov 26, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

Those are the Midday entrances and exits for Crystal. The PM Peak entrances is 5202 and exits is 4315.

by jh on Nov 26, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

You are correct. I grabbed data from the wrong table.

Crystal City ranks #16 for PM Peak entries with 5,201.7 entries and #18 for PM Peak exits with 4,215.6 exits.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 11:55 am • linkreport

I think this map is a great point of data for the prioritization of the extension of the metro system.

Based on the business in Vienna, the Orange line desperately needs extension. Now, it's getting that more or less with the Silver Line.

Next is the Shady Grove side of the Red line.

And more or less equal are Franconia-Springfield, Huntington and New Carrolton. For those first two, things are moving (way too slow). I am not aware of a push for extension of the Orange line in MD, although the Purple line could alleviate some of the problems there.

The downtown numbers are more than sufficient motivation to expand the system downtown as well.

Does anybody know what the maximum number of people is that a station can handle (per hour)? And how close we are to that number at these busy stations?

by Jasper on Nov 26, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

I don't see any real surprises in these rankings. The weekday peak AM rankings for the end stations on the Virginia lines highlight that one partial solution to AM/PM peak capacity overload for the Virginia lines is to expand and improve VRE for the commuters.

@Transport, to see if BRAC has had a measurable impact on Crystal City numbers, it would be useful to compare May 2012 versus 2-3 years ago. The WMATA annual station average weekday numbers sheet does not show a drop for Crystal City through 2011.

What effect will Phase 1 of the Silver Line have on the AM entry/PM exit numbers for Vienna & WFC? I expect Wiehle Ave-Reston will draw some traffic away from Vienna and WFC, but given the drive to those stations from Reston, Sterling, north Herndon, Ashburn, probably not that much. Wiehle Ave-Reston is going to add a number of commuters who currently drive to Rosslyn and DC from the Reston-Sterling-Herndon region. Hopefully WMATA will post the May numbers every year so changes in the rankings and traffic patterns can be summarized as the Silver Line and major TOD projects open.

@Matt Johnson, any plans to post a similar summary of the peak stations for Saturdays & Sundays or combined as weekends?

by AlanF on Nov 26, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

There will be more posts analyzing the data, yes.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

Excellent work as always Matt.

Wondering now if we can get a traffic cartogram? Or how I could go about creating such a beast?

by Jack Love on Nov 26, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Jack Love:
Here's a graphic showing rider paths in 2009.

The issue with using this data to create one is figuring out how people travel, since there are often multiple paths (like Petworth to Judiciary Sq, or PG Plaza to Dupont).

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

At least on the orange line, I'm finding a lot of people who moved to the more outer ring -- say Ballston onwards -- are saying, f*ck it, I'm moving into DC, I can't take the metro commute anymore.

Interesting strategy for urban revitatilization. There are other amenities, of course (nightlife) but the expressed preference is bad commutes.

by charlie on Nov 26, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

What effect will Phase 1 of the Silver Line have on the AM entry/PM exit numbers for Vienna & WFC?

A very significant number of WFC riders come from the commuter (non-WMATA) buses that terminate at WFC. The question is whether those buses (which mostly come via the DTR -- there's an exclusive entrance/exit for buses between the DTR and WFC station) will start terminating at Reston-Wiele instead, once that station opens.

On one hand, terminating at Reston makes more sense. On the other hand, there's no way those buses can terminate there unless they're building bus bay infrastructure at Reston. Considering they just upgraded the infrastructure at WFC (adding canopies, etc.) it would probably be a waste to duplicate it at Reston.

by Falls Church on Nov 26, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

@ Chris Slatt Yet the streetacar will not serve the riders transferring to buses at Pentagon, many of whom are either price-sensitive enough to take advantage of a free bus transfer or commuting to low-wage service jobs that are off-Metro (i.e. poor people). Note also that the Pentagon is already a more popular station overall than Pentagon City.

by John on Nov 26, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

It's very surprising that of the top 10 "peak" morning entry stations only one is in the District — Union Station. What does this say about walkable neighborhoods and transit? Where does Dupont fall on the list? U Street? Columbia Heights? All of these seem like candidates for busy morning usage, with the short commute downtown.

Oddly, too, Bethesda and Ballston are not listed as well on ANY of the top 10 tables. Both are considered smart growth communities and are bus hubs, yet are outclassed in numbers by Shady Grove and Vienna, respectively.

by Sage on Nov 26, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
Fairfax County posted their busing plans for when the first phase of the Silver line opens. The routes will be changed to terminate at Wiehle

by inlogan on Nov 26, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, I looked and found some info on the Fairfax Connector site:

All of the Connector bus routes in Reston and Herndon are proposed to serve Wiehle. I guess that recently added canopy at WFC should have been placed elsewhere...

@AlanF, thanks for the info on Crystal City.

by Transport. on Nov 26, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport


OTOH, Silver Spring and Pentagon City are smart growth stations, where peds combine with bus riders. And not all of the terminus stations are smart growth free - Vienna has nearby MetroWest and some slightly older TOD, Huntingon has some new development within walking distance, and Franconia has a hi rise within walking distance - and of course all get bus transfers.

That said, what this shows is that because the Park and Ride crowd tends to concentrate at a few terminus stations, it will show bigger numbers than any individual TOD focused station - esp as many of those are far from built out, or are in parts of DC where development is held back by zoning, hist preservation, and/or the height limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 26, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

As someone who gets stuck in the lines to get out of Columbia Heights station in the evening fairly often, I'd say a lot of the people getting off there are people from other parts of the city going shopping after work too. You can always see folks coming and going with shopping bags from Target, Marshall's, Giant, etc., and heading back to the trains afterwards. Those riders combined with all the new residents moving in to the neighborhood (who of course exit and then don't go back into the system until the next day) would add up to some pretty big evening exit counts.

by iaom on Nov 26, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Matt Here's a graphic showing rider paths in 2009.
The issue with using this data to create one is figuring out how people travel, since there are often multiple paths (like Petworth to Judiciary Sq, or PG Plaza to Dupont)."

Cool, thanks for that link... I vaguely recall it when it was first posted.

But what I was thinking about - and apologies for not being clearer - was station-size representation being proportional to entry and exit counts, not the passenger volume on individual segments.

So Union Station would be the huge blob that ate Northeast, while Arlington Cemetery might be a blip.

by Jack Love on Nov 26, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport


Many DC residents have good bus options to compete with Metrorail at a lower cost. Our Metrorail stations don't have 5,000 car parking garages and our height limit holds down the density even though transit's market share may be high in these DC neighborhoods.

by Steve Strauss on Nov 26, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

@Jack Love:
Ah. I see what you mean. I'll see what I can do.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

@AL - yep - I had to blow it up to see it - and even then it was difficult.
Glad to know I wasn't the only one.

by andy2 on Nov 26, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport


It's very surprising that of the top 10 "peak" morning entry stations only one is in the District — Union Station. What does this say about walkable neighborhoods and transit?

I don't think that is surprising at all.

What it says is that walkable neighborhoods are more balanced in use, and the transit patterns reflect that.

This post looks at peak flows, and therefore the stations that rank highly are the ones that have the peak-iest passenger flows. Now, compare that total ridership throughout the day:

Columbia Heights gets 12,800 boardings per day, Vienna gets 13,700. But that usage at Columbia Heights is not solely inbound in the AM and outbound in the PM like it is at Vienna.

You'd expect the stations with the park-and-rides to rank highly in peak boardings because that's what the land use around those stations is geared towards.

Saying Bethesda is 'outclassed' by Shady Grove based on this numbers is a misinterpretation, I think.

by Alex B. on Nov 26, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

Franconia-Springfield would be much higher if it weren't for all the slugging and success of the HOV lanes on 395.

by Vik on Nov 26, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

I'm not surprised by the top 3 mid-day stations. In terms of restaurant and shopping options, Metro Center and Gallery Place offer the best destinations to go out to lunch or run an errand (plus they both serve multiple lines and are therefore a straight shot for anyone working downtown regardless of what line they work near). I was surprised that Fort Totten popped up on the last list - is it really that big of a bus hub?

by grumpy on Nov 26, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

I frequently exit at Columbia Heights between 10pm and 11pm on both weekend and weekdays. The crowds are huge. Lines at the escalators. Lines at the exit turnstyle. The 14th street bus service becomes spotty by then and it is much more pleasant to wait inside for a Metro train than outside at a lonely bus stop. The additional $.15 is well worth it for both comfort and safety.

by tour guide on Nov 26, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

Bethesda appears to have the most equal ratio of entrances and exits during the peak periods. In both the AM and PM, they are right around a 1:1 ratio.

Stations with entrances and exits within 10% (arbitrarily picked a number) of each other during a peak are:

Station - Time - Exits/Entrances

King Street - AM Peak - 0.91
Union Station - PM Peak - 0.92
Brookland - AM Peak - 0.92
Dupont Circle - PM Peak - 0.93
Pentagon - PM Peak - 0.93
Shaw-Howard University - PM Peak - 0.96
Tenleytown-AU - PM Peak - 0.97
Reagan Washington National Airport - PM Peak - 0.97
Bethesda - AM Peak - 1.00
Brookland - PM Peak - 1.01
Bethesda - PM Peak - 1.05
Pentagon - AM Peak - 1.07
Navy Yard - PM Peak - 1.08

by jh on Nov 26, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

@Alex et al.:

The intent of my earlier post was to point out that the car-centric, commuter stations (Shady Grove, Vienna, etc.) have higher peak ridership numbers than close-in, TOD stations, with the exception of Union Station. I found this, well, surprising.

To be sure, TOD-oriented stations offer more balanced transportation alternatives—bicycling, walking, bus—nevertheless, the car-centric ones farthest out had higher riderships numbers. This applies to even overall DAILY usage.

From the linked list for daily Metrorail usage in Alex B's post:


Bethesda 10,888
Shady Grove 13,870

Ballston 12,042
Vienna 13,773

by Sage on Nov 26, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Sage: because of park-and-ride and commuter buses, those beltway stations are serving much larger areas than core stations like Dupont and U Street. Core residents also have more options; not only do we have more metro stations to choose from, we can also walk, bike or take a bus. I commute downtown 8-10 times per week. Of those trips, I take the Red Line 3-4 times, bike 3-4 times, and either walk or take the Green Line for the remainder of those trips.

Also, because my commute is a lot shorter, and because I have so many more options, most of my commutes are a little off-peak. I enter the system a little later than the average Shady Grove commuter in the morning; in the evening, I usually work a lot later than the bridge-and-tunnel folks as well. I also often run errands, go to the gym, or eat out while my exurban peers are on the road.

@Jasper: I think I'd rather see a beefed up VRE and MARC instead of an extended Metro. I'd rather see Metro spend it's scarce resources expanding and improving service in the region's core. While I don't think VRE/MARC will ever be DC's RER, I'm worried that Metro can't continue to be both an S-bahn and a U-bahn and serve both the region's core and the exurbs equally well. Still, given Metro's funding situation, I suppose we'll just see more of the same, if we see anything at all.

by Steven Harrell on Nov 26, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport


Take the orange line in NoVa for example. The transfer focused stations (not all park and ride, but including lots of bus transfers as well) are Vienna, West Falls Church, and to SOME extent, Dunn Loring. So that segment divides among three stations, mostly. The very TODish stations are Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Va Square, AND Ballston. Five stations. That means the TOD segment is more divided up (I leave out EFC, which I think has elements of both - bu the parking lot is small) If each of the TOD stations had riderships as high as the highest transfer focused station, that would mean a much larger than is reasonable majority for the TOD stations. I think this may be even more true for the Red Line.

It would be like deciding that North America is more populated than Europe, because the USA is more populated than than Germany.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 26, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport


The car-centric commuter stations serve a larger population base. Vienna serves people from Vienna to Manassas and points beyond.

A station like Ballston basically only serves Ballston. Once you live beyond that, you have other options. To the East, you have other Metro Stations. To the West, you have car-centric stations that draw people from the car-centric neighborhoods from the North, South, and West of Ballston.

by jh on Nov 26, 2012 1:36 pm • linkreport

@grumpy: "I was surprised that Fort Totten popped up on the last list - is it really that big of a bus hub? "

Yeah, Fort Totten does have a lot of buses. 9 bus bays with a variety of lines (I've seen these bays crowded at many points of the day. You've got the very frequent K6 (eastern moco), which serves NH ave (filling the gap between the red and green lines. Some of the 60 buses stop there. I've also seen very crowded R line buses (northwest prince georges - riggs road).

by Nick on Nov 26, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@inlogan & @Transport

Thanks for the link!

by Falls Church on Nov 26, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport


Well this is only the top 10 stations. It's incredibly likely that the more in town stations beat the more peripheral stations on average.

Moreover, when you live closer to your job you also have more options to get to work. It's easier to bike, walk, or take a bus. Meanwhile if you live in fairfax but work in DC you're options are more limited than if you lived in DC. Smart growth is more than a metro line.

by drumz on Nov 26, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

My bad, I forgot to refresh and see that most people had already tackled this.

by drumz on Nov 26, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport


I completely agree that the Orange Line ought to be extended in Virginia. What I'd love to see, although unlikely, is a simple extension to the Rt. 50 or thereabouts. I pick there because in addition to serving a need, that area is ripe for TOD. I know that if we were to extend it, it would likely go to Rt. 28, which is fine, or beyond, which is less alright, IMO. I know that for political and fiscal reasons, we prefer more dramatic extensions, but I wish the discussion with respect to metro focused more on incremental extensions, infill, and expanding the core capacity.

by Vik on Nov 26, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

Re: Jasper's question of station flow capacity, there's no one answer. (Tokyo's Shinjuku station complex handles ~3.5M people a day, counting transfers. That's equal to the entire London Underground, which often feels even more crowded!) Just as with a chain and its weakest link, any one station's capacity is limited mostly by its bottlenecks: too few entries or escalators, too narrow of a junction between two walkways. WMATA did a station access & capacity study in 2008 which found that 7 stations would require additional vertical or faregate circulation by 2030, and has subsequently done a detailed study of Union Station's entrances

Also, the downtown transfer stations see more passengers than just the entry/exits reported above, but transfers aren't counted.

by Payton on Nov 26, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

@everyone (above):

Very well put responses. Thank you. I tend to agree with what's been said.

For me, the ridership numbers laid out in the tables highlight the strength of the commuter rail aspect of Metrorail. While long cognizant of the hybrid nature of Metrorail, the popularity of the extended commutes, compared with those more close-in, was a bit of an eye opener.

by Sage on Nov 26, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport


"Also, the downtown transfer stations see more passengers than just the entry/exits reported above, but transfers aren't counted."

Should be easy enough to estimate transfers at certain stations based on origin and destination. That may not work too well, though, for transfers on lines that share multiple stations (Orange-Blue, Blue-Yellow, Yellow-Green). While Yellow/Green-Red has two transfer stations, I think it's safe to assume where transfers occur for most o-d pairs.

by jh on Nov 26, 2012 2:35 pm • linkreport

@ Vik:I completely agree that the Orange Line ought to be extended in Virginia. What I'd love to see, although unlikely, is a simple extension to the Rt. 50 or thereabouts. I pick there because in addition to serving a need, that area is ripe for TOD.

Well, I think the Orange line should just follow I-66 and then bend off to Warrenton. I agree with a missed opportunity along US-50. Personally, I think a new metro line all the way from DC to Middleburg along US-50 would fit well. US-50 near South Riding is already becoming unridable. It is surprising to see that Fairfax is building a new 'old Tysons' there while they're busy cleaning up the mess they made at Tysons.

by Jasper on Nov 26, 2012 3:16 pm • linkreport

With regards to a possible Orange line extension in VA and Red Line extension beyond Shady Grove, there are projected ridership numbers for extending those 2 lines and others in the TAG #8 presentation from earlier this year. I don't recall seeing the recent TAG #9 presentation discussed on GGW. For those interested in the presentations, try

I think an extension of the Orange Line along I-66 to west of Rt. 50 with a station maybe serving the mall there and allowing some sort of access to the Fairfax county gov centers is reasonable. Extending it to Gainesville or west on Rt. 50 to South Riding is way too expensive to build and operate. Gainesville & Manassas are commuter distance communities, they are best handled by a VRE extension to Gainesville with eventual expansion of VRE to a 7 day a week regional rail service.

Extending the Red Line beyond Shady Grove 3.5 miles with 2 new stations had a new ridership gain of 6700 weekday trips. Since that should not be that expensive an extension ($600 to $800 million?), it might someday happen. However MD has to figure out how to pay for and start construction of the Purple and Baltimore Red Line LRT projects before MD takes on any other major Metro projects.

The bottom line remains that before the region starts on significant extensions of the existing lines, a consensus must be reached on capacity expansion in the core starting such as the re-route of the Blue Line to Georgetown and M street.

by AlanF on Nov 26, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

I've revised the maps to make them easier to read by color-blind readers.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 26, 2012 8:07 pm • linkreport

Thanks Matt!

by andy2 on Nov 27, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

Here's a way to look at the data that illustrates the idea that while the closely spaced stations may individually have fewer trips than the big park & ride hubs at the outside, they serve a lot of people as well:

I matched up each station with the zones in the theoretical zone map posted on GGW here:

When you look at the AM Peak time, about half the trips originate in Zones 1&2, and half in 3-4-5.

In the PM Peak, about 57% of trips END in zones 1&2, and 43% in 3-4-5.

When you look at total station traffic (entries + exits) over the entire day, 44% of trips go through zone 1, 27% through zone 2, 11% zone 3, 11.5% zone 4, and 6% zone 5.

So while some outer stations may have lopsided trip numbers because they funnel lots of people, inner stations have a lot of traffic that is spread out more evenly.

by MLD on Nov 27, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

Interesting quote from Matt Johnson: "Also of note, the 2 Farragut Square stations combined handle more than twice as many exits as the third place station, Metro Center. Without the objection of the National Park Service, the Farragut stations would have been one station" -- I may have missed history on Metro -- could someone provide me a link to this story? I wonder if the NPS now regret their decision?

by Dave on Nov 27, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

It's in Zach Schrag's book, "Great Society Subway."

The reason NPS objected was because while the Red Line could be tunneled under the park without disruption, a station being constructed there would have required all the trees in Farragut Square to be cut down.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 27, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

Thanks Matt -- At first I didn't understand why all the tree would have been cut down -- I realized the whole park would have been open up to build a station (and would have been another transfer station like Metro Center and Gallery Place). Then why didn't we build a tunnel back then? If the answers are in Zach Schag's book, I guess I need to get hold of the book.

by Dave on Nov 27, 2012 7:58 pm • linkreport

Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven't appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising.

I don't find it surprising at all that the CoHe exit is in the top 10 for PM exits. I mean, have you been to CoHe lately? It's a major nightlife area now---actually, I'd say it's much more of a nightlife hotspot than Dupont Circle is. I'd say it's 2nd probably only to Gallery Place and maybe U Street.

To me, the absence of U St. from that list is the MOST surprsing.

by LuvDusty on Nov 28, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

To me, the absence of U St. from that list is the MOST surprsing.

It's not that surprising to me - If you're coming from downtown, the places you would access from the U Street Metro (along U and down 14th) are just as easy or easier to get to by bus, or by a VERY cheap cab ride (<$10) if you are in a group.

by MLD on Nov 28, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

@Dave & Matt Johnson

Even if they could not get a station in the park there is still no excuse to not have one station a few blocks away. Considering that the entrances to both stations are 17th & I, Conn & K, Conn & L, and 18 & I why not place the station at 18 & K

by kk on Nov 28, 2012 9:10 pm • linkreport

I think that Metro Center and Gallery Place being popular exit points during midday has a lot to do with the great number of stores and restaurants by those stations. You get a lot of people who work non traditional hours there and then of course customers that frequent those places.

by Abby on Nov 29, 2012 9:37 pm • linkreport


Came across this after reading a post on WMATAs website saying that Metro Center is 2nd busiest. That was written in 2011 though.

You did a great job with the numbers and map!

Any chance you can create a new version with the new silver line and added stations?

by John Smith on Oct 6, 2015 10:18 am • linkreport

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