Greater Greater Washington

How did Metro station balance change since 1995?

We could tell a lot about land use and commuting patterns in our region by looking at the balance between entries and exits at Metro stations. Comparing the new 2012 data with the 1995 data shows how land use and job patterns in our region have evolved.


View station balance: 1995   2012

Which stations' balance has changed the most since 1995?

A station's balance is the ratio of the entries to exits, with the greater number divided by the lesser. This chart plots each station's balance in 1995 against its balance today. The closer to the bottom a station is, the more balanced it is now; the farther to the left, the more balanced it was in 1995.

Stations right on the blue diagonal line had no change in their balance or imbalance level, while stations farthest from the line have shifted the most in balance. Overall, Metro's stations were less well balanced in 1995, as you can see from the way most stations fall below the line.

(Note that a station might have grown or shrunk in overall ridership tremendously, but not move on this particular graph, because it just looks at the balance, not the absolute ridership numbers for the station.)

The biggest permanent loss of balance is at Medical Center. (Federal Center SW has an inflated balance for 1995 because the east entrance to L'Enfant Plaza was temporarily closed at that time.) Here we see the effect of post-9/11 securityclosing the NIH campus to the public severely curtailed pedestrian and bus access to the Metro station.

What happened to the most balanced stations?

The stations Matt identified as most unbalanced were similarly unbalanced thenin fact, the very worst balance was at the same station, Federal Triangle, in both years. But most of the stations that are well balanced today looked very different 17 years ago.

Station 1995 Entries 1995 Exits 1995 Bal. 1995 Rank 2012 Entries 2012 Exits 2012 Bal. 2012 Rank Bal. Chg.
Bethesda 2,612 1,960 1.3 7 3,278 3,269 1.0 1 0.81
Pentagon 8,797 4,113 2.1 20 6,479 6,954 1.1 2 0.54
Brookland 2,172 1,059 2.1 17 2,075 1,914 1.1 3 0.57
King Street 1,573 824 1.9 15 2,986 2,712 1.1 4 0.62
Mt Vernon Sq 942 157 6.0 47 1,157 1,323 1.1 5 0.20
Crystal City 3,009 4,890 1.6 11 4,105 4,912 1.2 6 0.69
Tenleytown 1,520 1,070 1.4 8 1,849 2,218 1.2 7 0.91
Ballston 4,492 2,088 2.2 21 4,441 3,656 1.2 8 0.61
Union Station 6,938 7,193 1.0 1 9,712 12,030 1.2 9 1.11
Waterfront 1,108 1,345 1.2 5 1,334 1,015 1.3 10 1.01
Shaw 793 527 1.5 9 1,353 1,027 1.3 11 0.94
White Flint 1,608 840 1.9 16 1,599 1,168 1.4 12 0.77
Rosslyn 4,194 4,504 1.1 2 4,381 6,622 1.5 13 1.31
U Street 1,171 479 2.4 22 1,944 1,226 1.6 14 0.70
Friendship Hts 3,271 1,327 2.5 23 3,284 2,067 1.6 15 0.69
Minnesota Ave 1,182 228 5.2 41 1,147 717 1.6 16 0.33
Dupont Circle 3,936 7,344 1.9 14 3,793 6,118 1.6 17 0.81
Eastern Market 1,795 712 2.5 24 2,166 1,224 1.8 18 0.75
Court House 2,651 1,477 1.8 13 3,188 1,789 1.8 19 1.06
Eisenhower Ave 365 400 1.1 3 874 451 1.9 21 1.65
Stadium Armory 1,239 591 2.1 19 1,140 583 2.0 22 1.00
Clarendon 1,411 409 3.4 30 1,807 922 2.0 23 0.61
Anacostia 5,064 717 7.1 49 3,023 1,433 2.1 24 0.32
Virginia Sq 1,246 349 3.6 31 1,723 784 2.2 25 0.66
Silver Spring 5,905 1,637 3.6 32 6,027 2,544 2.4 27 0.70
College Park 656 191 3.4 29 1,940 814 2.4 28 0.74
Van Ness 2,536 1,221 2.1 18 2,763 1,122 2.5 29 1.27
Rhode Isl. Ave 2,307 590 3.9 34 2,361 948 2.5 30 0.68
National Airport 687 877 1.3 6 739 1,947 2.6 31 1.92
Rockville 1,909 489 3.9 33 2,368 853 2.8 33 0.76
Twinbrook 2,022 638 3.2 27 2,254 797 2.8 34 0.96
Pentagon City 2,090 1,193 1.8 12 5,715 2,016 2.8 35 1.74
Woodley Park 2,256 730 3.1 26 2,743 949 2.9 36 1.00
Prince Geo. Plz. 1,142 266 4.3 39 2,137 658 3.2 37 0.81
Dunn Loring 2,433 619 3.9 35 2,823 819 3.4 39 0.94
Braddock Road 1,837 538 3.4 28 2,506 711 3.5 40 1.11
Navy Yard 509 322 1.6 10 1,007 3,772 3.7 41 2.54
Fort Totten 2,749 462 6.0 46 3,715 941 3.9 42 0.71
Medical Center 1,276 1,441 1.1 4 913 3,729 4.1 43 3.37
Deanwood 1,013 193 5.2 42 899 220 4.1 44 0.84
Foggy Bottom 1,930 7,589 3.9 36 2,469 10,530 4.3 45 1.01
W. Falls Church 3,602 627 5.7 44 6,816 1,573 4.3 46 0.81
L'Enfant Plaza 2,073 9,839 4.7 40 3,007 13,143 4.4 48 0.86
Capitol South 746 3,178 4.3 38 853 4,501 5.3 49 1.15
Wheaton 3,436 330 10.4 57 2,144 403 5.3 50 0.55
Potomac Ave 3,066 372 8.2 51 2,020 379 5.3 51 0.69
Benning Road 1,762 131 13.5 63 1,527 265 5.8 52 0.46
Takoma 2,946 497 5.9 45 3,396 567 6.0 53 1.08
New Carrollton 5,412 485 11.2 58 6,321 1,043 6.1 54 0.58
Gallery Place 731 3,101 4.2 37 1,715 10,682 6.2 55 1.37
Greenbelt 1,974 190 10.4 56 4,047 631 6.4 56 0.66
Addison Road 3,707 364 10.2 55 2,082 311 6.7 58 0.70
Cheverly 1,110 133 8.3 52 993 145 6.9 59 0.88
McPherson Sq 1,388 9,098 6.6 48 1,603 11,185 7.0 60 0.99
Capitol Heights 1,447 101 14.3 68 1,230 167 7.4 62 0.55
Van Dorn St 1,918 361 5.3 43 2,258 299 7.6 63 1.52
Cleveland Park 2,321 259 9.0 53 2,329 297 7.8 64 0.94
E. Falls Church 2,556 207 12.3 59 2,572 300 8.6 67 0.75
Metro Center 1,454 13,089 9.0 54 1,623 15,359 9.5 69 0.98
Landover 2,357 160 14.7 69 1,524 158 9.6 70 0.70
W. Hyattsville 1,137 89 12.8 61 2,151 223 9.6 71 0.81
Forest Glen 1,437 65 22.1 73 1,629 164 9.9 72 0.48
Federal Ctr. SW 1,094 2,879 2.6 25 445 4,535 10.2 73 3.61
Shady Grove 6,742 472 14.3 67 9,557 871 11.0 74 0.82
Grosvenor 2,417 164 14.7 70 3,772 340 11.1 75 0.81
Farragut West 1,046 14,895 14.2 66 1,323 15,498 11.7 76 0.77
Vienna 6,990 507 13.8 65 9,614 768 12.5 77 0.97
Huntington 5,980 302 19.8 72 6,298 486 13.0 79 0.70
Judiciary Sq 444 5,548 12.5 60 486 6,515 13.4 80 1.00
Farragut North 811 13,195 16.3 71 1,232 16,754 13.6 81 0.78
Archives 258 3,526 13.7 64 391 5,596 14.3 82 0.98
Arlington Cem. 19 153 8.1 50 20 303 14.9 83 1.72
Smithsonian 391 5,089 13.0 62 323 5,938 18.4 85 1.32
Federal Triangle 193 4,861 25.2 74 210 6,617 31.5 86 1.16
Click on the header of any column to sort the table.
The rightmost column (Bal. Chg.) is the 2012 balance divided by the 1995 balance.

Overall, Metro's stations were less well balanced in 1995. Only six stations in 1995 had balance ratios below 1.31, the threshold to make the top ten in 2012. Only two, Union Station and Waterfront, are in 2012 top ten. The other four were Rosslyn (1.07) Eisenhower Ave. (1.10), Medical Center (1.13), and National Airport (1.28).

11 of these 14 stations have shifted in the direction of more exitsthat is, relatively greater use of the station as a work destination. The only stations in these top lists that have become more entry-oriented are Crystal City and Waterfront, which both lost major government employment centers, and Eisenhower Avenue, which had a lot of new residential construction.

At some stations, like Mt. Vernon Square, King Street, and National Airport, new construction is an obvious explanation for the rise in arrivals at work, but the shift has been substantial even where the mix of uses has not changed much. Clearly, a lot more people are using Metro to reach job sites outside the downtown DC core. The particularly sharp rise in exits at Pentagon, Medical Center, Brookland, and Tenleytown suggests that the trend is strongest among students and government employees.


Circle area size represents AM peak ridership.

The data for Ballston are particularly interesting. Fewer people are entering that station in the morning today than 17 years ago. Population in the area has increased, although more slowly than in the rest of the Orange Line corridor.

A more likely explanation is, again, the growing popularity of reverse commuting. Two decades ago, you got an apartment in Ballston to take Metro into DC for work; today, the attraction is the ease of getting into DC in the evening, and you're more likely to commute by car to Tysons or Reston.

Some other close-in stations in largely residential areas have seen similar stagnation or even decline in entries in the AM peak. Cleveland Park, for example, has been essentially flat, with 2,321 morning entries in 1995 and 2,329 in 2012. Brookland's AM peak entries have fallen from 2,172 to 2,075. But these stations, unlike Ballston, have lost population within walking distance, so it's hard to judge what role reverse auto commuting played.

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Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 
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 Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 
David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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The near doubling of the west falls church number is crazy! It really shows the growth of NW fairfax and eastern loudoun counties. Lots of people driving to the park and ride, or taking buses to west falls church. The similar pattern at Vienna reflects further growth west along the 66 and 50 corridors.

The non-end-node stations on the west side of the orange line, Dunn Loring and East Falls church, barely grew at all. We're now finally getting some infill development in Merrifield, but good luck with that in Falls Church. Development patterns pushed everyone out into townhouses in Gainesville, Ashburn, and Chantilly. Crazy!

by Nick on Dec 6, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

Yummy data!
I totally agree on the West Falls Church point. The Loudoun County Express Bus and metrobuses have a dedicated lane on the Dulles Toll Road inside the beltway. I wonder if that always existed. I wonder how those lanes have been resisted being turned into regular lanes (I am obviously glad they haven't)

by MW on Dec 6, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

Look how Takoma hasn't changed a bit in over 17 years. That is a waste.

by MetroRider on Dec 6, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

@MetroRider

I agree on Takoma. I use the station daily, and its nowhere near capacity. I recently emailed Level2 development to ask about their Takoma Central development on Carroll Ave (which will have something like 150 residential units). They said construction will start "in the coming weeks" for 2014 delivery. If you aren't aware, there has been a giant, hideous hole in the ground right at the Takoma Park MD/Takoma DC border for most of the year, with little to no progress on construction.

by Nick on Dec 7, 2012 8:16 am • linkreport

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