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Who’s commuting to east of the river DC neighborhoods?

WMATA's latest data release confirmed what we already knew: most Metrorail riders take the train from the suburbs into DC. But relatively few ride to the District neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Where are they coming from and going to?

About 75% of total trips in the AM peak terminate at one of the 42 stations in or immediately adjacent to the District (within 500 feet). Only 2% of these riders, or 1.5% of all trips, get off at one of the 7 stations in or bordering the portion of the District east of the Anacostia River.

Of the more than 3500 riders who make up the numerator of this statistic, 40% get off at Anacostia and 20% at Minnesota Ave, affectionately known as the downtowns of their respective wards (8 and 7). The reason nearly 5 times as many people take the train to Farragut North as to all East of the River stations combined is obvious: Land use.

The Anacostia and Minnesota Ave station areas offer fairly similar non-residential uses, which include a limited number of destinations one would commute to on a weekday morning. Both have a few schools nearby, one relatively new District government office building, a smattering of small retail stores and restaurants, mostly carryout, and a number of light industrial sites.

Anacostia has a couple additional office or medical buildings, while Minnesota Ave boasts a grocery store. For those who do commute to work or school in these neighborhoods, parking is cheap or free, and buses often offer a superior option to rail for those who are traveling between East of the River neighborhoods.

But what about the chosen few who do take Metrorail to these 7 stations? In contrast to the system-wide statistics, 63% of trips ending east of the river originated in DC, 28% in Maryland, and 9% in Virginia. The share coming from the suburbs is certain to increase when the federal Department of Homeland Security campus at Saint Elizabeths is completed.

Interestingly, 9% of riders traveling East of the River boarded at the Columbia Heights or Georgia Avenue-Petworth stations. Without additional data, one can only hypothesize why so many people (relatively) are making this specific commute. One driver may be the schools. For example, Thurgood Marshall Academy, a high performing public charter high school across the street from the Anacostia metro station, draws students and teachers from all over the city.

Perhaps WMATA could release a subset of their data showing trips made with discounted student passes? That would make it possible to further explore this hypothesis.

Cross-posted at R.U. Seriousing Me?

Chris Dickersin-Prokopp spends his days in Anacostia and nights in Petworth. He studied Latin American Studies and Urban Planning. He runs the blog R.U. Seriousing Me? and occasionally contributes to the Washington City Paper


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Interesting that the Petworth to Anacostia commute identified is the author's own.

by Lucre on Dec 7, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

I know a good number of people who work at Bolling Air Force Base that live on the green line. There is a shuttle between Anacostia and the base.

by DropStep on Dec 7, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

The other thing to take into account is that buses are the more efficient and affordable way to get around. It would be interesting to see the ridership of the X2, 90, 92, 32, 34, 36 going east to EOTR versus going west

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Dec 7, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

I ride that green line in the mornings, and your guess about schools getting out at Anacostia is right; at least for the early rush hour. The train depopulates at that station as a mix of students, teachers, and city year teaching assistants detrain there.

I can't speak to what happens later in the mornings.

by Alger on Dec 7, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

DropStep beat me to it. The only time I've ever gotten off at an EOTR station during AM peak was at Anacostia to go to the DIAC.

by Dizzy on Dec 7, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

MetroBus might track where people get on the bus but they don't, or can't, track where people hit that back door exit, right?

by SE Dude on Dec 7, 2012 11:04 am • linkreport

You can't really track individuals on a bus but you can estimate how many people get on/off at each stop if the buses have automatic passenger counters on the doors.

by MLD on Dec 7, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

I realize bus is harder to track, but WMATA does have some ridership data. Bus is primary mode and without data hard to have a full picture.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Dec 7, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

One thing missing from the article was the word "bus" however. I would expect that a decent number of people commuting into these stations are boarding connecting buses and may not really be destined to the areas within walking distance of the station. They may actually be bound for a destination miles away from the station at which they are alighting.

Compared this to a station like Judiciary Square where there is really only the D6, yet numerous work destinations, where one can expect that an overwhelming majority of people alighting in the AM peak are heading to destinations within mere blocks of the station.

by Adam on Dec 7, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

I'm one of the people who commutes from Columbia Heights to Naylor Road to catch a carpool, bc I choose to live in the District even though my work is pretty far out. Makes for a long commute but so worth it!

by Sahar on Dec 7, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

"The share coming from the suburbs is certain to increase when the federal Department of Homeland Security campus at Saint Elizabeths is completed."

I look forward to seeing the data from this when DHS fully moves to St E' 2085.

by Ben on Dec 7, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

There are several nonprofits in Anacostia and I know people who live in CH or Petworth who work there and either walk to work or take a bus from the Anacostia station.

I don't live in either of these neighborhoods, but I do live in WOTR DC and occasionally go to Anacostia for work--I either take the P6 bus, ride metro and then walk, or bike the whole way.

by sbc on Dec 7, 2012 1:25 pm • linkreport

As other commenters have mentioned, Anacostia is a huge bus transfer point. I know that there are several dozen people who get off at Anacostia to transfer to the A4/A5 buses to go to the Naval Research Lab and to Blue Plains, several miles away but that's the only public transit option. Another source would be workers who are going home after working the night shift; they would appear to be reverse commuting on Metrorail and would likely take a bus for the rest of their journey home.

by thm on Dec 7, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport


Am I correctly reading your comment to say that you know people who walk from Petworth to work in Anacostia??

by Lucre on Dec 7, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

With the case of Metrobus why cant the GPS in the buses be connected to the fareboxes though that would scream privacy violations it would be able to determine the information.

For example person gets on at so and so determined by GPS and so and so gets on bus a and stop b. You could determine that they either transferred buses if in a reasonable amount of time via a busstop, station or walking a few blocks. If not in a reasonable amount of time then bets are off.

by kk on Dec 7, 2012 5:26 pm • linkreport

There are many places where a person could be going to East of the Anacostia

United Medical Center
nursing homes (i actually know 5 people that work in nursing homes that are east of the river and take metrorail and bus to get there)
places in Maryland that are just across the DC line.

by kk on Dec 7, 2012 5:31 pm • linkreport

With the case of Metrobus why cant the GPS in the buses be connected to the fareboxes though that would scream privacy violations it would be able to determine the information.

I believe you can integrate the systems to the point where this is possible, not sure if Metro has it set up that way. Also having data that's THAT granular isn't super-useful for the transit agency.

by MLD on Dec 7, 2012 5:36 pm • linkreport

There's also the Suitland Federal Center. I know folks who commute there from DC and VA.

by Ryan on Dec 7, 2012 8:15 pm • linkreport There are origination stations and receiving stations in the subway system. Originating stations contribute riders. Receiving stations are their final destination.

Metrorail works best serving concentrated/dense/centralized activity centers. The bus is better serving decentralized job centers locationally, but not in terms of serving large numbers. So it's better to locate large employement generators at subway stations.


It's nice to have cross ridership, e.g., students going to Vienna to get to GMU or to Brookland for CUA but it can be difficult to achieve. Most of the trips generated for the Metro system are to get to work.

you could do the gps/counter thing to get a sense for where bus passengers get off IF everyone was forced to leave from the rear of the bus. It's harder the other way. But it's not like any bus planner can't figure out what the major stops are on a bus route based on what's on the route (e.g., workplaces, supermarkets, schools, etc.).

by Richard Layman on Dec 8, 2012 6:35 am • linkreport

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