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Watch the patterns of Metro across a day

Kenton Ngo made an animation showing how many people are entering or exiting Metro stations at each hour across the day.

Animation from Kenton Ngo reproduced with permission.

Green circles show where people enter, and red where they exit. As you'd expect, green circles swell and then shrink at end-of-line and other busy suburban stations in the morning, while even larger red circles appear at the stations at major job centers. In the evening, the pattern reverses.

This is another way of visualizing the Metro station data which WMATA released last year. Matt Johnson used it to compute the busiest stations and the balance between stations. In 2009, Matt diagrammed the flows in each direction.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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love it

Didn't realize the spike at the central stations was so big but I have said for years they need to add additional stairways in Farragut North to get up to the Mezzanine.

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

Makes a great case for more mixed use development around metro stations near the core. There still significant unused capacity in the off peak directions going into Virginia on Orange and Blue. I suspect the same thing could be said for Maryland.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

I'm surprised at the spikes at 7 am and 4 pm. Seems so early!

by Birdie on Jul 10, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

Notice the quick blip of entrances at Navy Yard at 9pm. Is this an average or taken on a specific day?

by John on Jul 10, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

John, it's an average taken for all of October 2012, weekdays. I suspect it's a blip from the Nats playoff games. Not a whole lot of traffic in and out of that station in the evenings otherwise. It would be enough to throw off the averages.

by Birdie on Jul 10, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Are the stations even open at 4am ? Since the first train is not getting to the majority of stations to almost 6am why start at 4am ?

by kk on Jul 10, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

I'm kind of surprised by how busy Silver Spring is. I suspected that it might be busier than Bethesda, but it looks like outside of the downtown core, it's second only to Shady Grove (which captures a ton of P-n-R) in boardings.

by Gray on Jul 10, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Looks like the Green Line to/from Branch Ave and the Blue Line to/from Largo are way under-utilized. An area ripe for development? Are you listening PG County leadership? Let's make the most of those stations instead of planning more Westphalia Town Centers in the middle of nowhere.

by ArchStanton on Jul 10, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

Design questions aside, the St. Elizabeths redevlopment should definitely spur Congress Heights and Anacostia ridership. Hopefully they will have a peak shuttle service because some of that is going to be a hike.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

First trains leave the outer stations at 5AM with some entries before that.

I used this sheet from WMATA: which lists ridership between entry and exit station pairs by the entry hour interval. I think the AM/PM peaks seem a little early because there isn't a separate breakout for the exit hours. A passenger that enters at 6:50AM and exits at 7:15AM will get counted as a 6AM entry hour interval, but it doesn't matter for someone that enters at 6:15AM and exits at 6:45AM. I will update the graphic to make this more clear when I have time.

by Kenton Ngo on Jul 10, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

The net impact of this data issue is that the red peaks in the core stations and green peaks on the outer stations come a little earlier than in practice, though I think it's hardly noticeable. A 7AM home depart / 4PM office depart is fairly typical, though, especially for the far suburb commuter. Just take a look at what time the slug lines are really active.

by Kenton Ngo on Jul 10, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Gray, that is true about Silver Spring. I can't remember if it's the highest ridership other than Shady Grove or the highest in Maryland period. Two things about it. 1) It's very close to the beltway and has many parking structures. People from Howard County come down US 29 to there like people from Frederick come down to Shady Grove. 2) Silver Spring is a much larger bus and pedestrian hub than Shady Grove. That includes commuter buses from Howard County as well as all the RideOn and WMATA routes that feed into it.

You'll notice that Glenmont is unusual for a terminal station in that it's the only one that's not adjacent to a highway. While Forest Glen is the closest to the Beltway, it has very little parking and almost no bus service compared to Silver Spring. For the eastern Red Line, Silver Spring acts as the catch-all station for far away commuters rather than the actual terminus of Glenmont. Combine that with Silver Spring being a vibrant downtown area with thousands of people walking to the Metro.

by Cavan on Jul 10, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

Eastern Market and Stadium Armory stations don't get a lot of traffic. That's an area that could handle more Metro-using residents without straining operations at those stations.

by trulee_pist on Jul 11, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

Interesting how Union Station spikes so early in the morning.

by Frank IBC on Jul 11, 2013 8:24 pm • linkreport

@ Cavan

Not exactly true; Addison Road which was the terminal of the Blue for 24 years is no where near a highway.

The same could be said for many of the terminals actually National Airport, Stadium Armory, Silver Spring, Wheaton, Ballston, Van Ness-UDC, Ft Totten (Green line)

by kk on Jul 16, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

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