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Google Maps now shows Metro lines, and 1 that doesn't exist

The Google Maps transit layer now includes WMATA rail lines, but not bus lines.

Google Maps with DC Metro. Image by Google.

Google has shown transit in many other cities around the world for years, but its data has never been complete. Some transit agencies provide detailed information, and some don't. So while all buses and trains in San Francisco are visible, New York only shows subway lines, and Philadelphia shows nothing at all.

Google added some WMATA information back in 2011, but as far as I can tell, the rail lines didn't show up as a visible layer until recently.

Clearly there are still some issues with the layer, though. Unless there's a 2nd Orange Line I don't know about.

What's that between Metro Center & Stadium-Armory? Image by Google.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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Or maybe it's a subtle recommendation that DC desperately needs a separate blue or orange line through the core. Sigh...

by MJ on Oct 10, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

HAHA it does almost seem like it was done on purpose... guerilla coding?

by BTA on Oct 10, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

It's coded at Rush Plus with Yellow to Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt.

by Jasper on Oct 10, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Interesting alignment, Google, but I prefer the M St. NW to NJ Ave to H St. NE. In a perfect world, OTOH...

Though even this is certainly better than those weird loops that PlanItMetro was hawking last week.

by MetroDerp on Oct 10, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

Ha ha, I wish it were that way.

by Jordan on Oct 10, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

I agree I dont really get their loops other than maybe thaey feel thats the best they can do under current conditions. Long term I think a loop route would be great, but I would see it more following the approximate boundaries of the L'Enfant plan.

by BTA on Oct 10, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport


Yes, some sort of Florida Ave. alignment could work well (although there maybe an optics problem what with the Old City v. the everything else, especially if the height limit gets lifted in the latter).

by MetroDerp on Oct 10, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

It seems that the phantom Orange line is some sort of attempt to show Rush Plus orange to Largo. Odd that it doesn't include intermediate stops.

And as pointed out above, the yellow is shown in two alignments, one including all possible Rush Plus stops. That's not really ideal. Though it's not exactly their fault that Metro doesn't work too hard to clear up the confusion either...

by Gray on Oct 10, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

Yeah I'd want an outer loop that swung up through upper NW and NE and down to SE or something too but that's probably a very very long way off considering those are the least dense parts of the city.

by BTA on Oct 10, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

Considering how google transit works those messed up alignments were probably created by WMATA or one of their contractors... Google doesnt usually do that for you.

by BTA on Oct 10, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

I think the consensus on PlanIt Metro was that the loops could eventually be broken at say, Union Station, in the future. They just have to be sure to build the infrastructure correctly the first time if that is the route they choose.

by NikolasM on Oct 10, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile the MBTA has had the routes for years...and includes detailed maps of the subway stations (bathrooms, fare gets, elevators etc). You have to be in the mobile version to see it though

by JJJJJJ on Oct 10, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

"Next stop, Japanese American Memorial. Doors opening onyour left."

by Frank IBC on Oct 10, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Interesting that philly doesnt have any subway lines mapped and Chicago has regional rail AND subway and elevated lines.

Shouldnt light rail in DROW or close to DROW also be shown.

by Richard on Oct 10, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

According to the GTFS feed, there's a train that leaves Ballston at 04:54 and makes the following stops:

by novanglus on Oct 10, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

well it does make those stops. it just makes a few more that are not listed

by Richard on Oct 10, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

What's fascinating to me is that Google already HAS this data... they used to show it prominently in Maps & Earth early on, and the lines still show if you zoom in adequately. Why they chouldn't use the high-detail/resolution alignments in lieu of these direct station-to-station lines is beyond me.

by Bossi on Oct 10, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Richard: maybe, but those are the only stops in the GTFS feed for that 04:54 run. Google Transit only shows straight lines between stops (not the actual path of the tracks/buses), so that's why there's a straight Orange line from Farragut West to Stadium Armory.

by novanglus on Oct 10, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

If goggle needs an accurate map of Metrorail's alignments they need look no further then here. The alignments are accurate to within + or - 15'.

by Sand Box John on Oct 10, 2013 10:39 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John - That's great!! Now if stations could be added to that, along with the proper line colors (at a clearly visible weight/thickness).

by DaveG on Oct 11, 2013 8:50 am • linkreport

The problem is that WMATA hasn't provided route shapes in their GTFS data. Google doesn't just grab information and put it up, they use the data provided by agencies.

by MLD on Oct 11, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

What MLD said. Google doesn't do anything. They just pull whatever WMATA uploads and it looks like WMATA screwed up.

by BTA on Oct 11, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

My plan for rearranging the Orange, Silver and Blue Lines east of Capital South Metro station.

Much more service, but 4 fewer Blue Line trains would be required#.

# Phase I to "Starburst" intersection. Phase II would continue up Bladensburg & CSX to College Park Metro station for an interchange with the Green Line there.

Best Hopes,


by Alan Drake (AlanfromBigEasy) on Oct 11, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

goDCgo ( has an excellent interactive map with Metrorail and Metrobus layers.

by David Koch on Oct 11, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport has downloadable shapefiles for the Metro Lines (similar to what Sand Box John posted) along with point data for the stations and individual entrances.

by MLD on Oct 11, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

Yeah, those Orange and Blue line alignments east of Stadium-Armory are all jacked up. The lines are supposed to run north, across the northern stadium parking lot (kind of parallel to Oklahoma Ave) to just north of Benning Rd, then head east along Benning Rd before splitting off to go to Minnesota Ave (Orange) or Benning Rd (Blue). They actually still show part of the correct alignment, in black.

This map has the two lines levitating east of East Capitol St, across the Anacostia, and it runs the Blue + Orange parallel all the way to Largo. The "phantom" Orange line levitates west of East Capitol and across Benning before finally finding its way back to the "real" Orange Line alignment east of Minnesota Ave. Epic fail.

by Bradley Heard on Oct 13, 2013 8:44 pm • linkreport

Also, I think we now know why the Metro lines mysteriously disappeared from the satellite view a few months ago. They must've been working on this new feature.

by Bradley Heard on Oct 13, 2013 8:50 pm • linkreport

It's possible that DHS or WMATA requested that Google remove the actual track locations for security reasons. (Short-sighted, of course, since adversaries could easily get that info elsewhere).

The new layer just shows straight point-to-point lines between the stations, which is fine for actual riders if not us transit-nerds.

by novanglus on Oct 13, 2013 9:03 pm • linkreport

Security would be kind of a silly excuse given that the shapefile data for the track locations is available in several other places, like

Their GTFS data has plenty of other problems. The reason for those problems and for the lack of pretty shapes/route lines is because for some reason they don't feel like dedicating the resources to it. The bus routes also have screwed up lines in places, see here:

by MLD on Oct 14, 2013 8:15 am • linkreport

Metrobus lines are still there.

by Zac on Oct 14, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

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