Greater Greater Washington

What are the 10 longest Metro escalators?

Have you ever wondered where your Metro stop ranks in terms of escalator length? Here are the 10 longest escalators in the system.


Graphic by the author.

Each of the escalators shown is actually a bank of 3 escalators (except at Rosslyn, which has 4), so technically this is a list of WMATA's 31 longest escalators.

Metro has 588 total escalators. The longest in the system, in fact the longest in the Western Hemisphere, are at Wheaton, which have a span of 230'. The Wheaton escalators are so long, they're twice the length of Cleveland Park's, which are 10th longest.

Interestingly, 9 of the 10 longest escalators in the system are on the Red Line. Only Rosslyn at number 5 is on a different line.

And while Wheaton's mammoth escalators seem like an almost endless ride, they're only slightly longer than one third the length of an 8-car Metro train.

While Wheaton has the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere, WMATA's longest are only in 7th place worldwide. The Moscow Metro station at Park Pobedy has the longest in the world, at 413 feet. Stations in St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Prague also have longer escalators than at Wheaton.

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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. 

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It's not the size that counts, but whether it works.

by Bossi on Jul 8, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

So if we were rebuilding the Red Line with modern technology, would we have to burrow so deeply? Or, would it be possible to build closer to the surface without damaging the buildings above or messing with the water table?

by Tom Veil on Jul 8, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

I remember the awe I felt at the Woodley Park escalators as a little kid on trip to visit his cousins/the zoo after they moved to Northern Virginia.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Gotta love Forest Glen.

by Crickey7 on Jul 8, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

@Tom,

I believe part of the reason for the western leg of the red line's depth is because of Rock Creek Park. Metro at one point considered building the rails on a bridge through the legs of the Taft bridge, but structural engineers, then the National Park Service said no. Then, you can then only ascend so fast.

http://ghostsofdc.org/2013/10/01/never-built-metros-bridge-rock-creek/

by John on Jul 8, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

Rustaveli station in Tbilisi, Georgia (another Soviet built subway) has a very deep escalator at 120m (393 ft). By far the fastest escalator I've ever been on. So fast that we could feel a breeze while riding. Additional hand rails were extended at the ends so that passengers could catch themselves as they exited the escalator.

by Waxy on Jul 8, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

Park Pobedy: http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/11193735

by BeyondDC on Jul 8, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

This is an interesting list, but it should be pointed out that having deep stations and long escalators makes transit less useful, and not something to which we should aspire. I often transfer to buses at Cleveland Park, Woodley and Dupont, and those long rides can make catching a bus pretty challenging. We would have been better off with Metro under Taft Bridge instead of buried under Rock Creek.

by Sherman on Jul 8, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

And then we'd have trains rumbling through the heart of a National Park constantly, which would be a real negative, and the effect of long escalators on transit usage is marginal at best. It ain't exactly like the Red Line is hurting for riders.

by Zeus on Jul 8, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

"And then we'd have trains rumbling through the heart of a National Park constantly"

Yes, Rock Creek Park is just an oasis of quite, where noisy transportation vehicles are banned, eh ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2014 12:51 pm • linkreport

So if we were rebuilding the Red Line with modern technology, would we have to burrow so deeply? Or, would it be possible to build closer to the surface without damaging the buildings above or messing with the water table?

Maybe. It depends.

The depth of Metro tunnels is due in part to geographic factors. Rosslyn is going to be a deep station in any scenario, due to the need to cross under the river and the relative height of the Rosslyn bluffs; John mentioned the need to cross under Rock Creek on the Red Line.

Other reasons include the specific earth conditions along the line; the eastern Red Line stations (Wheaton, Forest Glen) are deep because that was determined to be the best tunneling depth: http://books.google.com/books?id=Y6-eW1C4sAUC&lpg=PA567&ots=IIMxHmrT8q&dq=red%20line%20wmata%20tunnel%20depth%20water&pg=PA567#v=onepage&q=red%20line%20wmata%20tunnel%20depth%20water&f=false

Modern TBMs might make soft-earth tunneling closer to the surface more feasible, but that all depends on the specific soil conditions of the route.

The other thing to consider is that you don't necessarily want to go too shallow, as that enters you into the morass of utility relocation - and at that point, you might as well go for the tried-and-true (and disruptive) cut and cover method.

by Alex B. on Jul 8, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

A aboveground Rock Creek crossing likely would have meant a station in Kalorama as well. Apparently, the deep tunnel and resulting track geometry in this location precluded building this station.

by Reza on Jul 8, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7:

Yeah, I wonder sometimes how long a hypothetical Forest Glen escalator would be. Also, how packed its elevators get at rush hour (I've only ever been there on the weekend when it's empty).

by Hagiographer on Jul 8, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Are you including both sets of escaltors at Cleavland Park, Woodley Park, Friendship Hgts & Tenleytown from the street to 1st mezzanine and to the 2nd mezzanine or just from the 1st mezzanine to 2nd mezzanine ?

What station has the shortest escalators and is closest to the surface (not including stations built in trenches/ditches or are partial above and below ground)?

@Hagiographer

I've also wondered that too and also why didn't they do the same at other stations such as Rosslyn from the start.

Another thing that puzzles me why not just include ramps at some stations that are just below the street with very short escalators such as Minnesota Ave, College Park, Anacostia, Addison Road & Brookland

by kk on Jul 8, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

"And then we'd have trains rumbling through the heart of a National Park constantly, which would be a real negative"

No more negative than cars endlessly rumbling over the two bridges in the vicinity. Also -- and I admit this is pedantic -- Rock Creek Park is not a national park, though it is administered by the Park Service.

by Andrew on Jul 8, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

@kk:
These are the longest single-span escalators in the system. The graphic (and the numbers) do not include the shorter escalators that link the platform and mezzanine or the intermediate level and the street. It's only the long span.

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 8, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

@Reza Do you know where, exactly? I've always thought that the brick plaza at 18th and Columbia would be absolutely perfect for a Metro stop (and in fact reminds me a lot of The Pit in Harvard Square on Boston's Red Line).

by LowHeadways on Jul 8, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

And it is absurd Metro boasts that its escalators run one third slower than those in your average department store.

If the 'Up' escalators ran a bit faster, then they wouldn't have to have two operating as much as they now do. One would do the trick.

Make the 'up' escalators go faster - so that fewer people push down on them by walking up.

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 8, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

While Wheaton has the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere, WMATA's longest are only in 7th place worldwide.

Where do these rank on the list of world's longest broken escalators?

by Scoot on Jul 8, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

I compiled the same list more then 20 years ago, the difference is my list defines the vertical rise between landings as apposed to length.
Inventory of stations with escalators over 45' 13.71m vertical rise.

A Route Red Line
Dupont Circle 3 escalators north end surface to mezzanine 94’ 5 3/4" 28.79m
3 escalators south end surface to mezzanine 84’ 9 1/4" 25.83m
Woodley Zoo Park 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 103' 2 1/2" 31.45m
Cleveland Park 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 58' 9 3/8" 17.92m
Van Ness 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 56' 6 1/8" 17.30m
Tenleytown 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 81' 3 1/2" 24.76m
Friendship Heights 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 65' 10 3/4" 20.08m
Bethesda 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 107' 6 1/2" 32.77m
Medical Center 3 escalators surface to mezzanine 100' 11 7/8" 30.78m

B Route Red Line
Wheaton 3 escalators from surface mezzanine to platform 115' 5" 35.17m

C Route Blue Orange Lines
Rosslyn 4 escalators from surface mezzanine to upper platform 97' 9 1/4" 29.80m

C Route Blue Yellow Lines
Pentagon  * 3 escalators from Pentagon Concourse to mezzanine 59' 3/4" 18.00m

K Route Orange Line
Court House  ** 3 escalators intermediate level to mezzanine 48' 6 1/4" 14.76m

All Stations in deep rock except Court House and Pentagon.
* Station in cut and cover. Escalators no longer in service.
** Deepest station in cut and cover.

by Sand Box John on Jul 8, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

No more negative than cars endlessly rumbling over the two bridges in the vicinity.

I can hear the train rumble by in the median of 66 about a mile away with the windows closed but I can't hear the vehicles on 66. I'd say trains are louder. It's the difference between metal wheels on metal tracks vs. rubber tires on asphalt.

by Falls Church on Jul 8, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

@LowHeadways:

I always assumed a Kalorama station would be at Connecticut and Columbia, near the Hilton.

by Reza on Jul 8, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

And it is absurd Metro boasts that its escalators run one third slower than those in your average department store.

I have never understood why they are so proud of this? Who likes taking longer to get somewhere when there's no scenery to look at?! Also, I assume they slow it down to reduce the number of items stuck in the teeth at the end (e.g., shoe laces and flip flops, but is that right? Anyone know what the point of slowing down the escalators is?

by 7r3y3r on Jul 8, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

I read somewhere that Metro slowed down the escalators years ago after losing a lawsuit from someone who took a fall after the escalator stopped abruptly. Metro felt that slower escalators would lead to fewer falls.

by aces on Jul 8, 2014 8:59 pm • linkreport

@aces
Actually they never ran them at speeds greater then the lowest speed (90 feet per minute). The original Class C Westinghouse escalators, (vertical rise greater then 60') were 3 speed, 90, 112 1/2 and 150 feet per minute. The escalators under 60' vertical rise were 2 speed, 90 and 120 feet per minute. To my knowledge all the escalators procured after Westinghouse ended being the sole source vendor are single speed escalators.

by Sand Box John on Jul 9, 2014 8:36 am • linkreport

You all are the biggest whiners! The red line stations in NW Washington from Dupont outward are beautiful and an engineering marvel. Contrast them to Farragut north, which is a shallow station and at platform level feels pretty hemmed in. We should be delighted that the Metro planners and other stakeholders had the foresight and $$ to tunnel under Rock Creek and the Potomac for aesthetic reasons. Again, contrast that with the new silver line stations and track in Tysons which should have been put underground. Once the line reaches Dulles it will be a real challenge to build an above ground station so that it doesn't architecturally impact the main terminal. There was a time when grand projects were, well, grand.

by Alf on Jul 9, 2014 8:53 am • linkreport

The 90 feet per minute speed is what a escalator mechanic told me.

For the longer 'up' escalators, it's not fast enough. It encourages people to walk. People stomping 'down' on an 'up' escalator makes its job more difficult.

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 9, 2014 9:13 am • linkreport

@Alf
The challenge has been met.

by Sand Box John on Jul 9, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

I always wondered why the Wheaton escalator was locally referred to as "The Ron Jeremy".

by Brendan on Jul 10, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

That's a good question.

On submarines, they always name the engines. I was on a Canadian sub that had 'Bert' and 'Ernie'.

Let's name the Bethesda escalators!

Manny, Moe and Jack? They were mechanics, that might come in handy: what are some other suggestions? The Bethesda Station opened in the early '80s. How 'bout Darryl, Joe and Riggo?

Let's have some more suggestions!

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 10, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Brendan
Goggle the name is all that I will say.

by Sand Box John on Jul 10, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Alf, welcome to Washington (& its suburbs). Whining is a pastime here and not just on GGW.

by Rich on Jul 11, 2014 7:35 am • linkreport

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