The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


A "wye" is out, but a second Rosslyn station may make more Blue Line trains possible

Metro's planners have been studying ways to deal with the capacity crunch at Rosslyn station. A track connection from Court House to Arlington Cemetery isn't possible, but a second station for the Blue Line is, and could be built by 2025.

Each Metro track segment is limited to 26 trains per hour (TPH). At Rosslyn, where the Blue, Orange, and (soon!) Silver Lines come together, this limits the number of trains on each line. In 2012, Metro reduced the number of Blue Line trains to allow more Orange Line capacity. Later this month, the number of Blue Line trains will decline even more to make room for the Silver Line.

Two possible fixes for Rosslyn. Image from WMATA.

There's really no way to alleviate this crunch without additional track capacity. Eventually, it's likely that a second subway across downtown will be necessary to handle the ridership. Metro is currently exploring the idea of building a new loop line through the central city. A new subway would allow Orange and Silver lines to each have 13 slots, and the Blue Line could also to have increased service up to 13 TPH.

Earlier, Metro was looking at two ways to address the capacity constraints. One concept was a "wye" track connection, to allow trains coming from Court House to turn south and go toward Arlington Cemetery and vice versa. The follow-up study this year, though, determined that building foundations make this option impossible.

Potential location for a second Rosslyn station. Image from WMATA.

The other option, though, is feasible. It would require building a second station one block west of the current Rosslyn station. This new platform would connect to the existing Rosslyn station with a pedestrian tunnel. At least initially, only the Blue Line would use it. The Orange and Silver lines would stay in the current station.

If built, this would mean that the Blue Line would only operate between Franconia-Springfield and Rosslyn (though some Yellow Line trains might still start and end in Franconia as they do today). That would mean that, at least until the line is extended across the Potomac, Blue Line riders would need to transfer to an Orange or Silver line train at Rosslyn to get downtown. But all the lines at Rosslyn would be coming more frequently than they do today, which might alleviate the inconvenience of changing trains.

These diagrams I made last year show how the new station (and the infeasible wye) could work.

View peak service levels: Pre-Silver Line   With Silver Line
Possible solutions: Blue Line terminal Wye (rejected)  

Note: Since this graphic was created in 2013, Metro has announced there will be 5 TPH per hour on the Blue Line once the Silver Line opens, rather than 6 as shown here.

The wye would have allowed for more trains on the new Silver Line tracks and given riders from Alexandria and south Arlington a one-seat ride to Court House, Clarendon, etc. (if they caught the train every ten minutes going that way), but it also would have made service more complex, added chances for delays, and not fit in as well with a future Potomac River crossing. A new Rosslyn terminal would hopefully be just the first segment of a crosstown subway through Georgetown.

Possible extension to Georgetown.

Right now, Metro's planning staff is recommending the proposed station be moved forward for project development funding, which essentially means that they want it to get money for more detailed study. But the project is in the Metro 2025 plan, so planners anticipate that this could be opened within 11 years—if the jurisdictions, particularly Virginia and its cities and counties, are willing to pay for it.

For the next few years, the capacity crush at Rosslyn is likely to get worse. But this project might be the light at the end of the tunnel for Blue, Orange, and Silver line riders.

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 Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


Add a comment »

I wonder what percentage actually use the blue line across to DC. As noted for many the yellow line does this much better anyways, so would having the line stop at Rosslyn really cause people to have to transfer if yellow line boardings are available at all stations along the blue/yellow?

by Navid Roshan on Jul 14, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

Why not address the real issue?

"Each Metro track segment is limited to 26 trains per hour (TPH). "

Thats an artificial constraint.

Subways around the world run every 90 seconds, safely and effectively.

How about as a starter package getting that to 30 trains an hour, or one every 2 minute?

It reminds me of Penn Station in NYC complaining theyre at max capacity. Except its only because they insist on having trains sit around for 30 minutes hogging a platform, rather than running them out to queens and doing the turnaround there.

Why improve efficiency when you can send out billion dollar projects to bid?

by JJJJ on Jul 14, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

Why improve efficiency when you can send out billion dollar projects to bid?

dcmike has said before that increasing throughput into the 30+ TPH range would itself require billion dollar projects, akin to what TfL had to spend on the Victoria Line modernization.

It would be useful if he or Sand Box John could explain in relatively-layman terms what the constraining technologies/equipment currently are.

by Dizzy on Jul 14, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport


Escalators also move faster other places too; London's actually move fast enough to generate a breeze. Loved it.

by Adam L on Jul 14, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

This is generally a good idea, and set the stage for a separate blue line without having to bite off the whole thing at once. Even a second station (expanded station?) would be expensive and hard to get through in today's political climate. DC and Maryland won't want to pay for it, Richmond's downstate contingent will hate it, and there's not as much federal money as there used to be.

No matter what, a certain contingent of Blue Line riders will whine and pout incessantly.

by Distantantennas on Jul 14, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport


While I still think we need a new river tunnel/separate Blue line, I get your point. But WMATA just doesn't understand that on-time departing is the first step to efficiency. Talk to Richard Sarles and see what I mean.

Metro need MTR badly.

by Brett on Jul 14, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport - Is this a possible alternative?

You'd be running another line through most of the congested area that the Blue Line takes people from aside from Franc-Springfield and it'd connect at the second blue line station, where the second blue line would continue with this scenario except connect back at Stadium Armory.

If someone could create a map of this it'd be very helpful for me.

by SilverLineHype on Jul 14, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

So is a combined 4-track platform, allowing same-platform transfers, not even being considered? Sometimes it seems as though Metro actively avoids international best practices. Can anyone think of a single aspect of Metro that follows best practices?

by beetroot on Jul 14, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

In re:
"If built, this would mean that the Blue Line would only operate between Franconia-Springfield and Rosslyn (though some Yellow Line trains might still start and end in Franconia as they do today). That would mean that, at least until the line is extended across the Potomac, Blue Line riders would need to transfer to an Orange or Silver line train at Rosslyn to get downtown. But all the lines at Rosslyn would be coming more frequently than they do today, which might alleviate the inconvenience of changing trains."

What about trains to/from Largo? Are they down to 3 trains per hour rush/0 trains per hour non-rush? Do Maryland and Prince George's get to cut how much they contribute to WMATA if that is true?

by EMD on Jul 14, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport


Getting efficiency up to every 90 seconds would reap benefits to the entire system, forever. It would allow for future expansion in many places.

The proposal in this post is a band-aid solution to a single problem.

by JJJJ on Jul 14, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

That would mean that, at least until the line is extended across the Potomac, Blue Line riders would need to transfer to an Orange or Silver line train at Rosslyn to get downtown.

Would it mean that ALL blue line trains would need to service the second platform or could it be possible for a few Blue line trains to continue as they do now to foggy bottom? I suppose it depends on how the track is separated. The blue line is already stacked going into Rosslyn so it might be an easy switch that would allow more flexibility.

by Richard on Jul 14, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

How much good does a second (or expanded) Rosslyn station really do without a second downtown line in DC? Everyone would have to get off the Blue line trains at that location. This might be good for Blue line passengers who intend to ride the outbound Orange and Silver line trains (which would have some capacity). But the inbound Orange and Silver line trains would be at their fullest at that time. Granted there would be more trains than today (because the Blue line trains would not go through the tunnel and on to DC), but by the time that the station was built, it seems like there might be more riders than today on those trains. It doesn't seem like Metro should spend a lot of money to build a second Rosslyn station that ultimately forces everyone taking Blue into DC to transfer on the limited Rosslyn platform space or to take Yellow into DC and switch.

by MyThoughts on Jul 14, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

What about trains to/from Largo? Are they down to 3 trains per hour rush/0 trains per hour non-rush? Do Maryland and Prince George's get to cut how much they contribute to WMATA if that is true?

Look at the graphics posted. The 13 Orange Line trains would go to New Carrollton, the 13 Silver Line trains would go to Largo.

by MLD on Jul 14, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Can anyone think of a single aspect of Metro that follows best practices?

Other than the obvious, like using electricity to power the system, electronic payment as preferred, uhh running on rails and such there are some things Metro does well that are best practices that are sometimes lacking in other systems:

The major interchange stations all have 2 platforms on either side of the trains running down the middle. Putting the tracks on the outside of a single platform works well for stations that do not have an interchange but gets crazily crowded when an interchange is involved. Metro Center and L'Enfant work a lot better than almost any interchange in Beijing's huge subway system for instance because Beijing didn't follow best practices when it planned it's system.

Every station has an elevator to every platform and to the street. Again, try traveling abroad with a wheel chair and you will start to appreciate DC's system even if half the elevators are not working on any given day.

by Richard on Jul 14, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

@beetroot, the layout of the current Rosslyn station would make that absolutely impossible. The outbound tracks are a level below the inbound tracks, so that Orange can cross over Blue immediately south of the station. (Pentagon has a mirror of this setup.) Making even just those two tracks be on the same level, let alone two more tracks, which would potentially need their own similar crossovers to accommodate the proposed Orange/Silver express, would require not only completely tearing apart the existing station, but also all of the nearby tunnels. That's before you even get into the logistics and costs of dealing with the buildings overhead.

by TheOtherGlenmont on Jul 14, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

Looking at the capacity map leaves me wondering why are there never any short trip trains from New Carrolton, Largo Town Center, Franconia Springfield,Huntington, Greenebelt that terminate downtown, Pentagon/Pentagon City, or more Green Line trains ran when these portions of the system have more than enough empty space.

How would this new platform line up with the rest of the station would it be via a new entrance or the same entrances just with an extra 2 block walk ?

Another thing does the train actually need to serve Rosslyn why not another station Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Square. If we ever get a separate Blue Line why not also build a new portion in Virginia to avoid the waste a space and money that is the Arlington Cemetery Station; and instead route the line to the west of the cemetery to a place that would serve the people of Virginia better.

by kk on Jul 14, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

It doesn't seem like Metro should spend a lot of money to build a second Rosslyn station that ultimately forces everyone taking Blue into DC to transfer on the limited Rosslyn platform space or to take Yellow into DC and switch.

OK, so what is the alternative?

by MLD on Jul 14, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

@kk, the map suggests it's the same entrance. I imagine the cost of a new entrance that deep would prohibit a new one (and it will still need to be deep to go under the river).

I agree, personally, that running BL behind the cemetary and connecting at Courthouse would likely be more useful. I imagine the reason they won't do that is because acquiring rights to build underneath a property, let alone the logistics of doing so, is difficult and expensive. Unlike Rosslyn, there isn't a nice wide county-owned right of way to build under if you go via Courthouse.

by TheOtherGlenmont on Jul 14, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

@KK The way the original post was written, it appears it's not even a matter of rights, but of strict structural issues. Remember, Rosslyn is deeper than Courthouse so it can hit the Potomac tunnel. Courthouse is higher, so heading from Cemetery to Courthouse would put you a lot closer to the surface, and likely right into the building foundations. At least that's what they imply. A map would have been interesting.

by Distantantennas on Jul 14, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

Dear Blue Line riders: you complain - bitterly.

Instead of doing that here, do so to your local Congress person and the folks you send to Richmond. Say that you want more funding for trains, tunnels, traction control systems, oversight and whatever else you'd like for public transportation. Just maybe, we can shave 10 minutes off your commute since many of you refuse to take the yellow line alternative or VRE out of principle.

by Randall M. on Jul 14, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

I think this is a good first step at a future cross-town tunnel for the Blue line, or the imagined DC loop. And if it's built by 2025 with the rest on the way for the 2040s, that's OK. A huge amount of people get off the Blue line at Pentagon and an even larger amount at Rosslyn. The train is usually slightly less packed heading into Foggy Bottom. So, if half of the Blue line trains head to/from Rosslyn II and the other half head to DC and Largo, this could a) get people to Rosslyn II without being jammed and b) get riders to Foggy Bottom and beyond without being jammed.

I see no reason to end all Blue line trains at Rosslyn II under this scenario.

by JDC on Jul 14, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

I don't see why all BL trains would terminate at the new Rosslyn stub station as a Phase 1 project. Five BL trains per hour would run as they will with the SL, add 6 to 7 short BL trains terminating at the new Rosslyn station. BL trains can continue to run to Largo until a Phase 2 segment from Rosslyn to Georgetown to Union Station is completed (in 2040 or whenever). Provides an incentive for SL, OR passengers to support building Phase 2 for more service on the lines.

A second station at Rosslyn should be connected by 2 pedestrian tunnels, not one. Two tunnels would offer options for shorter paths between connecting trains.

by AlanF on Jul 14, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

oops, left out: Five BL trains per hour could run to Largo as they will with the SL,

by AlanF on Jul 14, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

@ Distantantennas

I understand the issue of the tunnel; but if you are building a new Blue Line eventually it will need a new tunnel. That new tunnel does not need to cross between DC & Virginia near Rosslyn. It could cross anywhere between the Key Bridge and Chain Bridge. A bridge or tunnel could be built near Three Sisters Islands (Yes I know the history) or further north if a line connected to the Orange line at Clarendon or Virginia Square that crosses the river closer to the Georgetown Reservoir, Palisades, Potomac Overlook, Park and thus travel eastbound toward Georgetown with current plans where stations would be.

If the line was routed toward Court House you could in theory route the line from Pentagon along Columbia Pike, Arlington Blvd, Glebe Rd or any other roads in the area that lack descent transit. From there onwards to any Orange Line station would connect areas that are all close together but take ages to travel between on buses.

Having Rosslyn station deeper than the other is not much of an issue except for structural issues, you could build a tunnel under, beside, etc of the current station the same as would have to be done in Rosslyn as the tracks of the new Blue Line Rosslyn Station would have to go beneath or above the Orange Lines at some point.

Another way to solve some Blue Line issues could be to move some of the buses from Pentagon, Pentagon City, Crystal City to instead terminate at Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston or to extend them to one of the aforementioned stations from Pentagon, PC, CC

@ TheOtherGlenmont

I’m thinking of the tunnel if it was completed and imagining the route to reach the station if say a rider was at street level. It would require going down the escalators or elevator and once at the first platform level making a U-turn and walk 2 blocks maybe further. One this would be an extreme distance and two there would need to be an emergency exit closer to this new platform. So if you would have to build an emergency exit somewhere why not a set of elevators also?

by kk on Jul 14, 2014 12:17 pm • linkreport

How about more VRE train service running from Franconia / Springfield (F/S) coupled with a Blue Short Line between F/S and Pentagon?

by Kevin H on Jul 14, 2014 12:21 pm • linkreport

If the tunnel will need to be bored regardless, why not build a second platform below the current Rosslyn platform? Just curious.

by Steve K on Jul 14, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

I'm a little confused why they dont run more Yellow rush plus trains from Franconia. Sure that won't help riders from Franconia/Van Dorn who are used to one seats to between Rosslyn/Federal Triangle or so but at the end of the day thats got to be less than 10k people and they would still be better served by increased yellow service to reduce crowding on the blue trains.

by BTA on Jul 14, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

The more I look at the Blue Line and the upcoming service issues the more I think a fare decrease is in order. This is almost the same issue that happen 23 years ago when the Green line opened to Anacostia but instead of train service being cut it was bus service. When that happen WMATA agreed to create a special lower 60 cent fare I believe when it started but increased later on.

They should give a discount to riders going toward the Arlington County portion of the Orange line or perhaps a special free transfer to Metrobuses buses to complete there trips it required going to Arlington County.

by kk on Jul 14, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

@BTA - the number of Yellow trains inbound is capped in order to maximize the number of inbound Green Line trains, which I think has higher ridership. That's another reasoned Metro has talked about a separate Yellow line in DC so the Green line can be maximized at 26 tph.

by JDC on Jul 14, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

The commute that gets messed up with the silver line are people who get off buses at Pentagon and then need to get downtown near the white house (farragut west). I'd like to know how many people use the bus connections at Pentagon (I bet it's a lot because the bus bay is a huge hub) and transfer to Metro. I do this commute every morning and it's a pain to have to get on the yellow line and switch an l'enfant - i'm essentially overshooting my destination every day and having to double back on the train.

When most people complain about the blue line changes, they think it only impacts people originating from francoina-springfield/van dorn. But there are a ton of people who use the pentagon transfers to the blue line to get downtown. It seems bizarre that metro would have this huge bus hub set up without a good way to get directly to a common commute point (farragut west/white house area).

by Stag05 on Jul 14, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

@ Stag05

Another question is why is there a hub there in the first place out of all the buses that serve Pentagon Station maybe 1/15 of the buses cross over into DC and those are only in Rush Hour not a single bus from Pentagon goes to DC during Non Rush Hour weekday hours or at all on weekends.

I think the reason is monetary cause they get to add a rail fare to the bus fare and up until recently there was no bus to rail discount. The same happens at many other stations you would sometimes have a station where there is only one bus that serves it on a particular day but the next station has 5 or 6 and there is no way to transfer but by taking the rail one stop when the buses going to the next station would be more logical.

by kk on Jul 14, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport


There are several alternatives to building a dead-end station. First, as many commenters suggested, Blue line trains could continue at the same frequency and route as today except that additional dead-end trains could be added. This might affect Yellow line riders because it would remove some actual (or potential) capacity on the share Yellow/Blue section in Virginia to replace it with new dead-end trains.

Second, the new station could be more closely tied to additional construction in the city of a new separated Blue line. It would be a first step, but not the only step.

Third, nothing could be done. I don't know enough about ridership to know if this would be better than the project. But there seem to be a lot of issues with a plan that involved construction of a new station for a terminating Blue line. Construction of the new station would be expensive. It would not address the complaint of Blue line riders as I understand it, i.e., that there are now fewer direct Blue line trains to the west end of the city. This plan would take away all of those trains and require all Blue line riders going into the city to make a switch (either at a new Rosslyn station with a walk to the old station involved or at L'Enfant Plaza after taking the Yellow). And if a lot of riders chose to switch to inbound trains at the new station, there are comfort and safety issues from packing more travelers onto trains already close to capacity and existing platforms.

by MyThoughts on Jul 14, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Why would putting a new station below the current station be any better than putting it to the West of the current station?

You would have the same issue where people have to travel a distance to get from the current station to the new station or vice-versa (about 400ft given this diagram). But you would have an added distance issue in getting people who exclusively want to go to the new station - now they have to go down to the current station's level and then FURTHER down to wherever the new station is.

It seems bizarre that metro would have this huge bus hub set up without a good way to get directly to a common commute point (farragut west/white house area).

Except back in the 1960s when they designed the system that was not the center of employment the way it is now. Metro Center was closer to that.

by MLD on Jul 14, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

First, as many commenters suggested, Blue line trains could continue at the same frequency and route as today except that additional dead-end trains could be added.

Dead-end where? At the current station? That doesn't add any train capacity. If blue line trains continue into the shared Rosslyn station at the same frequency as today (or before RushPlus) then you have to run fewer Orange/Silver trains.

Of course you could still run some Blue trains into downtown if you built a new station - but that doesn't address your "spend a lot of money" issue. The station will cost the same regardless of how many Blue trains use it.

Second, the new station could be more closely tied to additional construction in the city of a new separated Blue line. It would be a first step, but not the only step.

It is - the separated Blue Line is in Metro's long-range plan.

It would not address the complaint of Blue line riders as I understand it, i.e., that there are now fewer direct Blue line trains to the west end of the city.
No, but nothing will short of building a new line. The passenger loads on the line do not support cutting Silver/Orange trains for more Blue trains.

And if a lot of riders chose to switch to inbound trains at the new station, there are comfort and safety issues from packing more travelers onto trains already close to capacity and existing platforms.

But there will be more Silver/Orange trains so you won't be packing more people onto the trains that are in existence now - there will be more trains.

by MLD on Jul 14, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

As much as I love the Silver Line and the economic benefits it is bringing to Tysons and the rest of Fairfax County, I think they should have prepped by building a separated Blue Line in advance of Silver Line construction. Why does southern Fairfax County have to suffer and have our service end at Rosslyn? They should force the Silver Line to end at Rosslyn until they can build another tunnel crossing the Potomac. It's poor planning on their part and Metro is neglecting Alexandria, Springfield, and Lorton residents in favor of the more affluent Tysons, Reston, and Arlington residents.

by Levi L on Jul 14, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

When most people complain about the blue line changes, they think it only impacts people originating from francoina-springfield/van dorn.

Some people might be surprised at just how many people boarding at King & Braddock in the morning are headed to somewhere in the Rosslyn-McPherson stretch. I'd also be curious to see a demographic study of the point of origin of USPTO employees who take metro. I still seem to see more of their them getting off at King than at Eisenhower, which suggests to me they're riding blue rather than yellow.

by Old Town Oddball on Jul 14, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport


The first alternative is what the other commenters were suggesting: build the new station but continue to run the blue line trains at the same (12 min.) frequency as will start in a couple of weeks. I didn't mean to dead-end trains in the existing station.

I don't ride the Blue line but my general thought is that this plan doesn't do much for Blue line riders. It makes sense as part of a more ambitious plan but from a short term prospective I don't think it adds that much for the reasons I listed. You seem to disagree but that's just based on a different assessment of how easy it will be to get on a new train at Rosslyn. (I said that I didn't know enough about ridership projections to take a definitive position.) You don't dispute that riders will still have to switch trains and that their current complaint is that they can't take frequent non-stop service to the west end of the city.

by MyThoughts on Jul 14, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

I've posted this before on another site, but WMATA's plan over the next 15 years is pretty clear. Expanding Metrorail will involve a series of steps, probably as follows:

1. Creating a makeshift terminal for the BL should be an immediate priority, so that 10 tph between Rosslyn and Franconia be reinstated. With the interlining between the BL and OL removed, SL tph can be increased as ridership to Tysons grows.

2. Afterwards, the BL can be extended to Farragut Square via Georgetown, and tph along the stretch can be increased to 16. The BL will need to divert under K or L St so that all lines converging there will be within decent walking distance of each other. YL service would be reduced to 10 to allow GL service to increase to 16.

3. Build to Union Station to relieve the crowds on the RL.

4. From there, reassess what needs to be built. By then, the OL is likely to be overcrowded, so the next step would probably be the SL Express with 10 tph feeding into the L/M St line. I’m not fond of the southern section of the planned loop line, but it should be considered if NoVa continues to grow.

by caelestor on Jul 14, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

@Old Town Oddball - Why do you think they ride Blue instead of Yellow when they get off at King St.? Why would they ride further to get off at Eisenhower if they ride Yellow from Arlington/DC? On that note, what matter which color they ride, if they aren't crossing the river?

by Thad on Jul 14, 2014 1:57 pm • linkreport

If they built this, maybe it would make more sense to reroute the blue line entirely to run Rosslyn-Huntington and the yellow line to run Franconia/Springfield-Mt Vernon Square, Ft Totten or Greenbelt.

by Ned on Jul 14, 2014 5:00 pm • linkreport

Re "A track connection from Court House to Arlington Cemetery isn't possible" - is that with the widest possible curve, or are they only looking at a short "wye" segment closer to Rosslyn?

How about skipping Court House and having the wye connect Clarendon to Arlington Cemetery?

The current configuration places three lines on a single set of tracks. By adding wyes to Arlington, and then the Pentagon and again south of L'Enfant Plaza, you'd be able to have a second line on tracks currently used by only a single line.

by M.V. Jantzen on Jul 14, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

MV Jantzen: It would a short segment just bypassing Rosslyn, basically. I see how describing it as "a connection from Court House to Arlington Cemetery" can be confusing, though I'm not sure what else one would say (any ideas?)

I think the drawback of anything longer is that it would be extremely expensive. They are trying to do things that are (relatively) affordable and shorter-term just to deal with the Blue Line problem and the crunch.

However, Metro's proposals involving the loop track suggest that in the much longer term, they'd like an express track in North Arlington along I-66 that could then tie into the loop:

by David Alpert on Jul 14, 2014 5:40 pm • linkreport

Using the concept of the loop, without building the loop . . .
What if - in the short/medium term - the second Rosslyn station was used for the Silver Line to continue south, instead of using the second station for the blue line to cross into DC?

WMATA could have the Silver Line come use an "express bypass" through Arlington (, come into the new, second Rosslyn station, and continue to the Pentagon. If a "wye" is possible there at Pentagon, Silver could cross into DC using the Yellow line's track.

Or maybe turn west onto Columbia Pike! ;-)

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Jul 14, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Metro's brilliant ideas never cease to amaze me. This may be the best one yet!

by Sam on Jul 14, 2014 5:54 pm • linkreport

If (hopefully when) a new tube is put under the Potomac for the Blue Line, do any of these alternatives allow for the OR/SL to use the new tunnel in the event of a problem in the original tunnel?

It seems like it would be a missed opportunity to establish some much needed path diversity.

by will r on Jul 14, 2014 6:03 pm • linkreport

I mean I see how the Pentagon situation is unfortunate but basically between waiting an extra 5 minutes for a Blue Line train or switching at L'Enfant I don't think it's a fatal flaw. I do think they could accomodate more yellow line service as well. Green Line trains come about every 4 minutes or so during peak in my experience so there is room for more yellow though it is partly a matter of having enough rolling stock. I'd say more 6 car trains on Yellow maybe with greater frequency?

by BTA on Jul 14, 2014 7:00 pm • linkreport


To increase the throughput on the lines you would need to do two things:

*Replace most if not the entire block control system
*Have enough trains to run at that rate

You cannot have more than one train in a block for safety reasons, so shorten the distance between trains you need a smaller block and with it trains that can break quickly enough in a block to not hit the next train (or the decreasing of the block size doesn't help capacity). (GGW has a post on track circuits here:

The maximum block size currently in the WMATA system is 1,565 (per the Fort Totten NTSB crash report). According to the NTSB report there are about 3000 track circuits in the system. I don't know the full cost of the entire setup, but just the bonds cost 7K each so that's 42 million just for 1 part (not including the labor to put them in and test them). To do redo the control system probably would cost in the billions (its pretty safe to assume). So it might just be better to build a new line.

by Brian on Jul 14, 2014 7:45 pm • linkreport


The technology is not the constraint, the equipment is.

As it stands now WMATA's traction power distribution system is equivalent to a 6,500 square foot, 6 bed room, 5 1/2 bath home with a 500 amp circuit breaker panel. A typical 3 bed room, 2 bath home 1/4 the size has a 200 amp circuit breaker panel.

WMATA doesn't have a fleet large enough to dispatch enough all 8 car trains to fill a time table at 2 minute headway.

Figure something north of 1/2 billion for the traction power upgrades and something north of 1 billion for the rolling stock.

The combined cost of these 2 procurement would only get the M Street subway from the junction north of Arlington Cemetery to a point west of Wisconsin Avenue.

I happen to believe spending the limited funding resources on rolling stock and traction power upgrades is the cheaper capacity increasing option.


The Court House station is the deepest cut an cover station in the system. the top of the bedrock at the east end of the station is roughly 20' above the floor of the mezzanine. The tunnels descend down into the Rosslyn station at a steeper grade then does the top of the bedrock. The top of the bedrock is roughly 75' above upper level platform in the Rosslyn station. Both of the Court House to Arlington Cemetery Y tunnels would be bored through the bedrock. I see this more as a money issue then an engineering issue.

@Steve K
Because if in the future WMATA want to build the M street subway, the existing westbound tunnel between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn would be in the path of the tunnel extending north under the river to Georgetown.

by Sand Box John on Jul 15, 2014 12:42 am • linkreport

Even a second station (expanded station?) would be expensive and hard to get through in today's political climate. DC and Maryland won't want to pay for it

This is an easy quid pro quo.

If DC and MD do not help pay for this station expansion, VA will not chip in a dime for any blue line separation in DC (and MD). This will slow down the separated blue line for years.

If DC and MD do help pay for this expanded station, they will have a case to force VA to help pay for the separated blue line. VA will scream murder, but will pay in the end, probably demanding an extension of the blue line in VA - and get it.

So, DC and MD: Do you want a separated blue line in DC (and further)?

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2014 9:09 am • linkreport

@Levi L: trains can't turn at Rosslyn so your suggestion does not work. As to why silver line was built before changing the blue line: because Tysons has the money behind it. If you don't like that, start organizing to raise money. You'll need upwards of a billion dollars. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Mike on Jul 15, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

Good idea...
Here's a map I made of this 4 years ago.

by stevek on Jul 15, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

and yes, what I propose here is a metro bridge across the Potomac between Georgetown and Arlington. With rocky, steep embankments on either side, plus the possibility of re-purposing the existing Whitehurst freeway structure as a metro station, I think it makes a lot of sense. With clever design it could be quite wonderful and offer passengers a great view entering the city.

by stevek on Jul 15, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John - I didn't realize that. Thanks!

by Distantantennas on Jul 15, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

Levi L. -- fwiw in 2006 I wrote exactly that, that the separated blue line should be part of the expansion planning for the Silver Line.

But technically, WMATA wasn't doing expansion planning after 2003, they devolved responsibility to the separate jurisdictions, and in that scenario, although I don't know why, the State of Virginia wasn't forced to take responsibility for adding severe costs to the existing system of the added line/trains, e.g., the need for a second crossing and better turn around capacity (if the trains were going to turn around near Stadium-Armory).

So it's laughable now that VA politicos are complaining about this stuff now. c. 2003-2006, only Arlington County had the separated blue line proposal in their transportation plan, after WMATA went through their RIF and the concept was dropped.

DC took a terrible approach, that a separated blue line was too expensive and would never happen, and therefore shifted interest to streetcars for intra-city transportation, taking little responsibility wrt capacity issues at the core of the Metrorail system in DC (the core system within DC functions monocentrically for DC and is the foundation of the city's competitive advantage as a place to locate business or choose to live).

2. wrt kk's point about bus and Pentagon, the reality is that it's a lot more efficient to move people across the river by train than by bus. Especially during rush periods when any of the ways across the river are hyper congested, but especially 14th Street bridge, which is the closest to the Pentagon (in theory alternatives would be the Memorial Bridge or maybe Roosevelt).

Last summer, in my writings about lack of 24 hour transit service to National Airport, I was thinking about this, because I said there should be overnight bus service, but didn't discuss one particular element, bridge closure.

(During that discussion, mostly on GGW, people suggested the 52/53/54 could be extended to National Airport from DC, but my reservation was the amount of deadhead equivalent and the bridge closure issue. But it's an interesting idea nonetheless.)

I was thinking that you need a dedicated transitway crossing associated with but separate from the current lanes of the 14th street bridge, to cross the Potomac, AND to not put buses in the position of being "barred crossing" the 14th Street bridge because of marathons and any other special events.

Anyway, the problem with buses into the city there is the long traffic engorged distance between the Pentagon and L'Enfant Plaza and then somewhere in the vicinity of Metro Center.

by Richard Layman on Jul 15, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

The PGH airport is far from Downtown, but they do have a busway.

by Richard Layman on Jul 15, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

The PGH airport is far from Downtown, but they do have a busway.

No they don't. The busway isn't anywhere near the airport.

The 28X jumps from the busway (about six to eight miles south of Downtown) to use 376 for the last 15+ miles.

by Another Nick on Jul 15, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

true, I haven't ridden it enough to know if that is significantly deleterious to the speed of the trip.

But wrt the basic point, that having a busway across the Potomac, serving Pentagon and National Airport to Downtown is something that we should do, it's a extendable example, for the sections that exist that are dedicated.

I wonder if it would be possible to do as part of the Long Bridge planning? (FWIW, I tried to figure out how you could do this from Union Station to New York Avenue too, but in any case, a lot of the lines like to go via H Street and Bladensburg Road anyway.)

by Richard Layman on Jul 15, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

IMO, a new station (if built) should have 4 tracks (in addition to the existing 2-track station), to accommodate both a new downtown Blue Line, and the proposed Silver Line Express.

Given that there will *still* be interlining downtown (with the addition of the Silver Line), the station should also be able to operate as a terminal.

by andrew on Jul 15, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

A full rerouting the Metro Blue line to create parallel tunnels and tracks, to maximize capacity, should really be putting the Blue line on the west side of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), under the highways Rt-50 on the NW of ANC, and Rt-29 on the SW of ANC, to both connect Crystal City and Rosslyn, and add two new stops serving foot traffic, and transferring suburban hot lane express bus passengers to Metro subways, and catching suburban Virginia cars in parking structures to transfer drivers to the Metro.

The two new stops, very deep, would ideally add a Rt 50 stop, and a Columbia Pike stop (ideally for future Streetcar transfers) directly serving Ft. Meyer and similar west side of Arlington National Cemetery facilities and entries, as well as walking distance from the many homes near by, and new express bus and parking structures.

Through DC it would logically follow the existing Orange line, but some have suggested an M Street route across the city, but I deeply dislike this orphaned M Street line with likely no transfer stops in Western DC to any other Metro line in DC, not Red, Orange, nor Silver. In eastern DC an M Street line might intersect with Green/Yellow, and Red lines, on M Street, but this creates a major gap between Farragut North and West, and a new M Street Blue line stop, which would have to be closed with a subterranean tunnel and moving walkways, a terrible solution. The other problem is there is no easy way to transfer Orange line trains from the extant corridor to the new cross Potomac River Blue tunnel to Georgetown, nor vis-a-versa, unless a really expensive service tunnel was built, such as from east of Foggy Bottom to Georgetown.

In Northern Virginia, the new roughly parallel and dedicated Blue line tracks would have to continue to make best use of the Yellow line capacity. The rerouted Blue line would have to serve either the Pentagon, or Pentagon City, but not both, because it is too indirect to serve both, on its way to the "must serve" Crystal City VRE commuter rail stop (and potential future Amtrak and Premium Airport Express Rail stop). If Pentagon has terrorism issues, and lower number of riders getting on or off, Metro subway transfer to Yellow line, or surface shuttle bus, might be best for that connection.

Rerouted Blue line skipping DCA National Airport might be wise, especially if any future Amtrak type service to Crystal City has a connection to DCA, such as a shuttle bus or people mover built. This would allow the Blue line to come from Columbia Pike, via either Pentagon or Pentagon City, to Crystal City, straight south to Braddock Rd stop, a more direct route to make up for the west of Arlington Nat'l Cemetery route.

New dedicated parallel surface tracks would have to go all the way through Alexandria King St/Old Town, to assure maximum number of trains per hour from Franconia-Springfield to near Crystal City, and then new tunnels to Rosslyn via west of the Nat'l Cemetery, across DC (e.g. via M Street, Florida Ave, and Benning Rd). If the Blue line were forced onto an M Street corridor, or similar rerouting, yet used all of the extant Blue line east of the Anacostia River, there would either be no stop for transfers to existing Orange line, or a new transfer stop was built in either side of the Anacostia River for old Orange and new Blue to interconnect.

by npendleton on Jul 15, 2014 10:29 pm • linkreport

Just throwing this out there.

1. Local shuttle running from Rosslyn to Pentagon serving Arlington.
2. Local shuttle running from Huntington to King Street serving Eisenhower Ave
3. Restrict Blue Line to Metro Center to Largo
4. Reroute Yellow Line to Franconia

by Michael Cunningham on Jul 16, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport


What about P Street instead of M or even Florida Ave instead of M?

Having a line run along P Street would allow you to serve areas not at all served via Metrorail now; whereas M Street gives you many stations within 5 blocks of an existing station. Within A P Street allignment you could in theory connect to Dupont Circle, Mt Vernon Square or Shaw, plus new stations in Logan Circle, Dunbar High School area, plus would allow a connection to Noma or Union Station.

Another alignment could go from Georgtown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Washington Hospital Center, and serve areas of NE such-as Rhode Island Ave & New York Ave Bladensburg Rd that have no nearby Metrorail Stations

Every single plan on here for a Blue Line duplicates already present lines why not serve areas that dont have service ?

by kk on Jul 16, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

@kk, your suggestions are important, but I have alternate suggestions. Building a Florida Ave Streetcar line is actually already planned.

Building up the hubs and many spoke Metro network, creates the greatest opportunity for each person in the region, highest incomes for everyone, maximum flexibility to choose housing across the region and still get to the hubs. This is my priority.

This ridership chart shows how drastically different the ridership patterns are between downtown employment and lower density residential.

Creating low density residential population Metro subway lines that orbit the downtown density, as you suggested with the P Street corridor idea, is typically extremely unwise, because of tunnel costs and low ridership, etc, because only new spokes which connect to downtown with its many Metro lines, to edge cities in low density suburbs, create the biggest and strongest opportunity and economic growth and Metro reliability. Hubs and spokes are drastically better for everyone it connects with on all the Metro spokes from the downtown hub. If the metro lines you are suggesting were built, they would be either unsuccessful, or cause all the existing historic row house neighborhoods to be replaced with new 14 story boxes for commercial and residential neighborhoods, which would be be very unpopular for the residents.

I prefer using streetcar for lower density neighborhoods that don't ever need tall towers, (e.g. tallest towers 600+ feet tall, which are skyscrapers by NYC standards). My streetcar lines ideas are feeders, connecting these DC residential people to existing Metro subways stops.

I have suggested elsewhere that a streetcar line be built from Dupont Circle Metro, west on Que Street, out Reservoir Rd, out Macarthur Blvd, to Sibley Hospital. Combining my west side streetcar idea, it could be extended on Que Street eastward, by Logan Circle, up Vermont Ave, along S Street to Shaw Metro Yellow/Green subway stop, then merge with and go south east down the officially planned Florida Ave streetcar line to NOMA-Galludet Redline Metro stop, and south down 8th Street, to Orange/Blue Metro stop at Eastern Market, and onwards across the Anacostia River.

This map I made for thinking about new other Metro lines, but is on the DC official streetcar plan, so you can see many of the planned streetcar lines.

by npendleton on Jul 17, 2014 1:10 am • linkreport

The thing that gets me with the calls to make the Yellow Line a "shuttle" between Huntington and King St, or to reroute the Yellow Line to Rosslyn, is that there's actually more people getting on/off at Huntington than there are at Franconia-Springfield. While there's slightly more ridership on the Blue vs. the Yellow south of King St today (thanks to Van Dorn park-and-ride commuters), redevelopment plans at Huntington and Eisenhower vastly exceed anything at Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn. So it won't be long (maybe 5-10 years) before the Yellow Line has more ridership south of King St than the Blue Line.

In short, a Yellow Line "shuttle" is not a realistic option. Nor is terminating a direct connection from Huntington into DC.

by Froggie on Jul 17, 2014 8:36 am • linkreport

I know commuters use the Blue Line, but i've always perceived it as the Tourist Line -- it connects Old Town, Arlington Cemetery, [Georgetown via Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom], The Mall, the Smithsonian.

by dcseain on Jul 18, 2014 5:56 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us