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Watch Metro grow from one short line in 1976 to the Silver Line today

The Silver Line is opening on Saturday! The Metro system opened in 1976 with five stations on the Red Line. Now, it will have 91 stations on six lines. Here is an animated slideshow of Metro's evolution over 38 years.


Most of this data comes from the timeline of the Washington Metro and WMATA's history page. The dates of station name changes come from Wikipedia's pages on individual stations and other online sources.

To keep the number of maps manageable, and because many stations' exact renaming dates are not available, station renamings are grouped with the next major service change, even when that takes place years later. For example, WMATA renamed Ballston to Ballston-MU in 1995, but the next map, showing the Green Line Commuter Shortcut, depicts the system in 1997.

Color-changing trains (maps 7, 9, and 10)

From November 20, 1978 to November 30, 1979, and then again from November 22, 1980 to April 29, 1983, some Blue and Orange trains used one color going in one direction, then switched colors heading back. If you lived in Clarendon in 1981, you would board a Blue Line train headed to DC and then catch an Orange Line train to get home.

Metro had to do this in 1978-1979 because trains at the time used physical rollsigns with text printed on a colored background. The New Carrollton sign had an orange background, while the National Airport destination sign used blue. Therefore, the trains had to switch colors for each direction.

Then, in the early 1980s, this started again after the segment to Addison Road opened. At the time, with the Yellow Line not yet built, the demand for service on the Rosslyn to National Airport segment (now Blue) better matched the Stadium-Armory to New Carrollton segment (now Orange), and the demand on Rosslyn to Ballston (now Orange) lined up better with Stadium-Armory to Addison Road (now Blue).

Metro map from 1982.

Therefore, Metro ran trains from National Airport to New Carrollton and Ballston to Addison Road. But since the rollsigns didn't allow using the same color for each end of those services, the trains had to switch colors in each direction.

Green Line Commuter Shortcut (maps 21-23)

From December 11, 1993 to September 18, 1999, the Green Line had 2 unconnected segments, one from Greenbelt to Fort Totten and the other from U Street to Anacostia.

On January 27, 1997, Metro started using a single-track switch at Fort Totten to send rush hour Green Line trains from Greenbelt onto the Red Line. They ran on the Red Line tracks to Farragut North, where there is a pocket track to turn around. This "Green Line Commuter Shortcut" continued until the Green Line opened through Columbia Heights and Petworth in 1999, connecting the two sections permanently.

1998 or 1999 Metro map. Photo by Matt Johnson.

This was not shown on Metro maps except for a green box explaining the service. The maps in this slideshow display it using a dashed line to illustrate the service.

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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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Boy I hope they come up with better names for those last 2 stations in Loudoun.

by JDC on Jul 25, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport


Boy I hope they come up with better names for those last 2 stations in Loudoun.

I propose:

Loudoun Swine Center

Loudoun Tolerance Station

by Dizzy on Jul 25, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

how about "LoudounOptOutNow" its kind of catchy for a station name

by Richard on Jul 25, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

LoudounOptOutDotCom Station

Next stop: Not-Quite-But-Close-To-Reston-Town-Center

by Dizzy on Jul 25, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

Unfortunately, Metro is still using those same railcars from 1976 called the 1000 series. In fact I saw car 1000 the other day. The 1000 series should have been retired years ago, but Metro keeps refusing due to a shortage of railcars.

by Davin Peterson on Jul 25, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

When the Yellow (and then Green) Line only ran as far as U Street, how did they turn around the trains? Seems foolish to have not build a pocket track there. And everywhere else. But WMATA? Short-sighted? I mean, come on...

by Low Headways on Jul 25, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

@Low Headways:
They turned around the trains at U Street just like they turn around trains at Greenbelt (and most of the other terminal stations, including Glenmont, Vienna, Huntington, and New Carrollton).

There's a double crossover on the inbound end of the platform.

There's no explicit need for a pocket track at terminal stations because they don't have to get out of the way of through trains.

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 25, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

Here's to hoping that there will be future lines in Virginia.

If the Columbia Pike Streetcar does well and spurs enough growth, is there really any reason we can't have the lane down Columbia Pike that we initially expected?

I could also imagine demand for one that goes through National Harbor, Alexandria, Shirlington, West/North Arlington, Georgetown and then further out in Maryland.

These are probably the most realistic for two more lines, and the only two with growing demand over the next decades.

by SilverLineHype on Jul 25, 2014 11:37 am • linkreport

WaPo is showing GGW's slide show above:

As for future lines, I think the Route 1 corridor is primed for BRT/light rail, which will allow increased density and TOD. Maybe even push the Yellow Line another few miles south as the first spur of development.

Agree that some type of line is needed radiating westward from the Pentagon/Pentagon City area.

I also wonder about a line, or light rail, traveling from Van Dorn area towards Tysons Corner area, eliminating the need for using Blue to reach Rosslyn.

by JDC on Jul 25, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

@ SilverLineHype:

By adding a streetcar, the Columbia Pike corridor will never have Metrorail access. At least not within the next 50 years. In the current political climate, it’s nearly impossible to get funding for any rail projects, even in areas not currently served by transit. In absence of the streetcar, one could make a reasonable argument that the corridor is a great candidate for Metrorail (and I would generally agree with that argument). With the streetcar, you’d be duplicating efforts in the corridor, making the multi-million dollar streetcar investment mostly worthless. Until enough time passes that people forget about the money that went into it the first time around (which will take decades), not even the smoothest talking politician in the world could sell that to the public.

by Jason on Jul 25, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport


You're right in that it will take decades, but I think it's safe to assume sometime in the life of the system if Metro is still as "valued" as it is today, there will be a Columbia Pike Metrorail line, but probably not very soon.

The glimmer of hope would be the state of Virginia's recent "support" (or lack thereof being against it) for heavy rail.

A Columbia pike line wouldn't require money from the District of Columbia which is the real area that is "lacking in the funding" for public transport in my opinion.

by SilverLineHype on Jul 25, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

It's abundantly clear at this point that, due to the catastrophic cost of construction (not NYC bad, but precipitously close), new Metro lines will only be built in either already highly developed areas (e.g. Metro's downtown loop idea) or in areas where there is a willingness to allow extensive densification, with attendant TIF or special tax district value capture to fund construction, atl east in part.

The problem with many proposed fantasy lines (including my own, natch) is that they go through areas where existing local residents and/or political leaders are unlikely to support that sort of densification.

Columbia Pike? Maybe... at least out to Bailey's. Although there is lots of 1 and 2 story construction lining it along that stretch now.

Alexandria? Not the Old Town part, certainly, although other parts could be candidates... is there political will for that, though?

National Harbor? It seems like NH wants to keep itself relatively inaccessible to the Ward 8 and PG County locals, while nearby Oxon Hill homeowners don't want much to do with the noise of NH. Doesn't seem like a great candidate, unless you literally build the station in the middle of the complex.

Route 1? Route 7 from 395 to Tysons? Other major roads? Is there any semblance of popular or political support in Fairfax County to densify those corridors? I'm dubious.

by Dizzy on Jul 25, 2014 12:28 pm • linkreport

My first introduction to GGW was a link someone sent me to a previous version of this map following the Snowpocalypse. Those were the days..

by Steven H on Jul 25, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Dizzy - the multi-modal analysis for route 1 contemplates extending the Yellow Line several stops and up zoning.

by JDC on Jul 25, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

There are definitely plans by Fairfax County do densify some of those areas - notably Rte 7 from Baileys to Seven Corners, and also Rte 1. At least for rte 7 it is not envisioned that the density would be enough to justify heavy rail, and the options under study are either BRT or streetcar in dedicated ROW. Some extension of yellow line down Rte 1 is probably more realistic, both because an existing unused stub south of Huntington will somewhat reduce costs, and because, being the most delapidated part of FFX county, the political will for substantial densification is stronger there.

However in addition to money for heavy rail, and localy NIMBYISM, another consideration that FFX faces is cannibalizing its existing efforts. The region currently faces a weak office market, and its not clear at what point there are enough transit stations with active TOD that they really do start to bring (inflation adjusted) rents for new units close enough to construction costs to make it an issue for developers.

I believe that much of the tendency of the Fairfax BoS to give in to NIMBY's, which may look like lack of political courage or commitment to urbanist principles, is actually their fear that demand for TOD is limited, and that trying to much in too many places will be self defeating, and in particular that it will undermine the success of the urbanization of the Tysons Urban District.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 25, 2014 1:59 pm • linkreport

+1 for CrossingBrooklynFerry's thought on cannibalizing Tysons Corner. Still, in speaking for my age group, I see none of us (35 and under) having any interest in spreading to the outer suburbs as we have children and settle down. For us, the exodus will be from DC or the R-B corridor to places like Hybla Valley and so forth, where SFH abound now but where larger townhouses or 3-4 condos in dense residential can be built at more affordable rates than DC and inner areas. And we'll want the TOD and transit that we got used to.

by JDC on Jul 25, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport


However in addition to money for heavy rail, and localy NIMBYISM, another consideration that FFX faces is cannibalizing its existing efforts. The region currently faces a weak office market, and its not clear at what point there are enough transit stations with active TOD that they really do start to bring (inflation adjusted) rents for new units close enough to construction costs to make it an issue for developers.

I believe that much of the tendency of the Fairfax BoS to give in to NIMBY's, which may look like lack of political courage or commitment to urbanist principles, is actually their fear that demand for TOD is limited, and that trying to much in too many places will be self defeating, and in particular that it will undermine the success of the urbanization of the Tysons Urban District.

Interesting, thanks. A couple of immediate responses:

1. TOD need not have all that much office. We know demand for residential (and some commercial) TOD is high!

2. There are lots of defense/other government facilities clustered near the Route 1 corridor that make locating there attractive in a way that locating in Tysons would not be for certain firms. Or they want both locations.

3. What evidence is there that demand for TOD of any sort is anywhere near matching supply?

by Dizzy on Jul 25, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

1. Yes, but office is ONE component to help get critical mass (aside from making TOD stronger, by giving retail a larger customer base, better distributed by time of day and day of week - note the issues MetroWest has had due to its lack of office space, and the debate about replacing the Reeves Center)

2. Yes. Thats one reason rte 1 in particular may be less likely to cannibalize Tysons then say denser development in McLean (outside Tysons) or Pimmit Hills, etc.

3. Of course it is not now. Thats why at best we are seeing some ambiguous signs of a plateau in rental rates, and we continue to see new projects in the pipeline across the DMV. But developing a new TOD center is a long term project, especially of course the heavy rail extensions addressed in comments above. MWCOG exepects FFX to have a 2040 pop of 1.3 million, out of a metro area pop of almost 6.8 million. thats growth of a little over 200k from current pop. Growth in Tysons Urban District alone alone should accommodate about 40% of that. Other areas with existing heavy rail stations, or new SL stations, expected to asborb TOD growth include Reston Wiehle, Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation, Merrifield at Dunn Loring (far from built out), Metrowest at Vienna (not quite built out) Huntington Station, and at least some at Franconia-Springfield. Additinionally there is some densification already in pipeline at Baileys, Seven Corners, Annandale, and in the Rte 1 corridor away from Huntington. There is likely to be more even without new transit infra, and probably more than that if the light rail/street car/BRT/VRE improvements now being considered are implemented.

It does not sound to me like there is enough demand to warrent new heavy rail metro stations in Fairfax County, beyond the Silver Line and possibly a short extension of the Yellow line until 2050 or so, unless either A. MWCOG has seriously underestimated the proportion of households looking for TOD or B. MWCOG has seriously underestimated the total growth of the metro area, or C. most of the jurisdictions competing with Fairfax to provide TOD (DC, MoCo, Arlington, Alexandria, City of Falls Church, City of Fairfax, and even PG and Loudoun) pretty much fail

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 25, 2014 3:37 pm • linkreport

I worry so much of this is putting the cart before the horse. Sure, the demand may not exist on as widespread a level as I believe it does, but at the same time, that's of people who live there for what it is now.

If you create significant new amounts of transit and transit-accessible living, the number of people willing to live there will at the very least change if not soar. This region could be a pioneer. But it's all too content to drive itself to death.

by LowHeadways on Jul 25, 2014 4:27 pm • linkreport


There is certainly a premium people will pay for living near "quality" transit, showing that building more will lead more to choose it. But while that premium is signficant, it is not infinite. As of noon tomorrow, several thousand units will have heavy rail transit access, as well as land where new units with room for upwards of 80,000 people are expected in the next 35 years. And new metro stations are underway at RTC, Herndon, Innovation, and two stops in Loudoun. And in about 5 years we will have a new metro station in Alexandria (the infill at Potomac Yards) and the Purple line. Even discounting the ability of mixed traffic streetcars (PikeRail and DC streetcars) and BRT (MoCo, CCPY, and in DC) to count as "quality" transit, we will have significant new areas available for TOD soon. Not to mention that we are still not fully utilizing our existing heavy rail metro stations for TOD, whether due to zoning, to inadequate pedestrian access, or the combination of issues with crime, perception of crime, schools, etc that holds back TOD in EOTR DC and in much of PG.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 25, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

We need the spiral line. It would swirl around staring in the exurbs and get closer and closer to the center of the city with each full turn.

by NE John on Jul 25, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

@Davin Peterson:

The recent order of the new 7000-series cars also includes enough cars to replace all of the remaining 1000-series cars.

by MDL on Jul 26, 2014 6:13 pm • linkreport

If the Blue Line is separated from the Orange/Silver Line, a subway extension along Columbia Pike would allow it to be separated from the Yellow Line as well, with a transfer at Pentagon/Pentagon City. Then the Blue Line would not have to share with other lines anywhere along its length. This would increase capacity and reliability.

by Eric on Jul 28, 2014 5:07 am • linkreport

Shouldn't "Hopefully in 2018" include the Potomac Yard in-fill stop?

by Fitz on Jul 28, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

I don't see any discussion of the Purple light rail here, but I suppose that's because it has yet to even break ground. It should be at least partially up in the next 10 years (I'm hoping). I've also, for years, been hoping to see a proposal for a "loop" line that would connect the suburbs (e.g., Shady Grove to McLean/Tysons, around to south Arlington and Alexandria, up to Largo and New Carollton, Greenbelt, Silver Spring-ish (e.g., Glenmont), and back to Shady Grove. The tracks could go clockwise and counter-clockwise.

There's so much traffic on the Beltway between the 270 corridor and Tysons that could be alleviated by such a loop, and that might also help with the southern PG/Alexandria commute as well.

Of course, this is all just a pipe dream. I can't even imagine the bickering over how much each county would pay for it.

by Almost Native Marylander on Aug 6, 2014 9:14 am • linkreport

As of a few days ago (from when this was posted), the survey results for naming the Silver Line stations in
Loudoun were:

(Route 606) now Broad Run

(Route 772) now Ashburn

by YoungTransitSupporter on Dec 18, 2014 8:23 pm • linkreport


I think Potomac Yard may be opening in 2017.
Or 2019.
But not including 2018.

Just in case you didn't know, Potomac Yard is on the Yellow and Blue lines.

by YoungTransitSupporter on Dec 18, 2014 8:27 pm • linkreport

I love this new map!

by Benjamin O'Connor on Apr 1, 2015 8:23 pm • linkreport

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