Greater Greater Washington

Transit


The evolution of Metrorail, 1976-2010

During December's snowstorm, we wrote that the worst December storm since 1982 would (and did) create a Metro system with about the same number of stations as in 1982, as did this weekend's storm.

This raises the question, what exactly did the rail system look like in 1982? Or other years? To answer that, I created a little slideshow:

Slideshow image
Notes on the maps:

Most of the data comes from the excellent nycsubway.org timeline of the Washington Metro. I tried to identify the dates of station renamings 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, I grouped station renamings in with the next major service change.

We know that around 1982, Orange and Blue trains operated a strange service pattern where Orange trains ran to New Carrollton, then turned around as Blue trains to run to National Airport; Orange trains the other way went to Ballston, then turned around as Blue trains to Addison Road.

According to coneyraven, this balanced the capacity as the New Carrollton and National Airport branches had higher ridership than the Ballston and Addison Road branches, while keeping the termini the same as their ultimate configurations (i.e. to get to New Carrollton, get on an Orange train).

I don't have information on whether Metro used this pattern for the entire time between when the line to Addison Road opened on December 1, 1979 until the Yellow Line opened on April 30, 1983; the maps above assume that is the case.

The maps do not show the Green Line Commuter Shortcut, where from January 27, 1997 until the inner Green Line opened in September 17, 1999, rush hour Green Line trains on the Greenbelt segment used the switch at Fort Totten to continue to Farragut North. Metro maps from that era do not appear to show this service except in an info box.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

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Wow, great slideshow, David. Not a bad way to spend your Snowpocalypse.

by Alex B. on Feb 8, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

This is great! At the London Transit museum, they have a similar display about the London Underground, and I was hoping that a similar chart for DC would be made eventually.

Thanks!

by Erik on Feb 8, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

Great work. It's always nice to see the evolution of a system. Whether it be the Washington Metro or Canada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_evolution_of_Canada).

Too bad your license is CC-BY-NC so Wikipedia can't benefit from these images.

by Fritz on Feb 8, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

That's an awesome map, David! However, during these snow storms, Metro has been running service between Glenmont and Forest Glen, even though their press release admits that their snow map doesn't show it.

by Eric F. on Feb 8, 2010 11:27 am • linkreport

The snowstorm map is wrong it is correct for December but this time Glenmont thru Forest Glen was open.

Why was the Rhode Island Ave - Farragut North Stretch opened first.

I still dont see the logic of the blue/orange line thing

What took so long for trains in SW & SE & in Petworth/Columbia Hgts; why not add those first before the northern PG county green line.

by kk on Feb 8, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

What is interesting is that the Red Line only operated to Van ness in '82 .... plus, in comparison to this weekends storm, we must not forget the accident with the first customer fatalities in the systems history ... An Orange Line train, for lack of a better word, became crumpled agains one of the walls between the tracks at the switch between Federal Triangle and Smithsonian...and since the Yellow Line didn't make it's debut till the following year, there was no other alternative way to get past the accident

by coneyraven on Feb 8, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

kk - The Red line opened first for several reasons. One, they needed a stretch of track with a rail yard on it - and that was the Brentwood yard and shops. Two, they needed a large outdoor staging area to easily get materials into the tunnels that were under construction - which was the portal at Union Station.

by Alex B. on Feb 8, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport

kk ... The "Blue & Orange Line Thing" --- was a direct result of a car shortage of the time and in the name of efficiency ... read my post (you can click on it above) to explain in detail .... the car shortage is also the reason the Huntington branch was changed to Yellow from the originally planned Blue ... and then eventually made permanent (which I feel was a mistake to make permanent)

by coneyraven on Feb 8, 2010 11:44 am • linkreport

Wow, the map is amazing, GREAT JOB! I wish our Metro here in Miami had a similar expansion story. Great map though.

by Kevin on Feb 8, 2010 11:44 am • linkreport

I've added the Forest Glen-Glenmont segment with a note saying that it was only open during this storm.

by David Alpert on Feb 8, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

The future weekend looks absolutely terrible.

by NikolasM on Feb 8, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

Metro will be in a perpetual state of crisis so long as it: (1) does not have a dedicated portion of each jurisdictions sales tax (2) stays in the parking business where it is forced to maintain expansive lots and garages at the expense of station platforms (3) continues to overpay employees (a bus driver with a high school eduction such not be making 6 figures) and satisfy destructive labor unions with unrealistic contracts (4) allows funding formulas to favor expansion of the system (i.e. the Silver Line) rather than improvements (i.e. the downtown pedestrian connectors) and (5) creates red tape for transit-oriented redevelopment of WMATA property that could produce lucrative ground lease income and developer-provided station enhancements.

by Cyrus on Feb 8, 2010 12:32 pm • linkreport

Thanks for sharing this! It is nice to be able to show the out-of-towners what an impact this really has had!

by Dee on Feb 8, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

I know it's hard to think about the future in these tough budget times, but it's a shame that our current maps don't show any "future stations". Since the map is such a notional representation of Metro, showing planned service gives riders something to aspire to, rather than the current image of Metro as completed and static.

by Gavin Baker on Feb 8, 2010 12:54 pm • linkreport

This is amazing! Thank you for putting it together. It's incredible to see how recent some of the development I take for granted really is.

It would be really cool to overlay each slide of this with some sort of economic development metric (average rent/home sale prices? per capita income? sales tax revenue?) to see how neighborhoods with metro stations compare to those without.

by stacy on Feb 8, 2010 12:59 pm • linkreport

I thought Green Line service on severe snow days went only as far north as Georgia Ave?

by Reza on Feb 8, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

Quite cool.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 8, 2010 2:12 pm • linkreport

One of the coolest posts I have seen on this site! It's crazy there was a 6 year gap in building the inner green line segment by which I currently live.

by Shawn on Feb 8, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

Cool map.

A petition that only calls for more money and completely ignores the need for better management, better customer service and better communication with the riding public is weak.

by Unsuck DC Metro on Feb 8, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Fantastic slide show. Having made it to work on the truncated snowpocalypse Red line schedule, now I'm worried about getting home. Unimaginable to think our region would abandon fully funding our transit system after building it. We need to make better choices with limited resources - fund Metro rather than the ICC and the laundry list of road expansions!

by ccort on Feb 8, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

For some reason, you're not allowed to sign the linked petition without signing up for email alerts. They made that a 'required field'.

bah.

by Jesse on Feb 8, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

Yeah. I was ready to sign the petition, but they lost me signature by trying to require me to sign up for email alerts.

by Jimmy on Feb 8, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport

I've contacted them to see if they can remove that. I suspect it's an error. They switched backend systems after that petition was first created.

by David Alpert on Feb 8, 2010 5:11 pm • linkreport

Or you could just sign it with a throwaway email address (e.g. from mailinator.com). Or copy the text and send a letter on your own. Don't let your beef with CSG's form stop you from contacting your representatives about this.

by Gavin Baker on Feb 8, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

Speaking of Greenbelt Commuter Shortcut -- I've been told by many people they wish Metro still operates that Shortcut during rush hours. Is it possible for Metro to operate both Green Line and Green Shortcut Line same time? At least, it'll help relieve the pressure on Red Line between Brookland/Rhodes Island/NY Ave and Dupont Circle.

Also, did DC Government or Metro ever consider one time having a garage build at Rhodes Island and/or New York/Florida Ave? Because so many commuters from Maryland could take the Metro to/from work.

by Dave on Feb 8, 2010 10:01 pm • linkreport

Great for nostalgia- I remember my first trip on Metro- a junior high field trip - from Silver Spring to DC, accessed via a Ride-On bus (from White Flint). Circa 1978.

by Lib on Feb 8, 2010 10:07 pm • linkreport

I live in NYC. It's so freaking EXCITING to see a subway system that's actually grown since, I dunno, 1973.

More subways! Everywhere!

by anonymiss on Feb 8, 2010 11:44 pm • linkreport

Awesome map.

by Jasper on Feb 9, 2010 6:47 am • linkreport

Too bad you can't sign up for the petition without allow CSG to SPAM you. Dumb move. Lost a vote right there and then.

------------------
Question - Required - Which e-mail alerts are you interested in receiving?

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by Jasper on Feb 9, 2010 8:43 am • linkreport

Jasper, Jimmy, Jesse etc: CSG has fixed the petition. You now can sign without having to sign up for any email lists if you don't want to. Thanks for flagging this issue.

I would still encourage everyone to sign up for their general list; they send out very important action alerts, and not too frequently.

by David Alpert on Feb 9, 2010 5:45 pm • linkreport

Signed and submitted.

by Jasper on Feb 9, 2010 8:45 pm • linkreport

Fantastic work, David! Thanks for doing this!

by JasonP on Feb 9, 2010 11:16 pm • linkreport

An interesting thing that I'm not sure other people have thought of:

The Metro system has always been shown in its entirety, even when lines were merely planned or their routing was still up in the air (think Green Line in the 80s), the system map still showed those lines and stations, just in a way to convey that they were not operational.

This slideshow shows the system as it expanded from its conception, without the distraction of the yet-to-be finished segments. Truly an evolution to behold.

by Reza on Feb 10, 2010 1:35 am • linkreport

Reza,

Interesting that you mention the maps that showed the entire system (finished and planned) --- Remember in the 80's when the southern branch of the Green Line was, for a time, planned to go outside the beltway to Rosecroft? Those maps weren't up for too long.

by coneyraven on Feb 10, 2010 8:43 am • linkreport

David, would it be possible to include the planned Purple Line in this timeline as well?

by Jasonp on Feb 10, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

The Purple Line would only be speculation as they don't have assured funding.

by Fritz on Feb 10, 2010 1:19 pm • linkreport

I thought the Purple Line will be run by MTA, not Metro.

by Gavin Baker on Feb 10, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

Gavin, MTA will be 100% responsible for building the Purple Line. Once that is finished, it's up to MTA decide who to runs it -- I read that it's likely MTA will contract out to Metro.

by Dave on Feb 10, 2010 3:34 pm • linkreport

The purple line should not be apart of the metrorail system if it can not fully function seamlessly within the current system.

If the purple line consist of people going outside and leaving stations to transfer to either the red, green or orange lines than it should not be a line since it is inherently different from the others; if its transfer points are like other typical metrostations (Le'Enfant Plaza, Ft. Totten, Gallery place, Metro Center)than it should be considered a line.

by kk on Feb 10, 2010 6:32 pm • linkreport

@kk: Good point. It's only conjecture on my part, but I foresee the Purple Line, in the form of an on-road light rail as it's now being planned, being more like a speedier Metrobus---different / non-seamless fare system (unless one is using a SmarTrip card).

by JasonP on Feb 12, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

David,
Your slideshow shows the evolution of what was actually built and the service that was implemented.

What your slideshow fails to show is the evolution of the alignment changes, additions, subtraction and how the service that exists today differers from what was shown on the system map when Phase I opened on 03 27 1976.

by Sand Box John on Feb 18, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

Sand Box John: That's true. I didn't have that information. If you want to provide me with a list I can try to make such a map at some point.

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Was reading another post and got bored with the perpetual megalomania "for and against streetcars" convo so I thought I would check out the "Metro evolution map" for the first time since February. Have you thought about adding the Silver Line to the map sometime?

by Shipsa01 on Aug 17, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

I came from NYCTA in 1974 to help get our Metro started. I worked for Rohr, 74-78 getting the original 296 cars tested and accepted in Brentwood and the 4.5 original miles of track.. Four cars went to Pueblo Colo for DOT testing and came to DC in 78/79.
I was at the RI Ave dedication, 03-27-76 and on the 1st regular revenue train in service on Monday.
I still have the original System map from 1972. I've also kept all my work notebooks since July 24, 1974. it's been fun and sad at times.

by vinny on Sep 27, 2010 7:46 pm • linkreport

@ David --- SB John is right, for example, the alignment that now holds the W. Hyattsville station was (correct me if I'm wrong John) supposed to be further north than the current alignment with a station at Chillum --- or the classic southern Green Line debacle with the original Branch Ave alignment, then a Rosecroft alignment, then the compromise to the current one.
@ Vinny, very impressive, I'd love to see what you have ... I've been one of the lucky ones to have acquired a roll sign from a Rohr Car ... definitely the prize of my collection, that and the system map showing the alignment to Rosecroft (Green Line)

by coneyraven on Sep 28, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

I remember the maps for years showed Franconia-Springfield as a second yellow spur terminus at that end, but then it opened as the Blue terminus.

by Phil Duff on Feb 13, 2011 12:31 am • linkreport

@Phil --- Those maps were out in 1986 ... I have a couple of them (one framed) --- after your comment, I took a look at it to find the date ... I believe the reason for it goes back to when Huntington opened as Yellow (which was supposed to be a temporary measure due to a car shortage -- it was originally to be Blue) --Franconia was always supposed to be Yellow, that is, until Van Dorn opened as Blue, and stayed that way -- on a side note, in the early days (after the Burke alignment was eliminated), the terminus was to be simply, Franconia, with a seperate Springfield station just outside the beltway along the line -- this was on the maps in the late 70's -- along about the time of the Silver Spring extension opening in '78

by coneyraven on Feb 13, 2011 9:42 am • linkreport

Wouldn't mind seeing the maps that show a separate Springfield station...

by Froggie on Feb 14, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

I just discovered your website and you are doing a good job.

I like your urban planning approach and note that your reading list is on track. I have been thinking urban planning and livability for 50 years and believe that we have a lot of common interests. I am orange line from Falls Church and think constantly about the next generation of public transit and the organization of the transit to fit the current and future communities. I am an advocate of the quiet, friction free superconducting Maglev system, invented in this country by my colleagues, Drs. James Powell and Gordon Danby. Their system was developed by Japan and holds the worlds speed record for transport. Powell and Danby's 2nd generation system is even better, their new 4-pole magnets are powerful enough to lift trucks (allowing a lot of deliveries to be made during the night and unclog our roadways. The system guideways are spectacular. The new system operates in a planar mode and can operate on conventional RR trackage that has been adapted for Maglev for ~$6 million a 2-way mile. This capability also allows the system to uniquely electronically switch allowing flexibility in station spacing and operating express routes on the mainline trackage.

This is the inevitable system for the 21st Century and if you think there is interests in planning a 2nd generation superconducting Maglev evolution of the Washington Metro let me know and we would do a plan for WMATA so that the authority would have some idea of what it would cost and how much they would save in operating costs due to much lower electric power requirements and much lower track maintenance costs. Another super advantage of the system is that it could be integrated with a high-speed national Maglev Network. You could catch a Maglev vehicle at any metro station and if there are enough passengers the vehicles could proceed to a destination anywhere in the country at 300 mph, once the vehicles joined the elevated high speed guideway. Or at any of the existing multimodal hubs ultra high speed Maglev service could be connected to the Interstate system. Thanks for the great Website. I signed up and hope that we can continue to blog on this issue. James Jordan, President Interstate Maglev Project and Excutive VP of MAGLEV2000.

by Jim Jordan on Aug 13, 2011 7:04 pm • linkreport

I just discovered your website and you are doing a good job.

I like your urban planning approach and note that your reading list is on track. I have been thinking urban planning and livability for 50 years and believe that we have a lot of common interests. I am orange line from Falls Church and think constantly about the next generation of public transit and the organization of the transit to fit the current and future communities. I am an advocate of the quiet, friction free superconducting Maglev system, invented in this country by my colleagues, Drs. James Powell and Gordon Danby. Their system was developed by Japan and holds the worlds speed record for transport. Powell and Danby's 2nd generation system is even better, their new 4-pole magnets are powerful enough to lift trucks (allowing a lot of deliveries to be made during the night and unclog our roadways. The system guideways are spectacular. The new system operates in a planar mode and can operate on conventional RR trackage that has been adapted for Maglev for ~$6 million a 2-way mile. This capability also allows the system to uniquely electronically switch allowing flexibility in station spacing and operating express routes on the mainline trackage.

This is the inevitable system for the 21st Century and if you think there is interest in planning a 2nd generation superconducting Maglev evolution of the Washington Metro let me know and we would do a plan for WMATA so that the authority would have some idea of what it would cost and how much they would save in operating costs due to much lower electric power requirements and much lower track maintenance costs. Another super advantage of the system is that it could be integrated with a high-speed national Maglev Network. You could catch a Maglev vehicle at any metro station and if there are enough passengers the vehicles could proceed to a destination anywhere in the country at 300 mph, once the vehicles joined the elevated high speed guideway. Or at any of the existing multimodal hubs ultra high speed Maglev service could be connected to the Interstate system. Thanks for the great Website. I signed up and hope that we can continue to blog on this issue. James Jordan, President Interstate Maglev Project and Executive VP of MAGLEV2000.

by Jim Jordan on Aug 13, 2011 9:00 pm • linkreport

This is amazing! I've been looking for something like this for a long time... outstanding work! I want to make a documentary on the creation of the Metro. This is going to help a lot!

by David Miller on Mar 6, 2012 12:21 am • linkreport

Is there going to be an update with the new rush hour services being rolled out in June?

by Dave Murphy on Mar 26, 2012 4:24 pm • linkreport

FYI, I came back to this page looking for the Snowpocalypse map and the animation appears to be broken.

by Peter K on Feb 11, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

I was really looking forward to this animation, but I agree that it seem to be broken. :-(

by Andrew H on Apr 13, 2014 5:13 am • linkreport

This is great! I'm teaching a small home school co-op class tomorrow, and the topic is the DC Metro system (we are in Prince George's County). This slide show will be very helpful. Thanks!

by Nancy on Apr 14, 2014 11:41 pm • linkreport

I was hired by Rohr Industries in July 1974 to come to Brentwood Yard in NE Washington DC and perform the acceptance testing of the original 300 subway cars. We finally got the first cars, Cars 1000-1001 shipped from Winder GA. to DC in Nov. 1974. Neither the Cars or the Red line were anywhere near ready for Revenue service. If you have any questions on the early days of Metrorail, just ask.

by Vinny Michalski on Jun 16, 2014 7:44 am • linkreport

It's been fun and a lot of hard work getting Metro to where it is today.. I'm glad to see what Metro has become and how it is vital the the DC Metro area.

by Vinny Michalski on Jun 16, 2014 7:47 am • linkreport

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