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Happy birthday, Metro!

Metrorail turns 35 years old today. Happy birthday, Metro!

While the system certainly has its share of problems, we should all be able to agree that Metro greatly enriched our region, created enormous economic value especially in one-struggling downtown and suburban areas, and helped our whole region grow substantially with less traffic congestion than we would otherwise have seen.

In honor of Metro's birthday, here is a repost of one of our most popular features, the animated history of Metrorail.

Slideshow image
At some point I will update this with the Orange and Yellow Line service increase and Silver Line. For notes on the maps, see the original post.
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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I was there.

Some picture from 03 27 1976.

by Sand Box John on Mar 27, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

What I mostly remember from Metro in 1981 was the gleaning; everything clean and shiny. Even the paper farecards seemed a bit less flimsy. I was shocked when I came back in the mid 90s and found Metro gloomy and dirty.

I still blame White for this. His reign was lost years, and somewhere during that time WMATA became a basket case.

by charlie on Mar 27, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

Happy Bday Metro. This is a great animated map, just want to add a couple of thoughts:

While the snowpocalypse is interesting, it seems out of place here, as it doesn't represent a structural, intentional change like all the other phases do.

I'm real foggy on this but seem to recall in the 90s, for rush hour they ran Green Line trains alternating with Red Line trains on the Red Line track. For example, outbound trains would go from Gallery Place to just before Ft. Totten where they would switch to the connecting track to go out to Greenbelt.

by Bob See on Mar 27, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

I hope I'm not as broken down by the time I reach 35...

Compared to people, Metro more resembles a 70-year-old, after open-heart surgery and a hip replacement.

by Adam L on Mar 27, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

@ WMATA: Happy brithday!

@ Our financial overlords/tax spenders: Some maintenance money would be nice. Let's call it a birthday present.

by Jasper on Mar 27, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

eh, never mind, I see the Green line shortcut has already been mentioned in the original map article. :O

by Bob See on Mar 27, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

@ Bob See

They did have that it was called the Green Line Commuter Shortcut went from Farragut North to Greenbelt skipping along the way Ft Totten was discontinued when Columbia Hgts & GA Ave were completed.


I have a few questions can any one answer them.

What happen with the Blue Line; I remember originally hearing about having the Blue go to Largo from the start why did that not happen.

Why did it take so long to complete the Green Line.

Why does the Blue Line go above ground after Stadium Armory and then go back under less than 1/2 mile away; why not just stay underground or go aboveground until Addison Road.

Can we get a history of Metrobus

by kk on Mar 27, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport


Long answer: jurisdictional inroads and political positioning.

Short answer: money.

by C. R. on Mar 27, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

Buon compleanno, Metro! I got you a cake... sorry, but you can't eat it on the train.

by Bossi on Mar 27, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport


Largo was labeled future on the 03 01 1968 Adopted Regional System (ARS). It remained that way until it was made part pf the ARS on 02 27 1997.

The elevated segment west of Stadium Armory is actuality just a tick over a mile long 5,722', to be exact. It was built that way to reduce costs. Building it in subway would have required tunneling under the Anacostia river, building the pocket track in a cut and cover trench that would have needed to be built below sea level and tunneling the flying junction under the southbound lanes of the Kenilworth Avenue, the climb from the tunnel from under Kenilworth Avenue into the Minnesota Avenue station would have been steeper then the decent from the elevated that is there today.

by Sand Box John on Mar 27, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

Bob See--

You're asking questions about Metro history that I've found very well answered in a wonderful book, "The Great Society Subway" by Zachary Schrag, c 2006.

@kk's answer to the question about Green Line delays is true but there's a good deal more to it. I think you'll find it worth the read...

by Kim Toufectis on Mar 27, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

I like how the build-out map shows the hyphen/slash extensions of station names started around 1999 with the opening of U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo/this station name is too damn long. Could not leave the other station names well enough alone. Wonder the heck we will get with the Silver Line station names by the time all the politicians are done with it.

by AlanF on Mar 27, 2011 4:06 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John Great photos! I love how dated everything looks - the clothes, the buses - except the bus stop signs, which haven't changed at all. It's going to be really jarring when they start switching to the new design.

by nevermindtheend on Mar 28, 2011 6:21 am • linkreport

I took a ride yesterday over the elevated segment west of Stadium Armory. It provides a nice view (aside from Pepco's Benning Road power plant) of the island and parks - it really reminds how undeveloped parts of DC remain.
Our area is lucky to have the metro system, aging as it is.

by DCster on Mar 28, 2011 9:14 am • linkreport

To celebrate, this morning every single escalator at the Rosslyn station were turned off!

by Carmen Turner on Mar 28, 2011 2:49 pm • linkreport

I kinda remember Metro opening up the redline extension to Shady Grove & the Yellow line over the Potomac (because it was also where the plane crashed a few years earlier). I still have a 1983 color print of the Redline promo from Metro dated 1983.

As a kid...I always remembered how folks would talk about their ears popping and seeing the windows on the train bow in as the train goes underground just south of Grovsenor. It was a big deal for years. I think they eventually slowed the trains down because of air pressure concerns.

by Jason Foster on Mar 29, 2011 6:09 pm • linkreport

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