Housing Complex

Metro’s Most Popular Trips, by the Numbers

Thanks to PlanItMetro's data dump and Greater Greater Washington's number crunching, we now have a pretty good sense of which Metro stations are busiest at various times of the day. During the morning commute, Union Station sees the most people entering the system (presumably commuters from outside the city/region), and the two Farragut Square stations (which, as GGW points out, would have been a single transfer station if not for the objections of the National Park Service) are the main destinations. During the evening commute, that's flipped: Farragut North is the leading point of entry (followed by Metro Center), and Union Station is the top destination (followed by Vienna). The GGW post has some great maps and is worth reading in its entirety.

But I dug through the data a bit to answer a few supplemental questions. Here they are:

Q: What's the most popular trip?

A: Farragut North to Union Station during the p.m. peak. An average of 1890.6 riders made this exact trip each day during the month of May. No. 2 is Shady Grove to Farragut North during the a.m. commute, followed by Union Station to Farragut North in the a.m.

Q: What's the least popular trip?

A: Trick question. There were 144 trips that were made an average of 0.0 times on weekdays in May. Turns out not many people travel from Wheaton to Arlington Cemetery during the afternoon rush hour, or from Federal Center SW to Congress Heights during the a.m. rush.

Q: What's the most popular intra-District trip?

A: If you count Union Station as a suburban point of entry in the morning and point of exit in the evening, given that the vast majority of riders there are heading from/to places outside D.C., then the top 18 weekday trips are all between the suburbs and the city—or, in a few cases, between the suburbs and the suburbs. (This, by the way, is exactly how Metro is supposed to work: The driving force behind its construction was the desire to reduce traffic for suburban commuters.) No. 19? Friendship Heights to Farragut North during the morning peak. But the Friendship Heights station straddles the D.C./Maryland border, so we'll have to disqualify it and jump all the way down to No. 34: Van Ness to Farragut North.

Q: Seems like this list is kinda dominated by the Red and Orange/Blue lines. What's the top Green or Yellow Line trip?

A: You're very observant! The top Yellow Line trip clocks in at No. 33: Huntington to Pentagon during the morning commute. The top Green Line trip is all the way down at No. 73: Branch Avenue to L'Enfant Plaza. Now you can understand why the Green Line wasn't part of the original Metro plans and had to be pushed by D.C. community leaders.

Q: How about on the weekends? Where do people go?

A: To the National Mall. The top trip on both Saturday and Sunday is Vienna to Smithsonian, by a wide margin. Weekend travel does seem to be more diverse than weekday travel, though: There are no daytime trips made by an average of fewer than 0.3 riders per day. (During the late-night peak hours, the lowest average is 0.1.)

Q: What's the most popular late-night trip?

A: Gallery Place to Columbia Heights. Where the Green Line was left in the dust in weekday commuting, it takes over late at night: Three of the top five late-night trips are on the Green Line. (The other two are U Street to Fort Totten and Gallery Place to Fort Totten.)

Photo by Pfrench99, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License


  1. #1

    thanks, this was pretty good

  2. #2

    This was interesting but I would suggest that you educate yourself about the history of the Green Line before claiming this data is somehow proof of decisions made 50+ years ago.

  3. #3

    @grumpy Care to elaborate?

  4. #4

    grumpy has a bit of a point, in that you have to look at the chicken-and-egg nature of the system in a way.

    was there less in the way of destinations to warrant many of the green line stops back when it was being planned and built?


    but as those nodes get built up, they'll get busier and busier. it would be interesting to be able to compare this data to data from when the system was (essentially) completed in 2001, and then to what the numbers will look like another 10-15 years down the road.

  5. #5

    Re Union Sta, I question your point on Union Sta being all about out of towners and exurb commuters. Don't forget Capitol Hill, H street and a large swath of the city that depends on Union Sta for the Red Line access (instead of the hassle of blue/orange connections via Metro Ctr; wmata learned recently the lengths riders will go to avoid connecting)

  6. #6

    @StantonSez I had a feeling this would come up. But there's no way Union Station would be even close to the #1 entry point for Metro during the morning commute if not for people coming in on MARC and Amtrak. Let's also remember that many of the professionals living on Capitol Hill are doing so because they also *work* on Capitol Hill -- so they can walk to work. I just don't think the number of Union Station-area dwellers commuting to Farragut Square is all that meaningful compared to people who come to D.C. from every other part of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast through Union Station.

  7. #7

    I think it's unfair to judge the Green Line by where it ranks on the list of top station pairs, especially when you evaluate them by same-line trips. Just because many Green Line customers have to transfer to get to their destinations doesn't mean the line is less worthy.

  8. #8

    @Michael: I wasn't implying anything about worthiness. I've lived on the Green Line for nearly my entire time in DC and am quite partial to it. But when it comes to profitability, it simply doesn't bring in as much cash, because it's not a commuter line to the same extent as the Orange and Red lines. Transfer trips are included in the data, but they're less common; many people would rather take a bus than take a two-leg Metro trip.

  9. #9

    Yet another reason to take railcars off the Green line and add them to Orange and Red line trains.

  10. #10

    Can't speak to commuter congestion on the other lines, but green line trains are absolutely packed during rush hour, from Columbia Heights to downtown

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