Housing Complex

Metro’s Getting Crowded. Here’s How to Fix It.

Metro is getting close to capacity. Ask any Red Line rider during rush hour, and you'll hear how often you have to wait for one or two trains to pass before you can finally cram your way into a car. Ask Metro itself, and you'll get handy maps.

This, according to a post yesterday on Metro's planning blog PlanItMetro, is how crowded Metro trains will be in 2040 if certain land use forecasts are met. Note that it's not actually the Red Line, but parts of the Green, Blue, Orange, and Silver lines that are most jam-packed. The map applies to eight-car trains, so the situation will be even worse if some six-car trains continue to be used.

metro crowding

That looks unpleasant—not to mention that it'll start to take an economic toll on the city, if people determine that getting around is too difficult. So Metro modeled four scenarios to explore the impact they'd have on these capacity issues. Let's take a look.

Scenario A separates the Blue Line from the Yellow Line and the Yellow Line from the Green Line, but restricts the new portions of the Blue and Yellow lines to the core, where capacity issues are most severe:


Scenario B is similar but extends the new Blue/Yellow loop farther east to connect to the Green Line stations with growing demand (Southwest Waterfront and Navy Yard-Ballpark) and to near-capacity Union Station:


Scenario C gets the Silver Line in on the action and adds an "Orange/Silver Express" that bypasses some of the Arlington stations:


And Scenario D throws a whole new element into the mix, a light-rail connection between Union Station, the Southeast and Southwest waterfronts, and Northern Virginia:


So how successful would these scenarios be in reducing congestion? According to Metro, Scenario C is the winner. It's the only one that brings crowding below 100 passengers per car on all links of the network. Here's what crowding looks like in that scenario, according to a recent Metro presentation to the Regional Transit System Plan's Technical Advisory Group, tasked with reviewing proposed changes to the region's transit grid.


All of the other scenarios involve red patches, mostly in Arlington.

Granted, none of this is as bold as my proposed solution, but it's better than the claustrophobic continuation of the status quo.

  • Alan

    Arguably they could need to seperate the silverline. I say take it off the orange line alignmen tand run it south to Columbia Pike or Arlington Blvd instead and across the river from there.

  • george

    Just curious: How does the silver/orange express unclog the Green and Red lines?

  • james

    If you take a look, the red line essentialy doesn't get clogged- metro just turns it into 100% 8 car trains at minimum headways. The big issue affecting all other lines is that they join up with another line on the same tracks (yellow/blue, yellow/green, orange/silver, [orange & silver]/blue), limiting the total capacity that can be served from beyond downtown DC (where service is most frequent). These proposals all separate the blue line from the orange/silver line, improving throughput by moving the merge bottleneck from Rosslyn to East Falls Church and also separate the yellow line from the green line; the green line could then operate in the same way as the red line, providing 8 car trains at minimum headway, from Greenbelt to Branch Ave., without worrying about another line (withholding any effort to split the green line anywhere south of Anacostia to service National Harbor).

    The problem I have with these proposals is that they leverage the investment required to construct the new tunnels only for the most immediate capacity needs while apparently not looking to expand service to new areas. For Option B (rerouting the N-S crossing to Union Station via Waterfront), how about continuing the N-S line up NJ Ave and connect to GA Ave by Howard U and then up to Silver Spring & out to White Oak via US 29? You would provide service to a currently unserved highway (with a logical expansion all the way up to Columbia). The same could be said, with probably lesser benefit given current development, if you extended the E-W line along Mass. Ave out and then down your choice of 13/14/15th SE (interchange with Potomac Ave Station) and then have it head down PA Ave at least to the DC border (possibly to approach Upper Marlboro, but certainly you could probably do a route to 'Suitland North' & Andrews at the Beltway)