Housing Complex

In the Loop: The Future of Metro?


After two and a half years of planning and more than 100 tested proposals, Metro has settled on a map it hopes represents the future of the system. The map, which Metro planners expect to bring before the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board next year as part of the long-term regional transit plan aimed at the year 2040, centers on a new "loop" line encircling downtown D.C. that would provide new connections, bring Metro stations to high-demand areas, and ease overcrowding in the city core.

The concept, published yesterday on WMATA's PlanItMetro blog, hinges on the separation of the Blue and Yellow lines from their Orange and Green companions in order to create the loop, which would run in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions. The proposal would create new Metro stops at Georgetown University, Georgetown, West End, Thomas Circle, Mount Vernon Triangle, Capitol North, and Potomac Park. It would also establish an express line from Georgetown/Rosslyn to Ballston, bypassing the majority of Arlington for the benefit of Virginia commuters to downtown D.C.

"It connects all of the regions downtown," says Metro planning director Shyam Kannan. "When the system was built, we had one downtown." Now, he says, areas like NoMa, Rossyln, and the east end of downtown have flourishing commercial markets and need better connections.

Additionally, splitting the paired lines allows for more frequent trains along the Green Line, where people traveling to the Capitol Riverfront for a meeting at the Department of Transportation have to wait up to 12 minutes for a train; two separate lines can each run more often. "We don’t want to be caught with our pants down 20 years from now when the Green Line is popping and we weren't prepared for it," Kannan says.

Two months ago, PlanItMetro presented its four leading concepts for new downtown lines. Three of those scenarios involved a new line along 10th Street NW/SW, where the National Capitol Planning Commission envisions redevelopment to create a major retail corridor. But according to Kannan, even with new development and a hypothetical repeal of the Height Act, there wouldn't be enough density around 10th Street—given the presence of existing lines along 7th and 12th streets—to justify the new line.

The current proposal has the distinct advantage of creating a new line through Union Station, which is already the station where the most people enter the Metro system and will only become more crowded when the planned redevelopment of the station allows for more Amtrak and commuter-line traffic. "Union Station really is the region’s fourth airport," says Kannan. The proposal would also make it much easier to move between Metro lines, with new transfer stations at Farragut Square, Capitol South, Navy Yard, Waterfront, and of course Union Station.

Kannan says that versions of the proposal have already received broad support from community stakeholders: Georgetown residents who want Metro access, Capitol Riverfront business people who want more frequent service, the developer Akridge, which is overhauling Union Station and wants more connections to the Metro system.

One area of potential conflict: The proposed Metro line largely parallels the planned streetcar route from Union Station to Georgetown. But Kannan says the two systems will serve different functions and shouldn't conflict, given that Metro is designed for long commutes where the streetcar isn't practical. "They’re different markets," he says. "Streetcar’s a last-mile solution."

Unlike the mess of jackhammering and digging that pestered businesses and residents when the initial Metro system was built, Kannan says there'll be "minimal to negligible disruption" this time around due to improved technology that allows for underground tunnel boring rather than digging from the street level. "The days of cut and cover are gone," he says.

Metro is still working out the specifics of the plan, down to details like whether the new Metro tunnels will run below the existing ones and how they'll connect. According to Kannan, those details will be included in an implementation plan that will be completed around the middle of next year.

Map from PlanItMetro

  • NE John

    What are the aqua colored paths between lines?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/ Aaron Wiener

    Those represent connections between stations, so you can transfer without leaving the system.

  • Brian

    Big part of this long-term plan that is missing in DC is a Wisconsin Ave. line. It makes no sense to send a metro to Georgetown and then fail to connect it up Wisconsin Ave. via Tenleytown. The Wisconsin Ave. corridor is heavily populated, getting more crowded, and lacking in existing mass-transit service. The spur connecting Georgetown to Tenleytown could have stops in Burleith, Glover Park, Cathedral Hets, West Cleveland Park, and then connect to the red line at Tenleytown.

  • http://www.davidgarber.com David Garber

    Would be nice if the SW and SE stations were staggered some, rather than just lining up directly with existing stations. It would make sense to place the new stations where they would boost economy and access to harder to reach places: the Wharf redevelopment and Greenleaf / Randall / S. Capitol Street. Just depends on which value is prioritized: creating more transfer stations (via long tunnels) or giving stations to areas without metro now.

  • Sasha

    Why is there not plan to make the train loop around the entire city? Follow the beltway? People use the metro for more than just going to work, i.e. moving around downtown. DC on the other side of the river still looks underserved. When will the system become 24 hour system or at least have Friday hour everyday of the week? Will the streetcars ever hit the roads?

    Unrelated, but can Metro please think about the names of the metro stops - still mad about NoMa (WTF).

  • noodlez



  • Disgusted in DC

    If the hysterical VA Avenue Tunnel NIMBYS are any guide, the new metro lines will never be built, especially if a cut and cover approach to building is used. Even if a tunnel boring machine is used, they will still bitch about all of the multi-year inconveniences arising therefrom and try to stop it.

  • Arlingtron

    This expansion is making the same mistake in the original 1960s design and assumes people live in the suburbs and work only in the city core. Major employment centers are expanding in Tysons, Gaithersburg, and other areas around the city inside and outside the beltway. This expansion still depends on a hub-and-spoke design that requires commuters going between the ends of lines to go all the way into the city and back out again. A line approximating the beltway would connect communities where people live, work, and shop and would alleviate volume in the center. Development would likely follow the system so there would be less demand in the downtown areas.

  • h st ll

    I agree with David Garber.

  • ik

    It is terrible how such a long term plan can leave out H St. NE and Noma and Anacostia. It just confirms lack of vision on the leader's part. H and 8th intersection in NE is a major transportation hub. It would have made a lot of sense to extend the circle to Noma, put a stop at 8th and H, go through Navy yard and Anacostia. But I understand East of the city in general and Anacostia in particular is the step child of DC.

  • JMS

    It seems to me the best thing to do - other than to put stations in Georgetown - would be to connect all of the end stations (Shady Grove, Glenmont, Greenbelt, New Carllton, Largo Town Center, Branch Ave, Huntington, Franconia Springfireld, and Vienna/Fairfax). I think tht would be helpful. No?

  • Eponymous

    I'm all for more stations in the core (especially in Georgetown and Thomas Circle because they are underserved, and in Truxton Circle because it's ripe for development). But otherwise this is a VERY short-sighted plan. First, why not spread out the stations in SW a bit more? Otherwise, Buzzard Point will continue to be cut off from all of the exciting stuff happening to the north around the ballpark. Second, a North Capitol Street line is desperately needed as we see more growth in Bloomingdale, Eckington, at McMillan, and an expansion of Washington Hospital Center. This line could also extend to Walter Reed. With these changes, we would not even NEED a street car line, and the money we're blowing on that boondoggle could be directed at transit that doesn't interfere with traffic and can accommodate growth in D.C. for the next hundred years.

  • B

    @Arlingtron - The loop here only represents a small fraction of the region's proposed changes. The problem is that there's not necessarily the density nor capital to put subways all over the region. For the problems that Metro anticipates based on current and future conditions, the loop solves the backup of riders that's going to occur at Rosslyn once Silver Line gets underway.

    There are other belt and fixed-transit options planned for the region, including Purple Line and the streetcars planned for Arlington. BRT is also being proposed as an option for several other communities in the region.

    Personally, I think the region would greatly benefit from a light rail or fixed transit option that traveled between Tysons and Alexandria, but perhaps for another time.

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  • Jason Gerber

    Its not that there isn't a case for this loop line but how can you say you are going to keep ignoring NE, upper/central NW, and the suburbs outside the beltway for another 30 years.