The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Washington Metro

Bethesda Metro station.
Bethesda Metro station.

The Washington Metro is the public transportation system of Washington DC and adjoining regions of Maryland and Virginia. It is owned and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), a multijurisdictional agency funded by the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

In the WMATA's terminology, both the Metrorail (metro) and Metrobus (bus) services are considered part of Metro; however, in common parlance, the expression "Washington metro" refers to Metrorail exclusively.


Metrorail network

Since opening in 1976, the subway has grown to five lines. It was designed with a spoke-hub distribution paradigm, which makes the subway ideal for getting from a suburb to any part of the city, or vice versa, but unattractive for suburb-to-suburb travel. It is also noteworthy as a system with a limited number of lines that nevertheless makes extensive use of interlining (running more than one line on the same track).

There are five lines:


Greenbelt Station, northern end of the Washington Metro's Green line
Greenbelt Station, northern end of the Washington Metro's Green line

During the 1960s, there were plans for a massive freeway system within Washington D.C. However, opposition to this freeway system grew and the funds to construct it were reallocated toward construction of the Metro system.

Construction on the subway began in 1969, with groundbreaking on December 9. The system opened March 27, 1976 with 4.2 miles available on the Red Line with five stations from Rhode Island Ave to Farragut North. The final 103-mile, 83 station system was completed with the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Ave on January 13, 2001. This does not mean the end of the growth of the system, however: a 3.22-mile extension of the Blue Line to Largo Town Center and Morgan Boulevard stations opened on December 18, 2004, the first in-fill station (New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U on the Red Line between Union Station and Rhode Island Ave-Brentwood) opened November 20, 2004, and plans are being discussed for an Orange Line extention to Dulles Airport. There is also consistent talk of a possible Georgetown stop; however, nothing has come of this up to this point.

The system began in the District of Columbia, with Arlington, Virginia being linked to the system on July 1, 1976; Montgomery County, Maryland on February 6, 1978; Prince George's County, Maryland on November 20, 1978; and Fairfax County, Virginia and Alexandria, Virginia on December 17, 1983.

The highest ridership for a day was June 9, 2004, with 850,636 trips, as thousands of people went in to Washington to view the funeral procession for Ronald Reagan, and to the U.S. Capitol specifically to view his body as it lay in state. Also, since many streets in Washington were closed that day, many people may have felt it wiser to use Metro just to get around. The previous recordholding days were January 20, 1993, the inauguration of Bill Clinton, and October 16, 1995, the Million Man March.

In 2002 plans were formalized to bring a 23-mile extension to the Orange Line from the West Falls Church station to Route 772 in Loudoun County. This would mean a mass transit connection from Washington proper to the important business centers of Reston and Tysons Corner, and most importantly, provide a link to Dulles Airport. On June 10, 2004, the Federal Transit Administration approved the first phase of the project to begin. See DCRTP.


There have been only three collisions reported on the Metrorail system since its opening. On January 13, 1982, 3 persons were killed and many more were injured when a train backed up and derailed at an interlocking near the Smithsonian Station. In 1996, a train operator was killed when a train overran the Shady Grove Station and crashed into a parked train. On November 3, 2004, when an out-of-service train lost its brakes, backed up into the Woodley Park Zoo Station and hit a revenue train servicing the station. No one was killed, but 20 persons were injured.

The system is not immune from fire or suicides. The most recent accident occurred on December 20, 2004, when a man apparently jumped in front of an Orange Line train at Metro Center and was killed instantly, triggering a shutdown of a central portion of the Blue and Orange Lines.

Intermodal transport

Metro station, near the White House
Metro station, near the White House

WMATA has a stated goal of integration of its rail and bus networks. In 2004, SmarTrip readers were installed on all buses, enabling paperless transfers between lines and with the rail system.

In December 2001 Metro initiated a relationship with Flexcar, a private company which operates car sharing networks in several North American cities. A competitor, ZipCar, began service in the region contemporaneously. With either service, cars are parked at major Metrorail stations and made available for rental on an hourly basis, with the goal of reducing car dependency and increasing transit ridership.

Metrorail connects with both commuter rail and intercity rail systems.

Metrorail's Yellow and Blue Lines serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Express bus service from L'Enfant Plaza and Rosslyn is provided to Washington Dulles International Airport. Baltimore-Washington International Airport is served by express bus from Greenbelt, and by rail from Union Station by MARC and Amtrak.

New additions

The original ARS (Adopted Regional System) was completed in 2001, even though it was scheduled to open in 1990. Since then, the WMATA had made plans of expanding their system. In 2000, plans were made to create a fill-in station, New York Avenue, which opened in November 2004. Plans were also made to create an blue line extension, creating two more stations, Morgan Boulevard (also known as Summerfield) and Largo Town Center, known to residents simply as Largo, which opened on December 18, 2004.

Past plans

Rumors have abounded for years about transit service out to Dulles and points west either by Metro or other systems. There was even a study in the early 1990s that proposed a series of civil tiltrotor stations as a possible commuting option from places such as Reston/Dulles, Manassas, Leesburg, Columbia, MD. and other points in the greater DC Metro Area. Like so many other plans, this stopped at the initial assessment stage for funding and political reasons.

See also

External links

  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
  • Neighborhood Maps and Panoramic Views of each station
  • Metro Customer Advocacy Group
  • Washington Metro
  • Information and pictures for every station

Last updated: 02-03-2005 13:48:45
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55