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In 1960, the federal government created the National Capital Transportation Agency to develop a rapid rail system. In 1966, a bill creating WMATA was passed by the federal government, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland, with planning power for the system being transferred to it from the NCTA.
Picture to left: Interior of a rehabilitated Breda car.
WMATA approved plans for a 98-mile (158 km) regional system in 1968, and construction began in 1969, with groundbreaking on December 9. The system opened March 27, 1976, with 4.6 miles (7 kilometers) available on the Red Line with five stations from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North, all in the District of Columbia. Arlington County, Virginia was 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 103-mile (166 km), 83-station system was completed with the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue on January 13, 2001. This did not mean the end of the growth of the system: a 3.22-mile (5.18 km) extension of the Blue Line to Largo Town Center and Morgan Boulevard 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 construction is underway for an extension to Dulles Airport.
Station display indicating approximate wait-time for upcoming trainsMetro construction required billions of federal dollars, originally provided by Congress under the authority of the National Capital Transportation Act of 1969 (Public Law 91-143). The cost was paid with 90% federal money and 10% local money. This act was amended on January 3, 1980 by Public Law 96-184, "The National Capital Transportation Amendment of 1979" (also known as the Stark-Harris Act), which authorized additional funding of $1.7 billion to permit the completion of 89.5 miles (144.0 km) of the system as provided under the terms of a full funding grant agreement executed with WMATA in July 1986, which required 25% to be paid from local funds. On November 15, 1990, Public Law 101-551, "The National Capital Transportation Amendments of 1990", authorized an additional $1.3 billion in federal funds for construction of the remaining 13.5 miles (21.7 km) of the 103-mile (166 km) system, completed via the execution of full funding grant agreements, with a 63% federal/37% local matching
The highest ridership for a single day was on the day of the inauguration of Barack Obama, January 20, 2009, with 1,120,000 riders. It broke the previous record, set the day before, of 866,681 riders June 2008 set several ridership records: it set the single-month ridership record of 19,729,641 total riders, the record for highest average weekday ridership with 772,826 weekday trips, had five of the ten highest ridership days, and had 12 weekdays in which ridership exceed 800,000 trips
In February 2006, Metro officials chose Randi Miller, a car dealership employee from Woodbridge, Virginia, to record new "doors opening", "doors closing", and "please stand clear of the doors, thank you" announcements after winning an open contest to replace the messages recorded by Sandy Carroll in 1996. The "Doors Closing" contest attracted 1,259 contestants from across the country.
On October 30, 2010, the crowd at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear broke a 19-year record in Saturday ridership, with 825,437 trips. The previous record had been set on June 8, 1991 at 786,358 trips during the Desert Storm rally.
Map of system drawn to scaleSince opening in 1976, the Metro network has grown to include five lines, 86 stations, and 106.3 miles (171.1 km) of track The rail network is designed according to a spoke-hub distribution paradigm, with rail lines running between downtown Washington and its nearby suburbs. The system makes extensive use of interlining – running more than one service on the same track. There are five operating lines and one line under construction:
There are 40 stations in the District of Columbia, 15 in Prince George's County, 11 in Montgomery County, 11 in Arlington County, six in Fairfax County, and three in the City of Alexandria. The Silver Line will add 11 new stations, eight in Fairfax County and three in Loudoun County, Virginia.
About 50 miles (80 km) of Metro's track is underground, as are 47 of the 86 stations. Track runs underground mostly within the District and high-density suburbs. Surface track accounts for about 46 miles (74 km) of the total, and aerial track makes up 9 miles (14 km). At 196 feet (60 m) below the surface, the Forest Glen station on the Red Line is the deepest in the system. There are no escalators; high-speed elevators take 20 seconds to travel from the street to the station platform. The Wheaton station, next to Forest Glen station on the Red Line, has the second-longest continuous escalator in the world, the longest in the Western Hemisphere, at 230 feet (70 m). The Rosslyn station is the deepest station on the Orange/Blue Line, at 97 feet (30 m) below street level. The station features the third-longest continuous escalator in the world at 205 feet (62 m); an escalator ride between the street level and the mezzanine level takes nearly two minutes.
The system is not centered on any single station, but Metro Center is at the intersection of the Red, Orange and Blue Lines, the three busiest lines. The station is also the location of WMATA's main sales office. Metro has designated five other "core stations" that have high passenger volume, including: Gallery Place – Chinatown, transfer station for the Red, Green and Yellow Lines; L'Enfant Plaza, transfer station for the Orange, Blue, Green and Yellow Lines; Union Station, the busiest station by passenger boardings; Farragut North; and Farragut West. In order to deal with the high number of passengers in transfer stations, Metro is studying the possibility of building pedestrian connections between nearby core transfer stations. For example, a 750-foot (230 m) passage between Metro Center and Gallery Place stations would allow passengers to transfer between the Orange/Blue and Yellow/Green Lines without going one stop on the Red Line. Another tunnel between Farragut West and Farragut North stations would allow transfers between the Red and Orange/Blue lines, decreasing transfer demand at Metro Center by an estimated 11%.
Metro runs special service patterns on holidays and when events in Washington may require additional service. Independence Day activities require Metro to adjust service in order to provide extra capacity to and from the National Mall. WMATA makes similar adjustments during other events, such as presidential inaugurations. Metro has altered service and used some stations as entrances or exits only to help manage congestion.
Train of Rohr cars arriving at the Cheverly stationMetro's fleet consists of 1,126 rail cars, each 75 feet (23 m) long.Trains have a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour (121 km/h), and average 33 miles per hour (53 km/h) including stops. Operating rules presently limit their top speed to 59 miles per hour (95 km/h). All cars operate as married pairs (consecutively numbered even-odd), with systems shared across the pair.] Metro currently operates 850 cars during rush hours. 814 cars are in active service, and the remaining 36 cars compose gap trains to serve as backup should a train experience problems.
Metro's rolling stock was acquired in six phases, and each version of car is identified with a separate series number. The original order of 300 rail cars (290 of which are in operation as of June 2009 was manufactured by Rohr Industries, with final delivery in 1978. These cars are numbered 1000–1299 and were rehabilitated in the mid-1990s. Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie (Breda) manufactured the second order of 76 cars delivered in 1983 and 1984. These cars, numbered 2000–2075, were rehabilitated in the early 2000s by Alstom in Hornell, New York. A third order of 288 cars, also from Breda, were delivered between 1984 and 1988. These cars are numbered 3000–3291 and were rehabilitated by Alstom in the early 2000s. An order of 100 cars from Breda, numbered 4000–4099, were delivered between 1992 and 1994. A fifth order of 192 cars was manufactured by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) of Spain. These cars are numbered 5000–5191 and were delivered from 2001 through 2004. A sixth order of 184 cars from Alstom Transportation was delivered between 2005 and 2007. The cars have body shells built in Barcelona, Spain with assembly completed in Hornell, New York.
The 7000 series of cars, currently in development, are planned to go into service beginning in 2012. The new cars will be different from previous models in that they will operate as quads instead of pairs. The new design will allow for increased passenger capacity, elimination of redundant equipment, greater energy efficiency, and lower maintenance costs. Metro plans to eventually purchase up to 748 cars to increase system capacity and replace its older rolling stock. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the June 22, 2009 fatal accident led it to conclude that the 1000 series cars are unsafe and unable to protect customers in a crash. As a result, on July 26, 2010, Metro voted to purchase 7000 series cars to replace the remaining 1000 series cars Additional, series 7000 cars have been ordered to serve the new Silver Line to Dulles Airport. On July 1, 2010, the WMATA Board was able to activate a $886 million contract for 428 new series 7000 metrorail cars to serve Dulles.
During normal passenger operation on revenue tracks, trains are controlled by an integrated Automatic Train Operation and Automatic Train Control system that accelerates and brakes the trains automatically without operator intervention. However, all trains are manned with train operators who open and close the doors, make station announcements, and supervise their trains.
The train doors were originally designed to be opened and closed automatically and the doors would re-open if an object blocked them, much as elevator doors do. Almost immediately after the system opened in 1976 Metro realized these features were not conducive to safe or efficient operation and they were disabled. At present the doors may be opened automatically or manually. If a door tries to close and it meets an obstruction, the operator must re-open the door.
The operator can manually operate a train when necessary. Since June 2009, all Metro trains have been under manual operation.
Metro Transit Police cruiserMetro planners designed the system with passenger safety and order maintenance as primary considerations. The open vaulted ceiling design of stations and the limited obstructions on platforms allow few opportunities to conceal criminal activity. Station platforms are built away from station walls to limit vandalism and provide for diffused lighting of the station from recessed lights. Metro's attempts to reduce crime, combined with how the station environments were designed with crime prevention in mind, has contributed to Metro being among the safest and cleanest subway systems in the United States.
Metro is patrolled by its own police force, which is charged with ensuring the safety of passengers and employees. Transit Police officers patrol the Metro system and Metrobuses, and they have jurisdiction and arrest powers throughout the 1,500-square-mile (3,900 km2) Metro service area for crimes that occur on or against transit authority facilities, or within 150 feet (46 m) of a Metrobus stop. The Metro Transit Police Department is the only U.S. police agency that has local police authority in three different "state"-level jurisdictions (Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia).
Each city and county in the Metro service area has similar ordinances that regulate or prohibit vending on Metro-owned property, and which prohibit riders from eating, drinking, or smoking in Metro trains, buses, and stations; the Transit Police have a reputation for enforcing these laws rigorously. One widely-publicized incident occurred in 2000 when police arrested a 12-year-old girl for eating french fries in the Tenleytown-AU station. In a 2004 opinion by John Roberts, now the Chief Justice of the United States, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the girl's arrest. By then WMATA had answered negative publicity by adopting a policy of first issuing warnings to juveniles, and arresting them only after three violations within a year.
Metro's zero-tolerance policy on food, trash and other sources of disorder embodies the "broken windows" philosophy of crime reduction. This philosophy also extends to the use of station restroom facilities. A longstanding policy, intended to curb unlawful and unwanted activity, has been to only allow employees to use Metro restrooms. Station managers may make exceptions for passengers with small children, the elderly, or the disabledMetro now allows the use of restrooms by passengers who gain a station manager's permission, except during periods of heightened terror alerts.
Metro’s Riders’ Advisory Council recommended to WMATA’s board of directors that Metro hold at least one public meeting regarding the search program. As of December 2008[update], Metro had not conducted a single bag search.
Safety measures On July 13, 2009, WMATA adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for train or bus operators found to be texting or using other hand-held devices while on the job. This new and stricter policy came after investigations of several mass-transit accidents in the U.S. found that operators were texting at the time of the accident. The policy change was announced the day after a passenger of a Metro train videotaped the operator texting while operating the train.
Front face of a Metro farecard, listing declining-balance value remainingMetro fares vary based on the distance traveled and the time of day at entry. During regular hours (weekdays from opening until 9:30 a.m. and 3–7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday nights from 2:00 a.m. to closing), fares range from $1.95 to $5.00, depending on distance traveled. At all other times, fares are $1.60, $2.15, or $2.75, based on distance traveled. Discounted fares are available for school children, the disabled, and the elderly. Metro charges reduced fares on all federal holidays.
Standard self-service vending machines for passes and farecards located at each stationRiders enter and exit the system using a stored-value card in the form of a paper magnetic stripe farecard or a proximity card known as SmarTrip. The fare is deducted from the balance of the card upon exiting the system. Farecards are purchased primarily at vending machines in each station. Farecards can hold up to $45 in value and are reused until the value of the card reaches zero. If the card contains the exact fare needed to exit, leaving the card at a zero balance, the card is not returned by the exit gate. Alternatively, passengers may purchase passes at most farecard vending machines. The passes are used the same way as farecards but grant riders unlimited travel within the system for a certain period of time. Some Metro passes restrict the times and distances that the pass may be used.
Users can add value to any farecard, but riders must pay an exit fare if the cost of a trip is higher than their card's balance. SmarTrip users are allowed to exit the system with a negative balance but must add the fare to the card before re-entering the system. Riders may transfer for free, provided they do not exit through the faregates. SmarTrip users receive a $0.50 discount on bus-to-rail and rail-to-bus transfers.
Future expansion WMATA expects an average of one million riders daily by 2030. The need to increase capacity has renewed plans to add 220 cars to the system and reroute trains to alleviate congestion at the busiest stations. Population growth in the region has also revived efforts to extend service, build new stations, and construct additional lines.
Silver Line The most prominent expansion is the Silver Line, a 23-mile (37 km) extension from the Orange Line into Loudoun County, Virginia by way of Tysons Corner and Washington Dulles International Airport. Rail to Dulles has been discussed since the system opened in 1976. The current Silver Line project was formally proposed in 2002 and initially approved by the Federal Transit Administration in 2004. After several delays, federal funding for the Silver Line was secured in December 2008 and construction began in March 2009. The line will be constructed in two phases; the first phase to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Virginia is scheduled for completion in 2013 and the second phase to Virginia Route 772, beyond Dulles Airport, is projected for completion in 2015.
Blue Line realignment Blue Line trains share a single tunnel with Orange Line trains in order to cross the Potomac River. The current tunnel limits service in each direction, creating a choke point. A 2001 proposal would have rerouted the Blue Line between the Rosslyn and Stadium–Armory stations by building a bridge or tunnel from Virginia to a new station in Georgetown. The proposal was later rejected due to cost. In October 2008, Metro released a study on the possibility of rerouting some Blue Line trains over the 14th Street Bridge, currently used by Yellow Line trains. This Blue Line realignment would increase service directly to downtown and relieve congestion at the Rosslyn tunnel. If implemented, the new service between Franconia–Springfield and Greenbelt stations may be referred to as a new line.
Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade extensions In 2005, the Defense Department announced that it would be shifting 18,000 jobs to Fort Belvoir in Virginia and at least 5,000 jobs to Fort Meade in Maryland by 2012, as part of that year's Base Realignment and Closure plan. In anticipation of such a move, local officials and the military proposed extending the Blue and Green Lines to service each base. The proposed extension of the Green Line could cost $100 million per mile, and a light rail extension to Fort Belvoir was estimated to cost up to $800 million. Neither proposal has established timelines for planning or construction.
Potomac Yard station In 2008, officials began to explore the possibility of adding a station in the Potomac Yard area of Alexandria on the Blue and Yellow Lines between the National Airport and Braddock Road stations. The project remains in the exploratory stages, and construction funding (estimated at $150 million) has not been approved.
Proposed route of the Purple Line A number of light rail and urban streetcar projects have been proposed to extend or supplement service provided by Metro. Like the Silver Line in Virginia, the proposed Purple Line has been in planning since the 1980s. The project was originally envisioned as a circular heavy rail line connecting the outer stations on each branch of Metrorail system, in a pattern roughly mirroring the Capital Beltway The current proposal would create a light rail system in Maryland between the Bethesda and New Carrollton stations by way of Silver Spring and College Park. Such a plan would connect both branches of the Red Line to the Green and Orange Lines, and would decrease the travel time between suburban Metro stations. The project is still undergoing regulatory approval but received significant backing from local officials and Maryland lawmakers in January 2009.
The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) would link Clarksburg, Maryland in northern Montgomery County with the Shady Grove station on the Red Line. The CCT is currently scheduled to open in 2016. In 2005, a Maryland lawmaker proposed a light rail system to connect areas of Southern Maryland, especially the rapidly-growing area around the town of Waldorf, to the Branch Avenue station on the Green Line. The project is still in the planning stages.
In Washington, a new DC Streetcar system is under construction to link various neighborhoods to Washington Metro stations. The first tram line will connect Bolling Air Force Base to the Anacostia station and is expected to open in 2010. Streetcar routes have been proposed in the Atlas District, Capitol Hill, and the K Street corridor. In Virginia, the Pike Transit Initiative is a streetcar project that will link Annandale, Virginia along Columbia Pike to the Pentagon City station in Arlington. The streetcars are expected to begin service in 2011.