Monday, July 15, 2013

Entries and Exits: Map of a Day on the Washington Metro

Thanks to Kenton Ngo for this excellent map (here), which provides a graphic representation of people getting on and off Washington Metro trains, hour by hour, station by station.
Aside from entertaining those of us who are transit map geeks, the map says a lot about the Metro system and how it works to move people around the main origins and destinations in the DC metro area. 
The author, I think, captures the main takeaway, which is that most stations fall pretty clearly (and visibly!) into four categories: (1) job centers, especially the downtown stations, where people arrive in the morning and leave in the evening, (2) bedrooms and park-and-rides, which have the opposite pattern, (3) transportation hubs, especially Union Station, where a lot of people are coming and going all day long, and (4) mixed-use areas, which have both housing and jobs, and where people also come and go throughout the day.
Ngo cites the inner-Arlington County Orange Line stations as examples of the mixed-use type of station, and people who are familiar with Washington (or just know the Orange Line from transportation planning circles) will surely agree.  I would cite as other examples that show up on the map (both on the Red Line) Dupont Circle, which is a real “urban” station, and Bethesda, a huge “downtown” mixed-use development in its own right.
The author notes that he uses the “geographically accurate” Metro map rather than the familiar schematic we know from placards in stations and trains.  If you are familiar with the usual schematic – but not with the geographic map – you can really see how the Metro system is mainly “arms” without a lot of connectivity outside the central area.
I also am struck by how little visible traffic there is on some lines, notably those in Prince Georges County.  I’m sure that reflects a lot of history and market trends over time, but to me it says that the existing bones of the Metro system (inadequate as they are in some ways) can support a lot more high-quality development.

Congrats to Kenton Ngo for such and enlightening (and entertaining!) piece!

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