Another Metro Line Through Georgetown Considered

Back in January, GM discussed the long range plans that a WMATA group was considering that would, among other things, bring a metro stop to Georgetown (actually, two metro stops). The new stations would be part of a plan to create a new cross-town Metro tunnel underneath M St. to accommodate the added traffic on the Silver Line.

Recently this same group considered another radical plan that would also bring a Metro stop to Georgetown. It would be called the Brown line and it would travel roughly parallel with the Red line from Friendship Heights down to Georgetown. From there it would travel across town south of the Blue/Orange lines before turning back north to head up through Petworth and on to 16th St. Heights.

This line is actually quite like another Brown line that was suggested by David Alpert three years ago (although even he hasn’t included it in fantasy maps he’s done since then). The WMATA group considered the impact that such a line would have on the overcrowding of the other lines. Among other impacts, the group estimated that the new Brown line would add approximately 20,000 more daily trips and increase the percentage of DC and Arlington residents using transit from 70% to 74%.

Of the various proposed new subway lines, GM thinks this one has the least utility. There isn’t much density around Ward Circle, nor is there much hope of adding much. Wisconsin and Mass is an even more screwy location for a Metro stop. Sure, people would use it to get to National Cathedral, but there just aren’t enough residents in the immediate vicinity to justify that. A Metro stop in Glover Park, on the other hand, would make a lot more sense, but this map doesn’t include one.

The idea of sending a Metro across town under Constitution Ave. was considered as an alternative route for the split Blue line. And the study group found that it would result in less ridership than a route under M St. GM thinks the same considerations would apply to the Brown line too.

The east side of the Brown line, however, does make a lot more sense to GM. It would service a lot of transit starved neighborhoods.

Other elements of the most recent report include a consideration of whether to have express service on the Silver line. The idea would be for the Silver line to make local stops west of East Falls Church, then stay of I-66 to skip the Arlington stops until Rosslyn. Then it would cross the Potomac through a new river crossing, make two stops in Georgetown before heading downtown under M St.

Interesting the report assumes that if they go with the express service, then it would be the Silver line that goes through Georgetown, but if they keep local service, then it would be the “split Blue line” that would use the new crossing and go through Georgetown. Here are the two options:

The group concluded that the Silver line express idea would result in fewer riders since it would reduce the options for Arlington riders.

It’s important to remember that this is long, long, long term planning. It needs to be done since it takes a long, long, long time to plan for new subway lines. Future demand will outstrip our capacity, but by the time we reach that point it will be too late to start planning.

For reference, consider that the date the study is focused on is 2040.




Filed under Transit

21 responses to “Another Metro Line Through Georgetown Considered

  1. RNM

    It isn’t that I wouldn’t want a Metro stop in the Georgetown area….but this feels a bit like the recurring promise from every President to reduce the US dependency on foreign oil. A pipe dream in that case…a tunnel dream in this case. It is fun to dream.

    Ultimately, the reality of our already strained government resources will make any massive expansion of Metro in DC highly unlikely. Again, these are people who can’t run the small system they have efficiently, without breakdowns, without accidents or even offer 24 hour service like a real city. Metro is pretty, aging, falling apart…I just hope they can find enough money to make the current system survive much less worry about expansion dreams. Heck the funding for the half built extension to Dulles almost dried up, they are still fighting over the Dulles station and that serves one of the most congested traffic areas in the region.


  2. andy

    While I like the idea of the brown line it looks like a duplication of the proposed streetcar routes. Both neighborhoods on either end of the brown line lack density which makes a street car a better fit and a smarter use of transit dollars.
    I like the Blue line but think that the West End and Georgetown University stations can be eliminated. I’d also elminate or phase in Thomas Circle and 8th and H street. The Silver Line is going to make Rosslyn a massive bottleneck and that problem needs to be addressed now (really years ago) otherwise ridership and revenue will drop.
    What I’d be keen on woudl be a cost estimate for this new blue line and proposals to fund it.

  3. Anonymous, please: "Nemo"

    The astronomical costs involved make this plan a non-starter, unfortunately. The best alternative would be to recreate the Wisconsin Avenue Capital Transit trolley line, but routing it liek the Circulator, along K Steet from Union Station, then up Pennsylvania Avenue, right on Wisconsin Ave, but then straight through to Tenley Metro, and, optimally, to the old street car terminal circle at the intersection of Wisconsin and Western. In order to enhance traffic flow, it would be advisable to eliminate permanently all on-street parking on Wisconsin Avenue from K Street to R Street (or maybe Whitehaven Parkway), and on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Rock Creek Bridge to Wisconsin (or the Key Bridge). To those who complain about the loss of public parking … tough. It’s not a suburban mall with acres of parking lots, and Wisconsin Avenue, in particular, is far too narrow to justify on-street parking. You come to Georgetown for partying or shopping, you come by public transit or cab. Here endeth the lesson.

  4. asuka

    “To those who complain about the loss of public parking … tough. It’s not a suburban mall with acres of parking lots…”

    Its that sort of obnoxious, arrogant, dismissive, d0-as-I-say attitude that makes it hard to take urbanists seriously. There will be no trollies in Georgetown or on Wisconsin. Don’t like it? “Tough.”

  5. asuka

    “Wisconsin Avenue, in particular, is far too narrow to justify on-street parking.”
    But not too narrow to justify a annexing a lane for a trolly few will use?

  6. andy

    asuka – its not annexing a lane – its taking one back. Not to long ago street cars ran up Wisconsin to Friendship Heights to the car barn that was on Wisconsin & Western.
    Since the 30’s busses (named after the old street car route like much of the city’s bus routes) are the busiest in the city I don’t the few is the correct term. I love metrobus but for whatever reason more people will ride a street car than a bus on the exact same route. Not only that, it’ll encourage in-fill development along Wisconsin. Look at Portland, Seattle, Toronto and other cities that have embraced street cars – development follows tracks.

  7. James Churchill

    When that $5 gas arrives, not to mention the shortages and gas lines, we may realize that the expense is worth bringing both Metro lines PLUS the cross-town trolley and maybe the forgotten extension of the Purple Line from Bethesda & along the old Georgetown Branch of the B&O (right-of-way only abandoned stupidly in the late 70s-early 80s) to the waterfront. We also need to remeber the shoret-sighted Goergetowners who nixed Metro because of “traffic” and “undesireables.” Boy, talk about short-sighted.

  8. eli

    It’s pretty stupid to say that there is no density at Ward Circle considering that this is the actual location of American University (Tenleytown is nearly 1 mile away), which has over 10,000 students and hundreds of employees. care to fact check your posts?

  9. GM

    Asuka: Every single one of your comments is aggressively dismissive of people you don’t agree with, so pot meet kettle.

    I’d guess there’s about 80-100 parking spots on Wisconsin north of M. I’d estimate that even with decent turnover, the sum total of people actually using those spots is less than 1,000 (and it’s probably a lot less). With the 30 series alone, there are over 270 buses that use Wisconsin Ave on each day. The average would only have to be 3 riders on each bus for it to end up being used more than the parking spots are. That doesn’t even include the Circulator. Even if the parking spots actually serviced 2,000 people a day, the buses would still only have to carry an average of 6 people to beat that. For the record, the 30 Series has an average weekday riderhip over over 20,000.

    The point is that that public land is getting monopolized by a small group of people to the detriment of a much larger group, simply because we have this misguided notion that we must surrender as much as possible to the wants of drivers.

    I’m not saying that I necessarily agree that removing street parking on Wisc is the right move, but I can recognize that it would be an absolutely defensible position.

    I was with you until you mentioned the oft debunked myth that Georgetowners prevented Metro from opening here. It’s just not true.

    There’s a difference between population and density. Ward Circle is surrounded by a lot of land without much built on it and without prospects of there being more built on it. AU has a lot of residents, surely, but the vast majority of the students wouldn’t take the Metro on a daily basis since they would have no need. I’m not opposed to this line, I just think there’s less strong of a case to be made for it as compared with other lines. And there would have to be a concerted effort by the city to build more density there.

  10. Scott

    We really should be thankful that we have Metro. Many cities would love to have such a mass transit system. Metro has continued to evolve since it first opened. There’s a great presentation that shows the new lines and stations as they opened in a slide sequence. Other cities that started a subway (Atlanta and San Fran) did not continue their development like Washington did and there are some obvious development and neighborhood investments that came because of our investments. We should encourage new lines in DC regardless of what the neighborhood or proposed station is like currently. Density will occur regardless and ridership will increase regardless.

  11. Phillip Winterfeldt

    How about Redline-B. Continue the Red Line at Tennleytown toward Georgetown and add stops for Glover Park, Georgetown and others and either reconnect with the current Red Line at Farragutt North or connect to the Silver Line at Georgetown. Multiple branch lines work well in London and Paris, why not DC?

  12. gippgig

    The best way to add a Georgetown station would probably be to make the Dulles extension part of the Yellow Line. This would start the same with the Dulles line branching off from the Orange Line at Rosslyn, going north under the Potomac, turning east at a Georgetown University station with the Georgetown station under Wisconsin Ave., then turning northeast under New Hampshire Ave. with a transfer station at Dupont Circle and an Adams Morgan station just before turning east at U St. and joining the existing Yellow Line at U St./Cardozo (an engineering nightmare to construct). Besides serving Georgetown and relieving congestion in the existing Potomac tunnel, this would be “topologically correct”, tying together the “loose ends” of the Yellow and Dulles lines, would greatly improve the system redundancy & interconnectedness, would provide direct airport-to-airport service, and would cost too much to actually build. It’s nice to dream…
    There is one huge flaw in all of these plans & projections – they assume that people will continue to travel as they have been doing and that is probably incorrect. As transportation costs increase & the internet generation grows up, sooner or later people are going to overcome their resistance to change, accept the fact that broadband internet eliminates the need for much – probably most – travel, and simply stay home. Building any new transportation – rail or road – is likely to turn out to be a terrible mistake.

  13. Dizzy


    I think removing the parking lane from Wisconsin Avenue south of at least Reservoir is absolutely a great idea – and I would be thrilled, as a frequent user of the 30 line, to see it replaced with a bus only lane, to be ultimately replaced with a dedicated streetcar line.

    With regard to Ward Circle: I think you’re forgetting the DHS facility there, which has thousands of employees and is planning on expanding.

    Moreover, you seem to be forgetting the thousands of American University employees who commute to campus every day. There would absolutely be demand for a Metro stop there. Of course, there would be even more demand if the NIMBY neighbors in AU Park and Wesley Heights weren’t dead set on torpedoing any sort of commercial development in the area, especially on Nebraska Avenue, but that’s another story…

  14. GM

    “there would be even more demand if the NIMBY neighbors in AU Park and Wesley Heights weren’t dead set on torpedoing any sort of commercial development in the area, especially on Nebraska Avenue, but that’s another story…”

    No, that’s not another story. That is THE story. If the city is unable to rezone that area for more density, then it will seriously reduce the benefit of the station. I understand that there are a bunch of students and employees that would benefit from a Metro stop, but it’s not enough, in my opinion, to make the project worthwhile unless it is coupled with a lot more development.

    And I’m not forgetting about DHS. They’ll be gone to St. Elizabeth’s decades before this would be built. Now, it’s worth noting that the land that DHS sits on right now would be a great place for the type of development I’m talking about. But getting it out of the hands of the Navy and rezoned for a lot of density would be a challenge, but in my opinion it would be a huge prerequisite for putting a Metro stop here.

    Honestly, I think a much better path for a line like this would be to split off from the Red line at Tenleytown and go down Wisconsin Ave. the whole way. The stretch of Wisconsin between Tenleytown and Glover Park already has a bunch of density and is well suited to add a lot more.

  15. Dizzy

    Not enough and not worthwhile compared to what? Compared to other alternatives, perhaps, although I think the station would do a great deal to spur development. It would also be good to spread development out a bit from existing congested corridors, and Ward Circle seems like a natural location. It’s not really a rezoning issue, though, so much as it’s a campus plan approval issue.

    Even as is, the station would get a hell of a lot more use than Cheverly, Deanwood, or some of the other stops out there.

    As for DHS…

    ” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not leaving the neighborhood as previously thought. Instead there is a plan to increase their size by over 75% at the current Ward Circle site. DHS operates a 24 hour staff and their expansion plans will further aggravate the already crowded traffic conditions.”

    Sounds like an excellent candidate for a Metro stop to me. Even if DHS ultimately does decamp, that site will be taken over by some other agency that needs a sizable secure facility. Having more retail that those employees (and others, of course) could patronize would be a good thing, and something that I would hope GSA would encourage.

  16. asuka

    I actually support taking away parking spaces on Wisconsin, as well as from other major arteries (M, Connecticut, etc.). And I support dedicated bus lanes, performance parking rates and bike lanes (unlike most people on this blog, I actually DO use a bike as my primary conveyance). What I don’t support is the extremist anti-car agenda that ignores the realities faced by most residents of this region. Public land isn’t being “monopolized by a small group of people” – cars are the only option for the great, great majority of people. Most people are not as fortunate as you or me; most HAVE to own a car because it is too expensive for them to live near their employment. Your vision of a utopian society where no one owns a car and everyone has access to efficient public transportation is just that – utopian. It does not reflect reality, and it will never reflect reality, which means the sum total of your push to ban cars from the DC region results in hardship for those who don’t live in Georgetown or other expensive urban centers. Should we advocate better planning? Of course. But the sort of extremism continuously promoted by you and other blogs amounts to nothing more than transportation gentrification. But who cares, right? If those yucky suburbanites don’t like it, well they can just…just…what can they do again? Oh right – if they don’t like it, “tough.”

  17. Ben

    Great post. If we had an abundance of money, perhaps a subway would be the best transit option but a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route can meet much of the expected travel demand, relieve congestion on the metro-rail system, and encourage infill development along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor at much less cost. The generally stated figure for building streetcar track is about $40M per mile.

    North of Calvert Street, Wisconsin Avenue is over sixty feet wide. You can have dedicated north/south travel lanes in the median of Wisconsin Avenue if you eliminated on-street parking. This wouldn’t be too significant of a change for most residents, since curbside parking is already prohibited during peak morning and evening travel periods.

    Ideally, a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route would connect the Friendship Heights and Tenley metro stations with Georgetown. It could connect with the terminus of the K Street/Benning Road streetcar route that is already planned to end in Georgetown. This would give people an alternative to the Red Line and a transfer at Metro Center to get downtown and to Foggy Bottom. Similarly, you could use the Capital Bikeshare from Rosslyn and other destinations in Virginia and take the Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route in Georgetown for trips to Friendship Heights, Bethesda, etc… This would avoid a circuitous trip downtown and a transfer at Metro Center, potentially saving travel time.

    As noted by commenters above, the Wisconsin Avenue corridor is already pretty dense and the 30s buses have some of the highest ridership and also are the third most delayed route according to the 2005 District Transit Alternatives Analysis report ( This report also estimated that a Friendship Heights – Georgetown route would have the highest ridership of the nine routes examined, with 6,000 riders per mile and scored second overall of all nine routes.

    I encourage you to join the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition on Facebook to support this investment in mobility and improved transportation that this streetcar will represent.

  18. Ben

    Regarding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) campus on Nebraska Avenue, we’re trying to get DHS to support dedicated bike lanes on Nebraska Avenue. ANC 3B passed a resolution at our February 2011 meeting supporting the bicycle infrastructure called for in the Glover Park Transportation Study, most notably bike lanes for both Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue. With dedicated bike lanes on Nebraska Avenue, you’d be able bike safely all the way from Glover Park to Tenley Circle. Eleanor Holmes-Norton will be hosting an upcoming town hall meeting to discuss the DHS campus plans and related transportation issues.

  19. Dear “Salons of Georgetown,”

    While your inhabitants have been debating global issues since the revolution, there is one thing that you have missed: your neighborhood needs a train station.

    Here’s how to start a campaign:


    there there

  20. Pingback: Metro Planners Endorse Georgetown Stations | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  21. Pingback: WMATA Studying the Possibility of a Georgetown Metro Stop (or Two) | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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