Thanks to data from Metro’s planning department, we have the ability to analyze many different ridership patterns. Today, let’s take a look at stations, and see which are the busiest.



Mornings

During the weekday morning rush period, many people are entering the Metro system to get to work. The busiest stations for entering customers fall all across the region.

Here’s a table of the top 10:

Metro AM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations
RankStationAvg. entries
1Union Station9,711.7
2Vienna9,614.1
3Shady Grove9,557.4
4West Falls Church6,816.1
5Pentagon6,479.1
6New Carrollton6.320.9
7Huntington6,297.6
8Silver Spring6,026.7
9Franconia-Springfield5,920.6
10Pentagon City5,714.9


Half of these stations are end-of-line stations with large park-and-ride lots. Pentagon and West Falls Church are both major bus hubs, as is Silver Spring. Union Station, of course, is at the top because it’s where many commuter rail riders enter the Metro system.

The entries at these 10 stations account for 30.7% of all entries during the AM peak across the system.

And where are these riders going? The busiest stations for exits are all in the region’s core. Here’s the top 10:

Metro AM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations
RankStationAvg. exits
1Farragut North16,573.7
2Farragut West15,497.7
3Metro Center15,358.6
4L’Enfant Plaza13,143.5
5Union Station12,029.7
6McPherson Square11,185.4
7Gallery Place10,682.5
8Foggy Bottom10,529.9
9Pentagon6,954.0
10Rosslyn6,621.7


Of all the people who exit the Metro system during the morning peak period, 50.3% of them exit at one of the top 10 stations. These 10 stations account for more exits than all the other stations combined, with 118,757 people exiting these stations on average each morning.

Also of note, the 2 Farragut Square stations combined handle more than twice as many exits as the third place station, Metro Center. Without the objection of the National Park Service, the Farragut stations would have been one station, and a crowded one at that.

Afternoon rush

We can see similar patterns during the evening rush hour.


The top 10 evening entry stations are all in the regional core, with just one, Rosslyn, outside downtown Washington. The only station in the AM peak top 10 exit list that is not in the evening entry list is Pentagon (which is 13th place). It’s been replaced by Smithsonian (which is 14th in the AM exits list).

The top 10 entry stations for the PM peak represent 45.7% of all PM peak entries systemwide, a slightly smaller share than the share of the top 10 morning exit stations.

Metro PM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations
RankStationEntries
1Farragut North15,948.4
2Metro Center15,675.7
3Farragut West13,594.5
4L’Enfant Plaza13,196.7
5Union Station12,563.9
6Gallery Place12,089.8
7Foggy Bottom11,099.5
8McPherson Square9,830.1
9Smithsonian7,518.5
10Rosslyn6,804.6


And where are these evening commuters headed?

Metro PM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations
RankStationExits
1Union Station11,587.7
2Vienna8,480.5
3Shady Grove8,320.5
4Pentagon City7,636.7
5Gallery Place6,985.8
6West Falls Church6,555.5
7Dupont Circle6,282.5
8Pentagon6,082.2
9Silver Spring5,782.3
10New Carrollton5,645.5


The evening exits top 10 looks a lot like the morning entries top 10. But Huntington and Franconia-Springfield, which are the #7 and #9 top entry stations in the morning have dropped to #12 and #11, respectively. In their place are 2 central stations, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle.

This difference can probably be attributed to the entertainment venues and restaurants near these stations. Dupont Circle and Gallery Place are known for their nightlife opportunities, and passengers headed there probably drive the numbers up a bit.

The top 10 PM peak exit stations account for 28.3% of all exiting passengers systemwide on average.

Midday

The time between the morning and evening rush hours is what Metro calls the midday period. It’s probably marked not just by people running errands or going to lunch, but also by workers who commute slightly later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon than most or who have jobs that don’t have 9-5 hours.

Metro midday period entries and exits: Top 10 stations
RankStationEntriesRankStationExits
1Union Station6,209.51Union Station7,114.5
2Metro Center5,003.62Metro Center7,085.3
3Gallery Place4,419.53Gallery Place6,151.8
4Foggy Bottom4,311.34Farragut North5,866.7
5Farragut North4,308.05Smithsonian5,135.9
6Dupont Circle3,776.06Foggy Bottom4,812.2
7L’Enfant Plaza3,721.17Farragut West4,488.9
8Farragut West3,572.98L’Enfant Plaza4,076.9
9Pentagon City3,532.59Dupont Circle4,055.2
10Rosslyn3,437.510Pentagon City3,781.6


I think the fact that the top 3 midday entry stations are the same as the top 3 exit stations is interesting. Union Station makes a lot of sense, considering its role as an intermodal hub. The reasons for Gallery Place and Metro Center are less clear. Keep in mind that people changing trains aren’t counted; only people leaving or entering the faregates appear in these numbers.


Additionally, 9 stations are in both lists. Rosslyn, #10 in the midday entries list does not appear in the exits list because it has fallen to #12. Instead, Smithsonian appears in 5th place on the exits list. This is probably because many people (especially tourists) are headed to see the monuments or museums in the vicinity. Few are leaving the Mall area yet, though, perhaps accounting for Smithsonian’s absence from the top entry stations list (it’s 16th).

Evenings

The period after the PM rush is the evening period. Note that these numbers do not include the average ridership for the after midnight service provided on Fridays.

Metro evening period entries and exits: Top 10 stations
RankStationEntriesRankStationExits
1Gallery Place7,489.01Dupont Circle2,884.3
2Metro Center5,897.42Gallery Place2,803.5
3Foggy Bottom4,533.83Columbia Heights2,772.5
4Farragut North4,523.34Pentagon City2,512.6
5Union Station4126.55Silver Spring2,493.6
6Dupont Circle3,963.46Shady Grove2,349.8
7Farragut West3,875.47Vienna2,261.1
8Navy Yard3,494.18Rosslyn2,163.7
9Pentagon City2,519.49Union Station2,034.9
10McPherson Square2,345.810Fort Totten1,969.5


As expected, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle, major nightlife areas, appear in both the evening entry and exit top 10. Most of the other entry stations are in the core. Navy Yard comes in at number 8, perhaps due to Nats games during May, when the data were collected.

Shady Grove, Vienna, and Silver Spring are all major suburban hubs, and their presence in the top 10 exit list isn’t surprising. Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven’t appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising.


What surprises you about these numbers?

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Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.