Ever wondered if any Metro stations come close to having the same number of exits and entries during rush hour? Thanks Metro’s newly-public ridership data, we can tell exactly how balanced each station is.


During the AM peak period, the most balanced station is Bethesda. Almost exactly the same number of people enter the station as exit. Pentagon, Brookland, King Street, and Mount Vernon Square round out the top five.

On Monday, we looked at stations based on how many riders boarded and exited in the AM peak. Union Station and Pentagon are the only stations that appear on both top 10 lists. This indicates that they are fairly balanced, with people riding to and from them at similar levels. Pentagon is the 2nd most balanced station, and Union Station is number 9.

Metro station balance: AM Peak
4King Street2,9862,7121.10
5Mt Vernon Square1,1571,3231.14
6Crystal City4,1054,9121.20
9Union Station9,71212,0301.24
“Balance” is the ratio of entries and exits, dividing the larger number by the smaller number.

Why is balance important? Balance can be an indicator that land use around the station is fairly well mixed.

At Bethesda, for example, many people live near the station, and walk there to get on trains headed downtown (or to other destinations). At the same time, many other commuters are headed to one of the many workplaces around the Bethesda stop.

The measure of balance isn’t perfect, though. The #2 most balanced station is Pentagon, which is just about as far from being a livable community as a place can get. Many riders are headed to jobs at the Pentagon. But they’re balanced out by a large number of riders changing from bus to rail at the massive bus hub there.

What about the other end of the spectrum? Here are the 10 least-balanced stations.

Metro station balance: AM Peak
78Branch Avenue4,82838012.7
80Judiciary Square4866,51513.4
81Farragut North1,23216,75413.6
83Arlington Cemetery2030314.9
86Federal Triangle2106,61731.5

Federal Triangle is by far the least balanced. For every 1 person entering the station during the AM peak, 31.5 people are exiting. That’s almost twice as lopsided as the 84th and 85th ranked stations, Glenmont and Smithsonian.

Also of note, in the bottom 10 we can find several of the top stations for AM peak boardings and alightings. Vienna (entry #2), is the 10th-least balanced station; Huntington (entry #7) is the 8th least-balanced station. Farragut North, by far the busiest station for exits in the AM peak, is the 6th least-balanced station.

While these stations may have many passengers boarding or exiting in the morning rush, they’re far from balanced.

Blue is the proportion of entries. Orange is the proportion of exits.

Overall, the average balance factor for the AM Peak is 5.8. That’s the most imbalanced of any of the periods. The station with the balance factor closest to the average is Benning Road, with a balance of 5.8.

PM Peak

On average, the PM Peak period is more balanced than the AM Peak. The average balance factor for the afternoon rush hour is 3.1. The station closest to the average is West Hyattsville, with a balance factor of 3.2.

The imbalances during this period aren’t as strong as they are during the morning. This is probably due to some riders from the suburbs coming into the city to attend entertainment venues or sporting events balancing out commuters.

Metro station balance: PM Peak
2National Airport1,8421,7811.03
7Dupont Circle6,7606,2821.08
8Navy Yard3,9454,2691.08
9Union Station12,56411,5881.08

While the order moves around a bit, 6 of the top 10 morning peak stations also appear on the top 10 most-balanced PM peak stations. The stations in both top 10s are: Bethesda, Pentagon, Brookland, Tenleytown, Ballston, and Union Station.

Metro station balance: PM Peak
77Shady Grove1,4578,3205.7
82Judiciary Square5,7787867.3
83Branch Avenue5804,3797.5
84Morgan Blvd1961,5587.9
85Federal Center SW4,2295118.3
86Federal Triangle6,6677848.5

Similarly, 6 stations from the bottom 10 AM peak stations are on the afternoon peak bottom 10. In both periods, Federal Triangle is the 86th most-balanced station, the bottom rank. However, it’s a good deal more balanced in the PM peak than it was during the morning rush.

The other 5 stations appearing in both bottom 10 lists are: Vienna, Branch Avenue, Huntington, Judiciary Square, and Glenmont.


The midday period is not as polarized as the peak periods. In fact, the midday period is the most balanced period, with an average balance factor of 1.2. The closest station to the average balance factor is Morgan Boulevard, with a factor of 1.2.

The least-balanced station, Smithsonian, has twice as many exits as entries during this period. That’s a far cry from the 31-fold difference at Federal Triangle during the morning peak.

This makes a good deal of sense, too. With the peak periods, people tend to be making complementary trips in the opposite peak. But in the midday period, many of those trips happen in both directions during the same period.

For example, someone running to lunch might take the train from Farragut North to Union Station and back, with the return trip balancing the first. A commuter on the other hand, might go from Vienna to McPherson Square in the morning, wouldn’t return until the PM peak.

Metro station balance: Midday
1King Street1,7981,8181.01
3Federal Center SW1,1911,1601.03
4Arlington Cemetery9389741.04
5Eastern Market1,3491,2991.04
7Friendship Heights2,2142,0761.07
8Pentagon City3,5323,7821.07
9Judiciary Square2,0432,1891.07
10Dupont Circle3,7764,0551.07

The least balanced midday stations aren’t that imbalanced.

Metro station balance: Midday
77Farragut North4,3085,8671.36
79West Hyattsville8786341.38
80Gallery Place4,4206,1521.39
81Dunn Loring9616871.40
82Metro Center5,0047,0851.42


Evenings are not as balanced as middays, but they are more balanced than either peak period.

The average balance factor for the evening period is 2.8. Capitol South, with a balance factor of 2.8, is the closest to the average balance factor.

Metro station balance: Evening
1Pentagon City2,5192,5131.003
4U Street1,7071,7791.04
5Mt Vernon Square6466741.04
7Friendship Heights1,2631,4341.14
8Eastern Market9421,0871.15
9King Street1,1191,3191.18

The least balanced evening stations range from a balance factor of 4.8 to 8.9. However, Arlington Cemetery station is at the bottom at least partially due to the station’s early closure, and the fact that the Cemetery, the only thing within walking distance of the station, closes early, too.

Metro station balance: Evening
77Judiciary Square8141704.8
78Metro Center5,8971,2114.9
82Farragut West3,8757075.5
83Shady Grove4282,3505.5
84Farragut North4,5237755.8
85Federal Triangle1,1351288.8
86Arlington Cemetery159188.9

What are your thoughts about the station balance numbers?

Tagged: metro, transit, wmata

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 Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.