Georgetown didn’t get a Metro station when the original system was built, for a variety of reasons. But if it did have one, how would it perform? The short answer: Georgetown would immediately be in the system’s top 10 highest stations for boardings in the morning peak.
The relationship between residents near a Metro station and ridership. Image from WMATA and edited by the author.
PlanItMetro recently posted about the relationship between ridership and the number of households within a half-mile of a Metro station. This got us at the Georgetown Business Improvement District wondering how a Georgetown Metro station would perform if the downtown loop proposed in Metro’s Momentum plan were built.
Georgetown has 4,187 households within the half-mile radius from Wisconsin and M streets NW, which we will use as the theoretical point for a Metro station entrance for the purpose of this analysis . Simply plotting this number of households on PlanItMetro’s trendline provides a good starting point for an estimate, suggesting approximately 2,000 boardings during the AM peak.
But this is just the start. 2,000 boardings per hour is likely a floor estimate, rather than a ceiling. First, let’s look at where Georgetown residents work.
Map from the Georgetown BID.
People who live in Georgetown tend to work in a distinct corridor that stretches across from the West End to Penn Quarter. This corridor aligns almost perfectly with the existing Red, Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. If a downtown loop line were completed, residents of Georgetown would have a rapid transit option to reach these locations.
Metro’s proposed loop. Image from WMATA.
If Metro access were available, we suspect that more than 2,000 Georgetown residents would use it to reach their place of employment. Just for comparison, 13.9% of Georgetown residents already take Metro to work, which includes people who ride and walk from Dupont, Foggy Bottom, and Rosslyn.
An additional 10.1% of Georgetown residents take a bus ride to work, placing overall transit use at 24%, which is below the District-wide average of just under 40%. With a Metro station in closer proximity to people’s homes, we would expect transit ridership among the residential population of Georgetown to match or exceed the District-wide average.
Meanwhile, there are over 18,000 households living within one mile of Wisconsin and M. While we don’t know how many of these people would take Metro to work, Georgetown’s historic pattern of walkable streets and its dense street grid make it easier and more enjoyable to walk long distances, suggesting that there might also be a considerable number of potential riders in this area. These are all the ingredients for a well-used Metro station.
That’s not the end of the story. Unlike some of the stations within the top 10 which are primarily employment centers, Georgetown is as much a commercial and retail destination as it is a residential neighborhood. Workers from within the business improvement district’s boundaries come from all over the metropolitan region, and most of them have some degree of access to existing Metrorail stations.
Where workers in Georgetown live. Image from the Georgetown BID.
We would expect a large portion of Georgetown employees to start using Metrorail once it opened there. Likewise, Georgetown is a major destination for both locals and tourists attracted to the retail district, trails, park spaces, and cultural amenities. Between residents who work near Metro, workers who live near Metro, and tourists, students, and day-trippers who frequently come in and out of Georgetown, a Metro station here would instantly place Georgetown in the system’s top destinations. That would be the case both during normal weekdays when people travel for work, and on weekends when retail and tourist travel peak.
Some of the busiest existing Metro stations, like Dupont Circle, have a high number of boardings and alightings all day because they’re in areas with housing, jobs, retail, and nightlife. Georgetown’s theoretical Metro station would perform very well at all hours for both boardings and alightings, making full use of Metro’s capacity in both directions.
There are many other positive effects that Metro can bring, but one that could convince city leaders to develop a funding plan is the potential economic windfall. At $41/square foot, Georgetown’s office lease rates are about 18% lower than the Downtown average of $50/square foot. Most commercial brokers attribute this discount to the lack of rapid transit options in Georgetown. A Metro loop connecting Georgetown to the regional rapid transit network could increase rents, boosting tax receipts to the city.
Georgetown is already a vibrant regional destination for work, shopping, and tourism, but a lack of rapid transit access prevents it from reaching its full potential. Bringing a Metro station to Georgetown isn’t just good for this neighborhood. It would be a boon for the entire region.