If you’ve ever needed an elevator to get in or out of a Metro station but the one at the station you were using wasn’t working, you probably had to ride a shuttle to or from the next-closest station with a working one. Some stations, however, have redundant elevators, meaning there is more than one elevator for every possible trip, including every platform and mezzanine, plus the sidewalk.

Graphic by the author.

Metro decided around 2003 to install redundant elevators at new stations so that even if an elevator goes out of service, a person in a wheelchair can still access every part of the station and won’t need to take a shuttle to another station.

The typical setup can break down in multiple places

At most stations, those who require the use of an elevator have to use more than one. In cases like this, there’s one elevator going from the street to the mezzanine. Then there’s a second elevator going from the mezzanine to the platform. At side platform stations, there would be one for each platform.

If either of those elevators is out of service, the station isn’t accessible and Metro has to run shuttle service.

At a few stations, the elevator runs directly from the street to the platform(s). That’s the case at Judiciary Square, for instance.

Some Metro stations have more than one mezzanine, with an entrance from each. But very few of those stations have elevator access at more than one of those. For example, Dupont Circle has entrances at Q Street (north mezzanine) and 19th Street (south mezzanine). But only the Q Street entrance has elevator access.

There’s a new norm that avoids the problem

Stations constructed or renovated since 2003 have redundant elevators. This can take two forms. In one case, a station with two entrances has non-redundant elevators at both entrances. In the other case, one entrance has at least two elevators for every movement.

The first station to have redundant elevators was actually Friendship Heights. The northern mezzanine opened with the station in 1984 and has (non-redundant) elevators leading to the surface. The southern entrance, which opened in 1985, includes a bank of four high-speed elevators leading to the street instead of escalators.

However, there’s only one mezzanine-to-platform elevator at the Friendship Heights southern mezzanine, so the entrance is not itself redundant. But since both entrances have elevators and are just two blocks apart, the station is still accessible when one elevator breaks.

The second station with redundant elevators was Forest Glen, which has one elevator-only entrance. The five elevators go directly from the platform to the mezzanine, which is at street level. That station opened in 1990.

The first station to get redundant elevators under Metro’s new policy was Mount Vernon Square, which was renovated as part of the construction of the convention center in 2003. At Mount Vernon Square, there’s only one entrance, but there are three elevators elevators going between the street and the mezzanine— three have to be broken to prevent access. There are also two elevators between the mezzanine and the platform. As long as one is functioning, people can still make the movement.

2006 saw the construction of a new northern entrance at King Street station, which includes an elevator, making the station redundant.

Navy Yard became redundant in 2008 when the Half Street entrance was reconstructed in preparation for Nats Park. Prior to that time, the New Jersey Avenue entrance was the only entrance with elevator access. Now both entrances are accessible: at both, there’s one elevator from the street to the mezzanine and one from the mezzanine to the platform.

Additionally, Metro opened three stations in 2004, each of which included redundant elevators: Largo, Morgan Boulevard, and NoMa. The five recently-opened Silver Line stations are also redundant.

Two stations are partially redundant. Gallery Place got new street elevators as part of the construction of the Verizon Center in 1997. The station has redundant elevators between the Glenmont platform and the street only. Access to the Green/Yellow and Shady Grove platforms is not redundant.

Rosslyn is also redundant for elevator users between the street and the inbound platform. A new entrance opened in 2013, replacing the former solitary elevator between the inbound platform and the street. The new entrance has three high-speed elevators which go directly from the street to the inbound platform. However, there is still just one elevator between the inbound and outbound platforms, so the station is not fully redundant.

Future redundant stations

Construction should start soon on a new entrance at Medical Center. Currently, the station has one mezzanine, with a single elevator leading from the platform to the mezzanine and a second elevator (and a bank of three escalators) leading to the west side of Rockville Pike at the National Institutes of Health.

In a few months, Montgomery County will start work on a new elevator-only entrance on the east side of Rockville Pike directly across from the current entrance. Three high-speed elevators will lead to the existing mezzanine, which will be renovated to include a second platform elevator and a new staircase. The project is expected to be complete in 2018.

Arlington is constructing a western entrance to Ballston which will have redundant elevators. That project is expected to be completed in 2021.

Additionally, as a part of the Purple Line project, new entrances will be added at Bethesda and Silver Spring in 2021.

At Bethesda, a new south entrance will include redundant platform to mezzanine elevators and four high-speed mezzanine to Purple Line elevators. The new entrance will be located a few blocks south of the current entrance, emerging at Wisconsin and Elm.

Silver Spring will get a third entrance, located at the southern end of the platform. The new mezzanine will be located above the platform, roughly aligned with the third level of the newly-opened Sarbanes Transit Center. The Purple Line platform will be located above that connection, on the fourth level of the center.

Metro has some other projects on the radar that would include redundant elevators. However, as of right now, these projects aren’t funded, so they may or may not happen. One such project includes plans to reconfigure the northern entrance to Union Station, which would include two sets of redundant elevators.

Additionally, the agency has plans to make Farragut North and Farragut West redundant as part of the proposed pedestrian connection between those stations.

In the future, some stations may get new entrances, which would make them redundant. But none are currently in active planning.

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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 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.