Metro train by srepetsk licensed under Creative Commons.

More people began riding the Red Line after Metro eliminated the Grosvenor turnback and doubled service at White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville, and Shady Grove Metrorail stations. That’s according to a Metro staff presentation presented on Thursday, where the agency will ask the Board to reaffirm the turnback’s elimination.

More riders after the Grosvenor turnback ended

Prior to December 17, 2018, every other Red Line towards Shady Grove stopped and turned back around at Grosvenor. Now every train runs up to Shady Grove on the west end of the Red Line, and trains at the four affected stations come every four minutes during rush hour instead of every eight as they previously had.

In prior presentations given to the Metro Board, agency staff were skeptical of the impacts of the turnback’s elimination. “No additional revenue is included; it is estimated there will be minimal impact on ridership,” reads one comment from June 2018.

Public comment from Montgomery County disagreed with Metro’s claims, saying the “WMATA Board materials regarding the operation and fiscal impact of the elimination of the peak period Red Line turnback…are both incomplete and mistaken. The current passenger car crowding level of the peak hour morning ridership is over 100 passengers per car and over 75 passengers per car over the entire morning peak period according to WMATA data…”

Now, Metro found that ridership at the four impacted stations grew by 4%; Twinbrook saw a 7% increase. Parking was also up 4% outbound of Grosvenor overall and 6% to 9% at White Flint and Twinbrook.

Passenger crowding improved too

The ridership increase is in line with an internal report from Metro’s Office of Planning obtained by the Washington Post: “For every 10 percent increase in the number of trains serving a station, ridership is expected to increase by 0.3 to 0.9.” Metro says the increased ridership numbers are also in line with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation analysis.

Lengthening all trips up to Shady Grove had other benefits as well, according to the agency. “Train overcrowding instances [were] significantly reduced,” and “customer spacing [is now] more consistent.” Metro estimates its decision reduced wait times for 30,000 trips per weekday north of Grosvenor.

Passenger flows improved at Shady Grove after the Turnback was eliminated since trains came more frequently and crowds could be more easily dispersed. Time spent exiting the station fell 16% after December, and ridership to and from Shady Grove is now “evenly spaced…on more frequent trains.”

Shady Grove Metro station has a single main path down from the platform to the mezzanine, which caused “crowding in the evening when trains arrived causing queuing” riders waiting to exit. A separate proposal from Metro would construct a second stairway down from the platform to help passengers move around the station more easily.

What’s next?

Metro eliminated the Silver Spring turnback in July 2019 as well, reducing wait times for 18,000-weekday rail trips. Now all Red Line trains serve all Red Line stations every four minutes from end to end. Data is not yet available to compare the impact of that change.

The agency still plans to spend six months on an “engineering infrastructure analysis” to study how to “reduce risk to reliability of the increased service and support infrastructure investments enabling full-time operations with respect to railyard capacity, terminal operations, and ridership and crowding impacts.”

The study will reportedly also look at the impacts of turnback eliminations “under potential future reduced headways and deployment of 100% eight-car trains.”

Metro Reasons is a regular breaking news, investigative reporting, and analysis column by Stephen Repetski about everything Metro. Please send tips to Metro Reasons.

Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.