Counting Metro’s Riders

We all know the D.C. Metro is busy. Thanks to a region-wide reach and decades of transit oriented development around many Metro stations, ridership of the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system is at record highs and growing. However, detailed data about the relative popularity of each station is harder to come by. How busy is each station, and how has popularity changed over time? Occasionally statistics are reported in the media, but data is not generally available.

However thanks to a friend I’ve obtained a spreadsheet showing the average weekday passenger boardings at all 86 stations in the Metrorail system, from its opening in 1977 to this year. The oldest data are counts completed by staff, but much of the recent data is collected by the fare gates and audited by outside consultants.

I’ve uploaded the data set to Swivel, a new service that hopes to be a social networking website for data. While it has many limitations, it does a good job at basic manipulations of this type of straightforward time series data. Let’s take a quick look. Here’s the total system ridership:

Average Daily Ridership

This data set contains graphs of the stations ranked by popularity each year. For example, here’s the 10 top stations in 1977, the year the system opened:

1977 by Station

Perhaps more interesting is this set, which shows the change in ridership at each station over time. In Chinatown, the opening of the Verizon Center and other development in the late 1990s has sparked a dramatic growth in ridership:

Gallery Place-Chinatown

Other stations have seen slower growth.

Dupont Circle

Many, like mine in Shaw, have experienced periods of ridership decline.

Shaw-Howard Univ

Of course, with Swivel you can also quickly compare various stations.

Green Line Ridership Growth

Take a look at the full sets online here: WMATA Ridership by Station, Ridership by Year

Author: Rob Goodspeed


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