How often Metro makes riders late and why

WASHINGTON — On around one in seven trips, Metrorail riders are late even by the most generous measure in the agency’s latest internal report card, and the most common delays are during rush hour.

For 86 percent of Metrorail trips in January, February and March, riders exited their destination station within five minutes of the maximum time it should take to enter, wait for a train and exit the station at the other end of the trip.

When that extra five-minute buffer is cut out, just 69 percent of Metro trips were on time in the first three months of the year.

The measure, based on actual data from riders tapping into and out of the system, shows riders are most likely to be late during the afternoon rush hour (66 percent on time), morning rush hour (68 percent on time), and on weekends (69 percent on time).

The late arrivals on weekends are even after factoring in longer scheduled waits for trains than compared to weekdays rush hours.

Line-by-line breakdown

Blue Line riders were most likely to be late over the first three months of the year, due in large part to the 24/7 work zone south of Braddock Road that began in early March. For the quarter, 59 percent of Blue Line trips arrived on time, eight points lower than in January when there was no track work.

Riders on the Orange, Red and Yellow lines fared only slightly better over the quarter — on time 63 to 65 percent of the time.

Green Line riders were by far most likely to be on time, arriving as expected 80 percent of the time.

Click here for a list of each rail lines’ on-time performance

While Metro has touted fewer rail car-related delays in the first three months of the year than the same period last year, unplanned delays are now regularly related to issues with tracks or power systems.

Metro averaged one incident that led to single-tracking per day through the first quarter, including seven debris fires, 12 arcing insulators and one cable fire.

On the plus side for riders in the system, crowding has declined as ridership continues to fall across the board.

In December, the most recent month with crowding data available, only the Blue Line through the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom areas and the Orange Line through Courthouse recorded near-overcrowding.

Of course, some individual railcars or trains can still be crowded, especially during incidents that lead to single-tracking or other disruptions.


Bus riders could see more buses stop or slow down for schedule adjustments, as Metro aims to cut down on early arrivals at stops along the route.

Slightly more buses — 7 percent — arrived two minutes or more ahead of schedule this year than the same period last year. About 15 percent of buses arrived more than seven minutes late, a slight improvement from the same period last year.

Late buses are tied to police responses to crashes, road closures and other traffic issues as well as a 32 percent increase in vandalism incidents.

Bus ridership has declined, but largely due to riders who used to take the bus to transfer to or from the rail system.

The most crowded bus routes in D.C. are along 16th Street, Benning Road and Georgia Avenue.  

Click here for a list of the most crowded Metrobus lines

The most crowded Metrobus routes in Maryland are between New Carrollton and Silver Spring; Greenbelt and Twinbrook; Eastover and Addison Road; and in and out of Silver Spring along New Hampshire Avenue, Georgia Avenue and Route 29.

The most crowded Metrobus routes serving Virginia are the Ballston-Farragut Square line; express routes between Columbia Pike in Arlington and Mt. Vernon in Fairfax County and D.C.; the Lincolnia-North Fairlington line; and the rush hour Lee Highway-Farragut Square line.

MetroAccess also has on time issues

The MetroAccess paratransit service faced “acute driver shortages” in the first three months of the year, Metro’s Vital Signs report said.

That has contributed to late trips and other issues, and Metro is now considering switching to a different contractor to operate the service.

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