Anyone who's ever stood on the Farragut West subway station platform during a typical evening rush hour knows he's in the midst of a real crowd, especially if the next train is delayed and people continue to pour down the escalators.
Metro's own figures confirm our suspicions: Farragut West, under I Street NW on the Blue/Orange lines, serving the White House area and the dense commercial precinct to its north and west, has the highest volume of boarding passengers of any station in the system.
On an average weekday, 24,136 passengers board trains there, concentrated in the evening rush. And if you're among those rail-transit naysayers who still insist buses could do the job, consider that it would take 483 buses carrying 50 passengers each to haul the riders from that station alone. Or it would take 6,032 automobiles carrying an uncommonly high average of four riders.
Unfortunately, city planning considerations forced Metro to build its subway beneath narrow I Street instead of under broader K Street, one block to the north, where the station would have been wider. In a compromise of Washington's long-running freeway-subway controversy of the 1960s, K Street was reserved for a tunneled freeway -- fortunately never built -- forcing the subway to give way. (A K Street subway might have brought a subway station to Georgetown, but that's another and very convoluted story.)
The restricted platform capacity at Farragut West is troubling because it limits safe growth of the station's future use. Larger crowds are expected when the Orange Line is opened to Vienna this summer.
The central statistic above is one collected by Metro planners in their annual passenger survey -- the one you may have participated in last year when riders were handed annual questionnaires.
Among other things the survey forms disclosed, as reported in Metro's employe newsletter Intercom: that 134,047 of the 382,000 train trips taken every weekday were in the evening rush period; that most people traveling to work in the morning reach train stations on foot, implying a reluctance by those remote from the subway to use costly and sometimes infrequent or even unavailable feeder buses, and that the most common destination for passengers boarding trains at Metro Center is Silver Spring on the Red Line. Closed for Repairs
If you see work crews this week removing the statue of Gen. Jose de San Martin from its concrete pedestal at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue NW, don't be distressed.
The San Martin statue, which was authorized by Congress in 1925 and honors the soldier who liberated Argentina and Chile from Spanish rule a century earlier, is being shipped to Cincinnati for extensive restoration as part of a National Park Service program. It will be returned to Washington in about six months.