Many people find riding the Metro challenging enough already, but Andrew Baker wanted to up the difficulty level. That’s why one day in November, the 23-year-old consultant set out to perform an impressive feat: hitting every stop on every line in the shortest time possible.
When he proudly told WMATA about the time it took him to get to all 86 — seven hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds — he expected the transit system to acknowledge the accomplishment. That didn’t happen. He checked for stats elsewhere, but it turns out Guinness doesn’t care about this record either.
So what’s a competitive train rider to do? Encourage other folks to try to top him. “Beating myself doesn’t have much appeal,” he says. Baker’s website, which launched Wednesday, details his adventure, lays out the ground rules for other contenders (for example, you must use a SmarTrip card to enter and exit the system for timing verification purposes) and offers advice on how to make an attempt.
Baker chose to go for it when he had a week off between jobs. That way he could take advantage of a busier weekday train schedule and prepare by slightly dehydrating himself the day before. (He doesn’t necessarily encourage other people to follow in his footsteps, but bathroom breaks would clearly hinder one’s time.)
He didn’t check what was happening with track maintenance — which cost him valuable minutes during two lengthy train delays — so Baker suggests there’s an opening at the top of the standings. And people might be able to go even faster by leveraging the Farragut Crossing and Rush Plus, which starts this summer. “I’d like to see someone try it with the timetables and plot it out with more accuracy,” he says.
One brave soul has already signed on, and Baker plans to raise funds to print T-shirts for competitors to wear during their attempts once more are on board. He hopes the challenge can evolve into teams going head-to-head simultaneously, a la “The Amazing Race.”
Pursuit of the best time is only part of the experience, Baker adds. He wants to promote the challenge as a way for people to see the cross-section of Washington that rides the rails and to develop more of an appreciation for the system. Baker, who grew up in Alexandria, has been a fan for as long as he can remember. (When Baker and his little sister got too rowdy, their dad would take them to King Street for train trips.)
Recently, with Metro’s litany of woes, he’s felt like he’s needed to be “a closeted transit enthusiast.” The Challenge, however, opens doors.