New PoPville Partner – DataLens DC – Vol. 1 “The Pain is Real: Your Metro Commute is Getting Worse”

by Prince Of Petworth August 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm 10 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

DataLensDC was started in the summer of 2015 by Kate Rabinowitz, lover of all things data and District. She lives in a cozy Capitol Hill carriage house where she enjoys data mining, board games and wandering the city. Kate created to DataLensDC to present data-driven views of the character, trends and hacks of the ever-changing District.

The Pain is Real: Your Metro Commute is Getting Worse

Last Thursday Metro sent a subtle signal that maybe I should take a day off. Unfortunately my boss felt otherwise. What started as a ‘minor’ derailment became two days of Metro competing with walking for the slowest way to get anywhere. It was bad and feels like part of a larger decline in Metro service. I was curious if that actually bore out in the data. Not only did it, but the decline is even more dramatic than I would’ve guessed.


The first half of 2015 had nearly twice as many delays compared to the same period in the past two years. Year to date Metro delays total over eighteen days. This is two and a half weeks. You could spend all your vacation days waiting for the Metro and still be waiting. This increase is partly due to a spike in delays this winter, but the spring and summer saw worse service as well.


It’d be nice if all these delays happened in the early hours of Sunday morning, since so many have long given up on taking the Metro anywhere on weekends. But the Metro is most likely to be delayed when you need it most. The heatmap below shows that delays are heavily concentrated just before and during commuting hours. Of course WMATA *tries* to run twice as many trains during rush hour. But there are more delays per train during that hour as well. Afterall, the benefit of more trains is debatable when you wait ten minutes for three trains to arrive at once.


I’m not sure how Metro will improve with all the money it doesn’t have, but on the upside there are only more delays, not longer delays. And on an (un)related note DC keeps expanding bike lanes…

Technical notes: Graphics are based on WMATA Disruption reports. Code for DC has wonderfully scraped these reports in easy-to-analyze CSV files at opendatadc.org. You can find complete code for this post on my github page.

*Data for July 2015 only goes to July 24th. So the numbers are likely even worse!


  • Anonymouse

    It could be that Metro is getting better at reporting its disruptions. But yes, I don’t doubt that disruptions have gone up in the last 2 years.

    • anonymous

      I think Metro getting “better” at anything at this point is highly unlikely. We’re still continuing the descent- where it stops, who knows?

    • Jason

      I moved to DC in 2012. I did get fucked really bad by Rush+ since I unwittingly moved to Clarendon for a job in Pentagon City just a couple of weeks before Rush+ started, but generally speaking things were fine once you were on the train (although my BL pretty much ALWAYS held outside Rosslyn for “train ahead on platform”). By the time I left a few months ago I was living by the U St station for the same job and on the way home I could easily spend as much time waiting for trains (first at Pentagon City, and then on bad days a second time staring at the OOS train at Mt Vernon that spent minutes just sitting on the platform) as I did on the train.

      I usually went in 10-10:30 AM and I even had the displeasure once of @Metrorailinfo straight-up lying to me on Twitter about a 30+ minute gap with no trains to Huntington at U St. Never mind all the fun with shit like the couple of weekends they announced they were going to run the YL to Ft Totten but then short-turned it at Mt Vernon with ZERO warning.

  • Brett M

    This is great information. I knew I wasn’t crazy to think that Metro delays were increasing fast over the last few years.

  • MMMkay

    This is awesome!

    • Zach

      “Awesome” isn’t the word I’d use to describe it, but maybe “useful.”

  • Bargain

    “two days of Metro competing with walking for the slowest way to get anywhere”

    In my experience, walking is faster than the bus during rush hour.

  • Eponymous

    Very cool feature. It’s becoming increasingly the case that biking is the fastest way to get around DC. And given that DC doesn’t have all that much control over Metro, which doesn’t do neighborhood to neighborhood trips very well anyway, we need to get on rapid bus and more bike infrastructure like yesterday.

    • kate

      +1. I’d love to ride my bike to work instead of metro but I would feel really uncomfortable biking down some of the busier streets downtown that don’t have bike lanes.

      • Eponymous

        Gallery Place/Metro Center aren’t great for that, but most of the rest of the city is pretty decent – and the more of us bike, the more we can encourage better infrastructure! Also, I find that even if you have to detour for a few blocks to use the lanes, it’s always faster than using the bus/Metro, and often faster than driving/parking (especially at rush hour or around popular nightlife areas).


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