About this study
Metro launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify the best and most cost-effective solutions to address future ridership, service, and reliability needs on these Metrorail lines. The approval of dedicated funding from Metro’s jurisdictional partners provides funding to bring the existing system into a state of good repair and keep it well maintained going forward; however, there are future transportation needs that we must begin addressing now.
Serve current and future ridership needs
The maximum number of trains that can run through the shared lines using existing techonogy is 26 trains per hour (TPH) in each direction, and that 26 TPH is divided between the three lines. Today, trains on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines are already crowded during rush hours, when some Orange Line trains between Court House and Foggy Bottom are at maximum capacity. By 2040, both population and jobs along the three lines are forcast to grow by more than 30%, which is estimated to increase Metrorail ridership by 18%. Even with alll 8-car trains, there simply is not enough rush-hour train capacity to meet the future demand.
Maintain and improve on-time performance
As a result of Metro’s emergency repair program, SafeTrack, a robust preventive maintenance program, and schedule adjustments, on-time performance has significantly improved on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines, but it’s still below our target for good service. In April 2016, Metro did not run the scheduled number of trains during the AM commute even once. Things have improved a bit: In April 2019, Metro ran the expected number of trains 60% of the time.
This is not a matter of not having the trains, or the employees to run them. Rather, it’s usually the result of congestion caused by having many trains sharing a single track.
A delay on one line can create a domino effect, impacting all three lines. In severe cases, delays can even spill over onto the Yellow and Green lines. While about half of delays are caused by mechanical failures and infrastructure issues and can be addressed with ongoing maintenance, the other half is caused by unanticipated problems such as sick passengers, police activity, customers holding doors, and other factors.
When unanticipated disruptions like this occur, Metro’s ability to minimize the impact of single tracking or to quickly deploy relief trains is limited due to the two-track system and available infrastructure. Addressing these limitations requires solutions that will allow Metro to manage disruptions more efficiently.
Increase operational flexibility
The physical constraints on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines limit Metro’s service patterns, meaning how Metro operates trains. At the same time, Metro’s robust preventive maintenance program is necessary to the long-term health of the system. To accommodate track work and minimize the inconvenience to customers, Metro needs more areas where trains can switch tracks or turn around, allowing Metro to reduce lengthy single-tracking and to deploy better service patterns during disruptions or special events.
The ability to run varied service patterns may also be more efficient, providing the appropriate number of trains to address your travel needs, while reducing unnecessary or redundant trips. In some areas, underutilized trains run nearly empty all the way to the end, while other parts of the system that are already crowded need more service. This end-to-end service on all lines at all times comes at a real cost to taxpayers. Metro could better serve taxpayers by building the infrastructure for added flexibility to increase service where demand is strong, and to maintain or reduce service levels in other areas. Taxpayer subsidies would also be reduced if station areas are more intensely developed (transit-oriented development). TOD would generate higher ridership and revenue, which in turn would reduce the taxpayer subsidy.
Meet sustainability targets
Metro's Energy Action Plan is our roadmap to reduce energy usage, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and save money through green initiatives. Public transit systems like Metro already play a vital role in providing sustainable transportation that keeps cars off the road. The BOS Study supports the Energy Action Plan by identifying ways to make Metrorail more cost effective and energy efficient.
Visit the Documents and FAQs page for more information on this study.
How this benefits you
Through this study, Metro will look for a solution or solutions that will aim to:
Improve service with more trains and less crowding. Trains are already crowded through Rosslyn during rush hours and will continue to get worse.
Get you where you're going, in less time.
Reduce delays due to service issues and track and maintenance work.
Optimize ridership to provide more cost-efficient rail service.
The project area includes the Orange and Silver lines, from Vienna and the future Ashburn Station to the New Carrollton and Largo Town Center stations, as well as the Blue Line between the Pentagon and Largo stations. Once Silver Line Phase 2 opens, the total area includes seven jurisdictions, 44 Metrorail stations, and 56 miles of track.
While any improvements recommended by this study will focus on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines, the analysis will also consider potential operational impacts on other lines in the Metrorail system.
Study process - finding the solution
The BOS Study is a type of study known as an Alternatives Analysis (AA). The AA is a two-year effort that complies with best-practices guidelines from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This will allow Metro to move forward with the study recommendation(s) and compete for federal funding, while reducing the length and cost of any future environmental review process. The study recommendations will be based on data analysis, with input from regional stakeholders and the public to define the problems and determine the preferred solution.
The study is likely to recommend a comprehensive strategy to improve service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines, consisting of both long-term and shorter-range solutions. The recommendations will be based on input from a large set of external stakeholders and the public.
Visit Get Involved for the latest information on ways for the public to participate and make sure your voice gets heard!
Project phases: at a glance
- Purpose & Need: This phase identifies the study's purpose and states why improvements to the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines are needed. This phase includes an assessment of key issues and trends in the study area.
- Alternatives Development: The project team will identify and prepare conceptual designs for a set of options that address the purpose and need defined in the previous phase.
- Alternatives Evaluation: The project team will then compare those options against each other using a set of evaluation criteria, including impacts on ridership, capacity, reliability, and service levels.
- Cost/Benefit Analysis: The project team will assess the total construction and operating costs for each alterative against all the benefits it would produce, to help Metro leadership, stakeholders, and the public identify the most cost-effective option.
- Selection of a Preferred Alternative: Based on the comparative analysis of alternatives and input from the public and key stakeholders, the project team will support Metro’s leadership in selecting a preferred solution, described in NEPA terms as a "locally-preferred alternative" (LPA). That LPA is likely to be a comprehensive corridor strategy that includes both long-range and short-range solutions.
After this study is completed and Metro has identified an LPA, it will carry that solution forward through the federal environmental review process, full design, and competition for federal funding. That future phase of project development will also include additional opportunities for public and stakeholder input.
In addition to input from the public, the study will be guided by input from six technical and advisory committees:
See Get Involved to engage and share your input on the study.
See Documents and FAQs for project documents, news highlights, and further reading.