Metro Blue Orange Silver Capacity & Reliability Study

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Project Documents

New documents will be posted here as the study progresses.

Previous Studies

Interested in learning more? See the links below to get started. The project team recommends starting with the summary document, which explains how these previous studies are related and provides direct links to each study document.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why should I care about the BOS Study?

Over the next 20 years, the number of riders using these three lines is expected to increase by 18% overall and 30% during rush hours. That translates into about 40,000 additional riders per day. Trains are already at maximum capacity during rush hours between the Court House and Rosslyn stations, and absent any major changes, that situation will only worsen. Another factor to consider is frequency. Metro is limited to running 26 trains per hour (TPH) through the Rosslyn tunnel. Blue, Orange, and Silver line trains operate every 8 minutes by line, alternating through the tunnel, resulting in a train every 2-3 minutes. The service - divided equally between lines - doesn't necessarily match ridership levels (e.g. Orange Line trains are crowded). Improving frequencies to pre-2017 levels - every 6 minutes - would require cutting service to one line due to the tunnel's 26 train hourly limit. For example, in 2016 Metro could operate 11 Orange and 10 Silver line trains in peak periods, but only 5 Blue trains.

This study seeks to identify a project or projects that will relieve those constraints.

The impacts of regional population and employment growth on ridership demand within the study area. Analysis shows population will grow 37% and jobs by 30%. That growth will add around 40,000 new riders to these three lines - equivalent to a packed Nats stadium!

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Why is Metro conducting this study now?

Orange and Silver line trains between Court House and Rosslyn are crowded in the morning and needs to be addressed today. At the same time, our regional and jurisdictional planning partners are forecasting explosive growth in people and jobs by 2040, and we have every reason to believe that will generate substantial increases in ridership. It's anticipated that regional growth will bring 40,000 new rides per day to the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines by 2040.

The BOS Study will take a comprehensive look at this critical corridor to determine what is needed and how to fix it. Planning, designing, funding, and constructing the type of project to address these needs can take 10-20 years to deliver. That's why we need to start planning now to meet the needs of the future.

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Why is Metro focusing on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines?

The Blue, Orange, and Silver lines have urgent ridership and reliability issues today. For example, the most crowded Orange Line trains in the morning might carry well over 150 passengers per car, 25% higher than Metro's maximum threshold. As a result of the reliability issues, Blue, Orange, and Silver line riders account for 6 out of every 10 trips that quality for a Rush Hour Promise credit, but carry only 40% of riders. Without changes, there is no room for the forecasted ridership growth.

4 out of every 10 riders use the B-O-S lines. 6 out of every 10 trips qualify for a refund for a dleay of 15 minutes or more.*WMATA Rush Hour Promise

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Won’t an increase in ridership also affect the other lines in the system?

Metro continually monitors and evaluates ridership, land use, travel, and economic data to help make informed decisions. Once forecasts and trends indicate potential issues within a 10- to 20-year timeframe, we need to start planning for the future. Currently, the Blue, Orange and Silver lines pose the most urgent need but similar studies may be needed at some point for other lines in the system.

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How long will this study take?

Two years.

Study process timeline. Shows the entire study will take from the Spring of 2019 until winter 2020. The study tasks are organized into five broad categories: 1. purpose and need, which is currently underway, 2. developing potential alternatives, 3. evaluating alternatives, 4. analyzing all costs and benefits, and 5. selecting a preferred solution. Public and stakeholder engagement will take place throughout the two years.

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Why will the study take so long?

Due to the long-term impact of the study on the region, it's important the study be thorough and collaborate with the public and key stakeholders. We will identify and evaluate various options for how to improve the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines, conduct a cost-benefit analysis for each option, and recommend a locally-preferred alternative. The locally-preferred alternative will then be presented to Metro's General Manager and Board of Directors for review and approval.

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What happens after the study is complete?

Once Metro leadership and the General Manager have identified a locally-preferred alternative (LPA), it will be presented to the Metro's Board of Directors for review and approval along with funding options and project timeline.

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What impact will my opinion have? Will it even matter?

Metro is committed to stakeholder and public engagement…and to making sure that engagement isn't used as a rubber stamp. Metro introduced a Public Participation Plan in 2014, approved by the WMATA Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration, which is founded on four principles: inclusivity, collaboration, responsiveness and consistency. These principles will be seen in all public engagement opportunities throughout the BOS study. All feedback collected through the study process will be analyzed, shared with the project team and management, and taken into consideration along with operation and structural assessments in order to develop a Locally Preferred Alternative. The WMATA Compact also requires public hearings for any major system changes. Multiple opportunities will be available throughout the process - be sure to sign up for the project email list to get updates and stay involved. Your opinion matters!

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What is WMATA doing today to address Metro delays?

Metro is committed to on-time performance, which has improved - nearly 9 out of 10 rail trips systemwide now arrive on time. Programs like SafeTrack have had a measurable positive impact, and will continue to do so as Metro ramps up its state of good repair program using the dedicated capital funding approved by Maryland, Virginia and DC. Metro has a full 10-year Capital Needs Inventory of repair and maintenance work that will continue to reduce delays and improve reliability. However, as noted under Study Purpose, only 50% of delays on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines are caused by mechanical or system problems; the other 50% are medical emergencies, police activity or other unanticipated issues beyond Metro's control. Those delays are projected to increase as ridership grows, which is why it is essential to develop a plan to improve this corridor.

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What is an Alternatives Analysis (AA)?

An Alternatives Analysis is a process for evaluating the costs, benefits, and impacts of transportation improvements. This two-year process will provide:

  • A thorough evaluation of Metro's needs and opportunities along the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines;
  • A range of options for addressing those needs;
  • A high level of stakeholder and public engagement;
  • The selection of a locally-preferred alternative (LPA);
  • The opportunity to adopt the LPA as part of its long-range transportation plan; and
  • The necessary documentation to apply for federal transportation funds.

Once it has been approved, the LPA will advance through separate federally-guided processes for project development, environmental review, and project design.

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