Metro Blue Orange Silver Capacity & Reliability Study

Documents and FAQs

Home | View ConceptsAbout This Study | Get Involved | Documents and FAQs | En Español

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. 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!

Back To Top

Why is Metro conducting this study now?

The Blue, Orange and Silver lines share one set of tracks from the Rosslyn tunnel, through downtown DC, to Stadium- Armory. This bottleneck limits the number of trains that can serve customers during rush hour. In addition, running three lines on one track requires precision, and even a minor problem with a single train can impact the entire rush hour for all three lines.

At the same time, future population and job growth in the region is expected to generate an additional 40,000 new rides per day to the Blue, Orange and Silver lines by 2040.

The good news is we can begin to alleviate these problems now and prepare for future demand. The Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) will identify ways to improve service and position Metro to serve the future needs of our region. Projects of this scope, can take 10-20 years to plan, design, fund, and construct, which is why we need to start planning now.

Back To Top

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

Customers on Metro’s Blue, Orange, and Silver lines already experience delays, crowding, and congestion due to limitations in the system’s design. For example, some Orange Line trains carry well over 150 passengers per car during the morning, 25% higher than what Metro considers acceptable. As a result, service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines is the least reliable in the system, accounting for 6 out of every 10 trips eligible for a Rush Hour Promise credit, while carrying only 40% of Metrorail riders. Without changes, there is no room for 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

Back To Top

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

Metro looks at a variety factors such as population changes, land use, travel patterns and economic factors to forecast service demands 10-20 years into the future. Currently, the Blue, Orange and Silver lines pose the greatest need and due to the complexity and lengthy timetable needed for capital projects, we need to begin planning now. Similar studies may be needed at some point in the future for other lines in the system.

Back To Top

How long will this study take?

Two years. The study began in January 2019 and is expected to be complete in late 2020.

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, 2. developing potential alternatives, which is currently underway, 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.

Back To Top

Why will the study take so long?

Improvements to the Blue, Orange and Silver line will impact the entire region and requires careful consideration and collaboration with the public, local jurisdictions, and the business community to determine the best path forward. Through this process we will identify and evaluate various options, conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and recommend a locally-preferred alternative. The locally-preferred alternative may include a package of improvements that will be presented to Metro’s General Manager and Board of Directors for review and approval.

Back To Top

What happens after the study is complete?

Once Metro’s Board of Directors approves a locally-preferred alternative (LPA), Metro will need to secure funding and determine the project development timeline.

Back To Top

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

We value the feedback provided by the public and our stakeholders. All feedback will be shared with the project team and management for consideration as part of the analysis and recommendation of a Locally Preferred Alternative. The WMATA Compact also requires public hearings for any major system changes, which will provide additional opportunities for input prior to implementation.

Metro has a robust Public Participation Plan (PPP) that was approved by Metro’s Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration in 2014. As part of the outreach, the BOS Study engaged the four founding principles of PPP: inclusivity, collaboration, responsiveness and consistency. This ensures that we receive a wide and diverse array of opinions.

Be sure to sign up for the project email list to get updates and stay involved. Your opinion matters!

Back To Top

What is WMATA doing today to address Metro delays?

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.

Over the past several years, we have seen significant improvement in on-time performance, with nearly 9 out of 10 rail trips systemwide now arriving on time. We accomplished this by putting safety first, implementing programs like SafeTrack to address the system’s most critical needs and accompanied by a robust preventive maintenance plan. The approval of dedicated funding from Metro’s jurisdictional partners has also provided necessary funding to bring the system to a state of good repair and keep it maintained going forward. 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 half of delays on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines are caused by mechanical or system problems; the other half 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.

Back To Top

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.

Back To Top

Past news