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Of the system’s 86 stations, 32 (or 37%) had fewer than 5,000 average weekday riders (boardings) in 2007. If the entire system is subsidized by taxes, these stations are the most deeply subsidized. Given the huge expense of the station construction, maintenance, and staff, is it acceptable to let these stations remain underutilized?
Hell no, I thought—high-density neighborhoods with functioning-at-capacity stations for all! But then I noticed that Goodspeed’s list of the least-trafficked stations places the one I use—the one I need—second.
The Cheverly station attracted an average of fewer than 5,000 weekday riders in 2007, and I’ve figured the station was meeting its market—hey, good luck getting a parking spot there after 8:30 a.m. After all, Metro stops that are outside of the city—which are almost by definition high-density places—but not endpoints on the lines are going to get fewer regular commuters. The fact that New Carrollton and Vienna are among the 20 busiest stations suggests that the Orange Line is in high demand for people driving in from around Annapolis or deep into NoVa. Building condos and strip malls near the Cheverly station, true, may make the station busier. But (and, sure, yeah, I’m being a bit NIMBY in saying this) to suggest that stations in residential areas are “underperforming” and must attract more riders is to think of the D.C. Metro map as a chart for some kind of Soviet ideal, where all people from all areas of equal density all equally, happily step onto Metro trains at the same time. Get those trains to run on time, and maybe I’ll even consider it.
I (clearly) have no schooling in urban planning. But it’s not clear to me what harm is being done by having fewer than 5,000 riders at a Metro station. Especially without evidence of who or what, exactly, is “underperforming.”