Gallery Pl-Chinatown Capacity Improvements Study Underway
The Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station is the third-busiest station in the Metrorail system, with an average of 26,000 daily passenger boardings in May 2011. Combined with the Metro Center Station less than 1,000 feet away, these two stations facilitate downtown transfers on all five Metrorail lines, with the Yellow, Green and Red Lines at Gallery Place and the Orange, Blue and Red Lines at Metro Center. The Gallery Place Station consists of two side platforms that serve the Red Line on the upper level and one center platform that serves the Green and Yellow Lines on the lower level.
Redevelopment in the station area catalyzed by the opening of the Verizon Center in late 1997 has drastically increased the demand at this station, resulting in crowded conditions during the peak travel times throughout the station, including mezzanines, platforms and escalators. Weekday ridership has increased from an average of 6,500 boardings in 1997 to an average of 26,000 in 2011. Although ridership has stabilized over the past few years, more growth is expected in the near future with new CityCenterDC development currently under construction at the old convention center site at 10th Street and H Street NW.
Metro’s planners are currently undertaking the Gallery Place Station Access and Capacity Improvement study, with the purpose of identifying capacity constraints and developing improvement alternatives at the station. Similar to the Union Station Access Study, this study will provide simulations of the projected pedestrian environment on the platform at key milestone years, and will measure the effectiveness of the proposed capacity improvements.
To date, Metro’s planners have finished the assessment of existing conditions and analyzed the bottlenecks where passengers experience congestion during peak travel times. The main sources of congestion include several factors.
A unique feature of Gallery Place is the width of the Red Line platforms on the upper level, which are narrower than those at other core transfer stations due to the proximity of existing historic buildings directly above the cavern on G Street NW. In fact, the National Portrait Gallery was stabilized with 296 piles, according to The Great Society Subway (Schrag, 148). The buildings on the north side of G Street (just above the westbound Red Line platform) are also stabilized by piles.
On the Red Line platform, heavy congestion occurs when passengers arrive at the westbound platform from the Green and Yellow lines and from the 7th Street entrance. When a six-car train arrives, these passengers must walk more than one car-length down the platform to reach the first available door: the trains pull to the front of the platform for safety reasons while the system is being operated using manual train control. (Metro has been operating in manual mode since June 2009.) Due to this, boarding passengers are often met by a wall of disembarking passengers seeking to transfer or exit from the east side of the station. This problem is exacerbated because waiting passengers do not spread evenly across the platform, and instead tend to cluster near the back of the train at the most crowded part of the platform. These factors combine to result in delays to both passengers and train operations.
The “T”-shaped junction connecting the upper and lower platforms results in a major chokepoint for passengers making a transfer in the peak hour. Passengers only have one choice of direction, unlike at other “cross-shaped” transfer platforms, where passengers can choose to move to the side of the platform that is less congested.
Passengers on the lower level experience significant queues at the escalators during peak hours. Passengers must also cross over the escalator bank at the upper platform level to continue to the 7th Street/F Street mezzanine.
The following video is a simulation that illustrates the existing conditions (using 2010 data) on the Red Line platform at Gallery Place-Chinatown during the afternoon peak period. The 2010 simulation will be used in Metro’s work for two purposes. First, the simulation allows Metro to calibrate the pedestrian simulation model and to be confident that the model is correctly reflecting existing pedestrian behavior. Second, the model serves as a point of comparison with future improvements that will be tested so that the degree of improvement offered by each design alternative can be assessed compared to current conditions.
The Red Line platform connects to the lower level and the upper mezzanine in a “T” shaped intersection. Individual passengers are represented as colored dots, with each color representing an eventual destination. For example, pink dots represent passengers transferring from the lower level to the westbound Red Line. While most dots are narrow, the wider dots illustrate passengers with luggage or strollers who use the wider fare gates for easier Metro system access and egress. The simulation shows the severe crowding that occurs regularly as Metrorail passengers and others wait to board trains at the rear of the Red Line platform.
In the coming months, Metro will identify and evaluate a group of improvement alternatives for structural analysis and impact assessment while also investigating some short-term solutions. We’ll be posting additional details as the study progresses. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on the study.