Union Station Simulation

October 19th, 2010

The Metrorail Station at Union Station is the busiest station in the Metrorail system, with 70,000 passengers entering and exiting daily.  This station has experienced substantial ridership growth in the past three decades from the development of surrounding DC neighborhoods, expanded intercity travel and commuter rail’s growing popularity.  The existing station, designed in the 70s, can no longer accommodate the current and future passenger travel.   Passengers experience congestion on a daily basis.

In late 2009, Metro, in collaboration with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), initiated a Union Station Capacity and Access Improvements Study.   The objective is to assess capacity deficiencies and develop alternatives to enhance pedestrian access, increase station capacity, reduce travel time and improve connectivity to the other transportation modes.  To be able to compare the benefits of the proposed alternatives, Metro used a pedestrian simulation tool, developed by Legion, to quantify and assess the performance throughout the station’s north mezzanine under the current station conditions and with the proposed capacity improvements.  We’ve put this post up so people can see the kinds of analysis tools Metro is using to evaluate station capacity and to visualize capacity and operating issues.  Metro will be using the pedestrian simulation tool and analysis at other stations experiencing crowded conditions, such as the Gallery Place-Chinatown station.

The video above serves to illustrate the current (2009) conditions in the north mezzanine of the Union Station Metrorail station during the afternoon peak period. The 2009 simulation will be used in Metro’s work for two purposes. First, the 2009 simulation allows Metro to calibrate the pedestrian simulation model and to be confident that the model is correctly reflecting existing pedestrian behavior. Second, the 2009 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 north mezzanine connects the main terminal of Union Station (Amtrak, MARC, VRE) with 1st Street Northeast and the Metrorail platform.  Individual passengers are represented as colored dots, with each color representing an eventual destination.  For example, yellow dots represent passengers going to the Amtrak/commuter rail concourse.  While most dots are narrow, the wider dots illustrate passengers with luggage 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 queue up to ride the escalator from the Metro station “free area” up to the Union Station main terminal.

Metro is currently reviewing the proposed alternative improvements using the pedestrian simulation tool.   We’ll be putting up additional simulation results on this site as they become available.

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  1. November 19th, 2010 at 06:14 | #1

    So cool!

  2. November 22nd, 2010 at 10:23 | #2

    Wow! Cool visualization. God, I’m a geek.

  3. Jen Preston
    December 1st, 2010 at 19:18 | #3

    Are you going to do any work on the south mezzanine? It also gets crazy crowded with people. The escalator crossover dance that people go through daily on the platform while trying to get out of the station or onto the platform is crazy. Simple changes (like changing the direction of the escalators thereby preventing the majority of the crossover to begin would make a huge difference for daily riders).

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