Operating Longest Possible Trains During the Peak Period

June 21st, 2013

Timeline to Have Sufficient Railcars to Operate 100% 8-Car Trains

Operating the longest trains possible during the peak periods will maximize the capacity of the existing Metrorail system by enabling operations of 100 percent eight-car trains. Metro will upgrade, replace or expand:

  • The rail car fleet
  • Traction power substations
  • Power cabling
  • Third rail
  • Train control systems
  • Storage tracks and maintenance bays in the yards

Purpose and Need

The Metro system’s core is the destination or transfer point for 80 percent of all rail riders system-wide. Crowded conditions during peak periods exist currently and, without rail fleet expansion, most rail lines will be even more congested by 2025. Operating 100 percent eight-car trains during peak periods and increasing the capacity of transfer stations (under a related initiative) will provide adequate capacity through 2025.


  • Allows lines to carry 35,000 more customers per hour during the peak period
  • Accelerates the modernization of the rail fleet
  • Attains adequate system capacity through 2040
  • Provides passengers with comfortable rides, including more seating
  • Satisfies latent travel demand with the increased capacity
  • Enhances reliability of traction power and related systems
  • Allows comprehensive heavy repair and overhaul of aging rail cars in a new central facility


  • Upgrade of systems and expansion of facilities should be complete prior to delivery of the new rail cars.
  • Improvements of core stations must be concurrent with this program (under a related initiative).
  • The long timeframe for developing the heavy repair and overhaul facility requires start in FY2014.
  • Dulles Yard expansion should be part of MWAA contract for the initial yard.

Status of Ongoing Projects

  • 7000-series cars are being fabricated with options for additional cars, though not enough to attain 100 percent eight-car trains. An 8000-series car must be developed to supply the remainder.
  • A survey of traction power conditions (2013) is identifying upgrades of traction power, cabling, third rail and train control.
  • 100 percent Eight-car Train Program (2013) is being finalized that will detail all elements of the program.
  • Rail Yard Plan (2013) will further define storage and maintenance needs.

FY2014-2019 Investments

  • These investments are already included and funded in Metro’s current six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP):
  • Engineering and design of maintenance/storage facilities
  • Power upgrades
  • Total – $100M

Order of Magnitude Cost Estimate

  • $2 billion (2012$)
  • $610 million: 220 railcars (7000 series)
  • $420 million: 140 railcars (8000 series)
  • $370 million: traction power and related systems upgrade
  • $600 million: storage and maintenance facilities expansion


8 car trains Timeline



For more information:

Download both the full Momentum plan and the Executive Summary.

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  1. JDC
    June 21st, 2013 at 10:37 | #1

    I could have sworn Metro was ordering some 428 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-to-replace-troubled-rail-cars-with-new-ones/2013/04/08/37ed97b0-a068-11e2-be47-b44febada3a8_story.html) 7000 series cars. Or is the reference above to a specific segment of the order?

  2. June 24th, 2013 at 09:51 | #2

    Two questions here: does this mean that you would still continue to run six-car trains at off-peak hours? Because that seems like a waste of capacity, especially if you’re going to continue running such awful off-peak headways.

    Secondly, why develop an 8000-series instead of just taking out additional options on the 7000-series? It’s already in production, you’d save via economy-of-scale, and you’d have a huge amount of standardization across the fleet. With lead times what they are you’d save on time AND money by just purchasing additional 7000-series cars.

  3. eponymous
    June 24th, 2013 at 09:55 | #3

    Metro needs to expand the number of fare gates at most stations FIRST. It is so crowded coming out of certain stations at rush hour (especially Farragut North and Foggy Bottom), that it is already dangerous – what if there was ever a fire? Adding more people to the mix will only make this problem worse.

  4. steve strauss
    June 24th, 2013 at 11:58 | #4

    Well this posting makes the assumption that all of the Metrorail lines will need all 8-car trains at the same time. The Board has now adopted peak-period Rail Service loading and frequency Guidelines that should be the driver for deploying 8-car trains. Right now there are segments of the rail system where Metro is not meeting the low end of the Guidelines, i.e. there is too much service and that service should be shifted to line segments operating towards the high end of the Guideline range. (There are perhaps some power issues preventing that now.)

    The 7000 series cars are designed to run only as 8-car or 4-car trains (increasingly not practical except on Thanksgiving and Christmas). There will need to be a serious policy discussion on whether the 8000 series cars should be married pairs rather than quads so that Metro will have the flexibility to operate 6 car trains in off-peak periods. The other option would be 8-car trains at wider headways, depending on off-peak ridership and desired loading levels. All 8-car trains off-peak will result in lots of empty car miles at the extremities of the system.

  5. Trip Ericson
    June 26th, 2013 at 06:26 | #5

    My question is why there are 8-car trains on the orange line but not on the blue line during Rush Plus as things stand now. I get why Rush Plus exists and the problems it’s trying to solve, but if you’re going to run blue trains only once every 10 minutes (once silver starts, anyway, though it sometimes feels like this now), why not run all of your 8-car trains on the blue line so when the blue trains eventually do make it to the stations, they at least have the capacity to deal with the flood of people?

  6. steve strauss
    June 26th, 2013 at 14:59 | #6

    The unanswered question in this posting on 8-car trains and Red line turnbacks is whether the existing turnbacks can accommodate 8-car trains. If yes, then the turnbacks are immaterial to the 8-car train issue. The Service Guidelines and ridership determine how to deploy 8-car trains and turnbacks. If no, then the WMATA Board has a policy issue to decide about rebuilding the turnbacks to accommodate 8-car trains or running car miles that may not be needed.

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