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This indicator is measured by:
  • Monthly Metrorail Ridership, Monthly Metrobus Ridership, and Monthly Circulator Ridership
Metrorail provides transportation for countless D.C., Maryland, and Virginia riders every day. Photo credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, via Wikimedia Commons
The District is widely known for its clean, accessible, and convenient public transportation system. The three main components of this system are Metrorail, Metrobus, and the D.C. Circulator. Since 1976, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has operated a rail system, known as Metrorail, in the District and its surrounding areas. Since then, Metrorail has linked people to businesses, businesses to homes, and people to people. 

Metrobus complements Metrorail by providing access to high quality public transportation in areas not currently served by Metrorail. Many residents also use the bus to travel from their homes, offices, and schools to Metrorail stations. A popular third form of public transportation in the District is the D.C. Circulator. The D.C. Circulator bus does just what its name suggests—it circulates along routes that contain major commercial, educational, and entertainment venues. The D.C. Circulator connects major activity centers areas such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Navy Yard, Union Station, and Dupont Circle. 

As a system, the District’s public transportation options make traveling the city more convenient and accessible while reducing the number of cars on the District’s streets. Escalators and elevators make Metrorail convenient for families, people with mobility limitations, and bikers. Cyclists can carry their bicycles on board Metrobus anytime and Metrorail during non-rush hour trips; the front of each Metrobus is equipped with two bike racks to accommodate those who bike. Residents can access the NextBus website on their computers or mobile devices to determine exactly when the bus will arrive in real time based on buses’ mobile tracking devices. To access the Circulator NextBus Arrival feature, visit the Circulator website. WMATA’s online Trip Planner is another convenient feature. By simply typing your starting point and your destination, Trip Planner will provide details on cost, suggested routes, and departure and arrival times. 

Public transportation reduces congestion and the emissions of pollutants, including carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to climate change. Public transportation riders also save money. The average American can save over $10,000 by using public transportation and owning one less car in his or her household.                                                                                                           

A Metrobus bound for McPherson Square. Photo credit: District Department of Transportation
How is the indicator defined? How often updated?

This indicator depicts monthly ridership for Metrobus buses that operate in the District. Metrorail ridership includes those trips that originate in District Metrorail stations. Monthly Circulator ridership is based on ridership from all Circulator buses. Monthly Metrorail and Metrobus ridership data is provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and monthly Circulator ridership data is provided by the District Department of Transportation. 

What influences this indicator?

Many factors at the individual and societal level contribute to the usage of Metrorail, Metrobus, and D.C. Circulator transportation. The ease of access to Metrorail stations, Metrobus, and D.C. Circulator bus stops influences ridership. Car drivers deterred by the high prices of fuel, parking, and maintenance may opt to use these more economically efficient modes of transport. Concern for reducing one’s carbon footprint may convince some riders to use public transportation as well. Personal schedule conflicts with public transportation service, or a lack of a convenient bus or rail station near some areas of residences and workplaces may deter ridership. 

D.C. Circulator
A Circulator bus bound for Union Station. Photo credit: CoolCaesar, via Wikimedia Commons
What you can do to help:
  • If you don’t plan on walking or biking to your destination, take the Metrorail, Metrobus, or D.C. Circulator when possible.
  • If you typically drive to work, try using public transit for a week and see what you think.  

Related indicators: Air Quality, CO2e levels, Capital BikeShare, Walkability, Cars 

Links to related programs

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Website 



D.C. Circulator 

Other Links 

Metro Services for Smart Phones

Metro Cost Savings Calculator

Downloadable Metrorail Map 

Downloadable Metrobus Timetables 

MetroAccess Paratransit Service for people whose disability prevents them from using rail or bus 

Fast Facts about the D.C. Circulator  

goDCgo Facebook page 

Building the Washington Metro, an Online Exhibit 


District Department of Transportation Sustainability Plan 

Metro’s “On the Go with Metro: Train Operator” Video 

D.C. Circulator Videos  

Circulator Facebook Page

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