All of Metro's top 10 ridership days have occurred in the past five years. As best as I can determine, here are the records for the highest ridership days in Metrorail's history. Notice that nearly all of these have been set by typical days (cherry blossom festival, basketball or baseball games, etc.) since 2010. Two are related to Obama's first inaugural in 2009, and one is related to a women's rally in 2008.
- 2009-01-20 - 1,120,000 (Obama Inauguration)
- 2010-04-02 - 891,240 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Wizards basketball game)
- 2010-04-01 - 877,890 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Capitals hockey game)
- 2013-04-10 - 870,171 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Wizards basketball/Nationals baseball/Immigration reform rally)
- 2010-04-10 - 867,624 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Nationals baseball)
- 2009-01-19 - 866,681 (Obama inaugural pre-events)
- 2010-06-08 - 856,578 (Nationals baseball with Stephen Strasburg on the mound/James Taylor and Carole King concert)
- 2008-07-11 - 854,638 (Nationals baseball/Women of Faith Conference)
- 2010-04-08 - 852,103 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Nationals baseball/Stars on Ice)
- 2011-06-15 - 851,752 (Nationals baseball/U.S. Open tennis)
- 2004-06-09 - 850,636 (Reagan state funeral)
- 2008-06-25 - 846,388 (Smithsonian Folklife Festival/Nationals baseball)
- 2012-03-23 - 845,669 (Cherry Blossom Festival)
- 2012-06-07 - 844,671 (Nationals Baseball Game)
- 2008-07-10 - 844,530 (Nationals baseball)
- 2010-04-09 - 843,573 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Capitals hockey)
- 2010-06-18 - 843,501 (Nationals baseball with Strasburg/Maxwell and Jill Scott concert)
- 2010-06-23 - 840,853 (Nationals baseball with Strasburg/James Taylor and Carole King concert)
- 2010-04-06 - 840,832 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Wizards basketball)
- 2008-07-08 - 835,072 (Nationals baseball/Wizards basketball)
- 2008-07-02 - 834,956 (Smithsonian Folklife Festival)
- 2010-10-30 - 834,183 (Rally to Restore Sanity)
- 2011-06-14 - 832,789 (Nationals baseball/U.S. Open tennis)
- 2011-07-14 - 832,292 (tourist season)
- 2007-04-03 - 831,508 (Cherry Blossom Festival/Nationals baseball)
- 2008-06-24 - 831,464 (Nationals baseball/Wizards basketball)
- 2011-06-17 - 830,200 (Nationals baseball/U.S. Open tennis)
- 2011-06-22 - 826,905 (Nationals baseball)
- 2011-06-16 - 824,027 (Nationals baseball/U.S. Open tennis)
Metro can only run a maximum of 8-car trains -- not 9 or 10 or 12. An 8-car train carries 960 people (that's 120 percent of seating capacity), and due to bottlenecks at Rosslyn and L'Enfant Plaza the design maximum number of trains that can be run on all lines in both directions is 72. Therefore, design maximum for a 19-hour day is 1,313,280 trips. In fact, it's lower than that -- about 1.1 million trips per day. We know that because businesses are not open all day and all night. Rush-hour capacity is the key. That's a morning rush (defined as 5 AM to 9:30 AM) capacity of 311,040, and an evening rush (defined as 3:30 PM to 8 PM) capacity of 311,040.
So: Metro believes that about 1.1 million trips per day is actual capacity.
Metro found that, by 2030, ridership growth will have reached 970,000 trips per day. (This includes projected Silver Line stations -- 44,000 daily boardings by 2020 -- and the new Potomac Yards station.) That's an average day -- not Independence Day or an inaugural.
BUT: Certain lines carry more people than others, and certain stations are accessed by more people than others. Metro defines a "congested" car as one with 100 passengers, and a "crowded" car as one with 120 passengers.
Metro is currently funded to have only 50 percent of trains running 8 cars by 2020. If that funding level stays in place, the Orange Line will be congested in 2015 and will reach capacity in 2020. Yellow, Green, and Blue Line south of the Pentagon will be congested by 2020. Only the Blue Line west of Rosslyn and the Red Line (which is running 8-car trains already nearly all day already, thus its capacity is already super-high) will be uncongested.
If Metro receives additional funding, so that 8-car trains can be run 100 percent of the time on all lines by 2020, the Orange Line will be congested in 2015 but not reach capacity until 2025. Yellow, Green, and Blue Line south of the Pentagon will be congested by 2030. The Blue Line west of Rosslyn and the Red Line will be uncongested.
In comparison, for Obama's inauguration in 2009, Metro provided 1,120,000 rail trips. That's what WMATA calls "at capacity". WMATA believes the system will be like that, every single workday, by 2035 or 2040 or so.
Get ready.... it's comin' for ya!