Transit Photography » United States »

Washington, DC & Surrounding Area

The White HouseOctober 18, 2015

The White House
October 18, 2015

Transportation in the Washington, DC metro area has a complicated organizational structure on account of the fact that the area covers two states (Maryland and Virginia) as well as the District of Columbia itself.  There is one regional transportation operator, and many of the local governments in the region operate their own services as well.

The regional operator is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), best known as Metro.  Prior to WMATA’s establishment by Congress in 1967, the area’s streetcar and bus lines were operated by various private companies.  Ground was broken on the Metrorail system in 1969 and it opened on March 27, 1976.  Today, Metrorail has 91 stations and 117 miles of track, with one extension under construction.  Metrorail carries more passengers than any other rapid transit system in the United States except New York City, with over 217 million passengers using the system in fiscal year 2012.

WMATA also operates fixed route bus service under the Metrobus banner.  Metrobus was founded in 1973 when WMATA bought out the four remaining bus companies that were still operating in the area.  WMATA now operates a fleet of over 1,500 buses on over 300 routes to over 12,000 bus stops throughout the region, providing transportation to over 133 million people each year.  Metrobus operates an environmentally friendly fleet with many compress natural gas, hybrid diesel electric, and clean diesel burning buses.

In addition, many of the local governments in the region, such as Montgomery County in Maryland and the City of Alexandria, operate their own bus systems within their jurisdictions in coordination with WMATA.  DDOT operates a single streetcar line along H Street and Benning Road in Northeast DC.  There are also two local commuter rail systems.  MARC trains operate from Union Station to Maryland and West Virginia, while Virginia Railway Express trains operate from Union Station to Virginia.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Regional transportation in the Washington, DC area is overseen by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). WMATA was founded in 1967, began construction on the Metrorail system in 1969, and began operating Metrobus in 1973. Today, Metrorail is the second busiest subway in the United States and Metrobus has one of the largest fleets in the country.

DC Circulator

The DC Circulator is managed by the District Department of Transportation and WMATA and operated by First Transit. Service began in 2005 on two routes and service was gradually expanded to include five routes serving all four quadrants of the city. Circulator buses do not operate on a fixed schedule. Instead, they use a headway based schedule; each route operates every 10 minutes during its hours of operation. The service used Van Hool A300Ks and Van Hool A330s until 2015, at which time New Flyer XDE40s were introduced to the Circulator fleet.

DC Streetcar

The DC Streetcar, managed by the District Department of Transportation, is the first streetcar to serve Washington since the original streetcars in the capital ceased to operate in 1962. The system's first line opened on February 16, 2017 after numerous construction setbacks and delays. The first line to open operates along H Street and Benning Road. However, it was initially planned to construct a line in Anacostia first. While ground was broken for that line in 2004, no significant work has taken place on it since 2010. Other streetcar lines have been proposed to create a citywide network, including an extension of the existing H Street/Benning Road Line west to K Street and Georgetown.

Ride On (Montgomery County Transit)

Ride On is the county operated bus system in Montgomery County, MD. It is one of the largest medium sized transit agencies in the United States, operating over 80 routes with a fleet of over 500 buses based at three garages throughout the county. Service began on March 31, 1975. In the spring of 2000, two buses were repainted silver to commemorate Ride On's 25th anniversary. In 2015, three buses were given a special 40th anniversary wrap to commemorate that anniversary.

Prince George's County TheBus

Prince George's County TheBus is operated by Veolia (TransDev) under contract to the Prince George's County Government. The system has a fleet of Gillig Phantoms and Gillig Advantages serving 29 routes that operate on weekdays only.

Shuttle UM

Shuttle UM is the student run transit system serving the University of Maryland-College Park. Shuttle UM was founded in 1972 by the university's Black Student Union to provide an alternative to walking for students traversing campus at night. In its first year of service, Shuttle UM provided 65,000 rides. Today, Shuttle UM provides nearly 3 million rides annually across 31 routes using a fleet of about 60 buses. While some drivers are full time employees of the university, many bus operator shifts, dispatching, and other functions to run Shuttle UM are handled by students.

MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter)

MARC is MTA Maryland's commuter rail system connecting Baltimore and Washington. MARC also operates a third line to Frederick, Brunswick, and eastern West Virginia. MARC operates 93 trains a day over its three lines. Since December 7, 2013, limited Penn Line service has also been available on the weekends.


DASH is the bus system operated by the Alexandria Transit Company, a non-profit organization wholly owned by the City of Alexandria. It was founded in 1984 to supplement the WMATA Metrobus routes running within Alexandria. It now has 10 routes served by a fleet of over 100 buses. DASH isn't just a name, it is actually an acronym that stands for Driving Alexandrians Safely Home.

City of Falls Church "GEORGE" Thomas SLF Buses

The Thomas SLFs were operated from the Arlington Division by WMATA for the City of Falls Church's GEORGE service.

Fairfax Connector

Fairfax Connector was established in 1984 by the Fairfax County government. As of 2015, there are over 50 routes served by a fleet of nearly 300 buses, all of which are operated by MV Transportation under a contract to Fairfax County.

Loudoun County Transit

Loudoun County Transit is operated by the Loudoun County, Virginia government. It operates commuter services to Rosslyn, the Pentagon, and Downtown Washington via the Dulles Access Road, as well as local bus service between Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, and the Wiehle-Reston East WMATA Silver Line station.

PRTC (Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission)

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) is the transportation system serving Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia. PRTC operates two services. OmniRide is a commuter bus service operating from Prince William County to downtown Washington, DC and other employment centers in Northern Virginia. OmniLink is the local bus service within Prince William County, operating both fixed routes and demand-response service. PRTC was established in 1986.

VRE (Virginia Railway Express)

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) was launched in the summer of 1992 on two routes, connecting Washington, DC to Manassas and Fredericksburg. Service runs on weekdays only. Ridership has grown quickly since the service was launched, and VRE's fleet is now entirely multi-level in order to handle this high level of demand. Service was extended to Spotsylvania in November 2015. VRE is owned jointly by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission.