Virtual Gridlock:
Relive the Agony of D.C.'s Metro Shutdown
By David Ingold and Adam Pearce
March 16, 2016

Washington, D.C.’s Metro subway system transports more than 700,000 commuters to and from their jobs each day. But when the nation's second-busiest subway completely closes with a day’s notice, as was the case on Wednesday, commuters are left scrambling. Thanks to the Internet, we have a number of ways of visualizing those alternatives.

Drive to Work

The D.C. area already has a reputation for its traffic woes, and data pulled from Google's live traffic maps showed even more gridlock than usual. From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., highways into the district from Maryland and Virginia were choked with traffic. Within the city, meanwhile, buses provided normal service and free parking was available in lots and garages owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. But increased street traffic is expected through the system-wide shutdown, which is expected to last until 5 a.m. on Thursday.

Take an Uber

Uber prepared for the shutdown by announcing a cap on surge pricing at 3.9 times the normal rate. It also extended its carpooling option to the entire Washington area and tried to lure its drivers onto the road by guaranteeing a $30-an-hour wage during the morning commute, according to the Washington Post. We tracked surge pricing data for UberX, the company's least expensive option. Fares increased the most in Maryland and Virginia, where rates reached as high as 3.4 times the normal price in Alexandria. Within the capital, prices were double in northwest D.C. for most of Wednesday morning, while the rest of the city had normal fares.

Ride the Capital Bikeshare

Washington's popular bicycle-sharing program offered free 24-hour memberships at all of its stations on Wednesday. Commuters took 4,514 trips this morning, according to Capital Bikeshare, a 16 percent increase from the same time period last week. Use among walk-up customers – riders who don’t have an annual membership – more than doubled. The impact can be seen on the company's availability map, which tracks the ratio of available bikes to open parking spaces. Completely red pointers show areas out of bikes, and yellow pointers are stations too full for riders to park. The system appeared overloaded by 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the company's data, with few bikes available north of Logan Circle and an absence of parking for those who had made it downtown.