Free Rides on Washington Metro’s Opening Day

Two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, Washington, D.C. was getting ready to inaugurate its own underground public transit system, the new Washington Metro.

It may shock you to hear this, but on Metro’s opening day, Saturday, March 27th, 1976, all rides were free from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Don’t expect to see that again.

initial map of the Washington Metro system (Washington Post)
initial map of the Washington Metro system (Washington Post)

Below is the Washington Post article from Friday, sharing the great news.

Washington’s first 4.6-mile Metro subway line will begin public operation Saturday with free rides for everybody from about 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Officials of the transit authority said yesterday that they expected no problems that would delay the opening, although the 15 available two-car train units and related equipment still have some “bugs” that are being adjusted.

Car doors sometimes stick and there have been indications of electricial [sic] problems, but none of a major nature, official said.

Ralph L. Wood, chief of operations and maintenance, told the Metro board that “the brakes are awfully noisy” on some of the cars, but they pose no safety problem.

The line that will open Saturday runs from the Rhode Island Avenue station, near 8th Place NE, to the Farragut North station at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW, three blocks north of the White House.

Operation on opening day will begin from the Rhode Island Avenue end of the line after a ceremony that will begin at 9 a.m.

The first train from there to Farragut North will carry Metro officials and invited guests, mostly current an former government officials. The second train, and all that follow, will carry the general public.

No fare will be collected on Saturday. There will be no service Sunday. Starting Monday, passengers will pay 55 cents during rush hours–6:30 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 6 p.m.–and 40 cents at other times.

Trains will pass without stopping at Gallery Place station, 7th and G Streets NW. Its use has been prohibited by a federal court order because of a finding that the transit authority delayed unreasonably in installing an elevator there for handicapped passengers.

Elevators are available at all other stations except Farragut North, where other legal problems are delaying installation. Nonhandicapped passengers will use escalators at all the stations.

Amazing! Remember the days when Metro was less than a dollar? Any GoDCers ride that second train, or know someone that did?

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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Notice the decked/tunneled section south of Fort Totten, then the over 90-degree turn to the east, then the decked/tunneled section between Galloway Street and Gallatin Street, with the Metrorail Glenmont Route (Red Line trains) following the North Central Freeway (I-95 south of Fort Totten and I-70S north of Fort Totten), and with the Metrorail Greenbelt Route (Green Line trains) following the Northeast Freeway (I-95 east of Fort Totten). The area between Galloway Street and Gallatin Street where the Northeast Freeway was proposed was mostly open fields then and still is now.

Drawings of Proposed I-95 Through D.C.

Here are some terrific old maps from 1971 showing the remainder of what would have …

  • I wasn’t on the second train, but I did ride for free that day. The Farragut North station had a construction site surrounding it, instead of a building.

  • ZZinDC

    I also was not on the second train but rode free later that day. My family was lucky – we boarded at Union Station with little problem but I remember that the other stations – the end of the line – were very crowded, creating long waits to enter the stations.

  • Helene Gorman Guilfoy

    Rode that day with my family. Wanted my 2 boys to have an experience that I’d waited for all my life! We waited >4 hours at Farragut North, got off at the end of the line, and waited another several hours to go back but it was worth it.I grew up at Dupont Circle.