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When Did Metro Open in D.C.?

Metro in Washington DC opened on March 27th, 1976. All rides were free that day on the 4.6 miles of tracks.
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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.

Metro’s Opening Day – Rhode Island Avenue station (March 27, 1976). Credit: WMATA Photograph by Larry Levine

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.

Here’s the map printed in the newspaper that day showing the short run opening for public ridership.

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

The article continues below.

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?

We also dug up some great photos and imagery from that day courtesy of WMATA’s website.

Program for Metro’s Opening Day ceremonies at Rhode Island Avenue Station (March 27, 1976). Credit: WMATA Photograph by Larry Levine
Washingtonians of all ages celebrate Metro’s Opening Day at Rhode Island Avenue station (March 27, 1976). Credit: WMATA Photograph by Larry Levine
People stand in line waiting to take a free ride at the opening of the new Washington Metro (March 27, 1976). Credit: WMATA Photograph by Larry Levine
Official ribbon-cutting marks Metro’s Opening Day on March 27, 1976 at the Rhode Island Avenue station. Credit: WMATA Photograph by Larry Levine

Before you go, check out this awesome 1976 promotional film from WMATA.

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