While reading Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism by Benjamin Ross (it’s a very good book), I came across this (boldface mine):
As much as the subways of the seventies were a reaction against urban expressways, their designers shared a premise with the highway builders. The goal was to save the city by bringing suburbanites downtown. New rail networks bypassed dense neighborhoods in the urban core and stretched long tentacles out to distant parking lots. Commuters moved swiftly to downtown offices, but city dwellers’ travel needs were less well served. Washington broke the pattern–civil rights leaders insisted on service for the urban poor, and its three rails tunnels span the city’s inner residential neighborhoods as well as its downtown office core–and its new rail system is by far the most successful. Today the Washington Metro is the nation’s second busiest subway, carrying more riders than older systems in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia.
suffered used both systems, I think Ross is wrong. The Washington Metro is a better commuter rail system–it takes me a little under a half hour to commute eight miles (though having my home and office located near the Metro helps). But between the cost, the non-rush hour wait times, and the gaping holes in where the Metro subway goes, it’s not very good at getting around D.C. itself. While Boston’s T can go overboard on the number of stops (does B.U. really need three stops?), in most parts of the city, you can wind up close to where you want to go. In D.C., outside of a small area downtown, the Metro doesn’t really work like that (the bus system is very good however).