With its shops, bars, restaurants and traffic-clogged streets, many D.C. residents, tourists and even GW students, who often make the trek to the neighboring town by foot, wonder why Georgetown doesn’t have its own Metro stop.
The word is that Georgetown’s elite resisted a local rail station for fear that it would “bring undesirables – the poor, the criminal, the nonwhite, and the tacky to their exclusive neighborhood,” Metro historian and George Mason University Professor Zachary Schrag writes in his book, “Great Society Subway: The History of the Washington Metro.”
While the popular rumor may have some truth since Georgetown residents did send a letter to the Metro planning committee stating their resistance to a Metro stop – it actually had little bearing on the official decision to bypass Georgetown, Schrag said.
“It would have been feasible for Georgetown to have a Metro station, but the Metro planners did not find it desirable,” Schrag said in an interview last week. “It was a trade between the costs and the benefits.”
When D.C. planned and constructed the subway system in the 1970s, it was built to serve as many rush hour commuters as possible, Schrag said. In his book he writes that Metro planner William Herman said, “There were not many people commuting to Georgetown. So why spend money on something that didn’t meet our goals?”
Also, Georgetown’s central intersection, Wisconsin Avenue and M Street where the Metro would have stopped, is very close to the Potomac River. The underground station and tunnel would have had to run so deep under the river that planners thought constructing the station was impractical, Schrag said.
But since the ’70s, Georgetown has transformed from a sleepy, high-class neighborhood to a booming civic center. As it’s grown more and more congested over the years, the city has begun making plans to bring mass transit to Georgetown, just not in the form of an underground subway line.
According to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Web site, a proposed expansion project would connect Georgetown to the Stadium-Armory with an above-ground rail system through the heart of the District.
But to the dismay of Washingtonians, it could be years before they can get to Georgetown without hailing a cab or riding the bus.
Even so, Schrag said that when the Metro planners passed on a Georgetown stop it wasn’t such a great loss. In his opinion, since the neighborhood is so spread out, a Metro might not have worked.
He said “Surface travel is better for Georgetown.”
-Clayton M. McCleskey