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Mapping The Washington D.C. Metro System In 1986

Fine example of this map of the Washington Metro Transit System in the year of the completion of Orange Line and Yellow Line and including proposed extensions and the creation of the future Green Line five years before construction commenced in 1991.

The map illustrates existing and proposed lines and existing and proposed stations, in a modified version of the iconic style first designed and conceived by Harry Beck for the London Underground in 1931.

In the wake of post-war suburban growth and increasing road traffic during the 1950s, the necessity for a rapid transit system in the Washington D.C. area became evident. Initial deliberations floated ideas ranging from bus-centric solutions to monorails. However, by the 1960s, a rail transit system emerged as the preferred choice.

The path to approval started with the National Capital Transportation Act of 1960, which allocated initial funds for studies exploring the potential for a regional rail system. The momentum from these studies culminated in the National Capital Transportation Agency's final proposal in 1965, envisioning a 98-mile regional rail system. This proposal received the endorsement of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Subsequently, the National Capital Transportation Act of 1969 was passed, formally greenlighting the creation of the Metro system. In 1967, before the construction phase began, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was established through an interstate compact ratified by Congress. This body was tasked with overseeing and managing the emerging Metro system and other regional transportation infrastructure.

Construction and Expansion:

Construction commenced on December 9, 1969, with a groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Virginia. This marked the onset of the system's initial construction phase, which would eventually spawn several metro lines serving the region.

  1. Red Line: Completed in its entirety by 1996, the Red Line was inaugurated in stages starting in 1976.
  2. Blue Line: Operational sections of the Blue Line began opening in 1977, with the entire line completed by 1983.
  3. Orange Line: The Orange Line saw its first operational segment in 1978 and reached completion in 1986.
  4. Yellow Line: Introduced in 1983, the Yellow Line was fully operational by 1986.
  5. Green Line: The last of the initial set of lines, the Green Line started operations in 1991 and was fully completed by 2001.

The system experienced further growth in the 21st century, most notably with the addition of the Silver Line in the 2010s.


While these maps were almost certainly printed in large quantities, this is the first example of an early Washington Metro map we have seen on the market.