The transit agency plans to allow transfers between the Farragut North and Farragut West stations, connecting the Red Line with the Orange and Blue lines. Riders would still have to leave the stations and walk about a block along Farragut Square, but they wouldn't be charged for the re-entry into the system.
An additional virtual tunnel could be added later. The Farragut location will serve as a test case for whether the agency should open a second one between Metro Center and Gallery Place/Chinatown to connect all the system's lines, the agency wrote in testimony submitted to the D.C. Council.
The idea for virtual tunnels has been bandied about for a few years. New York's subway system includes several transfer points between stations that involve labyrinthine underground tunnels that connect stations blocks apart. But building a tunnel beneath existing buildings is disruptive and also pricey at a time when the agency is facing budget shortfalls.
Making the connection with technology, instead, would save some riders both money and time, helping them transfer between lines at the two Farraguts without having to go through Metro Center. That in turn would ease pressure on Metro Center, already the second busiest station in the system.
It would also help when the system has delays, giving riders another way around tie-ups.
The transit system already allows bus-to-rail transfers, giving riders a discount if trips are made between modes within two hours. But the Farragut tunnel would be Metro's first rail-to-rail transfer deal.
Metro told the D.C. Council it plans to open the virtual passageway in the fall. First it has to finish reprogramming the faregates by July, then test it over the rest of the summer.
Not all the details have been worked out yet, though, such as how much time riders will be allowed to make the transfer between stations, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told The Washington Examiner.