News & Politics

Wow, a New Record for Visiting Every Metro Station: 8:04:12

Three students did a "speed run" to visit all 98 stops this summer.

Photograph by David Andrews.

It was 5 AM on a Monday morning, and groggy commuters shuffled onto the first train of the day at the Ashburn Metro station. For most, it was a routine morning commute, but for three students from the University of Chicago, this was the beginning of an epic train trek. One had a phone strapped to his head, recording video, while another carried a stack of papers. The doors closed—and the timer began on their attempt to visit every single Metro station as fast as they could. As the train pulled away, they made a note on their travel log: One down, 97 to go.

If your first reaction is, but why?, you aren’t alone. “You really have to love transit to do these kinds of things,” says Benjamin Jaffer, the one who had the phone attached to his head. “Most people who hear that you’re riding eight hours on a train think you’re a psycho.” 

Though they aren’t psychos, Jaffer and his friends Hugh Barringer and Benjamin Kreiswirth are definitely transit lovers. In fact, they’ve done challenges like this before, including two runs through Chicago’s “L” system. So on that July morning when they headed out from Ashburn, they were hoping to set a new record for riding WMATA’s rails. The previous record of 8 hours and 36 minutes was set early this year by 16-year-old Claire Aguayo, who did the challenge while bored on a day off from school. However, Aguayo set the record before the Potomac Yard station opened, meaning that the title for champion of all 98 current stations was yet unclaimed.

In order to prove the authenticity of their accomplishment, the trio kept careful records of their journey. As they pulled up to each station, Barringer snapped a photo while Kreiswirth jotted down their arrival and departure times in the log. This, along with the phone on Jaffer’s head, would be crucial when it came time to get certification from Guinness World Records (the current Guinness entry for the feat is pretty out of date). 

With remote stations like Glenmont, they sought out friendly looking strangers to sign a witness statement, just as added proof. Approaching people with clipboards can be tough, because, as Barringer notes, “If someone’s doing that, they’re usually asking for money or a political signature or something, and people are like, ‘no.’ ” But Jaffer says that once people learned what exactly they were doing, they seemed interested. He also thinks a challenge like this is a great way to get to know DC. “You really learn a lot about the city and the system, what kind of people are going where, who’s riding on the train.”

Finally, with a full day of work behind them, the riders glided into the Shady Grove station on a Red Line train. The doors opened, and out came the three in unison, full of anticipation. As their feet hit the platform for the last time, they stopped the timer. Final time: 8:04:12, a full half hour less than the previous record.

Though they would have preferred a time below eight hours, they got some validation when another team—including the former record holder, Aguayo—came up just short later that week with a time of 8:09:55. As for the Guinness record, the students’ application is currently pending.

Editorial Fellow

Hunter is a cat-loving Coloradoan who enjoys history, Halloween and board games. He studied audio production and radio storytelling at Hofstra University before moving to DC in 2022. During his editorial fellowship with Washingtonian in the fall of 2023, he ran Halloween Hunter, a section featuring local stories for the spooky season.