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Arlington, Virginia

Rosslyn Metro Escalator

At 207 feet, one of the world's longest continuous escalators 

According to Dante Alighieri, past the wall of flames after the 7th terrace of Purgatory, there is an immense stone staircase leading to the Earthly Paradise so big that Dante and his companions are forced to spend the night sleeping on it.

The street escalator in the Rosslyn Metro Station leads to a D.C. suburb, rather than salvation, and with any luck there is no need to sleep on it, but at 207 feet it is the second longest continuous escalator in North America and one of the longest in the world – quite an intimidating obstacle for weary travelers.Washington’s Metro system is deep: Wheaton Station in Maryland has a 230-foot escalator, the longest in the hemisphere, and the Forest Glen station lies 196 feet below the surface. But Rosslyn’s bank is the width of four escalators plus a decommissioned elevator shaft, offering plenty of room for a winged demon to swoop down. It is the most vertigo-inducing maw to Malebolge in the system. Normal travel time from top to bottom is nearly three minutes (159 seconds to be exact), time to contemplate a lifetime of sins. But if Rosslyn’s mechanized steps are among the 40 percent of Metro escalators not functioning at any given time, the journey up quickly becomes as infernal as the origin.

A rapid transit station accessible by either the Blue, Orange, or Silver Lines of the Washington Metro, Rosslyn lies in the northeastern corner of the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia. Because the neighborhood is situated on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, with the District lying across the river to the east, the subway system has to plunge deep under the city, passing through a rock-bored tunnel. Rosslyn is the deepest station on any of those lines, and one of the deepest in the system.

For those too terrified to ride the escalator all the way down (or up), there is a bank of street elevators from the upper platform to the east side of North Moore St., across from the Metro station entrance. It’s only 17 seconds that way, almost fast enough for impatient D.C. commuters to withhold impious comments about the state of the trains.

Know Before You Go

On the D.C. Metro Blue, Orange, or Silver Lines.

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