Does Metrobus Need a Refresh?

August 31st, 2015 No comments

Metrobus has a strong identity as a regional transit provider, but as the region has grown it hasn’t kept up with changing development patterns. Does the regional role of Metrobus need to be rethought?

A previous post described the historical context of Metrobus as a regional bus service provider, as well as the Metrobus regional service criteria developed by a regional “Blue Ribbon Mobility Panel” in 1997.  What has happened to the Metrobus regional service since the 1998 Board action? Does today’s regional service still meet the original criteria?  Metro’s planners recently conducted an assessment to address these questions.

Majority of “regional” Metrobus service performs well

Overall, Metrobus regional lines provide higher levels of service and achieve higher cost efficiency than non-regional lines.  Currently Metrobus operates 106 regional lines and 55 non-regional lines  The overall higher ridership of the regional lines resulted in an average operating cost of $3.50 per passenger trip, lower than the non-regional service at $4.50.

 

Read more…

Categories: Planning Studies > Metrobus Studies Tags:

Big Sustainability Gains at WMATA

August 27th, 2015 No comments

Metro has released its first sustainability report, with aggressive performance targets to guide the Authority and the region on the path to becoming the most sustainable in the nation.

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

As Metro’s Silver Line celebrated its first year of service in July it is timely to revisit the Metro’s first Sustainability Report. Released in April, the report outlines the sustainability benefits that the Silver Line and the Metro system as a whole bring to the region. The opening of the Silver Line has resulted in mode shift changes — as indicated by a 15% reduction in peak hour traffic at multiple intersections along Route 123 — combined with emerging transit-oriented development and walkability improvements around the Silver Line.  These  underscore the Authority’s progress towards the ridership, climate change and connected communities goals of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative - as documented in the Authority’s first annual report.

Tell us what you think of Metro’s sustainability efforts and we are always listening to new ideas for potential projects. Submit your ideas online or email them to planning@wmata.com.

 

Bus Stop Accessibility Improvements – Making Good on the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 26th, 2015 7 comments

Metro is taking a data-driven approach to make the region’s bus stops more accessible to all.

The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990 was a landmark event in our nation’s history. Like other pieces of civil rights legislation, this law works to ensure a more inclusive America, one where every person has the right to participate in all sectors of society and be recognized for his or her accomplishments. Its passage paved the way for millions of Americans with disabilities to positively contribute to their communities in a variety of ways, including employment.

Two decades on, however, much work still remains to be done.

The DC region has over 19,000 bus stops, with approximately 11,100 served by Metrobus, and the remaining 8,900 served exclusively by locally operated transit systems. Of the 19,000 stops, approximately 6,500 are inaccessible to some people with disabilities. Inaccessible bus stops can be a reason for an individual to qualify for MetroAccess paratransit service operated by Metro, and can be a reason for an individual to choose MetroAccess over fixed route bus service for a particular trip. Accessible bus stops reduce demand for paratransit service, and improve safety for all customers. Metro and each jurisdiction in the region are working to improve inaccessible stops. In addition to improving stops Metro also aims to use an array of data as well as policy adjustments to strategically target bus stops for improvements.

Metro’s Bus Stop Standard

Metro maintains a database of the region’s bus stops. As a result of a new bus stop standard, Metro is not only updating the information in the database, but is working to improve the database in two significant ways: 1) provide jurisdictional access to update the database and 2) the addition of a smartphone app.

The standard criteria of an accessible bus stop includes the following: 1) Flat and Firm Surface, 2) 5 feet wide x 8 feet long, and 3) Connects to the Curb. Metro has added a fourth criterion for measuring the accessibility of a bus stop: the presence of an accessible pathway to/from the nearest corner to the bus stop. That accessible pathway must include a curb cut at the corner with an additional curb cut at one adjacent corner.

Fig1 - Accessible but connected

The two photos above illustrate the difference. Both bus stops feature flat and firm surfaces that are at least 5’ x 8’ in size, and both connect to the curb. So under the standard criteria, both are accessible bus stops. The difference is that the stop in the photo on the left is surrounded by grass and dirt. There is no accessible pathway to/from the stop. The stop on the right connects to the accessible sidewalk and pathway to the corner. Read more…

Ask the Professors – How Local Land Use Decisions Impact Metrorail Ridership

August 24th, 2015 1 comment

This post is guest-written by Chao Liu, Hiro Iseki, and Gerrit Knaap, researchers from University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth, who helped Metro develop our Land Use Ridership Model.

Even though Metro doesn’t control where new jobs and households locate in the region, these decisions are critical to the agency’s ridership and financial future. 

It is well known that the form and intensity of development in and near rail transit station areas can have measurable impacts on transit ridership.  For these reasons, transit oriented developments (TOD) generally feature high-density construction, mixed land uses, and bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.  But not all TODs are alike, and the effects of TOD on transit ridership are likely to depend on how well the station is connected both locally and regionally, whether the station is near the center or end of a transit corridor, and what kinds of jobs and household are located nearby.

To explore how different forms of development might impact ridership on the Washington Metrorail system, Dr. Hiroyuki Iseki and Dr. Chao Liu assisted Metro to develop a direct ridership model (DRM), called Metro’s Land Use Ridership Model.  A DRM uses statistical techniques to quantify the relationship between entries and exits at rail stations and land uses nearby.  This model can then be used to estimate the number of passengers who will access the station, by waking or biking, as a result of changes in land use features, transit service characteristics, and socio-demographics within the walkshed of any given station.

The direct ridership model includes a large number of variables for each station, including the density, diversity, and design of local environment; transit service and connectivity; job accessibility by auto and transit; walk score; the availability of parking; the demographics of nearby residents; the number and types of jobs nearby, and more.  The model was estimated for the AM Peak, Midday, PM Peak, and Evening travel periods.  The AM Peak model is best suited for estimating the increase in morning boardings that would result from locating more households near the station; the PM Peak model is best suited for estimating the increase in afternoon boardings that would result from locating more jobs near the station.

Pedicted AM Peak Entries per New HH

Map 1. Predicted AM Peak Entries per New Household

The impact of adding jobs and households near stations varies by station area.  Map 1 above, for example, shows the estimated entries per new household in the morning peak—that is, how many additional boardings would occur in the AM peak if one additional household was located in the walkshed of the station.  Stations shown by red dots gain more than 0.57 boardings per day, for each new household in the walk shed, while stations shown with green dots gain only about 0.20 boardings per day. As a concrete example, Rhode Island Row is a 274-unit, mixed-use, TOD project built on a WMATA site.  Situated along the busy Red Line, the project has long been considered as a prime location for new housing development.  According to the DRM model, adding 274 new households near the Rhode Island station would increase boardings by 144 passengers in the AM peak.  The same development at the New Carrollton station, however, would have added only 52 passengers.  This is because, compared to New Carrollton, the Rhode Island Avenue station has better job accessibility and more frequent transit service, and is thus likely to stimulate more transit ridership. Read more…

Meet “Chip” – WMATA’s Lean, Green, Money-Saving Machine

August 19th, 2015 No comments

Metro’s new large tub grinder, called “Chip”, will pay for itself in 4 years.

Metro's New Tub Grinder "Chip"

Metro’s New Tub Grinder “Chip”

With summer now underway, Metro’s Grounds Maintenance and Custodial Services (GMAC) staff are out throughout the system addressing the management of vegetation and landscaping on Metro property. This year, GMAC has a new piece of equipment to both reduce operating costs and improve operational efficiency. “Chip”, the tub grinder funded by Metro’s Sustainability Lab, is expected to save Metro approximately $50,000 in waste disposal and landscaping costs annually.

Chip allows for compostable waste such as leaves, landscape debris, and wood debris (e.g. pallets, shipping crates, etc.) from Metro facilities to be ground up and converted into mulch. This mulch can then be diverted from the waste stream and instead reused in landscaping on Metro property. Chip is anticipated to divert approximately 4,000 cubic yards of compostable waste from the waste stream per year and is anticipated to recoup the initial investment on the equipment in three to four years.

This closed loop recycling program will not only reduce Metro expenditure but will also move Metro closer to its long term goal of zero waste that forms part of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative.

Preparing for the Future of Metrobus

August 17th, 2015 2 comments

Since the signing of the WMATA compact more than 40 years ago, there has been an ongoing debate about the role of Metrobus as the Washington region’s primary bus service provider. 

Prior to the formation of Metrobus in 1973, bus services in the Washington region were operated by numerous private providers across the region operating on dedicated lanes, many of which were operating at a loss.  In the 1970s, Metro consolidated bus service under the Metrobus brand and increased service and headways throughout the WMATA compact area.  While Metro’s role as the regional rail provider has always been clear, its role as a bus provider has been more nuanced.

Old DC Transit and Metrobuses from the 1960s and 70s

This is the first in a series of posts which aim to provide a brief overview of the efforts undertaken over the past 20 years by Metro, and its regional partners,  to balance the responsibilities and funding of Metrobus with the wants and needs of our jurisdictional partners all while maintaining our regionally focused mission.

Read more…

2014 “Metrobus Survey” Complete

August 5th, 2015 No comments

Metro is pleased to announce that the 2014 “Metrobus Survey” is officially complete. Stay tuned for results.

30s buses 081514

Read more…

Categories: Planning Studies Tags:

Study: Just Six Tracks Carry 30% of People Across the Potomac (57 Highway Bridge Lanes Carry the Rest)

July 29th, 2015 2 comments

A new Virginia study (PDF) finds that Metro and other transit operators carry a major portion of all cross-Potomac travel in a just a few crossings, using far less space than the 57 highway bridge lanes that carry the rest. If built, an expanded bridge crossing will need transit to maximize its ability to move people across the river.

PotomacRiverStudy Map

Transit’s Role is Critical

While some media outlets focused on the study’s highway expansion recommendation, the presentation acknowledged that Metro, VRE, and other bus operators plays a major role in the movement of people across the river from Virginia to DC in the core of the region. Seeing that, we thought we we’d drill down further to estimate how many people are actually crossing the river, using which bridge, and by what mode. Supplementing the study with available transit ridership data and vehicle occupancy data (PDF), we arrived at the following estimates: Read more…

Metro Takes Electric Demonstration Bus On The Road

July 27th, 2015 No comments

Electric bus demonstration on-site at Metro

Electric Bus New Flyer 060105 Electric Bus New Flyer 060105

 Metro staff conducted a hands-on review of all-electric bus technology this month with a manufacturer demonstration for Bus Engineering, Bus Planning, Marketing and Sustainability staff. While the Authority has made no commitment to purchasing all-electric buses, on-site demonstrations such as this enable staff to explore the emerging technology and better understand its performance and operational characteristics first hand.

Electric Bus New Flyer 060105Metrobus fleet fuel economy has improved 15% since 2005 through the expanded use of hybrid buses and improved performance across the entire bus fleet. As the Authority seeks to build upon this efficiency, conducting market research into all-electric technology provides staff with a direct experience of this near-silent and tailpipe emissions-free technology. Low-vibration electric buses such as the one demonstrated offer a smoother ride and eliminate the urban-noise and air-pollution impacts of existing bus technology. In the future, this technology has the potential to enhance the overall livability of our cities, particularly in dense urbanized areas with high frequency bus services. In the coming months other manufacturers will be visiting Metro as part of the Authority’s market research of all-electric bus technology and investigation into best locations for potential roll out.

Categories: Sustainability Tags: ,

Rhode Island Avenue – an Opportunity to Truly Connect Communities (and Bolster WMATA Finances)

July 23rd, 2015 5 comments

Low-cost planning maneuvers could increase transit-accessibility for one thousand households and save the region $1.3 million per year!

We recently covered an exciting development project in Northeast D.C., one that will create housing and jobs right next to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Because the site is located within the station’s half-mile walk shed, all those new residents, employees and shoppers are likely Metro customers, whose fares will help improve the system for everyone.

But is that the end of the story?

In our analysis of station walk sheds – the area within a half-mile walk of the station — we discovered that the Rhode Island Avenue walk shed is constrained by physical barriers that force pedestrians to make lengthy detours. The most notable of these is a retaining wall along the northern edge of the redevelopment site (currently the Rhode Island Center shopping mall):

RIExisting+Barrier

Current walk shed of Rhode Island Ave station, with illustration of the retaining wall.

For Edgewood residents living immediately to the north, walking to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro requires a detour around the barrier that inflates the walking distance by up to half a mile – making the total walking distance a full mile or more. While some choose to make the long hike to the station, we know that people are significantly more likely to use Metro if the station is within the half-mile walk shed.

This led us to ask: What if we make a pedestrian connection through that wall part of the large-scale redevelopment? Read more…