Veterans Day 2014 Metrorail Ridership

December 18th, 2014 1 comment

 Metrorail’s special Veterans Day schedule handily served commuters and concert goers alike.

On November 11, 2014, Metrorail served a reduced commuter market, as well as a large event on the National Mall, the Concert for Valor.  Metro ran a modified rail schedule, with near-peak service levels throughout most of the day, and Blue Line trains replaced with additional Yellow Line trains.

by Entry Time

Compared to a Typical Weekday:

  • Total ridership for the day was 515,000 trips, which is about 80% of a typical weekday
  • The AM Peak commute was roughly half of a typical weekday.

Compared to Veterans Day 2013:

  • Ridership was up by around 40%, or 147,000 trips.
  • Ridership at most stations was up by about 25-50%, while five stations serving the National Mall doubled and tripled last year’s numbers.
    • Federal Triangle and L’Enfant Plaza were over quadruple last year’s ridership
    • Ridership at Arlington Cemetery was down by half, coinciding with reduced service to that station.
    • The morning commute (until 9:30am) was up 13% over last Veterans Day, evenly across most stations. This is another sign that when the federal workforce, most impacted by the drop in the federal transit benefit, is (mostly) removed from Metrorail’s commute market, ridership is up.

Read more…

Metro Finds New Ways to Save the Bay

December 17th, 2014 No comments
Largo Stormwater Treatment Facility

Largo Stormwater Treatment Facility

Metro’s new Largo stormwater facility is making progress towards the Authority’s sustainability goals including reduced water and energy use, carbon emissions, and operating costs.

On November 13, Metro hosted a tour of its high-efficiency stormwater treatment facility at Largo. Highlighted during its design phase in a previous post on Metro’s Sustainability Agenda. The facility is now fully functional – with a green roof and solar panels that create enough energy to run the plant round the clock. “With a truly innovative design, this facility provides a green and cost effective model for organizations in the region as they make investments in similar facilities” according to Metro’s sustainability manager, Rachel Healy. The open house provided an opportunity for interested regional stakeholders to tour all of the facilities uniquely practical design in operation. Representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Maryland Department of the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, and Prince George’s County Council were in attendance.

Designed to ensure Metro meets stricter new discharge permit requirements that form part of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, the facility pumps an estimated 27,000 gallons of water per day from Metrorail tunnels near the Largo Town Center Station. The new state of the art facility houses a unique combination of features designed to reduce energy consumption and continue Metro’s commitment to invest in sustainability and reduce operating costs.

Instead of using more traditional heavy duty water pumps that have a high energy consumption and operating cost, the new Largo facility features a combination of gravity-fed treatment tanks and a high-efficiency mixing system that uses bubbles of compressed air to “circulate” the water. On the roof, solar panels supply extra electricity back to grid during the day and the building only draws grid power at night or during extended periods of low sunlight.  Metro will prevent an estimated 3 tons of C02 emissions per year through solar energy generation alone. This is the equivalent of half the emissions from an average homes electric use over the same period.

The Largo treatment facility showcases the dedication of Metro’s engineers and design staff in developing what is truly a cutting edge facility to meet State requirements and deliver ongoing operating savings for the Authority. Check out Metro’s video of the project and let us know what you think.

Metro’s Public Participation Plan Wins Planning Award

December 3rd, 2014 No comments
Major Award!

Major Award!

Over the last 18 months, Metro has been developing a Public Participation Plan (PPP) (.pdf, 4MB) to help us tailor our outreach strategies to the many diverse groups in our service area to ensure there are opportunities for all groups to be meaningfully engaged in Metro’s planning and programming activities.  It was quite the effort, but resulted in a plan we can be very proud of and are ready to implement!  It turns out the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association thinks so too, as our PPP received their 2014 Award for Distinction in Community Outreach and Engagement.  We feel very honored to have been chosen from applicants throughout the National Capital Area.

Read more…

The Drop in Transit Benefit Has Effectively Been a 20% Cost Increase for Metrorail Riders

November 6th, 2014 9 comments

The drop in the federal transit benefit is making Metrorail riders feel the pinch in their wallets, and it’s hurting ridership.

What’s happened to ridership since the benefit changed? You may have seen in the news that Metrorail riders have been heavily impacted by changes in federal tax law that discourages transit usage.  The maximum amount of SmartBenefits dropped from $240 to $130 per month in January, and since then:

  • Since the change, our traditional commuter market - full-fare customers who travel from suburban stations to the core at peak times – has fallen by about 1.5%.
  • Trips shorter than 4 miles – more likely to still be fully subsidized – are unchanged.
  • Customers able to get through the month on SmartBenefits alone are down 25%, while customers who must supplement with their own cash have doubled, and the net result has been a 10% loss in trips from this key commute market.
  • 75% of this ridership loss has been from trips over 7 miles: at an average fare of $4.10/trip equating to $165/month and up, these longer commutes now require substantial out-of-pocket contributions.
  • The average impacted SmartBenefits customer must now pay $0.84 extra per trip – this is the equivalent of a 20% fare hike.
    • For riders directly subsidized by the federal government, this was increase of nearly $2.40 per day, or over $54/month.
    • For riders setting aside pre-tax dollars, this felt like a 10% fare increase.
  • Trips paid for with SmartBenefits have dropped 1%.
Change in Ridership by SmartBenefits Class v2

The decrease in the federal transit benefit has hurt Metrorail ridership in the last year. Ridership is up from customers who are unaffected by the policy change, but more people must supplement with out-of-pocket contributions to make it through the month, and in the process Metrorail is losing trips.

How do you know it’s not something else? Ridership could be down for a variety of reasons, and we continue to mine the data for other patterns – from the economy to demographics to fares. We can’t pin all of the ridership loss on the federal transit benefit, but the losses have been concentrated on SmartBenefits users. In addition:

  • Ridership from commuters not enrolled in SmartBenefits has actually grown by 2% in the last year.
  • We are still investigating, but customers do not appear to be reducing travel much due to telework. Metrorail has been losing both customers and trips (not just trips), and trip frequency among commuters is mostly stable.
  • In fact, we are gaining riders at stations with recent transit-oriented development, and ridership is up 3% at stations along the Green Line in D.C., the Red Line in Northeast D.C., and Courthouse/Clarendon in Arlington.

We continue to study the trends, and for a second glance see our more detailed summary of ridership trends (PDF, 710K).

“Virtual” Tunnel Yields Real Benefits

November 4th, 2014 15 comments

Use of the “Farragut Crossing” virtual tunnel is strong, averaging around 18,000 trips per month during the more temperate months, dropping to 15,000 during the winter.

Users of the Metrorail system come up with a lot of different ideas for how Metro can better serve their needs.  Ideas often come from the blogging community and are sometimes considered by Metro planners, researchers and leadership.  One such idea was the virtual tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut WestNow dubbed “Farragut Crossing” via a Facebook naming contest, this fare policy update allows transfers between the two Farragut stations without being charged two separate fares.

Farragut Crossing was first opened in October of 2011 and monthly usage increased from just a few thousand trips in its first few months to a max of over 21,000 in May of 2014.  Since then, it’s settled to around 18,000 during the fair-weather months.

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Imagining Metrobus 2.0

October 20th, 2014 22 comments

Metro is re-imagining the region’s bus network to improve travel times, enhance connectivity, and deliver service cost-effectively.

Network A - Principal Routes

Over the past year, as part of the Metrobus Network Effectiveness Study, Metro began exploring potential future Metrobus restructuring scenarios based on the region’s growth trajectory over the next two decades. The scenarios also reflect the market segments where Metrobus can be more effective — places like the urban core, activity centers, and major arterial streets. Planners took the Metrobus network in the region’s Constrained Long-Range Plan (CLRP) for 2030 as the basis of comparison and formulated several network restructuring alternatives. This post will introduce the alternative networks, while future posts will present the performance of the networks, as well as a completely new proposed network built from the ground up. The flow chart below illustrates the network alternatives, followed by a brief explanation about each alternative.

Read more…

Mass Transit Needs Mass

October 15th, 2014 6 comments

Transit expansion is in demand but Metrorail, light rail, and other high capacity transit projects can be expensive to build, operate and maintain.  With limited resources to invest, our region must ensure that these projects serve the most robust transit markets and are supported by strong transit friendly policies.

Informed by our peers and local performance measures, Metro is developing guidelines that the region can use to inform development of high capacity transit projects. As we’ve explored previously, there’s much more to transit expansion than Metrorail. In fact, due to the cost associated with Metrorail expansion along with existing land uses and built environment in much of the region, most of our future high capacity transit projects will be made up of other transit modes. But what is the best way to decide what mode best fits each corridor? The goal of the expansion guidelines is to inform those decisions.

Development in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor has validated initial and ongoing investments in Metrorail. (source: Arlington County)

A literature and peer review included policy documents from BART (PDF), the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Florida DOT, Virginia DRPT, Federal Transit Administration (PDF), and research from the University of California Transportation Center (UCTC). The review found that ridership, density, the presence of walkable streets and sidewalks, local plans and policies, and cost effectiveness are the most relevant criteria to evaluate transit projects and that rigorous performance targets are needed to support each transit mode. Read more…

Where Are Silver Line Riders Going?

October 9th, 2014 8 comments

Ridership patterns on the Silver Line show that Metro’s new line is serving a truly regional market.

Now that school is back in session, the new Silver Line just completed its first full week where “normal” travel patterns are beginning to emerge. Ridership is strong, but where are these new passengers going? The diagram below shows destinations of all riders entering a Silver Line station in the week of September 8-12, 2014.

Where Are SV Riders Going_Sept 2014_typicalweekdayV3

Some observations emerge from this: Read more…

Early Ridership on the Silver Line

October 8th, 2014 6 comments

After just two months, ridership on the Silver Line is off to a solid start: Wiehle Ave is already over projections, reverse commuting is strong, and more. 

Now that school is back in session and most summer vacations over, here is an in-depth look at the week of September 8-12, 2014, when “normal” routines may have begun to emerge.

At around 15,000 entries per weekday, the Silver Line is off to a solid start.  Compared to the official projections from the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), we are achieving about 60% of the ridership projected for the end of the line’s first year:

Typical Weekday SV Ridership vs. ProjectionsWiehle station is already over opening-year projections and shows the highest ridership of all the new stations.  Tysons Corner station is strong as well, but we still have room to grow at all four stations located in the Tysons area.

Looking at ridership by time of day shows the Wiehle is a commuting powerhouse, but also that a strong reverse commute market is emerging at the other stations:

SV Ridership by 15-minute increment

  • McLean (in blue) is showing an early lead as a a “traditional” commute station, where most riders enter in the morning.
  • Tysons Corner is much more dominated by reverse commuters, and its morning rush extends into mid-morning (around 10:00am).  Evening ridership at Tysons Corners is also heavy. (More on off-peak ridership at Tysons coming soon)
  • Greensboro and Spring Hill show relatively light ridership so far, but ridership is expected to grow over time as development catches up with the new station.

What do you think?  Have you taken the Silver Line on a weekday? What was your experience?

The raw data by quarter-hour interval underlying this analysis is available in two formats: by station alone (2MB, .xlsx), and by origin-destination station (3MB, zipped tab-delimited .txt).

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Nationals Playoff Games and Metrorail Ridership

October 3rd, 2014 No comments

When the Nationals reached the playoffs in 2012, about 12,000 fans per game took Metrorail – from all over the region, and even late at night!

Now that the Nationals have clinched a spot in the playoffs, Nationals Park will once again host October baseball beginning this afternoon. How many fans might take Metrorail to and from the game?

To answer that, let’s look back to 2012, the last time the Nats reached the playoffs. Games 3, 4, and 5 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) were played here at Nationals Park – Wednesday at 1:07 pm, Thursday at 4:07 pm, and Friday at 8:37 pm. Attendance at all three games was around 45,000 people. Here’s what ridership (Metrorail system entries) looked like at Navy Yard-Ballpark station on those days:

Nationals Ridership_NavyYard_NLDS2012_byHalfHour_v2

The sheer volume of passengers through Navy Yard station were impressive.  Sustaining over 4,000 entries per half-hour for nearly two hours is roughly equivalent to 4-lane highway, and exceeds what even the busiest stations achieve on a typical day.  For comparison, normal peak-of-peak volumes through Union Station, Metro Center, and Farragut West rarely exceed 3,000 entries per half hour. Read more…