Fostering and Sustaining an Inclusive Dialogue – In Everything We Do

February 9th, 2016 No comments

Metro’s award-winning Public Participation Plan (PPP) helps us be strategic in our efforts to engage minority, low income and limited English proficient (LEP) populations in transit planning and programming activities. Here’s how we work to produce successful results.

One of the very first things we do when a project begins is to develop a Project Communications and Outreach Plan – or PCOP for short. Our dedicated External Relations (EREL) team meets with the Metro “project sponsor” and other stakeholders to understand the parameters of the project, identify the type of outreach needed, and put a schedule of activities in place. In the past year since we adopted our PPP, it has become clear that no one PCOP is the same as another and no one strategy meets the needs of every project. Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: ,

Squaring Circles: De-Mystifying Metro’s Budget and Funding Sources (Part Two of Three)

February 5th, 2016 1 comment

As Metro kicks off its public engagement effort for next year’s capital and operating budgets, now is the perfect time to get involved in helping shape the Authority’s priorities for the next few years!

amplify3

This is the second of three related posts that attempt to de-mystify transit funding and give the residents of Metro’s service area some tools to engage in budget discussions. The first post focused on the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA, PDF) and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP, PDF), which together establish a six-year framework for funding projects that improve the Metro System’s safety, reliability, and performance. This post focuses on how the CIP translates into an annual capital budget, and the next post will explore the annual operating budget.

Read more…

When in Hamburg, Germany…

February 3rd, 2016 1 comment

If you ever find yourself in Hamburg, Germany, then you must visit the Miniatur Wunderland.

This is the world’s largest miniature train exhibit, and it is definitely a ‘must-see’ for train lovers. As of September 2015, it had over 13 kilometer of tracks.  Additionally, multiple countries and regions are represented in the settings, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and the US. This entire model setting took over 500,000 hours to create.  There are 900 trains and 1,200 train cars, with the longest train being 14.51 meters long.

If you don’t have the time, or money, to make a visit, you can check out the video below to see how complex the Wunderland is.

Below are some up close shots from 2005. This exhibit is continually changing and growing, so no two visit are alike. What is impressive about this exhibit is the fact that not only are trains in constant motion, there are also wireless controlled vehicles moving about. The exhibit also squeezes in some humor with hidden quirks for those who are observant.

What are some of your favorite train/bus related museums?

 

How Do Marylanders Use Metro?

February 2nd, 2016 2 comments

We analyzed Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess ridership for all Maryland residents in response to the Maryland Legislature’s data and analysis request. Newsflash – we have customers from across the state!

Origins of Maryland Rail Riders

Origins of Maryland Rail Riders

In the 2015 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the WMATA Utilization Study (HB300),which required the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and WMATA to analyze the utilization of Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess every five years. This year’s analysis is based on the most recent Metrorail passenger survey (2012), Metrobus passenger survey (2014), and actual ridership for MetroAccess for an average day in April 2015. Below are some findings that I found most interesting. But more importantly, here is the complete 2015 Maryland HB300 WMATA Utilization Study (native pdf), which includes all the links to the underlying survey data, interactive charts, and analysis.

  • 82 percent of Metrorail trips by Montgomery County residents are destined for Washington DC in the morning on a typical weekday;
  • 71 percent of Metrobus trips in the AM peak period made by Prince George’s County residents are for work purposes on a typical weekday;
  • 3.3 percent of all trips across all Metro services on a typical weekday are taken by Maryland residents from Frederick, Charles, Calvert, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City;
  • 35 percent of other Maryland residents on Metrorail access via commuter rail (MARC) and Amtrak; and
  • 17,600 residents of the District and Virginia reverse-commute into Maryland on Metrorail and bus each morning on a typical weekday (about 5 percent of total system ridership)

Any other nuggets that you found from analyzing the data? Ideas for other ways to graphically represent the findings?

Metro Celebrates Permanent Restoration of Transit Benefit

February 1st, 2016 No comments

After years of analysis, advocacy and lobbying, Congress has restored the transit commuter benefit to match the parking benefit, helping Metro, the region and the nation.

The employer transportation benefit for transit and vanpools has fluctuated a lot in recent years. In February of 2009, it was increased from $120 to $230, matching the parking benefit.  Almost three years later, in January of 2012 it was slashed to $125 only to be raised to $245 the following year.  After only a year, it was slashed again, this time to $130 where it stayed for two full years.  In January of this year, it was raised to $255 to permanently match the parking benefit.  Metro Board of Directors member Tom Bulgeran outspoken advocate for the transit benefit —  played a vital role in ensuring its restoration to match the parking benefit.  Thanks, Tom!

History of Employer Transportation Benefits, Monthly Limits. Data from Wikipedia.

History of Employer Transportation Benefits, Monthly Limits. Data from Wikipedia.

The benefit amount wasn’t the only thing that has been changing.  In 2010, the Metro implemented a series of new IRS rules for how the transit benefit could be used.  For example, on smart media the transit benefit dollars had to be stored in a separate “purse” that could only be use for transit fares and not for parking costs at park-and-ride facilities.  Employers also began asking employees to specify exactly how much transit fare was needed each month, instead of setting one amount and accruing benefits for trips untaken.  Perhaps most importantly, a new rule stated that those unused dollars in this transit-only purse were to be “clawed back” at the end of each month. Read more…

Metro’s Men and Women in Blue are Going Green

January 14th, 2016 No comments

The new MTPD Station is certified green.

Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station

Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station

The Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station and Range Training Facility at Franconia-Springfield have both been officially awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

From inception the project targeted the environmental requirements for LEED certification. However, when construction began in 2013 the process to deliver the necessary credits and provide documented evidence of performance to USGBC began in earnest. Read more…

Categories: In The News Tags: ,

How Can the Transportation Planning Board Support Metro?

January 13th, 2016 No comments
How Can TPB Support Metro: TPB Plans and Processes

Metro and the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) engaged in a wide ranging discussion with TPB board members about how the TPB and the region’s jurisdictions can support Metro now and in the future. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than just predictable funding.

At the December 16th Transportation Planning Board (TPB) meeting (audio), Metro Board Member Harriet Tregoning gave the final presentation (pdf) and facilitated a discussion on Metro’s challenges and provided specific recommendations and/or opportunities for the TPB and local jurisdictions to increase their support the Authority today, tomorrow, and into the future. The focus of the discussion was specifically on plans, processes, and actions that the TPB and local jurisdictions can modify or begin that will ensure predictable funding and/or enhanced funding options, incorporate land use as a transportation strategy, increase transit-supportive land use decisions, prioritize bike and pedestrian access, and advance bus priority on the streets that local jurisdictions operate.

Last summer, TPB members requested a more extensive conversation surrounding Metro’s challenges as well as recommendations on how TPB, through its plans and processes, and local jurisdictions, through their decisions and funding, could support Metro. Metro opted to provide three presentations and the December presentation built on information provided at the November 18th meeting (audio) on Metro Fundamentals (pdf) and Momentum (pdf) that were given  by Tom Webster, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Management and Budget, and Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Planning. The November presentations served to ensure a baseline understanding across TPB Board members, highlight our capital and operating challenges, and identify safety, state of good repair, and longer term needs to ensure safe, reliable transit that meets the growing region. Read more…

Right Underneath our Feet – How Planning, Zoning, and Development Influence Metrorail Ridership

January 12th, 2016 4 comments

Metrorail ridership is heavily-determined by station-area land use patterns, so attention to land use as a transportation strategy will be important to sustaining Metrorail’s long-term ridership growth.

There has been a tremendous amount of attention recently paid to Metrorail’s ridership trends.  While history tells us that the current ridership snapshot – which shows that ridership has essentially flatlined – is quite normal given the cyclic nature of ridership growth, Metro’s Office of Planning has been exploring why certain station areas and rail segments have seen ridership gains during the downturn, while other station areas and segments have seen losses.

Passenger Miles Traveled by Trip Origin at Each Metrorail Station, AM Pea, Full-Fare Riders with no Transit Benefits. One of the inputs from this study.

Passenger Miles Traveled by Trip Origin at Each Metrorail Station, AM Pea, Full-Fare Riders with no Transit Benefits. One of the inputs from this study.

The questions we sought answers to included, for instance:

  • Why is it that while system-wide ridership declined last year, we saw ridership gains at stations with lots of transit-oriented development, such as NoMA, Columbia Heights, and Navy Yard-Ballpark?
  • How much of an impact does transit-oriented development have on overall ridership, and can that impact be measured, both in terms of new ridership as well as in terms of net new farebox revenue?
  • With so many ways to get around – including walking and biking and Uber and Lyft – and gas prices at near historic lows, how does a Metorail trip compare to other ways of getting around in terms of overall competitiveness?
  • Does the location of a transit oriented development project matter in terms of how much ridership it generates?  Does that vary by the type of project (i.e. office, retail, residential, etc)

Read more…

Preparing for Winter: Metrobus Snow Operations Plan now available

January 11th, 2016 No comments

Prepare yourselves for the winter season by checking out the Metrobus Snow Service Plan on the Metrobus Snow Service webpage.

MetroExtra 79 to Silver Spring

MetroExtra 79 to Silver Spring. Photo by WMATA staff.

Every year, Metrobus planners review the Snow Operations Plan for the coming winter. Snow service is a large joint effort between planning and operations. The communication between departments begins early as we make adjustments for route changes from the previous year and reflect back on what we can improve for the upcoming season.

Metrobus operates 3 levels of service during snow events:

Light snow conditions typically have less than 2” of snow without packing or ice. Most routes are expected to operate, possibly under the Light Snow Detour routing.

Moderate snow conditions mean service is suspended on many routes and any route with a snow detour route will be operating under the snow detour.

Severe snow conditions include heavy snowfall with packed snow and/or ice. Bus service will be suspended on all but the busiest routes and any route with a snow detour route will be operating under the snow detour.

In the event of a total service shutdown, no bus service will operate until conditions improve. Customers will receive as much notice as possible before service is suspended.

Example Snow Detour Map. Under Light, Moderate, and Severe Snow Levels, the T18 will not serve Bladensburg High School and will stay on Annapolis Rd.

Example Snow Detour Map. Under Light, Moderate, and Severe service levels, the T18 runs on Annapolis Rd. and does not serve Bladensburg High School.

Bus operations and communications staff will make their best effort to give notice before changing service. The best way to get information is to sign up for MetroAlerts and to check www.wmata.com and the local media for alerts.

Look up your routes on the Metrobus Snow Service webpages to see if your routes operate in Light, Moderate, and Severe service levels and whether your routes have snow detours. Then, when Metrobus announces a snow service level, you’ll be ready.

Route 42 to Metro Center last March. Photo by Ginger.

Route 42 to Metro Center last March. Photo by Ginger.

Categories: Metro 101 Tags: , , ,

Metro Confidential – Expert Tips to Hack Your Trip

January 7th, 2016 2 comments

In 2016, resolve to travel like a transit pro with these five Metro master tips and tricks.

Even the most seasoned Washingtonian learns a thing or two each day about a tip, tweak, hack, or just plain common sense adjustment to their transit trip that makes their journey quicker, hassle-free, and more fun!  Here are some of our favorites that we hope you’ll try in 2016 – happy transiting!

We've all been there. These tips will help you master train crowding and more. Image: WMATA

We’ve all been there. These tips will help you master train crowding and more. Image: WMATA

  1. Set up Auto Reload – You’ve got more important things to do than fuddle with a 1970s era fare machine or to get stuck at the end of your trip without enough stored value to exit the system.  Set it and forget it to skip this step forever!  Auto Reload allows you to set up stored value and pass products so they can be automatically reloaded to your SmarTrip® or CharmCard® when your stored value runs low or your pass is about to expire.
  2. When it comes to train cars, there’s usually more room up front or in back.  WMATA runs trains in two different “consists” – those with eight cars, and those with six.  For whatever reason, customers tend to gather on the platforms near the middle cars and pack them way too tightly.  Meanwhile, even when the middle cars are overloaded, there is often room in the first or last car in the train (Cars 1 and 6/8).  We don’t know exactly why human behavior fosters “bunching” (we do know that lack of traffic priority fosters bus bunching) but now that you know, try the first or last cars when you want to spread out and/or have a seat.
  3. You’ve heard of Next Bus – try Next Station.  What’s that?  A new app?  New service?  Nope – it’s a handy tip for making your journey simpler.  The next time you’re approaching your destination, try peeking up from your phone and get into the aisle (not vestibule, and please don’t block priority seating if our most sensitive customers are standing!) one stop ahead.  That way you are pre-positioned to exit the train without pushing/shoving through on boarding passengers (or getting elbowed yourself as you slow everyone else down!)
  4. Plan an exit strategy.  I’m a Red Line rider and my office at WMATA is convenient to Judiciary Square.  I try and make sure to board the train at Car 3, door 1.  That way I’m exactly where the escalator meets the platform when I disembark.  Try figuring out your exit strategy next time you travel, or use the Metro Master website.  Which car and door makes the most sense for your journey?  How does that work with/against the tips above?
  5. There’s an App for that.  WMATA works with the developer community to help them help you.  Choose from the multitude of apps out there that help you plan the perfect transit trip.  Is your line running smoothly or gummed up?  Hop on a bus or take the train?  Blue for you or Hello Yellow? Eliminate the guesswork and join the transit technology revolution – you’ll be surprised how much easier your trip is when you app before you tap.

What other tips help you ride Metro like a regular?