What are the Drivers for Demand of Transit Services?
Demand for public transportation services is not a direct demand, meaning that transit is a means to another end: a traveler on transit rarely takes transit for the sake of travel but because they have a need for work, shopping, entertainment, etc. Additionally, many factors determine whether a traveler’s demand for a good or service translates into a public transportation trip or a trip by a private automobile. Therefore, transit demand is driven by two different sets of factors, the first being the changing demand for goods or services that result in the demand for transportation and the second being the factors that influence which transportation mode is chosen.
For example, having a job creates the need to travel to work. Yet other factors — such as the levels of transit service between home and work locations, the price of gas, the transit fare, the relative travel time between car and transit, and car-ownership rates – may have some influence over whether the demand for travel translates into the demand for a travel trip.
Over the past several years, Metro has worked to determine which factors influence public transportation demand in the long term. We have some confidence that regional transit demand is highly correlated with a variety of factors, including:
- Regional economic indicators: jobs and population of the District or the region
- Tourist activity: months with high levels of tourist activity generally have higher ridership
- Seasonality: Lower ridership in months where vacations and holidays are common
- Direct costs: Transit fares impact off-peak and weekend ridership, and gas priced above $4 per gallon appears to increase demand for transit in general
- Weather: extreme weather generally has a negative influence on ridership demand, including snow, rain, heat and cold
- Special events: presidential inaugurations, rallies, national celebrations and protests can have a noticeable impact on monthly ridership and revenue totals
These factors and more are evaluated for about 18 months into the future in order to generate estimates of future ridership and revenue for the development of Metro’s budget ever year.
What factors influence your travel demand, and whether you take Metrorail, Metrobus or another transit mode?