Author Archive

Where Are Those Rail Riders Going?

May 12th, 2015 4 comments

Ever wonder where rail riders are going to and from? Here’s a map that shows you.

“What are the destinations of riders at Station X?”  It’s a question we get often here. Well, using October 2014 rail ridership data by origin and destination, it’s pretty easy to answer that question – click below for an interactive map.

OD Rail Viz preview

Click for a larger, interactive version of Metrorail ridership information by origin and destination station

Monitoring (and Caring About) Customers, Not Just Trips

April 13th, 2015 2 comments

Deep explorations into the composition of Metrorail’s customer base shows that Metro has a wide reach – and that the five-day-a-week rider may not be as common as you think.

Metro (bus and rail) moves 1.1 million people per day, right? Well, technically we see that many trips (transactions) per day, but how many individual customers is that?  When you look at your fellow passengers on-board a train, how many are frequent commuters? How many rarely ride? In addition to counting trips, we’ve begun to monitor customers – the number of unique SmarTrip cards and paper tickets used on the system in a month.

We’re starting with Metrorail at first.

Metrorail typically handles roughly 730,000 trips on a weekday, which are generated by about 400,000 unique customers. Some of those customers ride frequently, and others will ride only once in the month.  As the chart below shows, of the 730,000 trips, only about two-thirds are generated by frequent customers.  Not surprisingly, frequent customers dominate more during the peak times.

Sept 2014 ridership by frequency by period_bars

Typical weekday rail ridership (trips) by customer’s monthly frequency (trips/month)

Surprisingly, over 17% of all trips are generated by customers who take eight trips/month or fewer– that’s fewer than once per week.  That may not seem like much, but in order for infrequent customers to generate so much of our ridership each and every day, there must be a LOT of them! Read more…

Going Up – Why the Construction Pipeline Means Higher Metrorail Ridership (Part One)

April 6th, 2015 5 comments

We’ve claimed that Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) projects in this region will be critical to Metrorail ridership and sustainability. The good news is that our assertions are grounded in statistically rigorous evaluations of TOD’s impact on Metrorail ridership – here’s how. (Part one of a two-part series).

While factors like fares, service, and the economy can certainly explain some changes in Metrorail ridership, one absolutely fundamental explanation of differences in walk ridership between stations is development.  Why does a station like Landover see only 50 riders arrive on foot each morning, and a station like Crystal City see over 3,000?  Why does a station like Bethesda see balanced ridership in all directions, where a station like Suitland is almost entirely one-direction? Development. Even a simple scatter plot shows that households alone near the station explain 70% of AM Peak walk ridership!

Planning studies have long-posited that transit-oriented development is such a key part of driving ridership, and if that is the case, then TOD is vitally important to Metro’s long-term financial sustainability.  We at Metro needed to quantify this link in a more sophisticated and system-specific way, and so we created a way to calculate the impact of land use changes (household growth, employment growth, new development) on ridership and revenue.

What is a Land Use-Ridership Model? To help, Metro’s Planning Office has built a Land Use-Ridership Model that will predict changes in Metrorail ridership as a result of occupancy changes (growth, decline, new development, etc.) in the station area.  This model helps us get very specific when it comes to modeling the impact of land use changes on ridership and revenue.  It helps us answer questions such as: “When developers build a new apartment building next to a Metrorail station how much ridership and revenue will Metro realize?”, and; “If an office building is proposed at one of four Metrorail stations, which location maximizes ridership and revenue without exacerbating core capacity constraints?”

LURM general flow

This tool is based on a rigorous understanding of the link between land use and the rail ridership we see today and is built on “direct ridership modeling techniques“ found in academia.  It also focuses specifically on “walk ridership” (which constitutes 38% and 78% of our AM and PM peak ridership), since rides related to bus transfers, parking, and other access modes are less related to adjacent land uses.

To build this, we analyzed the actual quantity of walkable land uses from each station area, assembled detailed information about land uses and densities in those areas (households, jobs by industry type), and also controlled for other, non-land-use factors that shape ridership – like network accessibility. In all we worked through over 200 independent variables in our modeling and also brought in experts from the University of Maryland’s Center for Smart Growth, professors Hiroyuki Iseki, Ph.D. and Chao Liu, Ph.D., to bring their analytical and statistical firepower to the fray.

How We Built It. We defined the walkable area as a half-mile walk along a road network, so we account for barriers like highways and fences.  The half-mile cutoff is a bit longer than the median actual walk distance reported by our riders in the 2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey. For each station and its walk shed, we tested the following kinds of factors: Read more…

Silver Line Ridership Patterns – Visualized!

February 23rd, 2015 1 comment

Learn about the travel patterns of Silver Line riders in rich, interactive detail with this new tool.

Click on the dashboard below to see where Silver Line rail riders are going, coming from, and by time of day and day type.  This is simply a visualization of the October 2014 rail ridership data we recently posted.  What patterns do you see? What jumps out at you?

The Impact of a Snow Day on Ridership

February 19th, 2015 8 comments

Tuesday’s snow day cut ridership by 70-80% on rail and bus, as the region dug out from a snowstorm.

Snow and federal government closures can have a big impact on ridership here on Metro, and Tuesday February 17 was no exception. Ridership on Metrobus and Metrorail was down significantly as snow kept many buses off the roads and as many commuters stayed home. Service was reduced: Metrorail operated on a Saturday schedule, and Metrobus only began resuming operations around late morning. The numbers are preliminary, particularly on Metrobus, where not all fareboxes have reported in yet. Nevertheless, here’s what ridership by hour looked like compared to the previous Tuesday for context:

Snow Day 2.17.2015 ridership v2

Are Low Gas Prices Impacting Ridership at Metro?

February 11th, 2015 7 comments

As gasoline prices drop and commuters feel less pain at the pump, do they drive more and take Metro less? The short answer is maybe, but not much.

In recent months, gasoline prices in the Washington region have dropped by over a dollar per gallon, to a near-record low of around $2.50 per gallon. Here’s how gas prices have changed in the last 11 years (unadjusted for inflation):

Historical gas prices, Washington region

Below is a simple scatter plot comparing those prices to bus and rail ridership to gasoline prices, by month, for the last 11 years. It shows that gas prices have a very small, nearly negligible, effect on Metro ridership.  The relationship is essentially zero for Metrobus, and barely detectable on Metrorail as a whole, as pictured below. The link is best with off-peak rail ridership (R2 = 0.24) compared to peak ridership (R2 = 0.09), suggesting that off-peak Metrorail riders are most sensitive to gas prices.  (Not pictured.) Read more…

Rail Ridership Down As SmartBenefits Run Out

January 12th, 2015 3 comments

Many Metrorail riders now run out of SmartBenefits mid-month, and they may stop riding.

Since the federal transit benefit maximum dropped from $240 to $130 per month, about 25%  of regular Metrorail commuters are running out of SmartBenefits to pay their fare before the month is over. By month’s end, trips paid for with SmartBenefits are now crashing by 40% over last year.  Though a variety of factors explain recent decreases in Metrorail ridership, the transit benefit is a strong explanation as to why the losses are concentrated in the second half of the month. In fact, the biggest influence on ridership over the past year may be the cut in the federal transit benefit, and ridership might even be up by about 2% otherwise.

If we look at trips per day over the span of the month, and only at trips over 7 miles paid for with SmartBenefits, we see the drop closely coinciding with when riders run out of SmartBenefits.   (Shorter trips can be fully funded by the current benefit amount of $130 per month.)

SmartBenefits_over_weekdays_in_a_month_v2

Read more…

Ridership at Tysons Corner Station Doubled on Black Friday

January 5th, 2015 No comments

The day was the Tysons Corner Station’s busiest since the Silver Line opened.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. As would be expected, ridership at Metro’s new Tysons Corner station skyrocketed on Black Friday this year. The station facilitated 10,800 riders entering or exiting over the course of the day, double its normal weekday volume of around 5,500.  The chart below shows ridership at Tysons Corner by half-hour for all Fridays since Labor Day.

The day was the first sign of success for Metro’s partnership with Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Partnership, to encourage shoppers to take Metro to Tysons.

What patterns do you see in this data? Check out the other analysis, visualizations, and the data here.

Metrorail Brought One-Third of Fans to Nationals Park in 2014

December 22nd, 2014 12 comments

Carrying an average of 11,000 riders to every Nationals home game, Metrorail maintained a 34% mode share to Nationals park in the 2014 season.

How many baseball fans take Metro to Nationals Park? Metro’s rail planning team tracks this statistic, by looking at activity around game times at Navy Yard-Ballpark and Capitol South stations that exceed our typical baseline ridership.  On game days, Metro provides special game-day trains on the Green Line to handle increased loads to and from Navy Yard-Ballpark station.

Over the 81 home games in 2014, Metrorail brought an estimated 890,000 total riders to the ballpark, or about 11,000 riders per game.  Compared to the average attendance of 31,000 at Nationals Park this year, this equates to a 34% mode share for Metrorail at Nationals Park.  Including both entries and exits, Nationals games generated about 1.7 million total trips for Metrorail this season. A few more observations:

  • Interestingly, ridership to the game is typically 8% higher than ridership from the game – some spectators must be finding another way home!
  • Metrorail’s mode share was highest for Friday games (38%), and lowest for Wednesday games (32%)
  • Mode share increases slightly for high-attendance games, but the relationship is weak.  Metrorail’s market share remains mostly stable in the 30-40% range, whether attendance was 20,000 or 40,000.

We’ve posted additional visualizations and the raw data, in addition to the charts in this post. What do you think? What patterns do you see?

Veterans Day 2014 Metrorail Ridership

December 18th, 2014 2 comments

 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…