Author Archive

Designing the SelectPass Test Phase

May 4th, 2016 7 comments

The new Metro SelectPass is structured to to maximize pilot participation while minimizing the risks.  Making that happen involves overcommitting to truth in advertising – and we’re fine with that!

The two most likely fare levels for the SelectPass are $2.25 and $3.75.

The two fare levels most likely to be popular for the SelectPass are $2.25 and $3.75.

We are excited about the launch of the new SelectPass pilot.  As we have begun to roll out this new pass product, we are listening to your questions (via twitter, comments posted to articles, etc.) and we hope to address as many of them through the proper venues.  PlanItMetro seems to be the best forum to answer the persistent question, “Is this really only for two fare levels, and why don’t you tell everyone that they can probably save money?”

Testing the capacity of the Fare System

When we roll out new features, we want to eliminate as many risks as possible before committing to them.  In this case, the primary risk Metro faces is that our aging fare technology might not be able to accommodate a very different fare product such as SelectPass.  So we developed a program to test the pass at two individual “levels” as a proof of concept and not push any limits of our fare collection technology. Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , , ,

Metrorail Ridership Data Download, October 2015

March 14th, 2016 8 comments

New data download features rail ridership by origin, destination, day of week, and quarter-hour intervals.

ridership_plots_subset

Subset of the visualization made by BioNrd aka Mike from our October 2014 data download data.

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s been a while since we’ve released a fresh batch of Metrorail ridership data.  Continuing the spirit of openness, we have recently uploaded data from October 2015 in CSV format.  (The number of rows is too great for Microsoft Excel).

This new dataset includes day of week data, so you can begin to investigate impacts of evolving workplace policies such as compressed work schedules.  You can also compare it to October 2014.

In the past, we have seen a lot of innovative analyses of the data we share.  Perhaps the best so far was a visualization of Metrorail station entries and exits by station by “BioNrd” aka “Mike.” What else can we learn from this dataset?

 

SelectPass Pilot: Making it Easier to Plan, Pay, and Ride

March 11th, 2016 27 comments

Customers showed high levels of interest in a customizable monthly pass.

pass_interest

Metro customer interest in a new unlimited monthly pass concept, by market segment.*

Metro is not raising fares this year, and instead is innovating ways to make it easier and more affordable to use the system.  Metro is taking a page from private industry, which has moved away from charging customers for each purchase and towards giving customers the option to “subscribe” to a company in exchange for unlimited access.  A Netflix subscription has replaced a membership at the local video store.  Amazon Prime offers unlimited shipping rather than shipping on each item.  Spotify subscriptions have replaced purchasing individual CDs.  Why not a subscription to use Metro?

Fortunately, we found a way to provide this to our customers and we’re really excited to begin testing it out starting this month.  The idea is to allow customers the ability to customize an unlimited access pass based on their usual travel patterns. Modeled after Seattle’s Puget Pass and frequently discussed on Greater Greater Washington over the past few years, this pass would allow customers to subscribe to a monthly pass, priced based on their typical trip costs, that offers unlimited travel on rail and the option to add on the same flexibility on bus.  We are calling it the Metro SelectPass.

Here’s the basic concept.  Customers tell Metro their usual start points and end points.  We then figure out how much that trip costs and offer you unlimited travel on rail up to that value in exchange for you buying 18 days worth of trips.  For example, if a customer’s “usual” peak trip is $2.25, they can get a pass priced at $81.00 (about $2.25 x 18 x 2) and then all trips valued at $2.25 or less would be free for an entire calendar month.  Extra trips for lunch, a night on the town, doctor’s appointment – it’s all included in one low price.  If you travel on a more expensive trip for any reason, you only pay the difference for that trip.  Most customers may enjoy savings of over 20% off of the pay-as-you-go rate, and they’ll also get the benefit of knowing they can travel as much as they want, whenever they want, all for one price.

For an additional $45 per month, customers can choose to add unlimited bus travel on top of unlimited rail travel.  That’s a huge savings compared to pay-as-you-go!  Read more…

Metro Planners Share Innovations in Transit Delay Calculation at TRB

February 25th, 2016 5 comments

Adopted from queueing theory, this new method of assessing delay on transit systems with tap-in-tap-out fare systems accounts for natural variations in customer behavior.

As you may have heard, Metro is testing out a new customer-oriented travel time performance indicator. Many departments here at Metro have been collaborating on this effort. Metro has decided to initially pilot a measure where we define delay as anything greater than train run time, a headway, and the 1-3 minutes it takes to travel from the faregates to the platform. However, as we began our research into customer travel time, we got to asking the question, “How do we define customer delay on the rail system?”

tortoise_and_hare

As we quickly learned when digging into the data, on good days with no delay on the rail system, there is still a wide variety of “normal” customer travel times. Some variation in travel time is because customers arrive at random to the origin station, but all leave the destination station more or less at once.  Additional factors influencing this variation include walking speed, use of elevator vs. stairs, escalator or elevator outages, and customers with suitcases and strollers.

We could start with a threshold for “on time” but by definition we know on a good day there were no rail delays so we would be counting slower customers as “late.”

Additionally, on a day when we know a disruption has occurred, we might count very quick customers as “on time” when in fact we know that everyone experienced some delay.

So we set to determine a method for calculating delay that accommodated for the natural variation in customer speeds.  These travel time curves started reminding me of delay calculations from queueing theory from grad school. Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , ,

Metro Celebrates Permanent Restoration of Transit Benefit

February 1st, 2016 1 comment

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…

Paratransit and the Coming Age Wave

December 15th, 2015 2 comments

Christian T. Kent, the Assistant General Manager for Access Services, offers his thoughts on accessibility and Metro’s future.

ChristianKentMr. Kent provides oversight for the accessibility of Metrobus and Metrorail and is directly responsible for the operation of MetroAccess paratransit service. Metro operates the largest fully accessible transit system and the fifth largest paratransit system in North America. 

Accessibility is very important at Metro. Because Metro is accessible, hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in our region can depend on Metro to get where they are going. Our low-floor talking buses and rail stations with elevators mean that someone who is blind or uses a wheelchair can use Metrobus or Metrorail. Metro can be the family car for someone who can’t drive. And for those who can’t use bus or rail, there is our paratransit service, MetroAccess. Our 675 lift-equipped MetroAccess vans deliver over 2 million rides every year to 40,000 customers. So Metro really is very important to people with disabilities, and Metro will be even more important to them in the future. Why is that?

America is getting older. More and more people are turning 65 each year, and seniors have a much higher rate of disability and drive less often than younger people. The average MetroAccess rider is 62 years old. In the District, the average age is 67. This “age wave” means more Metro customers with disabilities in the coming years. We need to make sure that the accessibility features in our bus and rail service work consistently well so that customers with disabilities choose and use bus and rail. Providing the most accessible bus and rail service means less reliance on MetroAccess. This is important to Metro because a trip on paratransit is much more expensive than one on bus or rail, and it is important to customers who want to take advantage of the most independent means of travel available. Read more…

Brookland-CUA Station Rises to the Challenge of Papal Proportions

October 5th, 2015 1 comment

Brookland-CUA station enabled over 24,000 trips for visitors attending the papal events at the Basilica on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. 

Brookland-CUA Metro station in Washington The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic University of America campus is in the background. Photo Credit: AgnosticPreachersKid at English Wikipedia

Metrorail can handle crowds for most events downtown where the demand can be shared across a variety of stations and lines.   The papal mass at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, however, required a little extra planning.  The Secret Service was in charge of the regional planning of the event, and as the event approached Metro staff became aware the event would have a ticketed attendance of 25,000 people and that an additional 15,000 people might amass outside the venue to watch the ceremony on the jumbo-trons and try to catch a glimpse of the Pope on his way in and out of the area.  Preparing to enable safe and efficient trips for up to 40,000 customers at a station with one of the smallest capacities in the system required some extra effort. Read more…

Toronto’s Airport Connections are on the Up and “Up”

September 28th, 2015 3 comments

On a recent trip to Toronto, Metro planner discovers a new rail link.

I flew up to Toronto in July of this year for a fun weekend trip, flying into Pearson Airport.  I’ve traveled up there a few times in the past year and try to take transit between the airport and downtown when schedules allow.  Each time, I check transit schedules via Google Maps to determine whether or not transit from the airport makes sense to me.  This most recent time, I discovered something odd:  a new transit connection from the airport I hadn’t seen before, simply labeled “UP“.  Curious, I googled it and discovered that a new rail transit link had just opened between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto’s Union Station, with two stops in between.  Being a transit nerd, I had to check it out.

The new UP train operates between Toronto's Union Station and Pearson Airport.

The new UP train operates between Toronto’s Union Station and Pearson Airport.

Read more…

Metro to Create First Regional Open Transit Schedule Data Feed

September 14th, 2015 2 comments

Metro is coordinating with other regional agencies to release a single data file that will contain schedule data for all transit operators in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.

Over 10 years ago, Metro began coordinating with local bus operators and commuter rail agencies to incorporate all of their transit schedules into wmata.com Trip Planner.  It took some time and effort, but eventually Metro reached agreements with all the operators in the region and began to consolidate transit schedules in one online, searchable data source.  In fact, Metro’s Trip Planner is the most comprehensive online data source for regional transit trip planning.  So much so, that when the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) needs to update their four-step travel demand model they request all of the region’s transit schedules from Metro and we deliver them as a General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) file.

Over two years ago, we posted here a data visualization of that GTFS file developed by STLTransit.  GreaterGreaterWashington subsequently published a post advocating for the public release of this regional GTFS file, arguing that it would fill a big gap in regional online transit trip planning.  There are two primary benefits of Metro releasing this file:

  • Sites and app developers can load one data file for all the region’s transit instead of downloading separate files for each agency.
  • Only some agencies in the region publish their own GTFS files, and releasing this file will make several agencies’ schedule data available online for the first time.

Over the past two years, Metro staff have worked to negotiate the release of this GTFS file.  We were pleased reach out to the other regional operators in July requesting sign-off on a regional data-sharing agreement that would permit Metro to release the other agencies’ data online in this GTFS format.  We are excitedly awaiting executed agreements from the operators, and we’ve received one back already, thanks RideOn!  Once we have received a few more replies, we will begin to publish a regional file including the data of all agencies that have executed the agreement.

In the meantime, feel free to contact your local bus, commuter bus or commuter rail operator and ask that they expedite the signing of this regional transit schedule data sharing agreement.

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , ,

Taylor Swift vs. Nationals – Hit Singles, but No Home Run

July 17th, 2015 6 comments

Ridership from neither of the two back-to-back sold-out Taylor Swift concerts at Nationals Park this week generated as many riders as an average Nationals baseball game.

Entries at Navy Yard by fifteen-minute period, Orange and Gray were nights of the Taylor Swift concerts.

Pop star Taylor Swift brought her 1989 tour to Washington this week, playing two sold-out concerts at Nationals Park, adjacent to the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metrorail station.  According to Swift, approximately 45,000 people attended each concert.  That’s a lot higher than a normal Nationals game, as the concert had seating on the floor as well as in the stands.  One would hope that such big crowds would bump up Metrorail ridership higher than the Nats.  You might be disappointed. Read more…