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All Aboard! Metro Welcomes New Development Planned at Rhode Island Avenue

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

A redevelopment project planned for Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, one of the largest such projects in the District, could bring $2.3M per year in new fare revenue for Metrorail.

A venture led by MRP Realty is proposing a mega project near the Rhode Island Avenue metro station, which when constructed would add over 1,500 residential units and retail to that transit-oriented community.  That’s fantastic news for the District, which needs household growth to resolve its structural fiscal deficit, and also for Metro and the region, which benefits each time we add transit-oriented development that drives ridership and revenue.

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

At Metro we find this especially exciting because it is yet another example of how changes in development are in part fueling a ridership resurgence.  Our Land Use-Ridership model conservatively suggests that this project will yield an additional 3,200 rail entries per day systemwide, generating rail fare revenues of around $2.3 million per year. Whether this ridership actually materializes – or is even higher – depends on the developer building good pedestrian connections to the Metro station and the Met Branch Trail.

In addition, this project could be a good opportunity to create a pedestrian connection between the station and the neighborhoods to the north, where potential Metrorail riders are blocked from the station’s “walk shed” today.  The current conditions include a challenging combination of grade changes and physical barriers behind the shopping mall, creating pedestrian barriers outlined in red below. The key question will be whether the development will help fix the barrier along the north side of the site, which would only increase the ridership- and revenue-generating potential of this project.

Image Courtesy Google Maps

Pedestrian barriers in red. Image courtesy Google Maps

The property tax benefits of the project all accrue to the District, and the increased revenue to WMATA doesn’t come for free – the system will need to handle the additional passengers and incur additional operating costs and potential wear and tear on the system.  Right now there isn’t a defined mechanism for WMATA to recoup the value of real estate property taxes to fund capital renewal or expansion.  But certainly anything that contributes to the operating health of the transit agency through increased ridership and revenues goes a long way to promoting financial stability for the Authority, as well as lowering the operating subsidy burden it requires to run the system.

Metrorail Ridership – Back on Track

July 21st, 2015 No comments

Metrorail ridership stabilized in FY 2015, and that’s exactly what we said would happen.

We’ve seen from previous posts that total Metorail ridership had been experiencing its cyclical swoon following the housing bust and economic collapse of 2008.  Despite the volatile market, system ridership stabilized over the last few years – this past year may mark the beginning of the next phase of Metrorail ridership growth.  In Fiscal Year 2015, average weekday Metrorail ridership grew by just over 1.5%.

Ridership

The biggest swing of course is the difference in October: in October of 2013, we experienced the ridership loss due to the prolonged Federal Government shutdown; that didn’t happen in October of 2014.  Another interesting difference is that in FY 2014 there were five snow days during the winter, compared to only two snow days during the winter of FY 2015.  So, even when discounting the October effect, ridership was still up slightly year over year – a good sign for Metro and the region that helps support its services! And of course, the new Silver Line stations are helping to drive growth as well.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to experience strong growth in Metrobus routes where we have executed operational innovations.  Metro stands ready to work with jurisdictions and replicate these successes elsewhere.

This isn’t the end of the story.  The region’s pipeline of transit oriented development is going to accelerate this ridership growth, and in the next post we’ll provide just one example by detailing the expected ridership impacts of the exciting new project proposed for Rhode Island Avenue.

Categories: Engage Tags: , ,

Metrorail Revenue by Station – Visualized!

April 15th, 2015 6 comments

Where and when does Metrorail generate the most farebox revenue? So far the data reinforces the notion that ours is a truly regional system with strong revenue contributions from all jurisdictions – but of course, the story is far more complicated than that…

What kind of rail system is Metrorail? Urban subway? Commuter rail? Hybrid? The answer of course is all of the above. And if that is the case, what kind of ridership and revenue patterns should its stations and system exhibit? High levels of peak revenues with heavy commuter lot usage but relative inactivity during the day? Lower levels of peak period activity but a steady stream of usage throughout the day? Depending on your perspective (and travel patterns) one might argue for either, and it might seem easy to apply a blanket classification to Metrorail and declare that “only urban stations cover their cost” or “commuter stations contribute largely to Metrorail’s revenue picture.”

Well, when you throw the data up on a map, it becomes clear that there are no easy answers, and no one right way to view the revenue picture of our tri-jurisdictional hybrid rail network. Some conclusions from the data are intuitive, some less so. Among them:

  • Differences in ridership across stations are bigger than differences in revenue, so ridership is a stronger explanation of differences in revenue than fares. For example, Shady Grove’s average fare in the AM Peak is $5, which is twice as much as the smallest average fare. On the other hand, ridership at Shady Grove is ten times higher than other stations, so the ridership better explains the station’s revenue.
  • In the AM Peak, the terminal stations dominate in terms of revenue contribution. Union Station functions as an internal “terminal station,” meaning that the commuter rail and Amtrak connections to Metro are extremely important to the overall ridership and revenue picture.
  • Other stations with strong bus or commuter park-and-ride infrastructures also pop in the AM Peak, such as Silver Spring and Grosvenor.
  • Note how well the non-Silver line stations in Virginia perform in the AM Peak, as well as the somewhat expected better performance of the Shady Grove branch of the Red Line in the AM Peak.
  • In the PM Peak, the core is king. Stations like Farragut West and North, Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza are producing $50,000 apiece every evening thanks to their job densities, reinforcing the importance of improving their capacity for the future in Metro 2025, as well as their huge importance to revenue today. By comparison, in the AM Peak, only Shady Grove and Vienna approach these levels of revenue at roughly $40,000 per station.
  • The New Carrollton and Largo Town Center branches of the Blue/Orange/Silver Lines contribute significantly less revenue than other branches, and this directly relates to the relative lack of transit-oriented development along these spines.  The station areas on these lines enjoy a superb level of rail connectivity to the region’s primary job cores, but without sound transit-oriented investments to-date, they have not yielded the type of ridership and revenue commensurate with the capital investment. Imagine what Metro’s revenues (and farebox recovery) could look like if these segments were properly developed!

We’ve been examining the data ourselves as we continue forward with Momentum’s call for us to ensure financial stability for the Authority and have created the visualization for you to play with. We’d love to know what you see!

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

April 7th, 2015 6 comments

In Part Two of this series, we forecast the impact of the region’s near-term development pipeline on Metrorail ridership, using the Land Use-Ridership model. The good news? Metrorail ridership is set to show big gains. The bad news? Your ride just got less roomy.

Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this post, we saw a flurry of news articles detailing the regional market forces that portend increased rail ridership. Millennials choosing not to drive, even as they grow up.  Office parks in far-flung places experiencing devaluations while Metrorail-adjacent areas capturing the lion’s share of new leases.  Marriott announcing that it will seek a transit-accessible location when it moves.  And even defense contractors coming to bat to argue for the economic benefits of the Purple Line. All of this free publicity set us up nicely for what we wanted to share with you – the first results of the Office of Planning’s Land Use-Ridership model as applied to near-term development projects.

The Near-Term Pipeline. Researchers at Jones Lang LaSalle have been compiling a list of actual development projects – under construction, or planned – near Metrorail stations, so that we can forecast the near-term capital needs for the system. A huge amount of development (over 105 million square feet!) is on the books for within a half-mile of a Metrorail station.

NearTermPipeline_Thumbnail

Map of near-term development projects near Metrorail, by building type (click for full image)

So, How Much Ridership? What impact will all of this have on Metrorail? We ran these projects through the Land Use-Ridership model, and what we found was both intuitive – and startling. Read more…

Walk This Way – Metrorail’s Walkshed Atlas 1.0

March 30th, 2015 15 comments

Station-area walkability is one of the most potent congestion-busting tools in the planner’s bag of tricks. Now we’ve mapped out in detail which stations are living up to their full potential – and where we need to redouble our efforts.

We’ve brought to you information about the power of station area walkability. Not only does better station access give mobility benefits to those who most need it, but it also boosts ridership and revenue and therefore lowers Metrorail’s operating subsidy. That means lower taxes for you and me.

Metro’s Office of Planning is wiring the science of walkability into WMATA’s Key Performance Indicators. We are committed to working with our partner jurisdictions to improving station area access and identifying the near-term and low-cost improvements that have big returns for ridership and revenue. And we have been working diligently to develop a comprehensive geodatabase of walk sheds and the land uses – existing, planned, and proposed – located within them.