Population and jobs are up, but regional travel is down – Why? The very nature of trip-making may be changing in this region.
For several years, we have been reporting internally and externally about declines in Metrorail ridership. Our most recent rail ridership numbers show continued patterns of ridership levels that are five to eight percent below its 2009 peak, and despite gains in March, the trend in April and May suggests that the ridership patterns that we are seeing now are more structural than cyclical. The implication here is that Metrorail may be operating at a “new normal” level that is still poised for growth, but growing from a baseline that has been reset at a lower level.
Theories abound about why this is taking place – telework and rail reliability are among the most talked-about culprits – but it’s almost impossible to isolate one cause among many in a time period that also witnessed fare increases, gas prices drop to historically low levels, and wild variations in the Federal transit benefit.
Now we have new information that may present a compelling theory about the declines in Metrorail ridership – the region is making fewer and fewer trips. Data recently released by our Transportation Planning Board depicts a startling story of this region’s travel patterns over the last decade or so. This data tell us that despite economic factors that would normally portend increased trip-making – rising population, household, and employment growth – this region is actually seeing fewer trips overall, regardless of mode. Read more…
In the DC region, shared mobility (Uber, Lyft, etc.) are actually complementary to the transit network. Here’s why we see opportunities to consider even better system integration.
“Transportation Network Companies” – you know them as Uber, Lyft and a host of other brands – are now part of the urban transportation landscape. Some have suggested that the rise of their popularity contributes to ridership decline on Metrorail and still others have heralded their emergence as the end of transit as we know it. Always focused on investigating trends and proliferating fact rather than folklore, we wanted to know the truth. Should Metro be nervous? Are customized trips like these going to put traditional bus and rail out of business?
Research (PDF) published by the American Public Transit Association and Transportation Research Board – and which I had the pleasure of helping to oversee – tells us that customers of ridesourcing tend to use the services when transit is less available as well as to get to destinations not easily served by traditional transit. Furthermore, we learned that in the DC region especially, these TNCs tend to function as informal “Metrorail shuttles” – almost two thirds of Uber trips in the District begin or end at a Metrorail station, and slightly more than a third of Uber trips follow that pattern when we zoom out to the entire region. Similar statistics prevail when examining the usage of car sharing companies such as Zipcar and Enterprise. Finally, the data indicates that 57% of frequent users of ridesourcing companies as well as car- and bike-sharing customers identified bus and rail transit as their preferred transportation mode. This tells us that these services have an important role in complementing the Metro rail system for many customers. Read more…
Restoring Metro’s reliability and quality requires a comprehensive approach to asset management and reinvestment.
Capital needs include escalator replacement, as pictured here.
In April, Metro staff commenced the important work of updating its Capital Needs Inventory (CNI), a financially unconstrained prioritized plan of capital needs that documents Metro’s infrastructure, vehicle, facility, technology, and system capacity investment needs over an immediate to 10-year horizon, and provides input to the development of the six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This document, which itemizes and prioritizes the capital investment needs of the entire Authority over a ten-year period, not only informs our jurisdictional partners about funding needs, but is now also a component of the federally required Transit Asset Management Plans outlined in MAP-21. Importantly, Metro’s CNI effort is occurring at a critical time both for the Authority and within the transit industry. Concurrent with recent asset-related failures on Metro’s rail system, international standards for asset management (ISO 55000) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed rules have recently been published that can help guide the methodology and tools used to develop a best-in-class CNI.
Have we done this before?
Awareness of the need to focus on the maintenance and renewal of Metro’s capital assets has existed since the system opened, but a comprehensive approach to long-term planning for the funding and management of capital assets has been lacking for much of Metro’s history. In the early years of Metrorail operations, the focus of funding campaigns was on construction of the full system. Toward the late 1990s, as the 103-mile rail system neared completion, efforts began to quantify capital improvement needs and to increase the size of the capital improvement program budget. Some key milestones during that period included: Read more…
The Federal Government is the region’s single largest employer, and where it chooses to locate its jobs has huge implications for ridership, revenue, and the local operating subsidy.
We recently detailed why the Federal government’s location decisions matter so much to Metro – and you, the taxpayers who help support WMATA through your local taxes. We’re always keeping an eye on moves within the region and certainly hopeful that any major moves (whether they are in the public sector or private sector) locate near Metrorail. That’s because locating near Metrorail increases ridership, increases farebox revenue, and lowers the (your) taxpayer burden to support Metro.
Naturally, the news about GSA’s upcoming decision on the location of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services complex (USCIS) caught our eye and wonkiness. We wanted to know about how much ridership and revenue the different options might generate.
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.
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)
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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?
- 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?
Between 2007 and 2012, off-peak work trips were the fastest-growing segment of Metrorail ridership.
The traditional “rush hour” remains important, but Metrorail ridership seems to reflect a broader trend regionally – people are making more and more trips during “off peak” hours. According to the 2012 Metrorail survey, rail ridership growth was stronger in its off-peak (8 percent since 2007) than the peak (5 percent over the same time period). In certain jurisdictions – including those that have fostered re-investment in dense, walkable areas – off peak growth was into the double digits while peak growth grew more modestly. In one jurisdiction, off-peak trips grew by 50% during this period while peak trips grew at less than half that clip.
|District of Columbia
|City of Alexandria
|Prince George’s County
|City of Falls Church
Data sources, Metrorail ridership surveys, 2007 and 2012. 2012 is the most recent dataset we have on trip purpose.
In the past these trips would be for theaters, late night entertainment, or shift work, but the bulk of these off-peak trips were during the midday – almost twice the number of late night trips – and the bulk of these trips were for work. Read more…
WMATA is excited to be part of “Friends with Transit”, Lyft‘s initiative to provide first and last mile connections to transit systems across the nation, and a coupon code.
Metro covers a lot of ground – 1,500 square miles or so! But not everyone is within convenient walking or biking distance to transit, and that makes us less convenient than we would like to be for our customers! We’ve profiled here how we would like to close that first-mile/last-mile gap for our customers through enhanced pedestrian and bicycle connections, and now we have yet another option to get you where you need to go. Read more…
Now that gas is at historic lows, isn’t it cheaper to drive and park than take transit? Probably not!
The Office of Planning staff often helps get new Board Members acquainted, and we recently had the pleasure to participate in a portion of Board Member Malcolm Augustine‘s orientation. During our lengthy conversation, the familiar refrain of gas prices and parking costs vs. Metrorail fares and parking fees came up. Are low gas prices and cheap parking taking trips off the rails?
We’ve looked at this issue in the past and reported out that declining gas prices have not historically nor do they do now seem to have a meaningful negative impact on Metorail ridership. We’re continuing to track these datapoints as we keep our finger on the pulse of Metrorail ridership. But we also hear that trips are very personal, and even though the big picture data doesn’t show it – and even the American Automobile Association has denied it – might driving be getting cheaper than taking transit?
Survey says – not likely.
For at least the past decade, the region’s real estate has revolved around transit. That is expected to continue for the next decade, and we can already see signs of its impact along the Silver Line, according to a new report.
We’ve been highlighting the impact that Metro has on the regional economy for many years now. From the Regional Benefits of Transit study which highlighted the quarter of a billion dollars in incremental tax revenue that the jurisdictions enjoy each year solely because of Metro, to recent data which highlights that almost all of the development pipeline in the D.C. region is within walking distance of Metrorail, it’s crystal clear that this region’s economic future is inextricably linked to Metro.
Joining the library of compelling evidence of this is recent information from CoStar and Transwestern. They have been monitoring the development pipeline and activity in the region and have had a special eye trained on the Silver Line. Here’s what they found: Read more…