‘In The News’

Board Approves 2015 Bus SOGO

November 20th, 2015 No comments

State of Good Operations (SOGO) changes coming to a Metrobus route near you.

Metrobus planning presented the annual 2015 Bus State of Good Operations recommendations (PDF) to the Board on November 19. The package was approved and customers will see some changes starting in December. The remainder of the changes will roll out with Metrobus’ March and June schedule changes. 

Staff provided SOGO proposal information at outreach events and pop ups, including at the Pentagon Transit Center

Staff provided SOGO proposal information at outreach events and pop ups, including at the Pentagon Transit Center, photo by WMATA

The annual SOGO process seeks board approval for changes to Metrobus service. Every year,  planners put together a comprehensive list of Metrobus routes they want to improve in the coming year. Any major service change must be approved by the board. A major Metrobus service change is defined as

  • Change in span of service on a line of more than one hour in a single fiscal year,
  • Change in revenue miles on a line of more than 20% in a single fiscal year,
  • Change in route miles on a line of 15% in a single fiscal year, or
  • Projected change of 10% of the riders on a line in a single fiscal year.

This year, planners were tasked with improving service, reliability, travel time, and crowding while keeping the proposals budget and cost neutral.  The recommendations must not have a disparate impact on minority populations or a disproportionate burden on low income populations. Read more…

Metro Reminds Customers to be Street Smart as Daylight Recedes

November 2nd, 2015 No comments

As daylight hours shorten, the region’s Street Smart initiative takes to the streets to reduce collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians.

Alexandria Mayor Euille kicks off safety campaign

Alexandria Mayor Euille kicks off safety campaign

Daylight saving time ended on November 1 and evening commuters now have one less hour of daylight. In 2013, 72 percent of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. occurred in the dark. To mark this transition and remind the region’s residents to be extra vigilant when travelling during these darker hours, the region recently kicked off the Fall 2015 Street Smart Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety campaign at Alexandria City Hall. Metro Board member and  Alexandria Mayor Euille opened the campaign with some personal remarks about ensuring his own safety.  He and other local officials were on hand to remind motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists to be extra vigilant as they travel throughout the region.  ‘Walking billboards’ also will be out and about near heavy pedestrian areas handing out safety information and highlighting safety messages for those who pass by. 

Street teams hand out safety materials to Metrobus riders

Street teams hand out safety materials to Metrobus riders

Metro riders use many modes to travel to and from our services, and each and every one is a pedestrian at some point along their trip, so we partner with the Street Smart campaign to spread these safety messages:

  • If you are a driver, slow down and watch for pedestrians and cyclists.  Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and leave at least 3 feet when passing a cyclist.
  • If you are a pedestrian, use crosswalks and be sure to look left, right and left again before stepping off a curb.
  • Cyclists, obey traffic laws and ride with traffic.
  • And for all, pay attention to your surroundings as you travel, do not let your devices distract you.

To make it easy to keep these tips in mind, we also like Arlington’s transportation team’s  handy acronym that offers an easy reminder to keep us safe on the streets: be a PAL – that is, be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful.  It works for everyone.

We all have a role to play in keeping each other safe – let’s be sure we do our part.  Stay safe out there.


The Long View: Fiscal Year 2015 Bus and Rail Ridership Summary

September 22nd, 2015 No comments

As Fiscal Year 2015 drew to a close last month, we figured it’s time to take the long view: how did ridership do this year?

On the whole, for an average weekday over the last year:

  • Rail ridership was up by 1.5%, in part due to the introduction of the Silver Line.
  • Bus ridership was down by 1.4.
  • Rail ridership was up largely due to the federal government shutdown in October of FY14.
  • Metrorail had a good fall and winter, while Metrobus started the fiscal year well but struggled in the winter and spring months.

FY2015 Ridership Year in Review

Seasonal Trends. All changes in ridership are best shown as a comparison to the same time last year, because ridership rises and falls as the seasons change. Traditionally, ridership is lowest in the winter, and peaks twice: one in late March/early April for the Cherry Blossoms, and then again in June and July when tourists and outdoor activities are in full swing. August is usually slow, and then ridership levels stabilize again in the fall.

  • Metrorail is more sensitive to seasonal swings than Metrobus.  In FY15 for example, ridership in June is 25% higher than December on rail, but only 10% higher on bus.
  • Some rail stations are much more seasonal than others.
    • The most steady stations are largely residential stations in D.C. like Benning Road, Columbia Heights, Georgia Ave-Petworth, and Potomac Ave.
    • The most variable stations serve tourist hotspots, and/or other seasonal markets (Congress and baseball!): Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian, Navy Yard-Ballpark, Capitol South, and Woodley Park-Zoo.


Metrorail had a strong October this year because of last fall’s government closure, but interestingly on Metrobus this phenomenon was hardly detectable. Federal workers make up 35-40% of Metrorail ridership, but 14% of Metrobus ridership, so while October this year was strong, we may have had a good month even without last year’s shutdown. Much of Metrobus’s small net loss in ridership for the year is due to February and March of this year, when bad weather impacted both bus service and ridership, above last year’s levels. Excluding those months, Metrobus ridership for the fiscal year was basically flat.


Structural Forces. Metrorail ridership continues to grow at stations with growing transit-oriented development, especially along the Green-Yellow lines in D.C., NoMa station on the Red Line, and many stations in Arlington. The new stations on the Silver Line are also growing net ridership, although judging from September numbers, roughly a half to two-thirds of Silver Line ridership is former Orange Line or bus riders. The line finished its first eleven months of service at around 60% of opening year projections.

These gains have been offset by losses in Metrorail’s traditional commuter markets elsewhere in the system. Metrorail has been losing longer trips to the core at peak periods from commute-oriented stations, particularly for longer trips (roughly 7 miles or more). These losses are effecting many markets, but are concentrated on riders paying their fares using the SmartBenefits program, whose benefits were significantly reduced starting in 2014.  More customers are forced to pay out-of-pocket when SmartBenefits run out, and ride less as a result. Meanwhile, ridership from customers unaffected by the program is stable or perhaps even up.

Bus services on the eastern side of D.C. are growing ridership, such as the X2, routes serving Anacostia station, the B2, and more.  The Y-lines on Georgia Ave in Maryland, and buses on Leesburg Pike in Virginia have been performing well. These gains are offset by losses on the 14th and 16th Street NW corridors in D.C., and linehaul services in Maryland such as the Q-lines on Viers Mill Road and the J-lines on East-West Highway. Reversing a long-term trend, Metrobus has seen a shift from SmarTrip to cash after the cash surcharge was dropped this fiscal year. Cash payments were up slightly at the end of the fiscal year, even though they remain a small portion of fares paid overall.

How did your home station fare in FY15? Find every station below:

Want even more details? Download the raw data directly via the Tableau links, or explore even more visualizations (some more interesting than others) by looking at the other tabs for Rail and Bus.

Technical notes: all figures presented here are preliminary, and presented as year-over-year comparisons. All monthly data is adjusted for the number of day types in each month. Rail ridership data have been adjusted to correct for minor data losses due to equipment problems. Silver Line stations are shown as “100% ridership growth,” to reflect that this is the line’s first year and thus year-over-year data is not available.

REMINDER: Go Car-Free Tomorrow! (and maybe the rest of the week, for that matter)

September 21st, 2015 1 comment

Pledge to go car free this week!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, marks the 8th year International Car-Free Day has been celebrated here in this region. If you haven’t taken the pledge to leave the car at home tomorrow, there’s still time!  Sign yourself up for the car-free mode of your choice.  Not only will you save some carbon (find out how much using our Greenhouse Gas Calculator), but you also just might win yourself a nifty prize.

Car Free Day PosterCar Free Day banner 2

Further, given that the Papal visit will occur from Tuesday through Thursday this week, you may want to sign up mentally for another few days of a car-free lifestyle and avoid major congestion around town.

Let us know how you’re going car-free in the comments.

Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center Opening September 20th

September 16th, 2015 1 comment

The Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center will open on Sunday, September 20th. After many of years of anticipation, Metrobus, Ride On, and Shuttle-UM are ready to start operations.

Situated next to the Silver Spring Metrorail Station, MARC train station, and Metropolitan Branch Trail, the Silver Spring Transit Center serves as Montgomery County’s multimodal transportation hub. Eventually, the Purple Line Light Rail will also serve the Silver Spring Transit Center.

The Silver Spring Transit Center will replace on-street bus stops with 3 stories of bus bays, taxis, a kiss and ride, and public restrooms. With two separate levels dedicated to bus operations and over 125 buses per hour expected during peak periods, Metrobus operations have been busy preparing for the big day. We got a chance to take a tour and share a few photos.  Click on any photo for a larger version.

The following Metrobus routes will have stops inside the transit center. See the directory below to prepare yourself for the opening of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center. Read more…

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Metrobus is Collecting Your Input for Annual Bus Service Adjustments

September 15th, 2015 3 comments

Time is running out to provide your input on proposed Metrobus changes.

Every year, Metrobus planners propose service changes to maintain a Bus State of Good Operations (SOGO). This year’s official public participation period went live on Saturday, August 15 and will close at 5:00pm on Wednesday, September 23.  That’s less than two weeks away!

Halfway through the public comment period, we thought we would give you sense of the process so far.

  • More than 3,000 online surveys have been completed.  Two-thirds of these returns are from direct email outreach to customers using affected routes. If you are interested in receiving invitations to similar online surveys in the future, please register your SmarTrip card.

    Bus SOGO outreach 2015

    Bus SOGO outreach 2015

  • With more than 20 outreach events completed or scheduled, we are collecting feedback by going straight to the customer.  Metro staff is out riding buses and showing up at bus stops and rail stations.  We understand not everyone can go online so we are coming to them.  Look for us and help us improve your bus experience.
  • These outreach activities have resulted in more than 2,000 written comments from customers all over the region.
  • At the time of this writing, the elimination of the 5A is not being well received nor is the elimination of the segment between McPherson Square and Kennedy Center on the Route 80.  Many in the District are giving favorable marks to the free transfer between Capitol Heights/Addison Road Metrorail stations for select routes.  Maryland customers are also excited for the Q Line free transfer to and from the Metrorail Red Line between Wheaton and Silver Spring.
  • In addition to English-language replies, we have received completed surveys from Spanish, Vietnamese, and Amharic speakers.  Customers from all economic and ethnic groups are chiming in as well.

We want to hear more from our customers to see how these changes would affect your travel choices. Let us know how major service changes would impact you. Join the conversation by reading the official docket and submitting your thoughts online or in person.

-Email your comments to writtentestimony@wmata.com
-Talk to Metro staff at a pop-up event
Take an online survey
-Attend the public hearing on Thursday, September 17 at WMATA HQ (600 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001).

Bus Stop Accessibility Improvements – Making Good on the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 26th, 2015 7 comments

Metro is taking a data-driven approach to make the region’s bus stops more accessible to all.

The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990 was a landmark event in our nation’s history. Like other pieces of civil rights legislation, this law works to ensure a more inclusive America, one where every person has the right to participate in all sectors of society and be recognized for his or her accomplishments. Its passage paved the way for millions of Americans with disabilities to positively contribute to their communities in a variety of ways, including employment.

Two decades on, however, much work still remains to be done.

The DC region has over 19,000 bus stops, with approximately 11,100 served by Metrobus, and the remaining 8,900 served exclusively by locally operated transit systems. Of the 19,000 stops, approximately 6,500 are inaccessible to some people with disabilities. Inaccessible bus stops can be a reason for an individual to qualify for MetroAccess paratransit service operated by Metro, and can be a reason for an individual to choose MetroAccess over fixed route bus service for a particular trip. Accessible bus stops reduce demand for paratransit service, and improve safety for all customers. Metro and each jurisdiction in the region are working to improve inaccessible stops. In addition to improving stops Metro also aims to use an array of data as well as policy adjustments to strategically target bus stops for improvements.

Metro’s Bus Stop Standard

Metro maintains a database of the region’s bus stops. As a result of a new bus stop standard, Metro is not only updating the information in the database, but is working to improve the database in two significant ways: 1) provide jurisdictional access to update the database and 2) the addition of a smartphone app.

The standard criteria of an accessible bus stop includes the following: 1) Flat and Firm Surface, 2) 5 feet wide x 8 feet long, and 3) Connects to the Curb. Metro has added a fourth criterion for measuring the accessibility of a bus stop: the presence of an accessible pathway to/from the nearest corner to the bus stop. That accessible pathway must include a curb cut at the corner with an additional curb cut at one adjacent corner.

Fig1 - Accessible but connected

The two photos above illustrate the difference. Both bus stops feature flat and firm surfaces that are at least 5’ x 8’ in size, and both connect to the curb. So under the standard criteria, both are accessible bus stops. The difference is that the stop in the photo on the left is surrounded by grass and dirt. There is no accessible pathway to/from the stop. The stop on the right connects to the accessible sidewalk and pathway to the corner. Read more…

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.

Feds, Metro, Locals take on Pedestrian and Bike Safety at Wiehle-Reston East

July 16th, 2015 No comments

On May 12, 2015, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) convened an event to bring together Federal, State, regional, and local transportation officials and local stakeholders for an on-the-ground bike-ped safety assessment at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station.

BaseMap_2014_Wiehle Assessment

Wiehle-Reston East: one mile bikeshed and 1/2 mile walkshed

The assessment was one of 50+ that have been occurring around the nation as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s “Safer People Safer Streets” campaign to improve bike-ped safety across the country.  These assessments have been led by many of the US DOT agencies and operating administrations, namely: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Each of these agencies is participating in the effort to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety, and each has particular roles and responsibilities in this effort.

The primary goal of these assessments is to:

  • facilitate relationship-building between employees of different jurisdictions who share responsibility for creating safer streets;
  • engage practitioners who typically focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as those who do not; and
  • focus on locations that have non-motorized safety challenges.

The assessment kicked-off with remarks from Deputy Secretary, Victor Mendez, who stressed the importance of agency coordination in ensuring bicycle and pedestrian safety on America’s streets, later blogging about the event on US DOT’s FastLane blog. Metro’s Director of Planning, Shyam Kannan, also gave remarks that highlighted the importance of station connectivity for increasing Metrorail ridership.  Other VIPs from Fairfax County, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and local community/advocacy groups spoke to the participants as well about the importance of the day’s events to keeping our residents safe as they travel. Read more…

A Bus Named Desire – What We Heard at StreetsCamp 2015

July 9th, 2015 11 comments

In part 2 of the series, StreetsCamp participants had a number of ideas to make buses better – all buses, not just Metrobus.

A Bus Named Desire - Comments from StreetscampA Bus Named Desire was the question of the day at Metro Planning staff’s StreetsCamp session last Saturday. We asked what participants thought would make a better bus – from any perspective. What are the things that transit agencies and local jurisdictions could do speed up buses, increase the level of comfort for potential riders to ride the bus, change service, etc.

Here’s what we heard, grouped by topic:


  • Bus lanes, bus lanes, bus lanes (WMATA note – there are some great corridors for these. Please also let your city/county know you think they are important. They own and operate the streets!)
  • Bus routes that offer better connections to destinations far from Metro stations
  • Take station relocation and system redesign seriously. Build partnerships with community organizations. (WMATA note – both a regional approach, as well as line by line, are underway!)
  • Consolidate stops on every line to save time and money. Buses don’t need to stop every block.
  • More frequent off-peak service
  • Add express service from Maryland suburbs

Read more…