The drop in the federal transit benefit is making Metrorail riders feel the pinch in their wallets, and it’s hurting ridership.
What’s happened to ridership since the benefit changed? You may have seen in the news that Metrorail riders have been heavily impacted by changes in federal tax law that discourages transit usage. The maximum amount of SmartBenefits dropped from $240 to $130 per month in January, and since then:
- Since the change, our traditional commuter market - full-fare customers who travel from suburban stations to the core at peak times – has fallen by about 1.5%.
- Trips shorter than 4 miles – more likely to still be fully subsidized – are unchanged.
- Customers able to get through the month on SmartBenefits alone are down 25%, while customers who must supplement with their own cash have doubled, and the net result has been a 10% loss in trips from this key commute market.
- 75% of this ridership loss has been from trips over 7 miles: at an average fare of $4.10/trip equating to $165/month and up, these longer commutes now require substantial out-of-pocket contributions.
- The average impacted SmartBenefits customer must now pay $0.84 extra per trip – this is the equivalent of a 20% fare hike.
- For riders directly subsidized by the federal government, this was increase of nearly $2.40 per day, or over $54/month.
- For riders setting aside pre-tax dollars, this felt like a 10% fare increase.
- Trips paid for with SmartBenefits have dropped 1%.
The decrease in the federal transit benefit has hurt Metrorail ridership in the last year. Ridership is up from customers who are unaffected by the policy change, but more people must supplement with out-of-pocket contributions to make it through the month, and in the process Metrorail is losing trips.
How do you know it’s not something else? Ridership could be down for a variety of reasons, and we continue to mine the data for other patterns – from the economy to demographics to fares. We can’t pin all of the ridership loss on the federal transit benefit, but the losses have been concentrated on SmartBenefits users. In addition:
- Ridership from commuters not enrolled in SmartBenefits has actually grown by 2% in the last year.
- We are still investigating, but customers do not appear to be reducing travel much due to telework. Metrorail has been losing both customers and trips (not just trips), and trip frequency among commuters is mostly stable.
- In fact, we are gaining riders at stations with recent transit-oriented development, and ridership is up 3% at stations along the Green Line in D.C., the Red Line in Northeast D.C., and Courthouse/Clarendon in Arlington.
We continue to study the trends, and for a second glance see our more detailed summary of ridership trends (PDF, 710K).
Demand for bicycle parking at the new McLean Station exceeded capacity in the Silver Line’s first few weeks, so Metro has already added more racks.
When Metro planners learned that bike racks were not prominent in the Silver Line station designs (completed by our partners in Virginia), Metro fought hard to make sure that bike racks were planned for and installed at the stations. And that’s good news, indeed, because by August, nearly all of the bike racks were full at McLean station. Recognizing this need, Metro added space for 20 more bicycles (10 racks) at the station. The new racks bring the total capacity for bikes to 72 on racks. Bike lockers are still available at McLean, too.
Increasing bike access to the Silver Line is a good sign for ridership, revenue, and station access. Metro will keep an eye on utilization this fall and add capacity where needed.
Nearly full bike racks at McLean station on the Silver Line a few weeks ago, before Metro added more racks.
Even though Tysons Corner station on the Silver Line is only two months old, off-peak ridership is particularly strong. Saturdays are busier than weekdays, and the station stays busy past 10:00pm.
Tysons Corner station is already serving a solid reverse commute market, but ridership is also strong during midday hours, and reaches its peak during the afternoon rush and evening hours.
Ridership is fairly well balanced throughout the day, relative to other Metrorail stations. There’s a clear reverse commute market exiting the station during morning rush and re-entering in the evening. In the evening, however, nearly just as many people are exiting the station as are entering the stations, suggesting the commuters are mixing with other riders bound for the malls or other activities. Read more…
Local leaders are set to commit to Metro’s long term state of good repair needs for the first time through the region’s transportation plan, but the plan omits key investments that are critical to solving some of the region’s most critical needs.
This fall the region’s transportation leaders will approve an update the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) financial plan, required by federal law every four years, to ensure the region’s ability to pay for transportation expenditures with reasonably anticipated revenues. During the 2014 update, Metro collaborated with staff from the Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the three state DOTs to identify funding for the system’s long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) and capital needs. The draft plan, which expresses the region’s major transportation priorities, is scheduled to be adopted by the TPB on October 15th.
Projection of Metro’s future fleet State of Good Repair (SGR) capital needs
Service improvements are coming along Pennsylvania Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue affecting Routes 32 and 36. These changes are designed to provide more reliable and frequent bus service to the majority of riders.
What are the changes?
Route 32 will no longer provide crosstown service between Southern Avenue and Friendship Heights. Buses will now operate between Southern Avenue and Foggy Bottom. Crosstown service to Friendship Heights will be replaced by the NEW Route 30S. Route 36 will no longer provide crosstown service between Naylor Road and Friendship Heights. Buses will now operate between Naylor Road and Foggy Bottom. Crosstown service to Friendship Heights will be replaced by the NEW Route 30N. NEW Route 33 will operate between Friendship Heights and Archives, replacing routes 32 and 36 service on Wisconsin Avenue. Read more…
This is a guest from Paul Mackie, communications director at Mobility Lab.
A new short video by Mobility Lab details the economic benefits that Ballston stands to reap from this week’s opening of Metro’s Silver Line.
In the video, Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone says, “We see the Silver Line as making Ballston the center of the universe. It makes everything even better here. We already have a very active Metro stop, with 26,000 trips per day. We see that growing to 38,000 trips per day along with the Silver Line by 2020. So that’s coming very, very fast.” Read more…
“If I’m a Blue Line rider in Virginia, what are my bus options once the Silver Line opens?”
The 16Y to McPherson Sq.
We get asked this question quite a bit, and even more so now that the opening of the Silver Line is rapidly approaching. As we have written about extensively on PlanItMetro, the start of service on the Silver Line will mean a reduction in the frequency of rush hour Blue Line trains. Average headways will increase from 8.5 minutes to 12 minutes. For most riders, once they arrive at a Blue Line platform their quickest ride will still be via train (even with an additional few minute wait), but there are numerous options for riders looking to switch from rail to bus or new riders looking to commute via bus.
Here are some of your best bus options if you are a Blue Line rider going to, or coming from:
- 7Y: Southern Towers to downtown DC. Beginning August 24, the 7Y will be rerouted to pass within walking distance of these Blue Line stations:
- Arlington Cemetery
- Pentagon City (2 blocks)
- Crystal City (2 blocks)
- Farragut West
- McPherson Square Read more…
Some train arrival signs now always show the next Blue Line train, and it’s helping Blue Line riders determine their best route.
At rush times, Blue Line riders know they can sometimes see two or three Yellow or Orange Line trains go by before a Blue Line train arrives. For some riders, knowing just how far away the next Blue Line train is can help them decide: is it worth waiting, or should I get on the next train and transfer at L’Enfant Plaza?
To help Blue Line riders, Metro changed the arrival signs to always show the time until the next Blue Line train arrives, even if it’s more than three trains away. That means that riders can always tell how far away a Blue Line train is, and decide whether to wait for it, or use the Yellow Line instead. Read more…
Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 16th, and this year Metro is hosting three pitstops at Metrorail stations. Bike to Metro and Metro to Work! Register now.
If biking all the way to work sounds a bit daunting this year, Bike to Metro and Metro to Work! Leave your bike at a Metrorail station or a bus stop.
Metro is hosting three pitstops at Metrorail stations, where we’ll be distributing t-shirts, maps, information about parking your bike, bikes on bus, locker rentals, and of course – free goodies. In addition, Metro Transit Police will be at all three pitstops distributing free U-locks to cyclists who register their bikes. We’ll even have a “bike rack demonstration” bus so you can try using the bike rack on buses.
Register now at www.biketoworkmetrodc.org, and enter your pitstop as one of the stations above!
It might bend your brain a little to think about it – but we’re doing outreach to improve our outreach! In order to help us be more successful at reaching our riders and engaging them in meaningful two-way conversations, we’ve embarked upon a project to ask our our customers and the non-riding public what will work for them. Our goal is to use the input we receive to create a toolkit that will help us tailor our outreach to a variety of communities.
Metro’s SpeakUp! It’s Your Ride campaign is the publicly visible piece of a larger project to develop an agency-wide public participation plan that will boost inclusiveness, diversity and accessibility when getting feedback about decisions that affect riders. We’ll be hosting a number of festive events around the region where we’ll be asking people how they typically get their information and how they would like to give us their opinions on projects and programs.
You can find the schedule here at wmata.com/speakup or en Español at hablaconmetro.com, along with a link to the survey we have out there to collect this info. Stop by an event or fill the survey in on-line. Tell your friends and family – we want to hear from you!
See below for some photos from the DC United season opener SpeakUp It’s your Ride pop-up event.