‘In The News’

The Impact of a Snow Day on Ridership

February 19th, 2015 7 comments

Tuesday’s snow day cut ridership by 70-80% on rail and bus, as the region dug out from a snowstorm.

Snow and federal government closures can have a big impact on ridership here on Metro, and Tuesday February 17 was no exception. Ridership on Metrobus and Metrorail was down significantly as snow kept many buses off the roads and as many commuters stayed home. Service was reduced: Metrorail operated on a Saturday schedule, and Metrobus only began resuming operations around late morning. The numbers are preliminary, particularly on Metrobus, where not all fareboxes have reported in yet. Nevertheless, here’s what ridership by hour looked like compared to the previous Tuesday for context:

Snow Day 2.17.2015 ridership v2

Tysons-Area Stations Show Unique Ridership Patterns

January 19th, 2015 No comments

The four new Metrorail stations in the Tysons Corner-area of Fairfax County illustrate diversity of land uses.

Tysons Corner, the archetype of an Edge City, is a mix of office towers, apartment buildings and single-use retail in a suburban, auto-oriented setting.  As such, one would expect to see ridership at the new Tysons-area stations reflect the diverse land uses.   Ridership data (station entries) from October, 2014, illustrate this perfectly.

McLean

This station shows more AM Peak entries than any other time period, showing its station area is more like a typical “bedroom” community than the rest.  However, very strong PM Peak station entries reflect many employment sites near the station, providing a near-perfect balance between AM and PM peak entries.  As would be expected at stations with limited retail, mid-day and evening ridership is low at McLean.

Tysons Corner

This station has perhaps the most unique ridership pattern, with PM Peak ridership dwarfing all other time periods, and evening ridership higher than even AM Peak.  This station is located adjacent to two of the region’s largest shopping malls, and the ridership likely reflects both shoppers and retail employees using the station heavily throughout the day.

Greensboro
This station has the greatest number of entries in the PM Peak.  This pattern reflects the suburban employment center-nature of this section of Tysons Corner.  Midday and evening ridership are significantly lower than the peaks, reflecting lower numbers of transit-accessible retail.  

Spring Hill
This station is similar to McLean with the greatest number of entries in the AM Peak, reflecting large residential complexes nearby. However, this station also draws a fair number of PM Peak entries, nearly as many as in the AM, reflecting the variety of job sites within walking distance of the station.

Tysons-Area Stations versus Other Fairfax County Stations

Perhaps what’s most unique about these ridership patterns is that they differ from those of the other stations in Fairfax County. Below is a graphic showing percentage of system entries by period for Tysons-area stations versus the other stations in Fairfax County. At the other Fairfax County stations, system entries are concentrated (two thirds!) in the AM Peak. Ridership at the Tysons-area stations is more diverse, with 37% of the entries in the PM Peak and another 29% in the AM Peak.

These graphics and the data behind them are available for download from the Tableau Public site. What other patters can you find?

Rail Ridership Down As SmartBenefits Run Out

January 12th, 2015 3 comments

Many Metrorail riders now run out of SmartBenefits mid-month, and they may stop riding.

Since the federal transit benefit maximum dropped from $240 to $130 per month, about 25%  of regular Metrorail commuters are running out of SmartBenefits to pay their fare before the month is over. By month’s end, trips paid for with SmartBenefits are now crashing by 40% over last year.  Though a variety of factors explain recent decreases in Metrorail ridership, the transit benefit is a strong explanation as to why the losses are concentrated in the second half of the month. In fact, the biggest influence on ridership over the past year may be the cut in the federal transit benefit, and ridership might even be up by about 2% otherwise.

If we look at trips per day over the span of the month, and only at trips over 7 miles paid for with SmartBenefits, we see the drop closely coinciding with when riders run out of SmartBenefits.   (Shorter trips can be fully funded by the current benefit amount of $130 per month.)

SmartBenefits_over_weekdays_in_a_month_v2

Read more…

Ridership at Tysons Corner Station Doubled on Black Friday

January 5th, 2015 No comments

The day was the Tysons Corner Station’s busiest since the Silver Line opened.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. As would be expected, ridership at Metro’s new Tysons Corner station skyrocketed on Black Friday this year. The station facilitated 10,800 riders entering or exiting over the course of the day, double its normal weekday volume of around 5,500.  The chart below shows ridership at Tysons Corner by half-hour for all Fridays since Labor Day.

The day was the first sign of success for Metro’s partnership with Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Partnership, to encourage shoppers to take Metro to Tysons.

What patterns do you see in this data? Check out the other analysis, visualizations, and the data here.

Veterans Day 2014 Metrorail Ridership

December 18th, 2014 2 comments

 Metrorail’s special Veterans Day schedule handily served commuters and concert goers alike.

On November 11, 2014, Metrorail served a reduced commuter market, as well as a large event on the National Mall, the Concert for Valor.  Metro ran a modified rail schedule, with near-peak service levels throughout most of the day, and Blue Line trains replaced with additional Yellow Line trains.

by Entry Time

Compared to a Typical Weekday:

  • Total ridership for the day was 515,000 trips, which is about 80% of a typical weekday
  • The AM Peak commute was roughly half of a typical weekday.

Compared to Veterans Day 2013:

  • Ridership was up by around 40%, or 147,000 trips.
  • Ridership at most stations was up by about 25-50%, while five stations serving the National Mall doubled and tripled last year’s numbers.
    • Federal Triangle and L’Enfant Plaza were over quadruple last year’s ridership
    • Ridership at Arlington Cemetery was down by half, coinciding with reduced service to that station.
    • The morning commute (until 9:30am) was up 13% over last Veterans Day, evenly across most stations. This is another sign that when the federal workforce, most impacted by the drop in the federal transit benefit, is (mostly) removed from Metrorail’s commute market, ridership is up.

Read more…

Metro’s Public Participation Plan Wins Planning Award

December 3rd, 2014 No comments

Major Award!

Major Award!

Over the last 18 months, Metro has been developing a Public Participation Plan (PPP) (.pdf, 4MB) to help us tailor our outreach strategies to the many diverse groups in our service area to ensure there are opportunities for all groups to be meaningfully engaged in Metro’s planning and programming activities.  It was quite the effort, but resulted in a plan we can be very proud of and are ready to implement!  It turns out the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association thinks so too, as our PPP received their 2014 Award for Distinction in Community Outreach and Engagement.  We feel very honored to have been chosen from applicants throughout the National Capital Area.

Read more…

The Drop in Transit Benefit Has Effectively Been a 20% Cost Increase for Metrorail Riders

November 6th, 2014 9 comments

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%.

Change in Ridership by SmartBenefits Class v2

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).

Metro Responds to Bike Parking Demand at McLean Station

September 29th, 2014 1 comment

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.

Bike Parking at McLean station on the Silver Line last Thursday.

Nearly full bike racks at McLean station on the Silver Line a few weeks ago, before Metro added more racks.

Off-Peak Ridership at Tysons Corner is Strong

September 24th, 2014 6 comments

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.

Tysons Entries - first 2 weeks

Tysons Exits - first 2 weeks

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…

Funding Metro – A Critical First Step

September 22nd, 2014 1 comment

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.

Metro's future capital needs to repair and maintain the existing fleet

Projection of Metro’s future fleet State of Good Repair (SGR) capital needs

Read more…