‘In The News’

Please Give Us Feedback on Next Year’s Budget

April 2nd, 2015 7 comments

We’re not raising fares or cutting service in next year’s budget, but we are still proposing some changes – and we’d love to hear from you.

Take SurveyTo balance Metro’s budget for the coming year, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia governments have pledged to increase their funding for Metro, while Metro continues to take actions to cut costs and operate more efficiently. We are still considering the following options that may impact you:

  • Increase the daily parking fee at Minnesota Ave. station to the same price as all other Metro parking facilities in the District ($4.60).
  • Extend the hours we collect parking fees at Metrorail stations by one hour in both the morning and evening on weekdays.
  • Eliminate the TransitLink Card (TLC) pass – one of the few remaining paper farecard products in the Metrorail system.

We need to hear from you – tell us how these proposals would affect you:

  • TAKE AN ONLINE SURVEYComplete the survey to provide your feedback before 9:00 a.m. on Monday, April 13.
  • ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. (Information session at 6:00 p.m.).  Register to speak by emailing speak@wmata.com.

Metro Headquarters (Jackson Graham Building) 600 5th St NW, Washington DC 20001

Take Metrorail: Gallery Place or Judiciary Sq

Take Metrobus: 70, 74, 79, 80, D6,  P6,  X2, X9

The public hearing location is wheelchair accessible. For accommodations for people with disabilities, call (202) 962-2511. For language assistance, such as an interpreter or information in another language, please call 202-962-2582 at least 48 hours prior to the public hearing date.

 Public comments will be considered by the WMATA Board of Directors when adopting the final Fiscal Year 2016 budget plan.

Cherry Blossoms 2015: The Secret to Beating the Crowds

March 30th, 2015 4 comments

Metro’s planners provide tips on avoiding crowds this Cherry Blossom season.

After this long and trying Washington winter, locals and visitors alike are marking their calendars for the 2015 Cherry Blossom Festival. While everyone knows that Metro is the best way to reach the blossoms, PlanItMetro has been digging into the data to help you minimize the crowd crush and maximize your enjoyment of this treasured DC celebration.

What happens to Metro ridership? As we showed last year, the Cherry Blossoms always bring a major bump to Metrorail ridership, especially on weekends and at Smithsonian station. Metro is ready for the increased demand: track work is cancelled, service levels are increased, and our customer ambassadors are out in the field to help with the needs of visitors. So how do savvy Washingtonians avoid the thickest crowds?

Tip #1: Avoid Smithsonian station

On weekends during Cherry Blossoms, the number of customers exiting Metro at Smithsonian dwarfs every other station during daylight hours

Read more…

Metrobus X2 Continues to Gain Riders

March 23rd, 2015 6 comments

Ridership on the X2 Metrobus line has jumped 14% after Metro changed the way the line is managed.

X2 Ridership growth

The X2 bus on the busy H Street/Benning Road corridor has always been one of Metro’s busiest routes at over 13,000 riders per day.  (If the X2 were a Metrorail station, it’d rank just above Silver Spring and just below Rosslyn!) 

Through most of 2014, the X2′s on-time performance (OTP) averaged about 65% – well below Metro’s goal.  Insufficient running time in the schedule, and disruptions from planned and unplanned detours along the route created uneven spacing between buses leading to “bus bunching” and long gaps between buses.   These service gaps often led to significant overcrowding, particularly during the midday period.

So to improve reliability, we made some changes in December 2014:

  • To meet demand, we increased the frequency of buses to an even 8 minutes all day long –  6:00am-7:00pm on weekdays.
  • We deployed a team of dedicated supervisors on the street (at Minnesota Avenue and Lafayette Square) and at the Bus Operations Control Center to ensure even spacing between buses on weekdays. The X2 is now a “headway-managed” route on weekdays, meaning our primary goal is to maintain buses evenly every 8 minutes throughout the day.
  • We adjusted the  scheduled running times by about 15% for all trips.

The results have been impressive: ridership has jumped 14% from 12,700/day in October 2014 to 13,800 in February, overcrowding (particularly during the midday) has been virtually eliminated, and on-time performance has grown to 83% - a remarkable achievement for a heavily congested urban corridor.

The Impact of a Snow Day on Ridership

February 19th, 2015 8 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).