They don’t give out Academy Awards for transit advocacy short films, but maybe they should…
Today, one of our Momentum Champions, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, launched their own grassroots campaign to build support for funding Momentum. They are sending an initial email blast to 20,000 of their supporters.
The video, embedded below, that they produced accompanies a new tool that allows individuals to send emails of support directly back to their specific elected officials. Click the button at the bottom to show your support.
What is Metro Momentum?
from Coalition for Smarter Growth
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Coalition and we applaud them for taking a stand on this critical regional transportation issue. We hope that you have a chance to view their handiwork and are so inclined to indicate your support for Momentum and Metro 2025 funding.
Yesterday, as everyone recovered from a snowstorm, here’s what happened to Metrorail ridership.
After Monday’s snowstorm, yesterday the federal government in the Washington region issued a two-hour delayed opening, and many schools opened with a delay or remained closed. Metrobus began the morning operating on a snow emergency plan, but by afternoon had restored full service. Here’s what that meant to Metrorail ridership:
Metrorail ridership on Tuesday, when the federal government and many schools opened with a 2-hour delay.
Note: the prior Thursday (Feb. 27, 2014) stands in as a typical weekday above, for comparison.
It looks as if the apex of the AM peak period occurred 15 minutes later than usual. Many riders appeared to delay travel in the morning, resulting in a much more gradual end to the morning peak.
How was your commute different on March 4?
This data is available for download (.xlsx, 13kb).
During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays and 50% on Saturdays.
Metrorail ridership is impacted by a variety of factors, from special events to weather to government shutdowns. One event that brings visitors to the region — and to Metrorail — in droves is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. In anticipation of this year’s festival, we performed some analysis on how, when and where the blossom viewers impacted ridership on the Metrorail system.
In general, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays and up to 53% on Saturdays during the festival. On days with nice weather, ridership has increased up to 10% on weekdays and 70% on Saturdays!
As the figure below shows, during the weekdays there is no impact in the morning, a large (21%) increase of activity during the mid day and then a 7% increase thereafter.
Saturdays are another story all together. Ridership increases up to 63% during mid day and afternoon periods on days during the festival, with a total ridership increase above 50%. Even morning and “late” night ridership increases significantly during this period.
Metrorail system entries by quarter-hour interval, Regular Weekday, Cherry Blossom Weekday, Regular Saturday and Cherry Blossom Saturday. Click chart for larger version.
When looking at change in ridership by station in the maps below, some obvious conclusions can be drawn. Read more…
Counting on the Feds alone to fund Metro ignores a long tradition of local jurisdiction funding support – and a ticking clock.
Image borrowed from eRationalmarketing.com. Click for original.
As the region grapples with mounting infrastructure needs (DC, MD and VA) regional leaders are experiencing a bit of sticker shock. That’s because this region has been enjoying the benefits of massive infrastructure capacity increases in transportation, water/sewer, and power that were built in the 1970s and were designed to keep up with growth for half a century.
Those fifty years have almost run out, as has our ability to grow into the capacity built by the previous generation of leaders. And if this region is going to continue its growth trajectory into the middle of this century, we’re going to need to invest in the supporting infrastructure capacities – including funding transit capacity increases via Metro 2025.
Some have argued that funding Metro improvements is primarily responsibility of the Federal government, or at least that the Federal government should lead this effort. That line of argument syncs up neither with the past, present or future – in reality, local jurisdictions have always played a significant role in funding Metro. Let’s lay out the facts about role of local jurisdictions in funding Metro.
- Fact: From 1969 to 1999, of the approximately $10.0 billion spent to construct the original 103-mile system, about $3.8 billion came from local jurisdictions, who always played a large role in the infrastructure investment:
- Fact: System enhancements, such as the Largo Extension and NoMA station, were largely paid for with local money. The Largo extension was paid for with 40% local money (DOC), and the NoMA station was funded with a combination of public and private local monies (PDF) that comprised more than 75% of the capital cost.
- Fact: As WMATA’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) transitioned from a system expansion focus to more infrastructure renewal, the reliance on federal funding declined. Just look at the graphic below.
Federal share of WMATA capital budget, 1991 to 2012. Source, NTD.
- Fact: While the 2008 Passenger Rail and Infrastructure Investment Act (PRIIA) authorizes $1.5 billion over ten years to support WMATA’s CIP, Congress was clear in mandating that this funding is contingent upon matching contributions from the region’s governments. In other words, without local jurisdiction funding commitments, monies from the Federal government would not materialize.
- Fact: Among the 25 largest transit operators in the nation, WMATA is one of two that does not have a dedicated regional funding source. This despite being the second busiest subway and sixth busiest bus operator in the entire nation.
Those that monitor the Federal government know well that funding sources for major capital projects are in decline, and there are no guarantees to the legislative process. Just take a look at this graphic, from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund Ticker. Read more…
When it comes to impacting weekday Metro ridership, meteorologists are three times more powerful than the federal government.
Many factors influence Metrorail ridership, including the weather and the status of the federal government. As this assessment shows, extreme weather has a much bigger impact on Metrorail usage than the federal government closure for budget reasons.
In the past few months, the federal workforce was instructed to stay home for two different reasons. The first was the failed budget negotiation that resulted in the federal government shutdown in October of 2013. (We’ll call this “shutdown closure.”) The second was the winter weather forecast that closed federal offices in the Washington region. (Let’s call this “snow closure.”) These two separate government closures have had different impacts on Metrorail ridership.
First, take ridership by time of day. The graph below shows ridership by fifteen-minute interval for three days. The tallest, green line is the average of weekday entries. The other two are days that the federal government was closed due to the shutdown (Oct 8, 2013) and snow (Dec 10, 2013). Now, the purple line illustrates the ridership due to the budgetary shutdown in October 2013 and the blue line shows ridership on a federal snow day in December 2013. The purple line (budget shutdown) is not dissimilar to the green (average), but the purple line (snow shutdown) illustrates a huge ridership drop. Why would this be?
Metrorail ridership on an average day and two days the federal government was shut down. October 8, 2013 was part of the budget shutdown. December 10 2013 the fed was closed due to snow.
We can think of a few reasons for this difference.
- The budget shutdown only impacted SOME federal workers, i.e. those not deemed essential. Snow, however, impacts just about everyone.
- On snow days, area schools are often closed. Parents who have the luxury to do so sometimes stay home to look after their children who would otherwise be in school. Critically, parents who may be limited in child care options – many of whom are our customers - are especially vulnerable and often are forced to stay home because of the school closures.
- Washington is gradually evolving from a federal “company town” into a “boom town of the new economy,” a new economy less reliant on the federal government. Many of the businesses of the “new economy” were unaffected by the budget shutdown, but during extreme weather events take their cue from the federal government and give their employees the day off. According to Dr. Stephen Fuller of GMU’s Center for Regional Analysis, the Washington region is and will be “increasingly less dependent on federal spending as the driver of job growth and income generation in the local economy.”
Next, let’s look at change in ridership by station. Below are maps showing the change in ridership between a regular day and one of the government shutdown days: first budget shutdown and then snow shutdown. Read more…
About a third of Metrorail customers transfer between lines to complete their trip, and this is not too far off many of our peer transit agencies.
Everyone would prefer a “one-seat ride” (aka “transfer-free ride”) from origin to destination, but for many, transfers are a necessary part of commuting life. In fact, transfers may be even beneficial. Transfers are a part of nearly every large rail transit system with multiple lines, including Metro. As the chart below shows, 35% of Metrorail passengers change trains at some point during their journey, and that’s slightly higher – but not wildly different from – many of our peer transit systems in the U.S.
Without Metro 2025, the region might give up more jobs than the current size of 80 of the nation’s 100 largest downtowns.
One way to alleviate congestion – limit transit funding and stymie job growth!
The Washington, D.C. region earned in 2012 the unfortunate honor of being named the #1 region in the nation – for congestion. For the workers in this region this comes as no surprise, as seemingly endless “volume delays” litter our evening traffic reports, commuters spend more than a full week and a half sitting in traffic each year, and even the public transit network – primarily Metrorail – is so crowded that commuters often have to wait for multiple trains just to squeeze onto the system. And unless proposed transportation investments keep up with projected household and job growth – MWCOG projects that the region will add 1.6 million jobs by 2040 – these commutes are only going to become more painful.
We all know that the high price of congestion is in the billions of dollars per year, a figure that would be even higher but not for transit’s impact has in reducing the region’s congestion by 10 to 15 percent, saving commuters time and money stuck in traffic, and preventing the need to build hundreds of thousands of new parking spaces and 1,000 additional lane miles of roads.
But that price pales in comparison to what may be if we don’t act now to make meaningful improvements to the regions congestion-reducing transportation infrastructure, especially in programs like Metro 2025. Turns out that we now know that when regions exceed 35 to 37 hours of delay per commuter per year – about four and a half minutes per one way free flow trip – regional job growth begins to slow. That means that expectations of continued economic growth in the region are a lot less rosy when we consider that we currently run about 72 hours of delay per commuter per year – and rising. And before you dismiss this as planning theory, remember that Hewlett Packard showed Atlanta and the nation in 1998 that congestion’s negative impact on employment growth can be economic fact. Read more…
Priority treatments speed up buses, which saves everyone time and money, uses street space most efficiently, and attracts development.
Bus priority projects, such as those begun through the regional TIGER grant and included in the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network Plan, will improve travel times, increase service reliability, and attract thousand of new riders once fully implemented.
But let’s step back for a moment. Why are these improvements needed?
Average AM Rush Hour Bus Speeds (Nov. 2009)
Metro is considering a small fare increase and no changes to the fare structure for the FY15 Budget.
Every autumn, Metro staff begins the process of developing the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1 of the following calendar year. Every other year, per Metro Board resolution, the budget proposal can contain a fare increase intended to match the fares to the changes in the consumer price index (CPI).
Comparison of SEPTA heavy rail and commuter rail fares and distances to Metrorail’s Orange Line, credit Matt Johnson via Greater Greater Washington. Click image for original context.
More than three years ago, Metro developed a new ridership and revenue model that allowed us to better evaluate the ridership and revenue impacts of potential changes to our fare structure. Staff used this model to evaluate concepts that could be incorporated into the FY13 budget to increase the alignment between fares and our fare policy principles.
At that time, Metro got a lot of input from the Greater Greater Washington community, as they discussed many aspects of Metro fares as compared to other system fare structures, including:
Metrorail’s distance-based fare structure is the most equitable.
Excerpt of Metrorail distance-based fare table.
Metrorail is one of only three heavy rail systems in the United States with distance-based fares. (BART and PATCO are the other two.) And to the best of my knowledge, it’s the only one with peak and off-peak fares. With 86 stations (soon to be 91) and two fare time-periods (it used to be three), the average rider has a large number of possible fare combinations.
The benefits of Metrorail’s existing fare structure are many-fold, but chief among them are equity, efficiency, and economics.
The fare structure is fair. Distance-based and time-of-day fares allow transit riders to pay fares in proportion to the level of service they’re using. Peak period riders pay more and have more frequent service. Short distance travel is less expensive than long-distance. With flat fares, those who take short trips subsidize those who take longer trips, and people who ride during times of reduced service subsidize those who ride during the peaks when trains are most frequent. With zone-based fares, customers taking short trips that cross a zone boundary pay a larger fare than other customers taking longer trips entirely within a zone boundary.
The fare structure is equitable. A switch from distance-based to flat-fare that was revenue neutral (not losing money) would raise a Title VI equity concern. Planning staff have done a preliminary analysis, and such a switch would have a disproportionate burden on low-income riders. A switch to flat fares that was not revenue neutral would result in higher subsidies from Metro’s funding partners
The fare structure promotes economic efficiency. People use resources more efficiently if they’re priced to reflect the value of the resource. Economists love variably priced roads like the Intercounty Connector (MD-200) and the I-495 Express Lanes, as the per-mile prices are set to keep traffic flowing. The same concept applies to Metrorail’s distance-based and peak/off-peak fares. Read more…