‘Metro 101’

Solving the Region’s Congestion Woes – One Step at a Time (Part 3 of 3)

March 31st, 2014 2 comments

Making every Metrorail station area walkable could reduce regional congestion without breaking the bank.

This is part three of a three-part series.

In the previous two posts we’ve laid out a case for making all transit stations walkable as quickly as possible.

  1. Increasing walkability and density at station areas has huge impacts on transit mode share and can take tens of thousands of cars of the road every single day.
  2. At a regional level, walkable station areas have an equivalent impact on congestion as a quarter trillion dollars in “last mile” infrastructure (see pages 37, 38, 43, 48).

Maximizing the capacity of the existing transit network while intelligently investing in station area connectivity would combat regional congestion just as effectively as trying to “build our way out of the problem”. And unlike many potential interventions, the market actually wants to do this for us.

Perhaps it is time to harness these market forces to make the areas around our transit network walkable and implement this low-cost congestion-busting paradigm. As for where to begin – well, we have a few suggestions…

Existing Walkability Near Metrorail Stations

The map below shows the range of existing walkability conditions near the Metrorail network and helps answer the question of how much of a half-mile radius of each station a person can walk to. The higher the percentage, the better the pedestrian network coverage. As shown, many of the station areas are under performing relative to their potential walkability. If walkability = connectivity and connectivity = mode share, then just imagine the impact on the region’s roads if we could focus on taking station areas with low accessibility and invest in some relatively easy, short-term solutions like sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, crosswalks, and smart, transit-oriented development to take maximum advantage of the existing Metrorail system and take tens of thousands of cars off the road each day.

How walkable are our region's Metrorail stations?

How much of the area within a half-mile of our Metrorail stations can you walk to?

Read more…

Solving the Region’s Congestion Woes – One Step at a Time (Part 2 of 3)

March 24th, 2014 2 comments

Improving pedestrian connectivity takes cars off the road at a formidable clip – rivaling the power of all of the region’s planned roadway additions and “last mile” transit connections.  Cheaply and quickly. 

This post is part two of a three-part series.

The data is finally in, and we now know that walkable station areas result in fewer motorized trips, fewer miles driven, fewer cars owned, and fewer hours spent traveling. And when we improve the pedestrian and bicycle access and connectivity to Metrorail station areas, ridership goes up, putting a major dent in congestion by taking trips off the roadways. Earlier, we discussed what it means to build walkable station areas and research shows the tremendous benefits to the region of making this a priority.

First, our data confirms that when walking access to transit is improved, transit ridership goes up – way up. In the 2040 Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP), we stress tested TPB’s transportation model to improve walkability to the transit network and saw huge increases in transit linked trips.  These trips go up by about 10% region-wide and we get an increase in transit mode share for all regional trips by 0.5%.  That’s over and above the roughly one percent increase in mode share we anticipate occurring as a result of building the entirety of the CLRP, an impact about half that of constructing all of that transit.

Source: Regional Transit System Plan

Source: Regional Transit System Plan

Read more…

Solving the Region’s Congestion Woes – One Step at a Time

March 17th, 2014 1 comment

One solution to the region’s crippling congestion could be right under our feet – literally.

This post is part one of a three-part series.

Illustration of possible walkability improvements that could occur in/around Tysons Corner. From Regional Transit System Plan

 

The region is abuzz with $220B of planned new transportation investments – the Purple Line, HOT Lanes, new streetcar lines, and additional roadways. Though there is not one dollar currently pledged to add capacity to Metro, these other investments may help the region chart a course away from leading the country in congestion (pdf).

However, for a quarter trillion dollars, one would expect that collectively these projects would have significant impacts on the region’s congestion. While there are some benefits – vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita are expected to decline and  transit mode share may increase by one percent – overall increases in VMT are expected to outpace road construction, leading to a 38% increase in the number of lane miles of congestion (pdf). But is there another way to get more bang for our buck?

Make station areas walkable. Every one of them. Now.

Read more…

What Metro 2025 Means for the District of Columbia

March 13th, 2014 No comments

Metro 2025 would bring significant benefits to the District of Columbia, allowing the city to thrive economically while preserving neighborhoods and downtown vitality.

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven Metro 2025 initiatives – from eight-car trains to bus-only lanes, which will bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life and transportation in the District.

 

Benefits Icons_Expansion

Supports D.C. Transit Projects

The District has committed to a 50% market share for public transportation, and is building a Streetcar and expanded Circulator network that will depend on robust Metrorail and Metrobus services. Metro concurs that the Streetcar and Circulator are worthwhile ventures, but they will always rely on the supporting regional “backbone” of Metrorail and Metrobus in order to deliver their intended results.  Consider that every single planned D.C. Streetcar line in the 22-mile system begins, ends, or connects with a Metrorail station, and the importance of sufficient capacity on Metrorail becomes quite clear.

Today, more than 100,000 people a month transfer between Metro and the Circulator.  By 2040, even the first few lines of the D.C. Streetcar (those funded in the CLRP, not even counting the full 22-mile system) are projected to generate thousands of additional transfers to Metrorail and Metrobus each day.

DC-CLRP-Projects

D.C. Streetcar projects funded in the CLRP. The planned 22-mile system would construct even more lines.

By ensuring that Metro services can keep pace with congestion and demand, Metro 2025 is critical to making D.C.’s transit projects a success, and critical to helping D.C. reach it’s transportation goals.

 

Benefits Icons_Support Growth

Supports D.C.’s Growing Population and Economy

The District of Columbia’s population is surging, and its economic and population growth is only projected to grow. With that growth comes significant transportation needs, and Metro 2025 is critical to Metro’s success in meeting that growth.

To handle this growth, D.C. needs the rail and bus system that Metro 2025 would deliver: 8-car trains capable of moving the equivalent of 16-18 lanes of highways into the District, superior bus service, and more. For example, Metrobus is helping the 16th Street NW corridor to grow – ridership has surged by over 5,000 trips per day, and today buses are 3% of the vehicles but move 50% of the people on that road. Read more…

Metro 2025: Why Now?

March 11th, 2014 1 comment

Four reasons why we need to begin the Metro 2025 investments now.

1. Because Metro 2025 is critical for growth. For the last three decades, the Washington region has grown in lockstep with an expanding transit system.  Since Metrorail opened in the late 1970s, the system has grown steadily, and in 2014 Metro provides two to three times more service (rail and bus vehicle-miles) than it once did.

For decades, this region has grown in lockstep with Metro.

Today, no significant new Metro service is planned beyond the Silver Line, yet MWCOG estimates that the region will continue to grow at a steady clip for years to come.  The only transit expansion projects that are planned complement and depend on connections to Metro, such as the Corridor Cities Transitway or Columbia Pike Streetcar, and may even increase the strain on Metrorail’s core.

2. Because we could lose jobs.  Without investment in the region’s transit backbone, economic growth and prosperity is threatened. In fact, studies have shown a clear link between growing congestion and declines in job growth. Without Metro 2025, this region could stand to lose nearly 133,000 jobs by 2040.

3. Because Metrorail is crowded, and it will get worse without Metro 2025. Today, Metrorail is reaching its capacity in many places. On the Blue and Orange lines for instance, Metro is running trains every 2.5 minutes, which is the most the infrastructure can handle, but even so, many trains are too full to board, or experience uncomfortable levels of crowding. Lines form at many stations to get through escalators, elevators, and fare gates.

Without eight-car trains and fixing station bottlenecks, crowding and congestion on Metrorail will continue. The map below shows our projections of crowding (passengers per car) into the future, if we don’t undertake Metro 2025:

Crowding on Metrorail will worsen without the investments in Metro2025.

Crowding on Metrorail will worsen without the investments in Metro 2025. (Animated.)

 

4. Because Metrobus is stuck in traffic and needs relief. Metro’s buses are frequently caught in street traffic, which increases travel times, degrades reliability, and increases Metro’s operating costs just to maintain frequencies.

Bus-Speeds

Illustration of Metrobus speeds from 2009. The red is 5 MPH or less. Click for full version.

In fact, numerous Metrobus corridors operate at speeds of less than 10 MPH, and several showed speeds of under 5 MPH.  On many corridors, buses operate at a brisk walking pace even though they are carrying many more passengers than the traffic around them.  On H and I Streets NW, buses carry 40% of the passengers but are only 2% of the vehicles. On 16th Street NW, buses carry 50% of the passengers, despite using just 3% of the vehicles.

To increase bus service, speeds, and reliability, we need to invest in bus-only lanes, bus priority at traffic signals, and additional buses.

 

And the Oscar Goes To…

March 5th, 2014 No comments

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 on Vimeo.

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’s Metrorail Ridership: Recovering from a Snowstorm

March 5th, 2014 3 comments

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.

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).

Categories: Impact Tags: , , , ,

Ridership Increases Expected for Cherry Blossom Festival

February 27th, 2014 2 comments

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.

Cherry-Chart-Weekday-Saturday-w-Chart-2

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…

Gut Check – Funding Metro 2025

February 24th, 2014 1 comment

Counting on the Feds alone to fund Metro ignores a long tradition of local jurisdiction funding support – and a ticking clock.

hands-pulling-dollar-bill-puzzle

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.

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 TickerRead more…

The Impact of Government Shutdowns on Metrorail Ridership: Budget vs Snow

February 13th, 2014 6 comments

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?

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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…