Where and when does Metrorail generate the most farebox revenue? So far the data reinforces the notion that ours is a truly regional system with strong revenue contributions from all jurisdictions – but of course, the story is far more complicated than that…
What kind of rail system is Metrorail? Urban subway? Commuter rail? Hybrid? The answer of course is all of the above. And if that is the case, what kind of ridership and revenue patterns should its stations and system exhibit? High levels of peak revenues with heavy commuter lot usage but relative inactivity during the day? Lower levels of peak period activity but a steady stream of usage throughout the day? Depending on your perspective (and travel patterns) one might argue for either, and it might seem easy to apply a blanket classification to Metrorail and declare that “only urban stations cover their cost” or “commuter stations contribute largely to Metrorail’s revenue picture.”
Well, when you throw the data up on a map, it becomes clear that there are no easy answers, and no one right way to view the revenue picture of our tri-jurisdictional hybrid rail network. Some conclusions from the data are intuitive, some less so. Among them:
- Differences in ridership across stations are bigger than differences in revenue, so ridership is a stronger explanation of differences in revenue than fares. For example, Shady Grove’s average fare in the AM Peak is $5, which is twice as much as the smallest average fare. On the other hand, ridership at Shady Grove is ten times higher than other stations, so the ridership better explains the station’s revenue.
- In the AM Peak, the terminal stations dominate in terms of revenue contribution. Union Station functions as an internal “terminal station,” meaning that the commuter rail and Amtrak connections to Metro are extremely important to the overall ridership and revenue picture.
- Other stations with strong bus or commuter park-and-ride infrastructures also pop in the AM Peak, such as Silver Spring and Grosvenor.
- Note how well the non-Silver line stations in Virginia perform in the AM Peak, as well as the somewhat expected better performance of the Shady Grove branch of the Red Line in the AM Peak.
- In the PM Peak, the core is king. Stations like Farragut West and North, Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza are producing $50,000 apiece every evening thanks to their job densities, reinforcing the importance of improving their capacity for the future in Metro 2025, as well as their huge importance to revenue today. By comparison, in the AM Peak, only Shady Grove and Vienna approach these levels of revenue at roughly $40,000 per station.
- The New Carrollton and Largo Town Center branches of the Blue/Orange/Silver Lines contribute significantly less revenue than other branches, and this directly relates to the relative lack of transit-oriented development along these spines. The station areas on these lines enjoy a superb level of rail connectivity to the region’s primary job cores, but without sound transit-oriented investments to-date, they have not yielded the type of ridership and revenue commensurate with the capital investment. Imagine what Metro’s revenues (and farebox recovery) could look like if these segments were properly developed!
We’ve been examining the data ourselves as we continue forward with Momentum’s call for us to ensure financial stability for the Authority and have created the visualization for you to play with. We’d love to know what you see!
Deep explorations into the composition of Metrorail’s customer base shows that Metro has a wide reach – and that the five-day-a-week rider may not be as common as you think.
Metro (bus and rail) moves 1.1 million people per day, right? Well, technically we see that many trips (transactions) per day, but how many individual customers is that? When you look at your fellow passengers on-board a train, how many are frequent commuters? How many rarely ride? In addition to counting trips, we’ve begun to monitor customers – the number of unique SmarTrip cards and paper tickets used on the system in a month.
We’re starting with Metrorail at first.
Metrorail typically handles roughly 730,000 trips on a weekday, which are generated by about 400,000 unique customers. Some of those customers ride frequently, and others will ride only once in the month. As the chart below shows, of the 730,000 trips, only about two-thirds are generated by frequent customers. Not surprisingly, frequent customers dominate more during the peak times.
Typical weekday rail ridership (trips) by customer’s monthly frequency (trips/month)
Surprisingly, over 17% of all trips are generated by customers who take eight trips/month or fewer– that’s fewer than once per week. That may not seem like much, but in order for infrequent customers to generate so much of our ridership each and every day, there must be a LOT of them! Read more…
Learn about the travel patterns of Silver Line riders in rich, interactive detail with this new tool.
Click on the dashboard below to see where Silver Line rail riders are going, coming from, and by time of day and day type. This is simply a visualization of the October 2014 rail ridership data we recently posted. What patterns do you see? What jumps out at you?
As gasoline prices drop and commuters feel less pain at the pump, do they drive more and take Metro less? The short answer is maybe, but not much.
In recent months, gasoline prices in the Washington region have dropped by over a dollar per gallon, to a near-record low of around $2.50 per gallon. Here’s how gas prices have changed in the last 11 years (unadjusted for inflation):
Below is a simple scatter plot comparing those prices to bus and rail ridership to gasoline prices, by month, for the last 11 years. It shows that gas prices have a very small, nearly negligible, effect on Metro ridership. The relationship is essentially zero for Metrobus, and barely detectable on Metrorail as a whole, as pictured below. The link is best with off-peak rail ridership (R2 = 0.24) compared to peak ridership (R2 = 0.09), suggesting that off-peak Metrorail riders are most sensitive to gas prices. (Not pictured.) Read more…
A large majority of trips on Metrorail cross jurisdictional boundaries, illustrating that Metro is indeed a regional service.
We’ve mentioned before how the station improvements in Metro 2025 will benefit riders from all jurisdictions. In fact, Dupont Circle is the only station identified in Metro 2025 with a majority of users living in DC. We thought we’d take another look at ridership that crosses jurisdictional boundaries. The table below illustrates the percent of trips, by jurisdiction of origin, that cross into another jurisdiction on Metrorail, sliced by Weekday AM Peak, Weekday PM Peak and Weekend. Data is from October 2014 and includes the new Silver Line stations.
A few things pop out: Read more…
This new data download from October 2014 includes ridership from the five new Silver Line stations.
Over the past few years we’ve been making ridership data available for download and analysis by the online community. We have received some requests for full origin-destination (O/D) data sets that include the new Silver Line ridership.
These data sets include ridership from October of 2014, and are available by period (AM Peak, midday, etc.) or by quarter-hour interval, for all stations including the five new Silver Line stations. Both sets include daily averages for weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Columbus Day.
Note, the quarter-hour data file is to big to open in Microsoft Excel.
Have fun playing around with this data and let us know in the comments what you find. Make sure you check out the other assessments of Silver Line ridership we’ve done.
Jan 29, 2015, 10:00 AM Update: Files have been updated to include total and average travel times for each station pair.
Feb 02, 2015, 11:00 AM Update: Files have been updated to separate Columbus Day from Saturdays using a new column “Holiday”.
Carrying an average of 11,000 riders to every Nationals home game, Metrorail maintained a 34% mode share to Nationals park in the 2014 season.
How many baseball fans take Metro to Nationals Park? Metro’s rail planning team tracks this statistic, by looking at activity around game times at Navy Yard-Ballpark and Capitol South stations that exceed our typical baseline ridership. On game days, Metro provides special game-day trains on the Green Line to handle increased loads to and from Navy Yard-Ballpark station.
Over the 81 home games in 2014, Metrorail brought an estimated 890,000 total riders to the ballpark, or about 11,000 riders per game. Compared to the average attendance of 31,000 at Nationals Park this year, this equates to a 34% mode share for Metrorail at Nationals Park. Including both entries and exits, Nationals games generated about 1.7 million total trips for Metrorail this season. A few more observations:
- Interestingly, ridership to the game is typically 8% higher than ridership from the game – some spectators must be finding another way home!
- Metrorail’s mode share was highest for Friday games (38%), and lowest for Wednesday games (32%)
- Mode share increases slightly for high-attendance games, but the relationship is weak. Metrorail’s market share remains mostly stable in the 30-40% range, whether attendance was 20,000 or 40,000.
We’ve posted additional visualizations and the raw data, in addition to the charts in this post. What do you think? What patterns do you see?
Use of the “Farragut Crossing” virtual tunnel is strong, averaging around 18,000 trips per month during the more temperate months, dropping to 15,000 during the winter.
Users of the Metrorail system come up with a lot of different ideas for how Metro can better serve their needs. Ideas often come from the blogging community and are sometimes considered by Metro planners, researchers and leadership. One such idea was the virtual tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut West. Now dubbed “Farragut Crossing” via a Facebook naming contest, this fare policy update allows transfers between the two Farragut stations without being charged two separate fares.
Farragut Crossing was first opened in October of 2011 and monthly usage increased from just a few thousand trips in its first few months to a max of over 21,000 in May of 2014. Since then, it’s settled to around 18,000 during the fair-weather months.
Ridership patterns on the Silver Line show that Metro’s new line is serving a truly regional market.
Now that school is back in session, the new Silver Line just completed its first full week where “normal” travel patterns are beginning to emerge. Ridership is strong, but where are these new passengers going? The diagram below shows destinations of all riders entering a Silver Line station in the week of September 8-12, 2014.
Some observations emerge from this: Read more…
After just two months, ridership on the Silver Line is off to a solid start: Wiehle Ave is already over projections, reverse commuting is strong, and more.
Now that school is back in session and most summer vacations over, here is an in-depth look at the week of September 8-12, 2014, when “normal” routines may have begun to emerge.
At around 15,000 entries per weekday, the Silver Line is off to a solid start. Compared to the official projections from the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), we are achieving about 60% of the ridership projected for the end of the line’s first year:
Wiehle station is already over opening-year projections and shows the highest ridership of all the new stations. Tysons Corner station is strong as well, but we still have room to grow at all four stations located in the Tysons area.
Looking at ridership by time of day shows the Wiehle is a commuting powerhouse, but also that a strong reverse commute market is emerging at the other stations:
- McLean (in blue) is showing an early lead as a a “traditional” commute station, where most riders enter in the morning.
- Tysons Corner is much more dominated by reverse commuters, and its morning rush extends into mid-morning (around 10:00am). Evening ridership at Tysons Corners is also heavy. (More on off-peak ridership at Tysons coming soon)
- Greensboro and Spring Hill show relatively light ridership so far, but ridership is expected to grow over time as development catches up with the new station.
What do you think? Have you taken the Silver Line on a weekday? What was your experience?
The raw data by quarter-hour interval underlying this analysis is available in two formats: by station alone (2MB, .xlsx), and by origin-destination station (3MB, zipped tab-delimited .txt).