Metro to Continue Dialogue with App Development Community and Riders!

September 15th, 2016 2 comments

Metro Data Day 1 will bring together Metro staff, the app developer community, riders and advocates.


Metro has some great data feeds, and app developers — from Google and Apple to Metro Hero — are consuming them to provide great tools for transit riders in the Washington DC region.

That’s great news, and yet there are opportunities to do even more!  For example, we’d love to see app developers help customers plan an accessible trip – one that routes a user to station entrances where elevators are present.  And this isn’t likely the only unmet need from the Metro transit rider community. There are loads of great ways to make this data more useful to you.  That’s where you come in.  Read more…

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Tens of Thousands of Customers Relied on Metrobus During SafeTrack Surges 3 and 4

September 12th, 2016 No comments

Surges 3 and 4 saw the highest shuttle bus ridership of SafeTrack so far. Overall, Metrobus shuttles moved around 17,000 trips per day during Surge 3, and around 25,000 trips per day during Surge 4.

With shuttles every 2.5 minutes and Metroway running every 6 minutes, there were about 35 buses per hour during peak periods on Route 1. Taken together, the two services moved about 31,000 passengers per day during Surge 4. As a comparison, that stretch of road serves about 41,000 cars per day.

A small portion of shuttle bus ridership was on the Franconia to Pentagon shuttle, with the remainder on shuttles between Pentagon City, Braddock Road, Crystal City, and National Airport. The sheer volume of ridership on the shuttle buses made the shuttle operation Metro’s busiest bus line, albeit temporarily. At 25,000 trips per day, the shuttles moved more riders than we typically move on any other major bus route, including some of the busiest like 16th Street NW, or the various 30’s buses.

Not all rail customers chose to use the shuttles.

Some riders, especially those traveling locally, switched to other bus routes. Ridership on the Metroway premium bus service more than doubled compared to June, and during Surge 4, it nearly tripled compared to the same period last year! Ridership on the 10A was up 29-64%, and 11Y ridership was up 128-133%, or more than double. Metrobus added service on all of these alternative lines, and Metroway did not charge fares during the Surges. We will be monitoring future ridership to see if any customers decide to remain with Metroway after the surges end.

Overall bus ridership on other lines in the Surge area was up 1%.

These first SafeTrack surges highlight one of bus’ key attributes as a mode: flexibility.

Metrobus has supported the SafeTrack work by moving tens of thousands of passengers along corridors that don’t normally see that level of demand for bus service, in different locations every couple of weeks. There’s been plenty of work behind the scenes to make that happen:

  • The planning and scheduling team has worked out which routes the buses should take, which bus bays they should use at the stations, what time the buses need to leave the garages, and more.
  • Our customer facilities team has ensured there were signs up at all the stops and stations pointing the way to bus service.
  • The bus maintenance team has kept all the buses for SafeTrack up and running.
  • The street operations staff have answered passengers’ questions and worked with the Bus Operations Communications Center and the bus operators to make sure everything ran smoothly.
  • Bus operators have learned new routes in a very short amount of time and safely taken tens of thousands of passengers where they needed to go.

Usually, Metrobus makes service changes only about once a quarter, since passengers count on the consistency and reliability of our service. But when it’s needed, bus service can be very nimble, allowing it to support the important maintenance work being done during SafeTrack.

Did you ride Metroway or the shuttles during Surge 3 or 4? What did you think? What other opportunities are there to capitalize on the flexibility of bus service?

Studies on Dedicated Funding for Metro – If We Had a Nickel…

September 7th, 2016 3 comments

The region has entered its 30th year of discussion about funding Metro.

Rail Rehab Costs 86 Study

Projected rail structure maintenance costs from the 1986 FCC study.

There has been a lot of talk recently and even more sound bites about the need for more consistent, reliable, and dedicated funding for Metro. But while it may seem like an innovative topic, discussions about Metro’s funding challenges and the need for a dedicated funding stream for Metro have been going on for … decades.  This has been an identified problem and heavily-studied topic since at least 1986 – the year the Oprah Winfrey Show debuted, Top Gun was the highest grossing film, and Ferris Bueller took a day off.

Truth be told, scores of very smart people have expended time and effort and resources to articulate the problems, accurately predict the consequences of inaction, and suggest solutions suitable (and necessary) for implementation.  So when you read “news” about Metro’s funding challenges, the problems it creates, and potential fixes – remember that what you are reading is hardly “new”.  And no refrain is older than the “it’s not the right time”, to which we must remind the reader that for three decades, it hasn’t been “the right time”.  How’s that working out, anyway?

Below are a few of the studies and reports generated on Metro’s funding challenges and possible solutions to closing the funding gap:

Studying – check. So now what? Read more…

The Origins of Metro’s 26 Trains Per Hour Limit

August 22nd, 2016 4 comments

Why can’t Metrorail reliably operate more than 26 trains per hour per direction? A 2001 study defined the basis for determining this constraint.

Although it has been known for years, the July 2014 opening of the Silver Line and corresponding reduction of rush hour Blue Line service highlighted that Metro cannot schedule more than 26 trains per hour (or a train every 2-2.5 minutes) across any point in its rail network. Though it’s been discussed many times through the years, let’s explain this limit in detail now.

Read more…

Identifying Metro’s Growing non-English Speaking Communities

August 17th, 2016 1 comment

With a wide variety of languages spoken in our region, Metro uses the latest Census data to inform how we reach out to the diverse communities we serve.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidance to transit agencies on meeting the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) populations – i.e., those who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English – says that the agency should provide written translation of vital documents for “each eligible language group that constitutes 5 percent or 1,000 persons, whichever is less, of the total population of persons ‘eligible to be served’.” For a region like ours, that’s a pretty tall order as there are more than 26 non-English language groups where there are more than 1,000 speakers of the language. However, by aggregating the latest Census-based language data for areas near our Metrorail stations and bus routes, we can develop a better understanding of the linguistic diversity in Metro’s service area as well as the proportion of LEP persons.

To ensure rider communication and meaningful public outreach to these language populations, Metro develops a Language Assistance Plan that is updated every three years, with the next update due in 2017.   The Census language data developed for this document guides the types of  information we need to translate and helps inform our public outreach activities.   This latest round of language data shows that the top seven languages spoken in our service area are Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Arabic and Amharic. For these languages, we provide written translations of all vital materials and offer language assistance services upon request. The map below shows the predominant LEP populations near each Metrorail Station along with the proportion of LEP speakers for each language.

LEP system Map 1

Read more…

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Introducing S.W.A.R.M. – Another Tool For Your TOD Toolkit

August 11th, 2016 1 comment

A new tool helps estimate ridership and revenue from transit-oriented development projects near Metrorail stations.  Download it for yourself!

Waterfront Sta aerial

For months we have been detailing our work that quantifies the relationship between land use and rail ridership. This is important because Metrorail has been experiencing large changes in ridership, and we were interesting interested in understanding why certain station areas – like Navy Yard and NoMa – were showing ridership gains while the system as a whole is experiencing losses in the long arc of ridership growth.

To get to the bottom of this, we worked with researchers from the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth to analyze how walk ridership at a Metrorail station relates to its surrounding land uses, and create a tool that accurately estimates the likely change in ridership from changes in land uses. This tool, the Station Walk Area Ridership Model (or S.W.A.R.M., for short), helps us estimate the potential impacts of land use changes – new households, new jobs (by type of employment!), and even changes in the station’s walkshed – on ridership and revenue to Metrorail. Read more…

Help Metro Get Smarter: Now Hiring Business Intelligence Analyst

August 4th, 2016 1 comment

If you are great with data and love cities and transit, we have a job for you.


We were excited to announce that a job listing for a Business Intelligence Analyst position within Planning’s Applied Planning Intelligence unit has just been posted.  We are looking for a healthy overlap between a data scientist and a transit nerd.  For the full job description, head over to the site, scroll down and click on View all jobs.  A short description is posted below.

Currently a team of two, we work to convert Metro’s many data sources into information that can be used to inform plans, policies and procedures.  Many of our projects have been featured here on PlanItMetro, including:

Read more…

Metro Developer Coffee Chats a Success! Thank You Developers!

July 29th, 2016 No comments

Metro’s commitment to developers was well received following our informal “Coffee Chat” event designed to foster connections between and among Metro and the developer community.

Wednesday, Metro set aside some time for Developer Coffee Chats to enable dialogue between Metro’s API users and other developers. The informal event proved successful, with numerous developers taking advantage of the resources available to them (provided both by Metro and by their developer peers). Although several topics were discussed, the clear focal point was Metro’s Real-Time Train Position API, released last week through the General Manager’s CARe Initiative.

Metro Developer Coffee Chat Photo

Metro staff members engaged in various dialogues with third-party developers

At the event, several developers spoke with Metro’s API team to seek guidance regarding the technical backend of their apps and others simply showed Metro their work for feedback and suggestions for implementing new features. One attendee commented on the quality of Metro’s API documentation, crediting the documentation with enabling him to move from building local-apps and scripts to building a full-fledged Metro app using the APIs. Read more…

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We Heard You! MyTripTime Provides Personalized Information On Your Metrorail Trips

July 28th, 2016 6 comments

Starting Wednesday, July 27th, Metrorail customers can see their own, personal on-time score for trips that they’ve taken over the past 90 days by logging into the SmarTrip website.

Metro has a long history of reporting system-wide performance via our quarterly Vital Signs reports. However, our customers often say that this information doesn’t resonate with their own experience because it averages things out across all operating hours and all stations.

Customers: we heard you! MyTripTime reports your own, personal on-time score based on every trip that you’ve taken over the past 90 days.

Screenshot of My

Screenshot of MyTripTime, from

Read more…

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Are You a Metro Data User? Let’s Talk!

July 25th, 2016 No comments

Metro is committed to working with the developer community –  we’ve launched a real-time train position API, are hosting developer coffee chats this Wednesday (7/27) from 4pm to 6pm, created a developer google group, and are seeking submissions for an App Gallery!

If you frequently monitor Metro news, you’ll have already seen some of Metro’s latest developments regarding the commitment to open data and third-party developers. Most notably, Metro last week released a real-time train position API, making it possible to identify the specific locations of trains in the system at a given time.


Screen capture of Metro’s internal real-time train positions map. Now, third-party developers can make their own versions of this using a recently released data feed.

We can’t wait to see what you do with the data. But we know you’ll have questions. That’s why we’re hosting an informal “Coffee Chat” this Wednesday, July 27, at Compass Coffee on F Street (near the Gallery Place-Chinatown station and 70/74/D6 buses). Stop by any time from 4pm to 6pm to say hello, show us something on your computer, or ask us questions!

Two other notable updates, Metro now has created a google group to serve as the intra-developer community forum and will be launching an “App Gallery” to showcase apps available for the Metro system.