Prioritizing Bike and Pedestrian Station Access Projects Near Metrorail

November 1st, 2015 No comments

We all know improving station access is good.  But, how do we rank access projects relative to each other?   Step 1: Ridership

In our recent post, we gave you an overview of our Station Access Investment Strategy project.  We’ve identified 1,000s of recommendations for new pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure near our Metrorail stations and need a way to prioritize them.  After some thought, we’ve come up with a number of potential criteria.  In this post, we’ll discuss those that deal with ridership.

July 2014 Post on Ridership Potential from New Ped./ Bike Projects

Map of the Southern Ave walk shed from July 2014 Post on Ridership Potential from New Ped./ Bike Projects

Once again, one of key concepts we’ve been telling you about in recent months is that by improving access to stations we can grow ridership.  For stations with relatively small walk sheds, we’ll conduct a detailed analysis of what happens to the walk shed when the proposed projects are built.  For example, add a sidewalk at Cheverly and the walk shed will grow by X%.  We will then look at the amount of households and jobs in the newly connected area and, using some methods we’ve shown you in other posts, calculate the potential ridership gained by the new project.  The higher the potential ridership gain, the better the project scores.

But, we also want to understand the value of a new project to a part of the station that is already connected to the network and how this could relate back to ridership.  To do this, we’ve come up some other metrics.  They include: Read more…

Three Tidbits: What The Metrobus 2014 Survey Can Tell Us

October 26th, 2015 7 comments

The latest survey of Metrobus riders is a gold mine of information about who our bus riders are, why they travel, and more. Here are the answers to just three questions:

Who’s on the Bus on 16th St. NW? Metro planners and DC residents alike have advocated for a possible bus lane on 16th St. NW, where Metrobuses carry over 50% of the people, are scheduled for about every two minutes, and are frequently bunched and overcrowded. The survey can tell us what kinds of riders use that corridor – giving us clues to what kind of new riders a bus lane might attract.

S-Line Ridership by Juris of Residence

 S-Line demogs

Survey says:

  • Three quarters of S-Line (S1, S2, S4, and S9 combined) riders live in D.C., while the rest hail primarily from Montgomery County
  • S-Line riders are younger and more affluent, than the system-wide average for bus riders.
  • They are slightly more likely to be car-free and employed by the federal government, but the difference is very small.

Read more…

In Case You Missed It – Presentation from Last Week’s Smart Growth Social

October 22nd, 2015 No comments

We’ve published online the WMATA presentation from last week’s Smart Growth Social.

Last week the Coalition for Smarter Growth held their annual Smart Growth Social. Over 200 people were in attendance that evening and WMATA was honored to have the opportunity to share with the audience a preview of some ground-breaking research the Office of Planning has been conducting into the impact of Smart Growth practices on the region’s finances. On behalf of everyone who works towards a more sustainable and prosperous region, thank you for listening.


We’ve gotten a ton of requests for copies of the presentation, which we have made available online. If you want to get more information on how smarter land use planning can and should be this region’s top transportation strategy, feel free to use the presentation or email us ( to stay informed as we release more information on ConnectGreaterWashington later this year.

Help Your Community by Joining Ours

October 15th, 2015 No comments

Join Metro’s New “Amplify” Customer Community

metro_amplify_negative_80715Would you like to gain insight into Metro’s direction and help shape new initiatives? Are you looking for an opportunity to share your rider experiences and make a difference in how Metro responds to issues that face you and your fellow riders?

Join Amplify, Metro’s first-ever Customer Community and newest tool for engaging customers like you in day-to-day decision making.  The Amplify community will include everyday customers who ride Metro’s Bus, Rail and MetroAccess services, as well as the Riders’ Advisory Council members and transit professionals.

Amplify community members will be provided a forum for on-going engagement with fellow riders and Metro staff through online surveys, discussions and polls. Community members will also receive regular updates on news and events.

Visit to apply to be an Amplify community member and help shape our region’s public transit service now and into the future.

Keeping an Eye on the Future – the Potential for “Smart Transit”

October 12th, 2015 No comments

Despite its current operational challenges, it’s important to keep an eye on the future. Our increasingly connected world means that tomorrow’s transit system could not only be more reliable, cleaner, and faster – but smarter.


Metro Smart Cities round table participants.

Recently WMATA announced that there is a path forward to cellular service throughout the rail network. That’s a huge step forward for all of Metro’s customers, who we know value staying connected and productive while on the go. But checking email, catching up on social media, or even banging out that legal brief while en route from work to happy hour is only the beginning of what a technology-enabled interconnected transit network can do.  Metro’s Office of Planning is keenly interested in understanding what the future of the “Internet of Things” might mean for WMATA, and we reached out to industry experts to find out.

On September 14, 2015, the Office of Planning hosted transportation experts who were in town for Smart Cities Week to weigh in on how technology and data could transform the way we think about transit.  Our panelists – all of whom agreed to participate on their own dime and on the condition that we were not entertaining any sales pitches! – included representatives from Cisco, Microsoft, Mastercard, TransitScreen, and Urban Insights.  The event hosted over 60 leaders from WMATA to hear what evolved into an open dialogue about the promise of a data-enhanced transit system and rider experience.

Here are some of the major take-aways from the event: Read more…

Metro Studying Ways to Improve Bike/Ped Access to Stations

October 7th, 2015 No comments

Improving walk and bike access is a cost effective way to increase ridership and improve the efficiency of the Metrorail network.   Where are these improvements needed and how should we (as a region) prioritize them?

Landover Walkshed

What projects might increase the size of the walk shed of the Landover Metrorail station?

In a number of earlier posts starting last summer, we’ve discussed the concept of walk sheds and explored the relationship between walkability, land use, and Metrorail ridership.  One conclusion of this effort:  grow the size of the walk shed and you’ll grow ridership.

Generally, we only have control over what happens on our own property.  While we have made great strides in identifying and prioritizing bike/ped access improvements on our own property, increasing the size of the walk sheds requires coordination with state or local agencies who own, plan, design and construct roads, sidewalks and pathways near our stations.  We know that in order to have a larger impact on walk and bike access, we need to cast a wider net and identify projects that are up to one mile from our station entrance.  We have created a plan — the Station Access Investment Strategy — to highlight some of these projects as priorities for our local partners to use as they develop their capital improvement plans. Read more…

Brookland-CUA Station Rises to the Challenge of Papal Proportions

October 5th, 2015 1 comment

Brookland-CUA station enabled over 24,000 trips for visitors attending the papal events at the Basilica on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. 

Brookland-CUA Metro station in Washington The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic University of America campus is in the background. Photo Credit: AgnosticPreachersKid at English Wikipedia

Metrorail can handle crowds for most events downtown where the demand can be shared across a variety of stations and lines.   The papal mass at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, however, required a little extra planning.  The Secret Service was in charge of the regional planning of the event, and as the event approached Metro staff became aware the event would have a ticketed attendance of 25,000 people and that an additional 15,000 people might amass outside the venue to watch the ceremony on the jumbo-trons and try to catch a glimpse of the Pope on his way in and out of the area.  Preparing to enable safe and efficient trips for up to 40,000 customers at a station with one of the smallest capacities in the system required some extra effort. Read more…

Toronto’s Airport Connections are on the Up and “Up”

September 28th, 2015 3 comments

On a recent trip to Toronto, Metro planner discovers a new rail link.

I flew up to Toronto in July of this year for a fun weekend trip, flying into Pearson Airport.  I’ve traveled up there a few times in the past year and try to take transit between the airport and downtown when schedules allow.  Each time, I check transit schedules via Google Maps to determine whether or not transit from the airport makes sense to me.  This most recent time, I discovered something odd:  a new transit connection from the airport I hadn’t seen before, simply labeled “UP“.  Curious, I googled it and discovered that a new rail transit link had just opened between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto’s Union Station, with two stops in between.  Being a transit nerd, I had to check it out.

The new UP train operates between Toronto's Union Station and Pearson Airport.

The new UP train operates between Toronto’s Union Station and Pearson Airport.

Read more…

The (Hidden) High Cost of Cheap Real Estate

September 24th, 2015 5 comments

As jurisdictions balance the need to redevelop “prime” Metrobus garage sites, new facilities are located in less desirable and cheaper real estate submarkets.  That may sound like great business sense, but it has an impact on non-revenue (or “deadhead”) mileage, creating scheduling challenges and adding millions of dollars in additional operating costs to operate Metrobus service. This trend will increase into the future.

Today, Metro dispatches 1,634 buses for 315 bus routes from only nine bus garages spread throughout Virginia, the District, and Maryland. In a perfect world, Metrobuses would magically appear at the start of a bus route and no additional costs would be incurred. In reality, many bus routes begin far from their assigned bus garages, and travel long distances before they can begin service.

Excluding our two youngest bus divisions (both replacement divisions built in the last five years), the median age of our bus divisions is 61.5 years. These facilities need more than just tender loving care to keep up with today’s service demands.  For example, older garages are not equipped to deal with modern buses (the 70-year-old Royal Street bus division was literally too short for modern buses). And only two garages, Four Mile Run in south Arlington and Bladensburg in northeast DC, are equipped to handle Metro’s 457 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.  So often times Metrobus needs new facilities despite the tantalizing prospect of simply refurbishing old ones.  These new facilities fall under the category of “LULU” – Locally Unwanted Land Use.  Many do not want to live near a bus division, but if the region wants bus service, we need bus garages.

So, bus divisions get pushed out farther and farther from central locations and the neighborhoods where the customers are.  All sounds logical so far, except for the fact that the buses now need to travel further to start revenue service.  All of this extra journey time simply to get from the division to the customer adds extra deadhead miles to each route. That deadhead is now starting to cost big bucks.

Since 2007, increased deadhead miles have added $5 million to the cost to operate Metrobus.

Since 2007, increased deadhead miles have added $5 million to the cost to operate Metrobus.

Since 2007, Metrobus’ total operating costs have increased $5 million to cover an increase of 1,700 daily deadhead miles. Closures of bus divisions have had a large impact on operations, steadily increasing daily deadhead miles from the 22,500 mile baseline. The 2008 closure of Southeastern Bus Division (now the Half Street Fairgrounds) as part of the Navy Yard/Nats Park redevelopment caused daily deadhead miles to jump nearly 2,200 miles. Most of the remaining DC garages and Southern were forced over their normal capacity limits, and some service was shifted to Montgomery Division. A year later, the World War II-era Arlington bus division closed and capacity was shifted to the new West Ox Division in Fairfax County. Shepherd Parkway Division opened in 2012, 4 years after its predecessor Southeastern closed, bringing overall deadhead miles about 600 miles shy of the 2007 baseline. Two years later, the Royal Street bus division in Alexandria closed, increasing miles once again.

Metro had intended to hold off closing the Royal Street bus division until after the opening of Cinder Bed Road. The project was substantially delayed to accommodate neighborhood concerns, and we were unable to mitigate the 1,127 mile increase in deadhead during the protracted delay.

The animated graphic below shows the change in deadheading between 2007 and current.  Read more…

The Long View: Fiscal Year 2015 Bus and Rail Ridership Summary

September 22nd, 2015 No comments

As Fiscal Year 2015 drew to a close last month, we figured it’s time to take the long view: how did ridership do this year?

On the whole, for an average weekday over the last year:

  • Rail ridership was up by 1.5%, in part due to the introduction of the Silver Line.
  • Bus ridership was down by 1.4.
  • Rail ridership was up largely due to the federal government shutdown in October of FY14.
  • Metrorail had a good fall and winter, while Metrobus started the fiscal year well but struggled in the winter and spring months.

FY2015 Ridership Year in Review

Seasonal Trends. All changes in ridership are best shown as a comparison to the same time last year, because ridership rises and falls as the seasons change. Traditionally, ridership is lowest in the winter, and peaks twice: one in late March/early April for the Cherry Blossoms, and then again in June and July when tourists and outdoor activities are in full swing. August is usually slow, and then ridership levels stabilize again in the fall.

  • Metrorail is more sensitive to seasonal swings than Metrobus.  In FY15 for example, ridership in June is 25% higher than December on rail, but only 10% higher on bus.
  • Some rail stations are much more seasonal than others.
    • The most steady stations are largely residential stations in D.C. like Benning Road, Columbia Heights, Georgia Ave-Petworth, and Potomac Ave.
    • The most variable stations serve tourist hotspots, and/or other seasonal markets (Congress and baseball!): Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian, Navy Yard-Ballpark, Capitol South, and Woodley Park-Zoo.


Metrorail had a strong October this year because of last fall’s government closure, but interestingly on Metrobus this phenomenon was hardly detectable. Federal workers make up 35-40% of Metrorail ridership, but 14% of Metrobus ridership, so while October this year was strong, we may have had a good month even without last year’s shutdown. Much of Metrobus’s small net loss in ridership for the year is due to February and March of this year, when bad weather impacted both bus service and ridership, above last year’s levels. Excluding those months, Metrobus ridership for the fiscal year was basically flat.


Structural Forces. Metrorail ridership continues to grow at stations with growing transit-oriented development, especially along the Green-Yellow lines in D.C., NoMa station on the Red Line, and many stations in Arlington. The new stations on the Silver Line are also growing net ridership, although judging from September numbers, roughly a half to two-thirds of Silver Line ridership is former Orange Line or bus riders. The line finished its first eleven months of service at around 60% of opening year projections.

These gains have been offset by losses in Metrorail’s traditional commuter markets elsewhere in the system. Metrorail has been losing longer trips to the core at peak periods from commute-oriented stations, particularly for longer trips (roughly 7 miles or more). These losses are effecting many markets, but are concentrated on riders paying their fares using the SmartBenefits program, whose benefits were significantly reduced starting in 2014.  More customers are forced to pay out-of-pocket when SmartBenefits run out, and ride less as a result. Meanwhile, ridership from customers unaffected by the program is stable or perhaps even up.

Bus services on the eastern side of D.C. are growing ridership, such as the X2, routes serving Anacostia station, the B2, and more.  The Y-lines on Georgia Ave in Maryland, and buses on Leesburg Pike in Virginia have been performing well. These gains are offset by losses on the 14th and 16th Street NW corridors in D.C., and linehaul services in Maryland such as the Q-lines on Viers Mill Road and the J-lines on East-West Highway. Reversing a long-term trend, Metrobus has seen a shift from SmarTrip to cash after the cash surcharge was dropped this fiscal year. Cash payments were up slightly at the end of the fiscal year, even though they remain a small portion of fares paid overall.

How did your home station fare in FY15? Find every station below:

Want even more details? Download the raw data directly via the Tableau links, or explore even more visualizations (some more interesting than others) by looking at the other tabs for Rail and Bus.

Technical notes: all figures presented here are preliminary, and presented as year-over-year comparisons. All monthly data is adjusted for the number of day types in each month. Rail ridership data have been adjusted to correct for minor data losses due to equipment problems. Silver Line stations are shown as “100% ridership growth,” to reflect that this is the line’s first year and thus year-over-year data is not available.