REMINDER: Go Car-Free Tomorrow! (and maybe the rest of the week, for that matter)

September 21st, 2015 1 comment

Pledge to go car free this week!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, marks the 8th year International Car-Free Day has been celebrated here in this region. If you haven’t taken the pledge to leave the car at home tomorrow, there’s still time!  Sign yourself up for the car-free mode of your choice.  Not only will you save some carbon (find out how much using our Greenhouse Gas Calculator), but you also just might win yourself a nifty prize.

Car Free Day PosterCar Free Day banner 2

Further, given that the Papal visit will occur from Tuesday through Thursday this week, you may want to sign up mentally for another few days of a car-free lifestyle and avoid major congestion around town.

Let us know how you’re going car-free in the comments.

Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center Opening September 20th

September 16th, 2015 1 comment

The Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center will open on Sunday, September 20th. After many of years of anticipation, Metrobus, Ride On, and Shuttle-UM are ready to start operations.

Situated next to the Silver Spring Metrorail Station, MARC train station, and Metropolitan Branch Trail, the Silver Spring Transit Center serves as Montgomery County’s multimodal transportation hub. Eventually, the Purple Line Light Rail will also serve the Silver Spring Transit Center.

The Silver Spring Transit Center will replace on-street bus stops with 3 stories of bus bays, taxis, a kiss and ride, and public restrooms. With two separate levels dedicated to bus operations and over 125 buses per hour expected during peak periods, Metrobus operations have been busy preparing for the big day. We got a chance to take a tour and share a few photos.  Click on any photo for a larger version.

The following Metrobus routes will have stops inside the transit center. See the directory below to prepare yourself for the opening of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center. Read more…

Categories: In The News Tags: , ,

Metrobus is Collecting Your Input for Annual Bus Service Adjustments

September 15th, 2015 3 comments

Time is running out to provide your input on proposed Metrobus changes.

Every year, Metrobus planners propose service changes to maintain a Bus State of Good Operations (SOGO). This year’s official public participation period went live on Saturday, August 15 and will close at 5:00pm on Wednesday, September 23.  That’s less than two weeks away!

Halfway through the public comment period, we thought we would give you sense of the process so far.

  • More than 3,000 online surveys have been completed.  Two-thirds of these returns are from direct email outreach to customers using affected routes. If you are interested in receiving invitations to similar online surveys in the future, please register your SmarTrip card.

    Bus SOGO outreach 2015

    Bus SOGO outreach 2015

  • With more than 20 outreach events completed or scheduled, we are collecting feedback by going straight to the customer.  Metro staff is out riding buses and showing up at bus stops and rail stations.  We understand not everyone can go online so we are coming to them.  Look for us and help us improve your bus experience.
  • These outreach activities have resulted in more than 2,000 written comments from customers all over the region.
  • At the time of this writing, the elimination of the 5A is not being well received nor is the elimination of the segment between McPherson Square and Kennedy Center on the Route 80.  Many in the District are giving favorable marks to the free transfer between Capitol Heights/Addison Road Metrorail stations for select routes.  Maryland customers are also excited for the Q Line free transfer to and from the Metrorail Red Line between Wheaton and Silver Spring.
  • In addition to English-language replies, we have received completed surveys from Spanish, Vietnamese, and Amharic speakers.  Customers from all economic and ethnic groups are chiming in as well.

We want to hear more from our customers to see how these changes would affect your travel choices. Let us know how major service changes would impact you. Join the conversation by reading the official docket and submitting your thoughts online or in person.

-Email your comments to
-Talk to Metro staff at a pop-up event
Take an online survey
-Attend the public hearing on Thursday, September 17 at WMATA HQ (600 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001).

Metro to Create First Regional Open Transit Schedule Data Feed

September 14th, 2015 2 comments

Metro is coordinating with other regional agencies to release a single data file that will contain schedule data for all transit operators in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.

Over 10 years ago, Metro began coordinating with local bus operators and commuter rail agencies to incorporate all of their transit schedules into Trip Planner.  It took some time and effort, but eventually Metro reached agreements with all the operators in the region and began to consolidate transit schedules in one online, searchable data source.  In fact, Metro’s Trip Planner is the most comprehensive online data source for regional transit trip planning.  So much so, that when the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) needs to update their four-step travel demand model they request all of the region’s transit schedules from Metro and we deliver them as a General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) file.

Over two years ago, we posted here a data visualization of that GTFS file developed by STLTransit.  GreaterGreaterWashington subsequently published a post advocating for the public release of this regional GTFS file, arguing that it would fill a big gap in regional online transit trip planning.  There are two primary benefits of Metro releasing this file:

  • Sites and app developers can load one data file for all the region’s transit instead of downloading separate files for each agency.
  • Only some agencies in the region publish their own GTFS files, and releasing this file will make several agencies’ schedule data available online for the first time.

Over the past two years, Metro staff have worked to negotiate the release of this GTFS file.  We were pleased reach out to the other regional operators in July requesting sign-off on a regional data-sharing agreement that would permit Metro to release the other agencies’ data online in this GTFS format.  We are excitedly awaiting executed agreements from the operators, and we’ve received one back already, thanks RideOn!  Once we have received a few more replies, we will begin to publish a regional file including the data of all agencies that have executed the agreement.

In the meantime, feel free to contact your local bus, commuter bus or commuter rail operator and ask that they expedite the signing of this regional transit schedule data sharing agreement.

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , ,

Since Time is Money, Metro Wants a Business Partner to Help Metrobus Go More and Stop Less

September 11th, 2015 3 comments

Metro is exploring opportunities to partner with a private company or investor to pilot off-board SmarTrip® loading to help improve customer travel times and lower our operating costs.

Metrobus speeds have steadily decreased over time as the region grew and traffic worsened. This not only negatively impacts Metro customers, but also increases our operating costs. As traffic congestion erodes bus speeds, we need to deploy more vehicles and operators on the busiest routes in order to maintain service frequencies. We know that behind the statistics stand legions of bus riders who want faster service, as well as counties and cities that want lower bills for that service.

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Off-Board Fare Payment and Transit Prioritization

There is no silver bullet to speed up transit. Instead, agencies can use a combination of technology and on-street treatments to increase bus speeds and move more passengers. One of the few prioritization strategies Metro can undertake on its own is allowing off-board fare loading, moving all SmarTrip® value loading from the farebox to kiosks near bus stops. This would reduce the amount of time it takes for passengers to board buses and pay fares, in turn speeding up bus trips.  We have looked into this in the past and have recently revisited this important concept. Read more…

Two Business Challenges Facing Metrobus

September 2nd, 2015 5 comments

In the past 17 years, Metrobus has faced dual challenges: increased competition and increased roadway congestion.

Market Share Decline 1998-2013 v2

A past post discussed the role of the 1997 Blue Ribbon Mobility Panel in resetting the regional role and funding structure for Metrobus. In the decade-plus since then, several trends have emerged:  Local operators are rolling out more and more bus service, and buses are getting slower.

Read more…

Does Metrobus Need a Refresh?

August 31st, 2015 4 comments

Metrobus has a strong identity as a regional transit provider, but as the region has grown it hasn’t kept up with changing development patterns. Does the regional role of Metrobus need to be rethought?

A previous post described the historical context of Metrobus as a regional bus service provider, as well as the Metrobus regional service criteria developed by a regional “Blue Ribbon Mobility Panel” in 1997.  What has happened to the Metrobus regional service since the 1998 Board action? Does today’s regional service still meet the original criteria?  Metro’s planners recently conducted an assessment to address these questions.

Majority of “regional” Metrobus service performs well

Overall, Metrobus regional lines provide higher levels of service and achieve higher cost efficiency than non-regional lines.  Currently Metrobus operates 106 regional lines and 55 non-regional lines  The overall higher ridership of the regional lines resulted in an average operating cost of $3.50 per passenger trip, lower than the non-regional service at $4.50.


Read more…

Categories: Planning Studies > Metrobus Studies Tags:

Big Sustainability Gains at WMATA

August 27th, 2015 No comments

Metro has released its first sustainability report, with aggressive performance targets to guide the Authority and the region on the path to becoming the most sustainable in the nation.

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

As Metro’s Silver Line celebrated its first year of service in July it is timely to revisit the Metro’s first Sustainability Report. Released in April, the report outlines the sustainability benefits that the Silver Line and the Metro system as a whole bring to the region. The opening of the Silver Line has resulted in mode shift changes — as indicated by a 15% reduction in peak hour traffic at multiple intersections along Route 123 — combined with emerging transit-oriented development and walkability improvements around the Silver Line.  These  underscore the Authority’s progress towards the ridership, climate change and connected communities goals of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative – as documented in the Authority’s first annual report.

Tell us what you think of Metro’s sustainability efforts and we are always listening to new ideas for potential projects. Submit your ideas online or email them to


Bus Stop Accessibility Improvements – Making Good on the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 26th, 2015 7 comments

Metro is taking a data-driven approach to make the region’s bus stops more accessible to all.

The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990 was a landmark event in our nation’s history. Like other pieces of civil rights legislation, this law works to ensure a more inclusive America, one where every person has the right to participate in all sectors of society and be recognized for his or her accomplishments. Its passage paved the way for millions of Americans with disabilities to positively contribute to their communities in a variety of ways, including employment.

Two decades on, however, much work still remains to be done.

The DC region has over 19,000 bus stops, with approximately 11,100 served by Metrobus, and the remaining 8,900 served exclusively by locally operated transit systems. Of the 19,000 stops, approximately 6,500 are inaccessible to some people with disabilities. Inaccessible bus stops can be a reason for an individual to qualify for MetroAccess paratransit service operated by Metro, and can be a reason for an individual to choose MetroAccess over fixed route bus service for a particular trip. Accessible bus stops reduce demand for paratransit service, and improve safety for all customers. Metro and each jurisdiction in the region are working to improve inaccessible stops. In addition to improving stops Metro also aims to use an array of data as well as policy adjustments to strategically target bus stops for improvements.

Metro’s Bus Stop Standard

Metro maintains a database of the region’s bus stops. As a result of a new bus stop standard, Metro is not only updating the information in the database, but is working to improve the database in two significant ways: 1) provide jurisdictional access to update the database and 2) the addition of a smartphone app.

The standard criteria of an accessible bus stop includes the following: 1) Flat and Firm Surface, 2) 5 feet wide x 8 feet long, and 3) Connects to the Curb. Metro has added a fourth criterion for measuring the accessibility of a bus stop: the presence of an accessible pathway to/from the nearest corner to the bus stop. That accessible pathway must include a curb cut at the corner with an additional curb cut at one adjacent corner.

Fig1 - Accessible but connected

The two photos above illustrate the difference. Both bus stops feature flat and firm surfaces that are at least 5’ x 8’ in size, and both connect to the curb. So under the standard criteria, both are accessible bus stops. The difference is that the stop in the photo on the left is surrounded by grass and dirt. There is no accessible pathway to/from the stop. The stop on the right connects to the accessible sidewalk and pathway to the corner. Read more…

Ask the Professors – How Local Land Use Decisions Impact Metrorail Ridership

August 24th, 2015 1 comment

This post is guest-written by Chao Liu, Hiro Iseki, and Gerrit Knaap, researchers from University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth, who helped Metro develop our Land Use Ridership Model.

Even though Metro doesn’t control where new jobs and households locate in the region, these decisions are critical to the agency’s ridership and financial future. 

It is well known that the form and intensity of development in and near rail transit station areas can have measurable impacts on transit ridership.  For these reasons, transit oriented developments (TOD) generally feature high-density construction, mixed land uses, and bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.  But not all TODs are alike, and the effects of TOD on transit ridership are likely to depend on how well the station is connected both locally and regionally, whether the station is near the center or end of a transit corridor, and what kinds of jobs and household are located nearby.

To explore how different forms of development might impact ridership on the Washington Metrorail system, Dr. Hiroyuki Iseki and Dr. Chao Liu assisted Metro to develop a direct ridership model (DRM), called Metro’s Land Use Ridership Model.  A DRM uses statistical techniques to quantify the relationship between entries and exits at rail stations and land uses nearby.  This model can then be used to estimate the number of passengers who will access the station, by waking or biking, as a result of changes in land use features, transit service characteristics, and socio-demographics within the walkshed of any given station.

The direct ridership model includes a large number of variables for each station, including the density, diversity, and design of local environment; transit service and connectivity; job accessibility by auto and transit; walk score; the availability of parking; the demographics of nearby residents; the number and types of jobs nearby, and more.  The model was estimated for the AM Peak, Midday, PM Peak, and Evening travel periods.  The AM Peak model is best suited for estimating the increase in morning boardings that would result from locating more households near the station; the PM Peak model is best suited for estimating the increase in afternoon boardings that would result from locating more jobs near the station.

Pedicted AM Peak Entries per New HH

Map 1. Predicted AM Peak Entries per New Household

The impact of adding jobs and households near stations varies by station area.  Map 1 above, for example, shows the estimated entries per new household in the morning peak—that is, how many additional boardings would occur in the AM peak if one additional household was located in the walkshed of the station.  Stations shown by red dots gain more than 0.57 boardings per day, for each new household in the walk shed, while stations shown with green dots gain only about 0.20 boardings per day. As a concrete example, Rhode Island Row is a 274-unit, mixed-use, TOD project built on a WMATA site.  Situated along the busy Red Line, the project has long been considered as a prime location for new housing development.  According to the DRM model, adding 274 new households near the Rhode Island station would increase boardings by 144 passengers in the AM peak.  The same development at the New Carrollton station, however, would have added only 52 passengers.  This is because, compared to New Carrollton, the Rhode Island Avenue station has better job accessibility and more frequent transit service, and is thus likely to stimulate more transit ridership. Read more…