News Flash – Driving is Still More Expensive than Transit!

December 7th, 2015 9 comments

Now that gas is at historic lows, isn’t it cheaper to drive and park than take transit?  Probably not!

The Office of Planning staff often helps get new Board Members acquainted, and we recently had the pleasure to participate in a portion of Board Member Malcolm Augustine‘s orientation.  During our lengthy conversation, the familiar refrain of gas prices and parking costs vs. Metrorail fares and parking fees came up.  Are low gas prices and cheap parking taking trips off the rails?

We’ve looked at this issue in the past and reported out that declining gas prices have not historically nor do they do now seem to have a meaningful negative impact on Metorail ridership.  We’re continuing to track these datapoints as we keep our finger on the pulse of Metrorail ridership.  But we also hear that trips are very personal, and even though the big picture data doesn’t show it – and even the American Automobile Association has denied it –  might driving be getting cheaper than taking transit?

Survey says – not likely.

Read more…

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Why We Care About GSA’s Location Decisions: Lessons from the History of Metro’s Federal Customers (4 of 5)

December 2nd, 2015 4 comments

Data show that where GSA chooses to locate federal office buildings has a huge impact on Metrorail ridership from federal commuters.  But in the meantime, non-Federal riders in the inner jurisdictions are driving up ridership outside of the usual commute market. (Fourth in a series of posts on Metro’s Federal Customers – see posts 1, 2, and 3)

Growth in Metrorail Ridership from Feds by Time of DayBetween 2002 and 2012, rail ridership from federal employees has grown 15%, the same as from non-federal riders.  (N.B. this post focuses on rail only; no comparable survey data for bus is available.)  Federal employees have remained about a third of total ridership, as overall ridership ebbed and flowed. Most of these new federal riders live in the inner jurisdictions of D.C., Arlington, and Alexandria – ridership from federal employees has been much slower in the outer jurisdictions, particularly Fairfax County (growing at 5-15%, vs. 25-40% over ten years).  The growth from federal riders has mimicked existing riders – they are focused on the peak commute too, with a moderate amount of off-peak travel as well.

But over the same timeframe, non-federal customers drove up ridership much faster in the PM Peak and Off-Peak times.  These riders similarly come from the inner jurisdictions. Read more…

Where Are Metro’s Federal Customers Going? (2 of 5)

December 1st, 2015 No comments

Employees of the federal government comprise 27% of Metro’s weekday ridership, but what rail stations and bus routes are they using?

(Second in a series of posts on Metro’s Federal Customers – see post 1)

On Metrobus, federal workers are about 10-20% of most bus routes’ ridership, with a few logical exceptions. Federal ridership is higher on bus routes that are more “peaked” and commute-oriented, and/or on routes that directly serve federal facilities.

Top Metrobus Lines for Feds, by Pct of Riders

Read more…

ConnectGreaterWashington – a Vision for a Responsible and Prosperous Future (Part 2 of 5)

December 1st, 2015 No comments

Investing in the region’s activity centers that have high-capacity, high-frequency transit and enhancing them as proposed in the Place+Opportunity report is part and parcel to preserving the economic competitiveness of the region AND creating a financially-sustainable Metrorail system.

(This post is part of a multi-part series about Logo_WMATA_CWG_001 black-01ConnectGreaterWashington and the study’s application of land use as a transportation strategy. Part one of the series discussed why Metro cares about land use and the potential benefits of assessing growth from a regional perspective. Part two below outlines the study’s goals, assumptions, and approach.)

WMATA planners posited that changes to local jurisdictions’ and/or the region’s approach to land use and other policies would enable better use of the transportation system this region already built rather than require it to spend billions on new projects. Money is not falling from trees to expand transit — the region hasn’t even agreed to fund enough rail cars to run all eight car trains! So, if the region can’t (or won’t) invest in transit to keep up with growth, then we need to carefully evaluate how the growth we are forecasting can use the infrastructure we already have. Can the region’s growth, rather than necessitate billions of dollars in new infrastructure, be thoughtfully planned to better utilize the roadway and transit systems we already have? What would that mean to the region, its finances, and to Metro’s operating subsidies that its funding partners pay annually?

The Basics

First and foremost, this study did not seek to develop an optimal land use or in any way socially engineer where future population and jobs should go. These are “what if” scenarios to provide context, data, and information to citizens, decision makers, and elected officials as the region grapples with future job and population growth, demand for transit, and development of walkable communities. This study sought to consider where future growth could go, and worked only with the regional growth anticipated to exist in this region in forecasts from 2020 through 2040. The modeling left existing jobs and population exactly where they exist today and was mindful that anything already in the development pipeline was far enough along to be assumed as “in place”.

Second, we followed the place types defined in Place+Opportunity as they were identified, developed, and defined by local jurisdictional planning staff and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). Why? Because we wanted this study to be as realistic as possible and remain true to the nature of the activity centers and the jurisdictions that informed their types and densities. Additionally, Place+Opportunity was completed recently (2014) and had significant support and direct input from the jurisdictions and the region.

 

Place+Opportunity Place Types

Place+Opportunity Place Types

Read more…

How Metro’s Federal Customers Pay Fares, and Why It Matters (3 of 5)

November 30th, 2015 3 comments

Metro’s federal customers pay fares a little differently than other riders. Why is that such a big deal for Metro’s financial future? 

(Third in a series of posts on Metro’s Federal customers – see posts 1 and 2)

SmartBenefits Feds vs NonCompared to other riders, Metro’s federal customers are much more likely to pay their fare using SmartBenefits.  SmartBenefits are the type of funds you load onto your SmarTrip card – usually through your employer, either as direct subsidy, or a certain amount of pre-tax dollars you set aside for transit fares. Metro riders in the Washington region may know the program manager WageWorks.

 (Importantly, SmartBenefits is not exclusively a federal government benefit!  On the contrary, non-federal workers are nearly half the overall enrollment in the SmartBenefits program, and 42% of Metro’s overall ridership comes from riders paying with SmartBenefits.  We’ll make clear the difference between SmartBenefits and SmartTrip in an upcoming Metro 101 post – stay tuned.)

84% of federal employees on Metro pay their fare with SmartBenefits, compared to 27% of non-federal customers. In addition, federal customers tend to pay higher fares on rail – because federal workers typically take longer trips and ride more at peak times (average peak fare $3.00, vs. $2.87 non-federal customers).

Finally, 87% of Metro’s federal customers pay using “stored value” (pay-as-you-go funds), rather than a weekly or a monthly pass. Very few still use paper tickets or passes – but this is similar to other riders.

Read more…

Prioritizing Bike and Pedestrian Station Access Projects Near Metrorail, Part 2

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Other than ridership potential, what are some of the other ways we can rank access projects relative to each other?

In our last post, we discussed how bike and pedestrian access projects relate back to ridership and how that relationship could be used to prioritize projects. In this post, we talk about some of the other criteria we are using to prioritize projects.

Bike and Ped. Fatalities, Sample Data Set

Bike and Pedestrian Fatalities, Sample Data Set

The first is safety. We are pulling together data about bike and pedestrian crashes near our stations that result in injuries or fatalities. We will then link these data in GIS back to the location the project, with the idea being that a new crosswalk or dedicated bike path in an area with a lot of recent crashes should score higher and deserves more attention. A safer path of travel helps not only our customers but all walkers and cyclists in these areas.

We also want to explore some other prioritization criteria. Here is what we have come up with: Read more…

Metro Considers H/I Bus Lanes to Ameliorate Streetcar Construction

November 23rd, 2015 6 comments

Construction of the K Street Transitway and Union Station to Georgetown Streetcar might result in some growing pains, but Metro & DDOT already have a remedy.

The H/I/K Streets NW Corridor is a heavily congested corridor with traffic frequently backed up and traffic jammed at rush hour. Fortunately, DDOT has approved the K Street Transitway, an exclusive two-way, two-lane median east-west transitway between 20th and 9th Streets NW, to improve the transit and traffic conditions in this corridor. The transitway would also be utilized by a future Union Station to Georgetown streetcar.

Construction of the transitway will likely take a lane or two away from an already congested corridor and Metro would need to reroute our buses to ensure safety and performance.

Current K Street bus service would likely need to detour via H and I Streets NW, but H and I Streets are at capacity!

At rush hour, cars, bikes and pedestrians all fight for limited street space along H and I streets NW.  It is common to see bottlenecks, strings of red brake lights, packed crosswalks and cars moving at a sluggish 10.8 MPH through the corridor during the PM Peak.   These delays impact our bus service along the corridor.  How much service do we have there?  A lot.  Read more…

Board Approves 2015 Bus SOGO

November 20th, 2015 No comments

State of Good Operations (SOGO) changes coming to a Metrobus route near you.

Metrobus planning presented the annual 2015 Bus State of Good Operations recommendations (PDF) to the Board on November 19. The package was approved and customers will see some changes starting in December. The remainder of the changes will roll out with Metrobus’ March and June schedule changes. 

Staff provided SOGO proposal information at outreach events and pop ups, including at the Pentagon Transit Center

Staff provided SOGO proposal information at outreach events and pop ups, including at the Pentagon Transit Center, photo by WMATA

The annual SOGO process seeks board approval for changes to Metrobus service. Every year,  planners put together a comprehensive list of Metrobus routes they want to improve in the coming year. Any major service change must be approved by the board. A major Metrobus service change is defined as

  • Change in span of service on a line of more than one hour in a single fiscal year,
  • Change in revenue miles on a line of more than 20% in a single fiscal year,
  • Change in route miles on a line of 15% in a single fiscal year, or
  • Projected change of 10% of the riders on a line in a single fiscal year.

This year, planners were tasked with improving service, reliability, travel time, and crowding while keeping the proposals budget and cost neutral.  The recommendations must not have a disparate impact on minority populations or a disproportionate burden on low income populations. Read more…

Metro’s Federal Customers: A Snapshot (1 of 5)

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Think Metro is all about getting the federal commuters to work? Think again!

(First in a series of posts on Metro’s customers who are Federal Government employees)

Just as the workforce in the Washington region has a sizeable share of federal workers, so has Metro’s ridership.  Metro serves major federal employment centers downtown, and even boasts stations named for the federal sites they serve, like Federal Triangle, Medical Center, and Pentagon. But while Metro has a long supported the federal government, it’s a myth that Metro is all about federal government commuters and nothing more. Federal workers are a minority of riders and have been for years, and federal funding is playing an increasingly smaller role in Metro’s finances.

So just who are Metro’s federal customers?  When and what do they ride? Where are they coming from and going to, and how has this changed in the last decade? The next series of posts seeks to answer just that, using passenger survey data (bus and rail) where customers identified as employees of the federal government or not (contractors excluded).

How Many, Where, and When? About 27% of all Metro weekday trips are made by federal workers – a total of 317,000 boardings across bus and rail.  These federal employees can be anyone from a nurse at Walter Reed Medical Center, to a military officer at the Pentagon, to a Congressional staffer on Capitol Hill.  The majority of these trips (255,000) are made on Metrorail, where federal workers make up 35% of all boardings (all-day).  The remainder – just over 60,000 boardings from federal workers – happen on Metrobus, where riders are generally less likely to be federal workers (14% of all bus boardings are federal).

Pct Fed Workers by Mode and Period Read more…

Beyond Rush Hour – Taking a Peek at the Off-Peak

November 18th, 2015 3 comments

Metrorail ridership isn’t only about rush hour! Here’s a deeper look at why off-peak riders travel, and what segments are most traveled.

You may not be surprised that the peak period travel on Metrorail is dominated by commuting and business related trips.  Every day from opening to 9:30am, nearly 90 percent of passengers travel to work and business.  However do you know that over almost a third of daily ridership takes place in the off peak?  This post explores what is happening during weekday off-peak periods.

The weekday “off-peak” time typically refers to the weekday midday period (9:30am to 3:00pm) and the weekday evening period (from 7:00pm to closing), excluding late night service on Friday and Saturdays between midnight and 3:00am. In recent years, weekday off-peak travel demand has remained stable at 32 percent of the daily ridership, with the midday ridership at 19-20 percent and the evening ridership at 12 percent.

Most non-work trips, such as personal, recreational, and shopping trips, occur during the off-peak times and are spread fairly evenly between the midday and evening, as illustrated in Figure 1. 

blog figure

Figure 1: Percentage of Non-Work Trips by Time of Day (2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey)

 

The off-peak, non-work travel market has showed strong growth between 2007 and 2012 (our last two passenger surveys where we can distinguish between work and non-work travel). According to the Metrorail passenger surveys, off-peak non-work trips grew by 15 percent for the midday and evening from 2007 to 2012, higher than the 9 percent increase in the daily non-work trips. Read more…