Posts Tagged ‘business case’

Is New York City’s Select Bus Service A Potential Model for Improving Metrobus?

October 3rd, 2016 No comments

New York City’s Select Bus Service may provide an excellent model – and a few cautionary lessons – for WMATA’s Priority Corridor Network and a Metrobus Off-Board Fare Payment System (OBFPS).

Earlier this year, a small team of planners from Metro’s Office of Planning, the Office of Bus Planning, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), and DC Surface Transit had an opportunity to visit our colleagues in New York and to see their Select Bus Service (SBS) in action. Metro and our partners think it may provide both a good model and some cautionary lessons as we move forward with bus prioritization strategies, off-board fare payment, and the Priority Corridor Network.

Slower buses = worse service, higher costs

Just as we’ve experienced in and around DC, bus speeds in New York have fallen steadily over the past two decades, and continue to do so. As of 2013, the average speed for Metrobus routes is 10.5 mph. The system-wide average speed of a bus in New York has fallen to 7.5 mph, and routes serving some of the most congested corridors in Manhattan and Brooklyn are down to 4-5 mph. Traffic congestion generated by dynamic growth in jobs and population is the single greatest impediment to faster bus service, but it isn’t the only factor. Just as in our region, buses in New York spend only half of their in-service time actually moving forward; the rest is taken up by traffic signals and passenger boarding:

NYC and DC Average Bus Run Time Factors

Read more…

Would a Cordon Charge Help Stabilize Metro’s Finances? (Part 4)

July 5th, 2016 2 comments

Adding a London-style cordon charge (or fee) to enter much of the region’s central employment area would increase transit ridership across all modes and also reduce (or eliminate) the subsidy that local governments pay every year to support Metro, meaning lower tax bills for regional residents.*

(This post is part of a multi-part series about ConnectGreaterWashington (CGW) a study that WMATA completed in 2015 and its application of land use and pricing as a transportation strategy.)

Approach for Building Scenario B to make Transit More Cost-Effective

Scenario “B” looked at land use shifts and increasing the price of driving, and how those changes would impact Metro.

Metro asked, “What if the region’s future growth was used to fulfill the expectations of regional plans such as Region Forward and Place + Opportunity? What if transit-supportive policies were implemented across the region? Would WMATA benefit? Would the region?”

Answer: YES!!

*Note that Metro is not proposing that the region adopt a cordon charge, but it was tested as part of an analysis of how smarter land use and more transit-supportive policies could impact transit ridership, our operating subsidy, and other measures that support the region’s growth.

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Acting Regionally Pays Big Dividends (Part 3)

March 10th, 2016 No comments

Adding jobs and households in transit-served areas not only increases Metro ridership, but also reduces and may even eliminate the subsidy that local governments pay to support Metro, meaning lower tax bills for regional residents.

(This post is part of a multi-part series* about ConnectGreaterWashington a study that WMATA completed in 2015 and its application of land use as a transportation strategy. The below post and links provide additional detail.)

In December of 2015, public and private leaders issued a call to action for the many jurisdictions in this region to start acting as one.  We’ve actually been thinking about this for some time, and their announcement timed well with our desire to share perspectives on the following questions.


  • What if the region’s future actually approached the goals of collaborative regional plans such as Region Forward and Place + Opportunity?
  • Would WMATA and the region benefit?
  • Are there financial, social, quality of life and environmental benefits?

Answers: YES, YES, and YES!

Approach: Metro planners hypothesized that changing local jurisdictions’ and/or the region’s approach to future land use decisions, such as where to guide future jobs and population and expanding transit-supportive policies, could enable the region to better use the transportation system we already have rather than require us to spend tens of billions on new transportation projects.

Planners developed three different scenarios (A, B, and C) that used the transportation system we already have, but modified future growth policies that determine travel patterns. The below post talks only about Scenario A, which had a specific goal to increase ridership on all segments of the Metrorail system, while minimizing the potential for overcrowding on any segment in the system. The image below shows how we built Scenario A and its three iterations (A Prime, A1, A2).


Approach for Building Scenario A to make transit more efficient

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Buses and Trains and Vans, Oh My! – How Metro’s Operating Budget Pays for Service

February 22nd, 2016 No comments

Ever wondered how much service your transit fares pay for, or how your tax dollars are spent? Read all about the intricacies of Metro’s operating budget!

How to Get Involved

Do you want a say in Metro’s budget? A public comment period on the FY17 budget (both capital and operating) is now open, and it will end 9am on Monday, February 29th. Please submit your feedback the following ways:

  • Take an online survey at
  • Email your written comments at
  • Attend a formal public hearing at Metro Headquarters, 600 5th St NW, Washington DC, on Monday, February 22. An Open House will begin at 6 p.m. and the Public Hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Additional communications and outreach efforts will continue over the next few weeks, including notification to local stakeholders and community based organizations; signs posted in Metrorail stations, Metrobuses, and MetroAccess vehicles; surveys sent to a statistical sample of registered SmarTrip® cardholders; ads in local English and non-English publications; and other media efforts including advisories, press releases and social media. The online survey and legal notice will also be available in seven languages.

Staff will summarize and present community feedback to the Board in March, and the Board will use that feedback as a vital input in budget negotiations before adopting a final budget in April.

So be on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about next year’s budgets and to have your voice and ideas heard!

Operating Budget Basics

This is the last of three related posts that attempt to simplify the complex world of transit system funding, and to give Metro’s riders and regional residents some tools to engage in budget discussions. The first post focused on the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA, PDF) and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP, PDF), which together establish a six-year framework for funding projects that improve the Metro System’s safety, reliability, and performance. The second post focused on the annual capital budget, and this post discusses the annual operating budget.

If you walk away from this post with nothing else, the graphic below summarizes the most important points about Metro’s operating costs and who ends up paying the bills:

Metro Ops Funding Scale

The capital budget pays for projects where Metro is building something or buying equipment: purchasing new buses and rail cars, building a new station entrance, improving a bus stop, or buying new parts for escalators. The operating budget pays the costs (salaries, fuel, utilities) of running the system on a daily basis, including all the customer services highlighted in the graphic below:


Metro’s costs of doing business have been rising steadily every year, but unfortunately Metro’s revenues have either grown at a slower pace or been flat. This dynamic tension has created an intense need to fill the gap between costs and revenues, but that need runs up against an opposing pressure not to reduce service levels, increase fares, or impose higher costs on the counties and cities Metro serves (the Compact jurisdictions). Metro staff have developed a draft FY17 budget that appears to balance these conflicting forces, and we are currently running a public engagement process to gather feedback on that recommended budget.

Read more…

Squaring Circles: De-Mystifying Metro’s Budget and Funding Sources (Part One of Three)

January 4th, 2016 No comments

One of the most critical issues facing public transportation is how to pay for it. In a short series of blog posts, we’ll try to explain Metro’s finances and give you tools to engage in budget discussions. 

No matter where you stand on the question of supporting or using public transportation, one of the loudest and most constant debates is how to pay for it. It’s a complicated question that combines values, politics, resources, and legal obligations. It also revolves around the technicalities of multiple funding sources (fares, grants, taxes) and how those sources can be spent (allowable types of projects, legal requirements, matching funds, etc.). Most people probably know Metro operates under a yearly budget. However, that annual budget and Metro’s ability to raise and spend funds is shaped by a larger policy and planning framework. This initial post focuses on three pillars of that policy framework: the WMATA Compact, the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA), and the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). It also summarizes the annual budget planning process.

Funding policy context

WMATA’s funding policy framework

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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.

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…

Transit Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond: There’s More to It Than Metrorail

July 6th, 2015 1 comment

In part one of this series, Metro Planners led a session at StreetsCamp  Saturday June 20, 2015 to talk with transit advocates about other possibilities beyond Metrorail to increase transit use, reach, and access.

I want Metro to...

Politicians and citizens always ask for more Metrorail, but why should transit continue to chase land use decisions? Metro Planners Allison Davis and Kristin Haldeman talked to transit advocates and urbanists at StreetsCamp last Saturday to provide approaches that can help the transit we have today reach more people and be more cost-effective without requiring more Metrorail (pdf). The major take-aways for advocates and urbanists were to advocate for:

(1)    Local decision makers to monetize full life‐cycle cost of land use options;

(2)    Access projects that create comfortable (i.e. desirable) paths for pedestrians and bicyclists; and

(3)    Local jurisdictions to add transit signal priority, queue jumps, and bus lanes

Why these three specifically? Read more…

Planning for the End of the Driving Boom

March 27th, 2014 2 comments

Americans are driving less and owning fewer cars, which means we have to make different decisions about where to spend scarce transportation resources.

In a fascinating post in the Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe doesn’t waste words with assumptions but rather relies on actual data to inform us that America has already reached “peak driving” and that the future of transportation in America is no longer linked to ever-increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

This should come as no surprise, given that VMT has missed forecasted estimates since the early 2000’s. Just check out this handy chart from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Conditions and Performance Report (PDF) to Congress.

Figure 1. U.S. VMT (in trillions) as tracked by FHWA’s Travel Volume Trends (“Actual”) and as projected by U.S. DOT’s C&P reports (by year reports are dated). Via SSTI. Click image for original:


Regional roadway planners are already beginning to embrace this thinking, as the chart from the State Smart Transportation Initiative illustrates in its analysis of MDOT’s transportation plans. These plans not only acknowledge declining VMT, but now omit traffic projections altogether. Read more…

Significant Property Tax Values Generated near Metro Stations

December 12th, 2013 No comments

New buildings right near Metrorail stations are 23-30% more valuable than buildings farther away, showing that our funding partners can generate significant property tax revenues from Metro.

A recent study shows that Metrorail stations in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are powerful anchors for economic development and value. The report, by the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, showcases the substantial value the region can realize with good transit-oriented development policies near stations. Among the report’s findings:

Offices in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor right near Metro command higher rents.

Offices in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor right near Metro command higher rents. Source: Cushman & Wakefield via  Click for original context.

  • Being able to walk to Metro is worth a lot. New office buildings within 500 feet of a station in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are earning a 30% premium over buildings under construction just a quarter-mile away. For apartment buildings, the premium is 23%. No wonder walk access to Metrorail is on the rise, especially from those close by the station!
  • 92% of over 20 million square feet of office space under construction in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is within a quarter mile of a Metrorail station.
  • Conversely, new office buildings built farther than a quarter-mile from Metro are worth 18% less in rent.

These “rail premiums” of 23-30% are significantly higher than the 7-9% we found in our “Business Case for Transit” study, because of several significant differences in methodology. We looked at the assessed value, not the market/rental rate of property. Also, we looked at all properties in the region, rather than just those under construction in one corridor.

Although the presence of Metrorail creates this value premium near stations, Metro does not receive any of these revenues directly, even though continued rebuilding and improvements are needed to address state of good repair and relieve capacity issues in the corridor.

Nevertheless, this report certainly confirms that Metrorail increases property tax revenues, and shows just how big that value can be in certain markets.