Posts Tagged ‘Metrorail’

The Origins of Metro’s 26 Trains Per Hour Limit

August 22nd, 2016 1 comment

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.


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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

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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…

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 smartrip.wmata.com

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Walk This Way – Metro’s Planning Office at APTA’s Rail Conference

July 11th, 2016 No comments

Metro shared its Station Area Investment Plan with the APTA Rail Conference attendees – and met with rave reviews.

I recently had the opportunity to present our Station Area Strategic Investment Plan to the over 1,500 attendees at APTA’s Rail Conference.  Many thanks to APTA’s Sustainability and Urban Design Standards program for footing the bill for this trip to Phoenix. It was 117 degrees there, and tested even my desire for walkable urbanism, but that’s another story entirely.

The presentation highlighted the Office of Planning’s work to quantify the return on investment of station area accessibility improvements, work with local jurisdictions, to prioritize these improvements based on an analytical platform, and identify the appropriate funding mechanisms to get these improvements built.

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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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What’s the “Word” on SelectPass

June 20th, 2016 7 comments

Customers are saying great things about SelectPass, Metro’s new unlimited monthly pass program.

SelectPassWordCloud

Word Cloud representing what SelectPass customers have said about the new pass program. Click for a larger version.

This post was submitted by Metro’s Director of Customer Research.

Metro’s limited time offer SelectPass has early adopters talking. In April, Metro sought to provide new payment methods by introducing SelectPass—a multi-tiered pass option allowing customers to ride as much as they want on Metrorail (and Metrobus).  Currently two price points are available. Read more…

Rail Car Crowding and SafeTrack – Potential Customer Impacts Analysis Released

June 13th, 2016 1 comment

We have developed a customer impact analysis that shows how and where customers may be impacted in the SafeTrack safety surges, to help guide regional partners plan mitigation and alternatives

you_down_with_PPCThe first SafeTrack project began on June 4, meaning that Monday, June 6th, was the first day with peak-period service disruptions.  This first safety surge is to accommodate the track improvement project planned for the Orange and Silver lines between East Falls Church and Ballston.  With only one track available for revenue service, we are cutting back to just over 3 trains per hour on each line through the work zone.  When service levels decrease without a decrease in demand, we see an increase in passenger loading on rail cars.  We measure that with a metric called passengers per car, or PPC.

Our rail cars are designed to comfortably transport around 100 passengers each, with most sitting and a few customers standing.  After special events (or any given weekday on some lines) we often find rail cars with much higher passenger loads. From a planning perspective, an average PPC of greater than 120 is considered crowded.  Also, we know that customers don’t evenly distribute themselves across rail cars, so an average PPC of 120 means some cars are much more crowded. Read more…

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Off-Peak Fare Discounts and their Behavioral Implications

June 8th, 2016 3 comments

Metrorail riders facing a high percentage off-peak discount are motivated to delay their travel and save.

This post is guest-written by Sam Winward, a behavioral economist and Metrorail commuter who lives and works in the District. His analysis of Metro ridership patterns sheds light on the influence of off-peak pricing.

If you’ve ever waited a few extra minutes before swiping through a Metrorail faregate to qualify for the off-peak fare, you’re not alone. Within the afternoon peak / off-peak cusp period, when riders may be somewhat time flexible, Metrorail data from AprilMay 2015 confirms that some riders are delaying entry for savings.

What riders probably don’t know, is that their off-peak pricing discount could be substantially different from the riders around them. In fact, off-peak percent discounts can range from a 19% to 40% reduction of peak fares. Given the varying degree of off-peak incentive, riders are responding as we’d expect when weighing their opportunity cost of time.

As percent savings increase, riders are more likely to delay travel for off-peak fares. The graph below, derived from WMATA data, displays this ridership tendency.

Note the ridership uptick just after 7 pm. This runs counter to the natural pattern of declining ridership over this period, and the uptick steepens as the percent discount facing riders increases.

Exhibit 1_Ridership Uptick

So why is there so much variation in off-peak discounts, and who are the lucky riders allowed large savings?

Particular trips, based on mileage between origin / destination stations, are subject to off-peak fare “caps.” WMATA introduced the caps in 2012 when off-peak fares switched to incremental fee-per-mile pricing. Off-peak fares for trips of just under 7 and 10 miles were capped, as these trip distances would have otherwise seen very large increases between the old and new fare structure. A maximum off-peak fare cap of $3.60 was also implemented, affecting riders with trips lengths greater than 11 miles.

The effects of these fare caps remain in the system today, and are not mirrored in peak fares.

As displayed below, the gap between peak and off-peak fares increases over regions subject to off-peak fare caps. This makes off-peak travel more enticing for riders’ whose trip length falls within a green zone.

Exhibit 2_Fares

Notably, small tweaks in the fare structure have large behavioral effects.

Even if you decide that added off-peak savings aren’t worth the wait, at least your decision can be informed. To see the off-peak discount applicable to your route, and how it compares to the rest, check out the interactive off-peak discount calculator on my website.

The full story, including the off-peak discount calculator and a formal analysis of the delayed ridership patterns, can be found at Sam’s site.

Designing the SelectPass Test Phase

May 4th, 2016 9 comments

The new Metro SelectPass is structured to to maximize pilot participation while minimizing the risks.  Making that happen involves overcommitting to truth in advertising – and we’re fine with that!

The two most likely fare levels for the SelectPass are $2.25 and $3.75.

The two fare levels most likely to be popular for the SelectPass are $2.25 and $3.75.

We are excited about the launch of the new SelectPass pilot.  As we have begun to roll out this new pass product, we are listening to your questions (via twitter, comments posted to articles, etc.) and we hope to address as many of them through the proper venues.  PlanItMetro seems to be the best forum to answer the persistent question, “Is this really only for two fare levels, and why don’t you tell everyone that they can probably save money?”

Testing the capacity of the Fare System

When we roll out new features, we want to eliminate as many risks as possible before committing to them.  In this case, the primary risk Metro faces is that our aging fare technology might not be able to accommodate a very different fare product such as SelectPass.  So we developed a program to test the pass at two individual “levels” as a proof of concept and not push any limits of our fare collection technology. Read more…

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