Posts Tagged ‘Metrorail’

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…

Study: Just Six Tracks Carry 30% of People Across the Potomac (57 Highway Bridge Lanes Carry the Rest)

July 29th, 2015 2 comments

A new Virginia study (PDF) finds that Metro and other transit operators carry a major portion of all cross-Potomac travel in a just a few crossings, using far less space than the 57 highway bridge lanes that carry the rest. If built, an expanded bridge crossing will need transit to maximize its ability to move people across the river.

PotomacRiverStudy Map

Transit’s Role is Critical

While some media outlets focused on the study’s highway expansion recommendation, the presentation acknowledged that Metro, VRE, and other bus operators plays a major role in the movement of people across the river from Virginia to DC in the core of the region. Seeing that, we thought we we’d drill down further to estimate how many people are actually crossing the river, using which bridge, and by what mode. Supplementing the study with available transit ridership data and vehicle occupancy data (PDF), we arrived at the following estimates: Read more…

Feds, Metro, Locals take on Pedestrian and Bike Safety at Wiehle-Reston East

July 16th, 2015 No comments

On May 12, 2015, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) convened an event to bring together Federal, State, regional, and local transportation officials and local stakeholders for an on-the-ground bike-ped safety assessment at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station.

BaseMap_2014_Wiehle Assessment

Wiehle-Reston East: one mile bikeshed and 1/2 mile walkshed

The assessment was one of 50+ that have been occurring around the nation as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s “Safer People Safer Streets” campaign to improve bike-ped safety across the country.  These assessments have been led by many of the US DOT agencies and operating administrations, namely: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Each of these agencies is participating in the effort to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety, and each has particular roles and responsibilities in this effort.

The primary goal of these assessments is to:

  • facilitate relationship-building between employees of different jurisdictions who share responsibility for creating safer streets;
  • engage practitioners who typically focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as those who do not; and
  • focus on locations that have non-motorized safety challenges.

The assessment kicked-off with remarks from Deputy Secretary, Victor Mendez, who stressed the importance of agency coordination in ensuring bicycle and pedestrian safety on America’s streets, later blogging about the event on US DOT’s FastLane blog. Metro’s Director of Planning, Shyam Kannan, also gave remarks that highlighted the importance of station connectivity for increasing Metrorail ridership.  Other VIPs from Fairfax County, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and local community/advocacy groups spoke to the participants as well about the importance of the day’s events to keeping our residents safe as they travel. 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…

Metrorail Rider Incomes – A Closer Look

June 29th, 2015 5 comments

Salaries of actual riders are needed to paint a true picture of Metrorail ridership by line.

The Washington Post recently featured a series of images from the You Are Here project of the Social Computing Group at MIT showing Metrorail median income by line and station.  We were digging into it and realized it uses median household income within a half-mile radius, and not that of the actual riders’ households.  While we’ve mapped low-income riders before, we set out to answer the question, “What is the actual average income of Metrorail riders by line and station?”   Along the way, we developed this interactive data visualization.

dashboard

Screenshot of Metrorail rider income by station visualization. Click image for full interactive version.

The biggest overall difference between our work and that of the MIT group is higher  household incomes at end-of-line stations on the eastern side of the region.  These stations, while located in lower income areas, have large parking facilities that draw commuters from all over the region and beyond. Read more…

Does Transit Yield its Promised Economic Benefits? A 1969 Perspective.

June 25th, 2015 No comments

The actual economic benefits of Metro far exceed what planners estimated in 1969, and it’s worth remembering as we consider future transit investments.

In the late 1960s, when Metrorail was nearly about to begin construction, Metro published a forecast of the economic benefits of Metrorail.  The report made rosy projections of the all the travel time and costs the network, then a 97-mile proposed rail system, would bring.  (It also included photos of the pretty awesome 3-D model of a station, including maybe a one-car train?).  Now, four decades later, were the projections right?  Has Metrorail produced the benefits we thought?  The answer is yes, and then some.

Economics_of_metro_cover

Cover of a 1969 report estimating the economic benefits of Metrorail

At the time this report came out, the region was about to make a substantial investment in public transit , probably not unlike today, where we face real choices about whether to invest in Metro 2025 initiatives such as 8-car trains, the Purple Line, or bus lanes.  To quote the report,

Metro is ready for construction. The routes have been selected. The program for local financing has been approved.

How feasible is Metro? Who will benefit?  Will the benefits justify the costs? Is Metro a good public investment for the National Capital Region and its financial partner, the federal government?

The report tallied up all the time savings to riders – former motorists, former bus riders, and truckers – as well as the travel cost savings like avoided parking, vehicle savings, operating cost savings, and more.  It concluded that Metro would save $186 million per year in 1990$, roughly equivalent to $310 million/year in today’s dollars after adjusting for inflation.  Read more…

Planning Tool Update Sheds Light on Rail Car Crowding Distribution

May 18th, 2015 19 comments

Latest version of Line Load tool will feature modeled car-crowding numbers.

Many factors influence which car number of a Metrorail train a customer rides.  Infrequent riders may wait for the train near the escalator and board the nearest rail car. Savvier customers may prefer to ensure they are the first to exit at their destination station or have an shorter walk at a transfer station.  Others may board cars based on understanding where seats are more likely to be available.  All of this activity can result in uneven loading of Metrorail cars across a given train, with some rail cars crowded and others near empty.

As we mentioned in 2013, the Office of Planning has an in-house tool that allows planners to estimate how crowded trains are based on origin-destination ridership data. Currently we are in the midst of a few updates, which will include the Silver Line that opened last year.  Another of the new features that we are excited about is a rail car crowding analysis for the system’s most critical segments.  Based on over six months of rail car-crowding data that was collected at selected stations by rail passenger “checkers,” the train-based ridership data will be distributed across the cars so we can estimate what kind of crowding we have by car number, at the peak load points. The following graph illustrates the observed car crowding variations at Gallery Place.

carcrowding

Customers may experience crowded conditions even when the average rail passenger per car (PPC) numbers (PDF) would indicate otherwise. This new feature is an important addition that will help Metro planners better understand the customer experience.  The car crowding analysis will begin to identify which cars of a train tend to be crowded in the peak hours, and which are less crowded.  This information will the be used as a starting point for devising strategies for better spreading customers across all cars of a train.

How do you choose which rail car you ride in?  Other than berthing trains at the center of the platform (see this informative article over at Greater Greater Washington on that topic), what strategies might Metro consider to better balance customers across rail cars?

 

 

Where Are Those Rail Riders Going?

May 12th, 2015 4 comments

Ever wonder where rail riders are going to and from? Here’s a map that shows you.

“What are the destinations of riders at Station X?”  It’s a question we get often here. Well, using October 2014 rail ridership data by origin and destination, it’s pretty easy to answer that question – click below for an interactive map.

OD Rail Viz preview

Click for a larger, interactive version of Metrorail ridership information by origin and destination station

Metrorail: A Long-Term Solution

April 20th, 2015 12 comments

Metrorail has had a huge impact on the region, but as we’ve seen with the Silver Line, it can take decades to get from concept to execution.

One of the questions I hear most often as a planner for Metro is When will a Metro station open in xyz neighborhood, “in Georgetown”, or “at BWI”? It was the first question at the March Citizens Association of Georgetown meeting. My response — “Decades” — often elicits audible groans.

Given last summer’s opening of the Silver Line, we have a case study that can provide insight on how long it takes to plan, fund, and construct large infrastructure projects. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project has done a phenomenal job of maintaining a project timeline. Since the region has many recent newcomers, it is helpful to revisit many of the key milestones, as shown below. It is also helpful to remind readers that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was the ultimate developer of the Silver Line (both Phases I and II) and that the project “only” required cooperation among the Commonwealth of Virginia, MWAA, Metro, the federal government, and Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. While just one example, the Silver Line’s long story is not vastly different from other mega-projects happening in the region and across the country.

Timeline for Planning, Environmental Process, Legal and Financing, and Constructing the Silver Line

Read more…

Metrorail Revenue by Station – Visualized!

April 15th, 2015 6 comments

Where and when does Metrorail generate the most farebox revenue? So far the data reinforces the notion that ours is a truly regional system with strong revenue contributions from all jurisdictions – but of course, the story is far more complicated than that…

What kind of rail system is Metrorail? Urban subway? Commuter rail? Hybrid? The answer of course is all of the above. And if that is the case, what kind of ridership and revenue patterns should its stations and system exhibit? High levels of peak revenues with heavy commuter lot usage but relative inactivity during the day? Lower levels of peak period activity but a steady stream of usage throughout the day? Depending on your perspective (and travel patterns) one might argue for either, and it might seem easy to apply a blanket classification to Metrorail and declare that “only urban stations cover their cost” or “commuter stations contribute largely to Metrorail’s revenue picture.”

Well, when you throw the data up on a map, it becomes clear that there are no easy answers, and no one right way to view the revenue picture of our tri-jurisdictional hybrid rail network. Some conclusions from the data are intuitive, some less so. Among them:

  • Differences in ridership across stations are bigger than differences in revenue, so ridership is a stronger explanation of differences in revenue than fares. For example, Shady Grove’s average fare in the AM Peak is $5, which is twice as much as the smallest average fare. On the other hand, ridership at Shady Grove is ten times higher than other stations, so the ridership better explains the station’s revenue.
  • In the AM Peak, the terminal stations dominate in terms of revenue contribution. Union Station functions as an internal “terminal station,” meaning that the commuter rail and Amtrak connections to Metro are extremely important to the overall ridership and revenue picture.
  • Other stations with strong bus or commuter park-and-ride infrastructures also pop in the AM Peak, such as Silver Spring and Grosvenor.
  • Note how well the non-Silver line stations in Virginia perform in the AM Peak, as well as the somewhat expected better performance of the Shady Grove branch of the Red Line in the AM Peak.
  • In the PM Peak, the core is king. Stations like Farragut West and North, Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza are producing $50,000 apiece every evening thanks to their job densities, reinforcing the importance of improving their capacity for the future in Metro 2025, as well as their huge importance to revenue today. By comparison, in the AM Peak, only Shady Grove and Vienna approach these levels of revenue at roughly $40,000 per station.
  • The New Carrollton and Largo Town Center branches of the Blue/Orange/Silver Lines contribute significantly less revenue than other branches, and this directly relates to the relative lack of transit-oriented development along these spines.  The station areas on these lines enjoy a superb level of rail connectivity to the region’s primary job cores, but without sound transit-oriented investments to-date, they have not yielded the type of ridership and revenue commensurate with the capital investment. Imagine what Metro’s revenues (and farebox recovery) could look like if these segments were properly developed!

We’ve been examining the data ourselves as we continue forward with Momentum’s call for us to ensure financial stability for the Authority and have created the visualization for you to play with. We’d love to know what you see!