Yesterday, as everyone recovered from a snowstorm, here’s what happened to Metrorail ridership.
After Monday’s snowstorm, yesterday the federal government in the Washington region issued a two-hour delayed opening, and many schools opened with a delay or remained closed. Metrobus began the morning operating on a snow emergency plan, but by afternoon had restored full service. Here’s what that meant to Metrorail ridership:
Metrorail ridership on Tuesday, when the federal government and many schools opened with a 2-hour delay.
Note: the prior Thursday (Feb. 27, 2014) stands in as a typical weekday above, for comparison.
It looks as if the apex of the AM peak period occurred 15 minutes later than usual. Many riders appeared to delay travel in the morning, resulting in a much more gradual end to the morning peak.
How was your commute different on March 4?
This data is available for download (.xlsx, 13kb).
During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays and 50% on Saturdays.
Metrorail ridership is impacted by a variety of factors, from special events to weather to government shutdowns. One event that brings visitors to the region — and to Metrorail — in droves is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. In anticipation of this year’s festival, we performed some analysis on how, when and where the blossom viewers impacted ridership on the Metrorail system.
In general, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays and up to 53% on Saturdays during the festival. On days with nice weather, ridership has increased up to 10% on weekdays and 70% on Saturdays!
As the figure below shows, during the weekdays there is no impact in the morning, a large (21%) increase of activity during the mid day and then a 7% increase thereafter.
Saturdays are another story all together. Ridership increases up to 63% during mid day and afternoon periods on days during the festival, with a total ridership increase above 50%. Even morning and “late” night ridership increases significantly during this period.
Metrorail system entries by quarter-hour interval, Regular Weekday, Cherry Blossom Weekday, Regular Saturday and Cherry Blossom Saturday. Click chart for larger version.
When looking at change in ridership by station in the maps below, some obvious conclusions can be drawn. Read more…
When it comes to impacting weekday Metro ridership, meteorologists are three times more powerful than the federal government.
Many factors influence Metrorail ridership, including the weather and the status of the federal government. As this assessment shows, extreme weather has a much bigger impact on Metrorail usage than the federal government closure for budget reasons.
In the past few months, the federal workforce was instructed to stay home for two different reasons. The first was the failed budget negotiation that resulted in the federal government shutdown in October of 2013. (We’ll call this “shutdown closure.”) The second was the winter weather forecast that closed federal offices in the Washington region. (Let’s call this “snow closure.”) These two separate government closures have had different impacts on Metrorail ridership.
First, take ridership by time of day. The graph below shows ridership by fifteen-minute interval for three days. The tallest, green line is the average of weekday entries. The other two are days that the federal government was closed due to the shutdown (Oct 8, 2013) and snow (Dec 10, 2013). Now, the purple line illustrates the ridership due to the budgetary shutdown in October 2013 and the blue line shows ridership on a federal snow day in December 2013. The purple line (budget shutdown) is not dissimilar to the green (average), but the purple line (snow shutdown) illustrates a huge ridership drop. Why would this be?
Metrorail ridership on an average day and two days the federal government was shut down. October 8, 2013 was part of the budget shutdown. December 10 2013 the fed was closed due to snow.
We can think of a few reasons for this difference.
- The budget shutdown only impacted SOME federal workers, i.e. those not deemed essential. Snow, however, impacts just about everyone.
- On snow days, area schools are often closed. Parents who have the luxury to do so sometimes stay home to look after their children who would otherwise be in school. Critically, parents who may be limited in child care options – many of whom are our customers - are especially vulnerable and often are forced to stay home because of the school closures.
- Washington is gradually evolving from a federal “company town” into a “boom town of the new economy,” a new economy less reliant on the federal government. Many of the businesses of the “new economy” were unaffected by the budget shutdown, but during extreme weather events take their cue from the federal government and give their employees the day off. According to Dr. Stephen Fuller of GMU’s Center for Regional Analysis, the Washington region is and will be “increasingly less dependent on federal spending as the driver of job growth and income generation in the local economy.”
Next, let’s look at change in ridership by station. Below are maps showing the change in ridership between a regular day and one of the government shutdown days: first budget shutdown and then snow shutdown. Read more…
About a third of Metrorail customers transfer between lines to complete their trip, and this is not too far off many of our peer transit agencies.
Everyone would prefer a “one-seat ride” (aka “transfer-free ride”) from origin to destination, but for many, transfers are a necessary part of commuting life. In fact, transfers may be even beneficial. Transfers are a part of nearly every large rail transit system with multiple lines, including Metro. As the chart below shows, 35% of Metrorail passengers change trains at some point during their journey, and that’s slightly higher – but not wildly different from – many of our peer transit systems in the U.S.
Without Metro 2025, the region might give up more jobs than the current size of 80 of the nation’s 100 largest downtowns.
One way to alleviate congestion – limit transit funding and stymie job growth!
The Washington, D.C. region earned in 2012 the unfortunate honor of being named the #1 region in the nation – for congestion. For the workers in this region this comes as no surprise, as seemingly endless “volume delays” litter our evening traffic reports, commuters spend more than a full week and a half sitting in traffic each year, and even the public transit network – primarily Metrorail – is so crowded that commuters often have to wait for multiple trains just to squeeze onto the system. And unless proposed transportation investments keep up with projected household and job growth – MWCOG projects that the region will add 1.6 million jobs by 2040 – these commutes are only going to become more painful.
We all know that the high price of congestion is in the billions of dollars per year, a figure that would be even higher but not for transit’s impact has in reducing the region’s congestion by 10 to 15 percent, saving commuters time and money stuck in traffic, and preventing the need to build hundreds of thousands of new parking spaces and 1,000 additional lane miles of roads.
But that price pales in comparison to what may be if we don’t act now to make meaningful improvements to the regions congestion-reducing transportation infrastructure, especially in programs like Metro 2025. Turns out that we now know that when regions exceed 35 to 37 hours of delay per commuter per year – about four and a half minutes per one way free flow trip – regional job growth begins to slow. That means that expectations of continued economic growth in the region are a lot less rosy when we consider that we currently run about 72 hours of delay per commuter per year – and rising. And before you dismiss this as planning theory, remember that Hewlett Packard showed Atlanta and the nation in 1998 that congestion’s negative impact on employment growth can be economic fact. Read more…
Paya Lebar MRT Station Map (click & zoom for detail)
Travel Times Between Stations
While waiting for a Metro train one day in Singapore, I noticed their rail map diagram had a big white space and then the rest of the map. Upon closer inspection the ‘white’ part was actually a grayed out part of the rail map showing the route the train had already covered. Having that information is very useful, particularly for a traveler unfamiliar with the system. One knows if they are starting at this particular station (Paya Lebar), what their options might be if he/she actually wanted to go in the opposite direction. This information gives the rider a helpful reference point in relationship to the rest of the system. Also upon closer inspection I saw that the map gave expected travel times between stations. How great is that?
I was invited to present a wide variety of data visualizations featured on the blog at a recent meeting of transportation techies.
I had the honor of being invited to present at the 2nd meeting of the Transportation Techies Meetup group, Metro Hack Night on January 2, 2014. I used this opportunity to illustrate some of the data visualizations I’ve developed using Metro data and talk a bit about the technology behind them.
The first was the the visualization of 9 years worth of rail ridership data
. This visualization was created in D3 (“data driven documents”)
using code originally developed by “mbostock
. The downside of D3, as I noted, is that the code itself can be confusing and hard to follow. So much of learning a new coding language is looking at what others have done and learning from it. D3′s simplified notation makes it really hard for me to follow. (NOTE: this visualization has recently been updated to include daily Metrorail ridership for all of 2013
The second was the visualization of one day of Metrorail station activity. This video was created using Processing, a Java-based visualization tool that takes care of a lot of the coding “grunt work” and allows a programmer to focus on the data and the visualization. I really enjoy Java so I took the opportunity this project provided to add a few flourishes such as a clock face and “sunrise” and “sunset.” Read more…
In anticipation of the Silver Line, nearly twenty development projects, with an estimated value of more than $18 billion, are underway near the Metrorail stations, helping attract riders and generating valuable benefits for Fairfax County.
Ahead of the Silver Line, many development projects are underway around the new stations. Image from Cushman and Wakefield, click link at left for full report.
In a new report, the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield documented twenty real estate development projects “in the pipeline” near the five new Silver Line stations. Some are under construction now, others are in the approvals process, and a few are on hold, but together they total:
- Over 20 million sq. ft. of new office space, which would increase the total office space in the Tysons area by 40%.
- Over 2 million sq. ft. of new retail space. That’s more than twice the size of the Tysons Galleria mall.
- 17,800 new residential units, or more than double the current population of the Tysons area.
- 9,300 hotel rooms
Metro estimates that these projects are valued at more than $18 billion, and will generate millions per year in tax revenue for Fairfax County (estimated using industry-standard construction costs). Some of this tax revenue will be captured by special tax districts in the Tysons and Silver Line areas. In 2011, we estimated that Fairfax County received around $30 million in tax revenues from properties within a half-mile of its five existing non-Silver stations.
The development brings great benefits to Fairfax County and will encourage riders to use the Silver Line, but there remains a strong need to improve the walking and biking environment near the new stations. Pedestrian and bicycle access will be key to meeting our ridership goals for the new Metrorail line, but walking and bicycling conditions remain challenging in the area.
I was recently in Singapore for vacation and while I was there I used their delightfully clean and efficient rail system (more on that later). While walking through the stations, I spotted several movie posters, which actually happened to be posters for YouTube-based public information message ‘movies’. The movies are put out by the Land Transport Authority, which is a part of the government that does the planning for their transit systems.
‘May I Have a Seat Please?’
‘Can You Move in Please?’
Can you move in please? leaves viewers with two messages: 1. move to the back of the bus so that everyone can get on, and 2. take off your backpack or move any bags you may have out of the way. Some of the movie is lost in translation I think culturally speaking but still, you get the point.
Excuse me, May I have a seat please? is about exactly what the title suggests. This movie especially rings true in this day and age as a lot of commuters have their noses buried in their books and cell phones (even more prevalent in Singapore – a lot of people walking in stations and outside while watching movies!!).
The courtesy issues that Singapore is tackling rings true here in DC too, as well as any city that has transit.
[Editor's note: this will be our last post of 2013. We look forward to seeing you again in early January.]
You name it and we tested it as part of our analysis and development of the Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP). Here’s the comprehensive list of what was analyzed.
List of Transit Corridors, Projects, and Plans Analyzed as Part of RTSP
We have received tons of great comments on the proposed 2040 network of Metrorail and high capacity surface transit corridors. Many of you have said that we missed <insert corridor here> or have asked why we don’t have a line to <insert address here>. As part of this plan, we have analyzed almost every corridor or mode that you have identified. However, we recognize that most of it was behind the scenes and is buried deep in our posted presentations to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
Above is a list of what was analyzed before we unveiled the proposed 2040 Metrorail Network and regionally significant high capacity corridors. Better yet, here is a document that shows the Metrorail lines and other surface transit plans, projects, and strategies that were tested over the course of the project. Everything is listed and where possible, maps and graphics are provided to illustrate what was tested. All tested items were measured against a comprehensive set of measures of effectiveness (MOE). The MOEs assessed ridership, impact on core capacity, transfers, reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), mode share, etc.
To wet your whistle, below, check out the Beltway Line that was tested. Only the segments that crossed the American Legion Bridge (between White Flint and Dunn Loring) and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (between Branch Avenue and Eisenhower Avenue) had some promise and therefore, they continued on in the analysis, though as surface transit not Metrorail. The other segments did not provide good ridership, primarily due to the low densities within a walkable distance from the Beltway, and had little impact on Metrorail core capacity.
Alignment of a Beltway Line that was tested in the RTSP
Let us know what you think!