Posts Tagged ‘rail’

Transit Supportive Densities – What Do They Look Like?

October 5th, 2016 2 comments

A visual of what transit supportive densities look like for different transit modes

Recently, GreaterGreaterWashington blogged about density, using Google maps 3D images to show what different densities look like in Washington, DC. Visuals like these are so important because most people hear “density”, think “Manhattan” and can’t say “no” quickly enough. Last fall, we completed work as part of ConnectGreaterWashington and the Transit Corridor Expansion Guidelines that illustrated the differences in desired employment and/or residential densities within a transit walkshed by each mode.

As is typical for planning projects, especially when expanding transit service along new corridors, density is discussed and jobs and/or households per acre targets are tossed around. But most people (full disclosure, that includes me) do not know what 4 households per acre or 150 jobs per acre looks like. It is especially important because a residential target of 12 households per acre within a half-mile of a suburban Metrorail station, for example, does not mean that every residential dwelling needs to meet that target. Instead, within the half-mile radius, the overall density should be 12 or more households per acre. That gives plenty of room to have less dense single family homes (on small lots) and more dense high rise apartments with studios and one-bedrooms.

Below are example stations for each mode and the employment and/or residential density targets, along with images of the different building types that combine to meet or exceed the targets. We’d appreciate your feedback on whether they make sense to you and if they would resonate with the general public.

Metrorail (Suburban) Densities
Note, because of the variability in density across the Metrorail system, we created two types of Metrorail stations to estimate densities.

Employment Density - Metrorail Suburban

Read more…

Metrorail Usage Data to Inform Analysis of the Current Budget Proposal Regarding Early Closures

September 23rd, 2016 2 comments

Data can help inform understanding of the potential impacts and mitigating strategies for potential changes to Metrorail’s span of service.


Metrorail ridership after 10 PM on Sundays, by month, since August 2010. The black line is the average, the yellow band is one standard deviation +/- average. The dashed line is the maximum.

In June of 2016, Metro began closing at midnight on weekend nights to allow more time for track work over the weekends, in support of the SafeTrack program.  The Metro GM/CEO has recently announced he will pursue making this service change permanent.  To meet the necessary track work requirements to get the system in a state of good repair – recommendations which the FTA and others have also made – the current budget proposal for FY 18 includes various additional early closure options, including ending Metrorail service at 10 PM on Sundays.

Staff from across the agency are currently working to assess the impact of such closures on customers and determine what strategies we might employ to replace some or all of that rail service with alternatives.

Similar to our data release related to SafeTrack, we are glad to provide ridership data to assist with analyses by our local partners and members of the transit advocacy community.

First, average, standard deviation and maximum ridership after midnight on Friday and Saturday, and after 10 PM on Sunday by month, station, and hour, from 2010 to 2016.  (Excel, 13 MB)  The graph above illustrates one dimension of this data:  the average, usual range and maximum system ridership on Sundays by month since August 2010.  The biggest spike there is during Obama’s second inauguration weekend.  There is a lot to learn from this data set.

Secondly, we’ve put together Metrorail entries by half hour by day type.  The full dataset is available for download, but the relevant data is presented in the image below, showing the half-hour segments that have the lowest ridership.


We have also assembled additional visualizations of ridership during the potentially impacted periods: Read more…

Are You a Metro Data User? Let’s Talk!

July 25th, 2016 No comments

Metro is committed to working with the developer community –  we’ve launched a real-time train position API, are hosting developer coffee chats this Wednesday (7/27) from 4pm to 6pm, created a developer google group, and are seeking submissions for an App Gallery!

If you frequently monitor Metro news, you’ll have already seen some of Metro’s latest developments regarding the commitment to open data and third-party developers. Most notably, Metro last week released a real-time train position API, making it possible to identify the specific locations of trains in the system at a given time.


Screen capture of Metro’s internal real-time train positions map. Now, third-party developers can make their own versions of this using a recently released data feed.

We can’t wait to see what you do with the data. But we know you’ll have questions. That’s why we’re hosting an informal “Coffee Chat” this Wednesday, July 27, at Compass Coffee on F Street (near the Gallery Place-Chinatown station and 70/74/D6 buses). Stop by any time from 4pm to 6pm to say hello, show us something on your computer, or ask us questions!

Two other notable updates, Metro now has created a google group to serve as the intra-developer community forum and will be launching an “App Gallery” to showcase apps available for the Metro system.

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.

Read more…

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…

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , , ,

2016 Travel Trends Rail Passenger Survey is Underway

April 19th, 2016 No comments

Metrorail riders get excited; the 2016 Travel Trends Rail Passenger Survey is here! If you haven’t noticed all the orange in the stations yet (surveyors in orange Metro bibs handing out orange surveys, offering orange Travel Trends pens to fill them out), keep an eye out! Throughout April and May of 2016, WMATA (Metro) will be conducting the Travel Trends survey on a rolling basis throughout the system, to cover all 91 stations.

The Rail Passenger Survey is an FTA-mandated survey that Metro is required to administer every five years, or at least two years after the launch of new rail service (this year’s survey comes two years after the launch of the Silver Line). The primary use of the survey is to:

  1. Determine jurisdictional transit subsidy allocations.
  2. Improve our service and validate our internal systems.

Here is a video that summarizes the work being conducted and why it’s important:

Your answers to the survey contribute to the data used to support operating and planning activities—it provides us with greater insight into how we can best match service to fit the overall needs of our customers using the system.

Here is a sample of some of the questions we ask in the survey, and what your answers to those questions will be used for: Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: , , ,

SelectPass Pilot: Making it Easier to Plan, Pay, and Ride

March 11th, 2016 31 comments

Customers showed high levels of interest in a customizable monthly pass.


Metro customer interest in a new unlimited monthly pass concept, by market segment.*

Metro is not raising fares this year, and instead is innovating ways to make it easier and more affordable to use the system.  Metro is taking a page from private industry, which has moved away from charging customers for each purchase and towards giving customers the option to “subscribe” to a company in exchange for unlimited access.  A Netflix subscription has replaced a membership at the local video store.  Amazon Prime offers unlimited shipping rather than shipping on each item.  Spotify subscriptions have replaced purchasing individual CDs.  Why not a subscription to use Metro?

Fortunately, we found a way to provide this to our customers and we’re really excited to begin testing it out starting this month.  The idea is to allow customers the ability to customize an unlimited access pass based on their usual travel patterns. Modeled after Seattle’s Puget Pass and frequently discussed on Greater Greater Washington over the past few years, this pass would allow customers to subscribe to a monthly pass, priced based on their typical trip costs, that offers unlimited travel on rail and the option to add on the same flexibility on bus.  We are calling it the Metro SelectPass.

Here’s the basic concept.  Customers tell Metro their usual start points and end points.  We then figure out how much that trip costs and offer you unlimited travel on rail up to that value in exchange for you buying 18 days worth of trips.  For example, if a customer’s “usual” peak trip is $2.25, they can get a pass priced at $81.00 (about $2.25 x 18 x 2) and then all trips valued at $2.25 or less would be free for an entire calendar month.  Extra trips for lunch, a night on the town, doctor’s appointment – it’s all included in one low price.  If you travel on a more expensive trip for any reason, you only pay the difference for that trip.  Most customers may enjoy savings of over 20% off of the pay-as-you-go rate, and they’ll also get the benefit of knowing they can travel as much as they want, whenever they want, all for one price.

For an additional $45 per month, customers can choose to add unlimited bus travel on top of unlimited rail travel.  That’s a huge savings compared to pay-as-you-go!  Read more…

Metro Planners Share Innovations in Transit Delay Calculation at TRB

February 25th, 2016 5 comments

Adopted from queueing theory, this new method of assessing delay on transit systems with tap-in-tap-out fare systems accounts for natural variations in customer behavior.

As you may have heard, Metro is testing out a new customer-oriented travel time performance indicator. Many departments here at Metro have been collaborating on this effort. Metro has decided to initially pilot a measure where we define delay as anything greater than train run time, a headway, and the 1-3 minutes it takes to travel from the faregates to the platform. However, as we began our research into customer travel time, we got to asking the question, “How do we define customer delay on the rail system?”


As we quickly learned when digging into the data, on good days with no delay on the rail system, there is still a wide variety of “normal” customer travel times. Some variation in travel time is because customers arrive at random to the origin station, but all leave the destination station more or less at once.  Additional factors influencing this variation include walking speed, use of elevator vs. stairs, escalator or elevator outages, and customers with suitcases and strollers.

We could start with a threshold for “on time” but by definition we know on a good day there were no rail delays so we would be counting slower customers as “late.”

Additionally, on a day when we know a disruption has occurred, we might count very quick customers as “on time” when in fact we know that everyone experienced some delay.

So we set to determine a method for calculating delay that accommodated for the natural variation in customer speeds.  These travel time curves started reminding me of delay calculations from queueing theory from grad school. Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , ,

Regional Transit Opportunities Explored

February 11th, 2016 2 comments

You name it, we tested it as possible opportunities to carry future demand and here’s what we found out.

Metro is completely focused on safety, reliability, and financial stability.  It’s also our job to ensure that the regional transit system improves mobility and connects communities.  So we’ve had many posts on ConnectGreaterWashington over the last few years describing the importance of a regional approach to transit planning. Posts include FAQs, how different modes compare, the paramount importance of transit-supportive land use, an approach to assessing Metrorail, BRT, and LRT expansion projects, and the overall proposed plan for Metrorail and surface transit to name a few.

List of Transit Corridors, Projects, and Plans Analyzed as Part of CGW

List of Transit Corridors, Projects, and Plans Analyzed as Part of CGW

Finally, we have completed a set of one- to two-page summaries for all the strategies, plans and projects we tested in our evaluation of future needs and opportunities. Note, these summaries are inclusive of everything that we analyzed over the course of ConnectGreaterWashington, but only some are recommended to advance. Some strategies were recommended (e.g. eight-car trains), others were not recommended (e.g. Kansas Ave. infill station), while many were partially recommended (e.g. the I-66 corridor beyond Vienna shows promise as bus rapid transit, light rail, or enhanced bus, but not Metrorail unless and until additional housing and/or jobs are guided to the station areas and new Metrorail lines are added in the core).

Due to the size of the pdfs, the summaries are divided into three documents. First, are the new Metrorail lines in the core, eight-car trains, and interline connections (pdf updated February 24, 2016). Second, are Metrorail pedestrian tunnels, extensions, and infill stations (pdf updated February 24, 2016). Third, are all of the other modes’ strategies, plans, and projects (pdf updated February 24, 2016). All documents include bookmarks to help you find the various summaries by topic area.

Each strategy, project, or plan includes:

  • A summary of the strategy;
  • The goals that were addressed;
  • The regional activity centers connected;
  • A map that shows the project or plan;
  • Key findings for each such as ridership (including new transit riders vs riders gained from other existing modes), transfers, crowding, connectivity, and surrounding density; and
  • Recommendations for this strategy.

As we and the region continue to grapple with today’s safety, operations and maintenance needs, while also planning for future growth, we will continue to refer to the CGW work undertaken to date. Let us know how you can imagine this body of work being used in the future.

Safety First!

February 10th, 2016 No comments

It’s a new year! Let’s vow to stay safe when around Metrorail and Metrobuses!

Denver RTD recently partnered with Metro Trains of Melbourne (Australia) to remind its riders to be safe.  They used the characters and theme song  (“Dumb Ways to Die”) developed by Metro Trains to appeal and get their message across to their younger riders, who often fail to pay attention to safety messages otherwise.  The original video/song, when first released, became the world’s most shared video for awhile in November 2012! Also, Melbourne saw a 20% decrease in accidents after the song became a hit around the country. Along with the video and song, posters were created, as were books, which all asked for people to pledge to be safe around trains.  Check out the Denver safety video:

Relating back to Metro, Metro would like to remind everyone that safety is its number one priority. Please review Metro’s safety tips.

Here are some key tips when it comes to direct accidents with trains and buses. If someone is standing too close to the curb or the edge of the platform in an unsafe manner, please inform a Metro uniformed employee or police officer immediately. Metro police can be reached at 202-962-2121 or by texting ‘MyMTPD’.  Metro’s suicide hotline is posted on the signs: 1-855-320-LIFE (5433).   If you drop something in onto the tracks, never retrieve it yourself. Ask for help. Check out New York City Transit’s message relating to falling into the path of a train.


Also, in light of recent winter weather, be careful when walking to and from the bus stop and rail station. Do not run in the stations. The floors can be very slippery, and remember that there is always another train. There is no need to push people out of the way, and run after a train, or bus, for that matter. Always face forward on escalators, and hold onto the handrails. Watch out for loose clothing or footwear that could get caught in the moving parts of the escalator.

Last but not least, if someone is sick or not feeling well, it’s best for them to get off the train or bus and seek help. Help can come sooner when they are at a rail station or bus stop.

Would Metro riders like to see WMATA develop more safety video messages? What type? What are the unsafe behaviors you see the most? We would like to hear your input.

Categories: In The News Tags: , ,