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.
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.
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…
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
In parallel with the proposed 2040 Metrorail network, we have identified 25 regionally significant corridors that merit high-capacity surface transit by 2040. Depending on the corridor, high-capacity surface transit can be provided more efficiently and effectively by modes other than Metrorail.
The best transit systems in the world are comprised of large networks served by multiple modes. In the National Capital Region, due to the growth and dispersal of activity centers, the high demand placed on Metrorail, and the realities of transit funding, expanding the transit network needs to occur by expanding transit on the region’s roads and highways not just by Metrorail. Metrorail is not and cannot be the best mode for every corridor because the vast majority of corridors do not have the land use, density and ridership to support it.
But don’t despair! There are plenty of other high-capacity modes such as bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail (LRT), streetcar, and enhanced bus that can provide:
all day service;
large, comfortable vehicles; and
lower capital and operating costs than Metrorail.
Regionally Significant High-Capacity Surface Transit Corridors as part of 2040 Regional Transit System Plan
Almost one in five trips on Metrorail are NOT work-related. Who is making these trips, and where and why are they making them?
Metrorail is how many of us in the region get to work. But, as we will illustrate below, many of us also use it to do other things.
Using data from the 2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey, we were able to determine that about 125,000 or 17% trips on an average weekday do not involve travel either to or from ones’ place of work. This is virtually identical to the results from the 2007 survey. In order to understand how people use the system for non-work trips, we sorted out everyone who is either going to or coming from work from everyone else. For example, a trip stopping off at the store after work would not be counted; however, a trip starting out at home and traveling to school would be counted. In terms of where these non-work trips are going, most are returning home followed by “personal trip” and “shopping or meal.”
Our new “Line-Load Application” is expected to provide more accurate reports of system crowding by segment.
We recently finished testing a new version of the Line Load Application, a custom-developed application that distributes the load of passengers across the Metrorail system based on their points of entry and exit. This application allows us to estimate the passenger loads on rail system per segment (rail between stations). It is very important for Metro to be able to track the passengers per car across the rail system, both for peak hours on average weekdays and before and after special events. Because the new system is based on rail schedules, each passenger is assigned to an individual car for the assessment of passengers per car (PPC).
Example of southbound Green Line passenger loads, May 1, 2013, 8am-9am
Our current method of assessing passenger crowding is by stationing rail passenger counting personnel at key stations during peak periods, approximately twice per month per station. Because the inputs to the new application are faregate entry and exit data, this application is providing data like Metro has never seen before, including load factors and passengers per car for all stations at all times of the day.
Upon review, the output data from this tool appears to match expectations of passenger loads at major checkpoints in the system during peak periods with no disruptions. Output from this tool covering non-core checkpoints and non-peak periods will be validated soon.
In the next phase of improvements for this application, we will work to incorporate actual train arrival and departure times as an alternative to using schedules. This will allow us to understand the actual conditions our customers experience during service disruptions or after special events.
The completion of the development of the Line Load application comes at a point in time when Metro is striving to increase safety and relieve the crowding on the rail system, both of which are major topics of our new strategic plan, Momentum.
This is the first post in a two-part series based on content from the tenth meeting with the Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP) Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that was held in July. This post will focus on our analysis of Metrorail capacity and crowding, while the second post will focus on identifying and prioritizing regionally significant surface transit corridors.
By 2040, ridership and crowding levels on Metrorail indicate the need for a new Blue Line and new Yellow line in the system’s core and a third line in Virginia.
At the time of our last post, we had run an initial round of four scenarios that sought to resolve regional mobility issues. We gathered a lot of information from the results, but realized that we needed to run a second round of scenarios focused almost entirely on Metrorail. Using MWCOG’s Cooperative Forecast Round 8.1 land use, which has been adopted by the region, and MWCOG’s Aspirations land use, which shifts more jobs and households into the regional activity centers, the maps below clearly demonstrate crowded conditions in 2040. The Base Network shown in these maps includes 100 percent eight-car trains and all the CLRP projects. Crowded conditions exist on the Orange Line west of Rosslyn, on the Yellow and Green Lines south of L’Enfant Plaza, and on the Silver Line west of Tysons. Because the results indicated that Metro would be severely crowded EVEN if we run the longest possible trains (eight-car trains), we wanted to explore other long-term solutions.
Crowding on Metrorail by 2040, even with the longest possible (eight-car) trains. Base Network AM Peak, Round 8.1 Cooperative Forecast
Crowding on Metrorail in 2040 even with the longest possible (eight-car) trains, Base Network AM Peak, Aspirations Land Use
Walk access to Metrorail has increased 15% over the last 5 years, especially from those living within a half-mile of the station.
More and more Metrorail riders are lacing up their walking shoes and taking a short walk to their rail station these days. According to results from the 2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey, the number of passengers walking to Metrorail each morning grew by 15% between 2007 and 2012, from 78,500 to 89,900 in the AM peak period – far outpacing overall growth in ridership in the same period.
Where are all the new pedestrians coming from? From stations all over the network, but the growth is strongest among those walking a half-mile or less. Those walking from less than a half-mile rose by over 20% – faster than the overall growth in walk access.
Walk access to Metrorail has increased 15% over the last 5 years, especially from those living within a half-mile of the station.
Metro planning staff have been working to showcase Metro data in new and unique ways. We recently posted a visualization in a calendar format that displayed 9 years of rail ridership in one graphic. We are currently working on animations of ridership data as well. Below is our first volley into that arena, a visualization of one day’s worth of station-level activity in 15-minute intervals.
Before hitting play, please note the following:
The video is available in high definition (720p), which is the recommended viewing resolution.
The dots are sized according to total station volume (entries plus exits) per 15-minute interval.
The color of the dot represents what percent of the volume is entries vs exits. Magenta dots are 100% exits, blue dots are 100% entries, and purple dots are 50/50, with other colors representing ratios between these three.
The visualization is of data from April 10, 2013, which hit the 4th highest ridership mark that day. A combination of cherry blossom peak bloom and two sporting events ratcheted ridership up to 871,000 for the day, compared to an average weekday ridership of around 750,000. Note the high level of activity at the Smithsonian station all day long, and big dots that grow and shrink as the sports games begin and then end near Gallery Place and Navy Yard-Ballpark stations.
What other unique activity can you spot in this animation? What other types of animations of Metrorail and Metrobus would be informative?