Posts Tagged ‘ridership’

Rhode Island Avenue – an Opportunity to Truly Connect Communities (and Bolster WMATA Finances)

July 23rd, 2015 5 comments

Low-cost planning maneuvers could increase transit-accessibility for one thousand households and save the region $1.3 million per year!

We recently covered an exciting development project in Northeast D.C., one that will create housing and jobs right next to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Because the site is located within the station’s half-mile walk shed, all those new residents, employees and shoppers are likely Metro customers, whose fares will help improve the system for everyone.

But is that the end of the story?

In our analysis of station walk sheds – the area within a half-mile walk of the station — we discovered that the Rhode Island Avenue walk shed is constrained by physical barriers that force pedestrians to make lengthy detours. The most notable of these is a retaining wall along the northern edge of the redevelopment site (currently the Rhode Island Center shopping mall):

RIExisting+Barrier

Current walk shed of Rhode Island Ave station, with illustration of the retaining wall.

For Edgewood residents living immediately to the north, walking to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro requires a detour around the barrier that inflates the walking distance by up to half a mile – making the total walking distance a full mile or more. While some choose to make the long hike to the station, we know that people are significantly more likely to use Metro if the station is within the half-mile walk shed.

This led us to ask: What if we make a pedestrian connection through that wall part of the large-scale redevelopment? Read more…

All Aboard! Metro Welcomes New Development Planned at Rhode Island Avenue

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

A redevelopment project planned for Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, one of the largest such projects in the District, could bring $2.3M per year in new fare revenue for Metrorail.

A venture led by MRP Realty is proposing a mega project near the Rhode Island Avenue metro station, which when constructed would add over 1,500 residential units and retail to that transit-oriented community.  That’s fantastic news for the District, which needs household growth to resolve its structural fiscal deficit, and also for Metro and the region, which benefits each time we add transit-oriented development that drives ridership and revenue.

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

At Metro we find this especially exciting because it is yet another example of how changes in development are in part fueling a ridership resurgence.  Our Land Use-Ridership model conservatively suggests that this project will yield an additional 3,200 rail entries per day systemwide, generating rail fare revenues of around $2.3 million per year. Whether this ridership actually materializes – or is even higher – depends on the developer building good pedestrian connections to the Metro station and the Met Branch Trail.

In addition, this project could be a good opportunity to create a pedestrian connection between the station and the neighborhoods to the north, where potential Metrorail riders are blocked from the station’s “walk shed” today.  The current conditions include a challenging combination of grade changes and physical barriers behind the shopping mall, creating pedestrian barriers outlined in red below. The key question will be whether the development will help fix the barrier along the north side of the site, which would only increase the ridership- and revenue-generating potential of this project.

Image Courtesy Google Maps

Pedestrian barriers in red. Image courtesy Google Maps

The property tax benefits of the project all accrue to the District, and the increased revenue to WMATA doesn’t come for free – the system will need to handle the additional passengers and incur additional operating costs and potential wear and tear on the system.  Right now there isn’t a defined mechanism for WMATA to recoup the value of real estate property taxes to fund capital renewal or expansion.  But certainly anything that contributes to the operating health of the transit agency through increased ridership and revenues goes a long way to promoting financial stability for the Authority, as well as lowering the operating subsidy burden it requires to run the system.

Metrorail Ridership – Back on Track

July 21st, 2015 No comments

Metrorail ridership stabilized in FY 2015, and that’s exactly what we said would happen.

We’ve seen from previous posts that total Metorail ridership had been experiencing its cyclical swoon following the housing bust and economic collapse of 2008.  Despite the volatile market, system ridership stabilized over the last few years – this past year may mark the beginning of the next phase of Metrorail ridership growth.  In Fiscal Year 2015, average weekday Metrorail ridership grew by just over 1.5%.

Ridership

The biggest swing of course is the difference in October: in October of 2013, we experienced the ridership loss due to the prolonged Federal Government shutdown; that didn’t happen in October of 2014.  Another interesting difference is that in FY 2014 there were five snow days during the winter, compared to only two snow days during the winter of FY 2015.  So, even when discounting the October effect, ridership was still up slightly year over year – a good sign for Metro and the region that helps support its services! And of course, the new Silver Line stations are helping to drive growth as well.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to experience strong growth in Metrobus routes where we have executed operational innovations.  Metro stands ready to work with jurisdictions and replicate these successes elsewhere.

This isn’t the end of the story.  The region’s pipeline of transit oriented development is going to accelerate this ridership growth, and in the next post we’ll provide just one example by detailing the expected ridership impacts of the exciting new project proposed for Rhode Island Avenue.

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Taylor Swift vs. Nationals – Hit Singles, but No Home Run

July 17th, 2015 6 comments

Ridership from neither of the two back-to-back sold-out Taylor Swift concerts at Nationals Park this week generated as many riders as an average Nationals baseball game.

Entries at Navy Yard by fifteen-minute period, Orange and Gray were nights of the Taylor Swift concerts.

Pop star Taylor Swift brought her 1989 tour to Washington this week, playing two sold-out concerts at Nationals Park, adjacent to the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metrorail station.  According to Swift, approximately 45,000 people attended each concert.  That’s a lot higher than a normal Nationals game, as the concert had seating on the floor as well as in the stands.  One would hope that such big crowds would bump up Metrorail ridership higher than the Nats.  You might be disappointed. 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…

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

The K9 MetroExtra Bus Route Surpassing Expectations

April 30th, 2015 3 comments

Two years and 500,000 riders later, the K9 continues to demonstrates the benefits of MetroExtra limited-stop bus service.

At the end of this month, the K9 bus route will pass an important milestone – it will carry its half-millionth rider.  Since its inaugural run, the K9 has continually surpassed all of our expectations.

The concept for the K9 emerged from a year long study on bus service needs in the New Hampshire corridor and on New Year’s Eve 2012, Metro launched the K9 service – the first limited-stop bus service introduced in Maryland in many years. The K9 provided faster and more reliable service along New Hampshire Avenue between Fort Totten Metrorail station and the Northwest Park apartments in Montgomery County. Riders responded enthusiastically, pushing the K9 over its 6-month target of 650 daily riders in less than four months.  In March 2014, we extended the route north to the Federal Research Center in White Oak to coincide with the transfer of several thousand FDA employees to that facility and increased the service frequency to every 15 minutes.  Ridership surged again, passing 1,000 daily riders for first time only a week later. Two months later daily ridership was up another 20% to 1,200 daily riders.

K9 Ridership by day

Ridership on the K9 has grown an astonishing 50% year-over year for the past two years in a row, and this growth has not come at the expense of ridership on the underlying K6 local bus service (the K6 grew 2% between 2013 and 2014 and has been virtually flat for 2015).  Instead, the K9 has tapped into pent-up demand for transit service within the corridor by providing desperately needed capacity.  Read more…

Do You Bike to Metro in Fairfax County? Your input is needed!

April 28th, 2015 No comments

Fairfax County seeks input from bike-and-ride commuters.

Bike FairfaxAs we have discussed previously, safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access is critical to Metro’s success, and WMATA works closely with local jurisdictions to find ways to improve conditions for customers arriving on foot or bike. Compared with the high expense of building more parking garages for park-and-ride customers, investing in better walking and biking infrastructure is an incredibly cost-effective way of attracting Metro customers. On Metro station property, WMATA is making investments such as bike parking and path improvements.  On the public streets beyond, our local and state partners are installing their own new facilities for people walking/biking to the station. 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!

Monitoring (and Caring About) Customers, Not Just Trips

April 13th, 2015 2 comments

Deep explorations into the composition of Metrorail’s customer base shows that Metro has a wide reach – and that the five-day-a-week rider may not be as common as you think.

Metro (bus and rail) moves 1.1 million people per day, right? Well, technically we see that many trips (transactions) per day, but how many individual customers is that?  When you look at your fellow passengers on-board a train, how many are frequent commuters? How many rarely ride? In addition to counting trips, we’ve begun to monitor customers – the number of unique SmarTrip cards and paper tickets used on the system in a month.

We’re starting with Metrorail at first.

Metrorail typically handles roughly 730,000 trips on a weekday, which are generated by about 400,000 unique customers. Some of those customers ride frequently, and others will ride only once in the month.  As the chart below shows, of the 730,000 trips, only about two-thirds are generated by frequent customers.  Not surprisingly, frequent customers dominate more during the peak times.

Sept 2014 ridership by frequency by period_bars

Typical weekday rail ridership (trips) by customer’s monthly frequency (trips/month)

Surprisingly, over 17% of all trips are generated by customers who take eight trips/month or fewer– that’s fewer than once per week.  That may not seem like much, but in order for infrequent customers to generate so much of our ridership each and every day, there must be a LOT of them! Read more…