Metro cares about transit walk sheds because more households accessible to transit by walking translates directly into more ridership.
We’ve been focusing a lot on transit walk sheds lately. We’ve shown that the size of a transit walk shed depends heavily on the roadway network and pedestrian infrastructure, and that these sizes vary dramatically by Metrorail station. We’ve also demonstrated that expanding the walkable area can make hundreds of households walkable to transit.
But why do we care so much about walk sheds? Because larger walk sheds mean more households in the walk shed, and that means ridership. For example, we’d be hard pressed to find many households in Landover’s small walk shed, so it’s no surprise that walk ridership at that station is low. On the other hand, thousands of households are within a reasonable walk to Takoma’s larger walk shed, and walk ridership there is much higher.
In other words, the more people can walk to transit, the more people do walk to transit – and data across Metrorail stations prove it:
More households in the walkable area around a Metrorail station means higher ridership
Here’s a map showing the walkable area around the nearest Metrorail station.
Did you ever wonder which Metrorail station is closest? Where’s the breakeven point between two stations? This map shows the areas you can actually reach within a half-mile walk along the roadway network, as we described previously. The twist this time is that I disallowed “overlap” within the GIS network analysis, so land is allotted to the closest station only, calculated by network walk distance.
What do you see in this map? Here’s a regional view with all stations, as well.
Update 9/2/2014: the GIS source file for this map is now available for download, in geodatabase (.gdb) format.
Metro will soon be measuring how much growth happens in places that are walkable to transit. Here’s an in-depth look at how we define “walkable” to Metrorail stations and Metrobus stops.
Areas reachable on foot from regional Metrobus stops and Metrorail stations
Metro’s new Connecting Communities metric will measure annual household growth in our region that occurs within the “transit shed” – the catchment area around transit service that generates walk ridership. And improving walkability can be an incredibly cost-effective way to reduce congestion and increase transit ridership. Let’s take a closer look at how we defined what’s “walkable to transit.”
How Far is Walkable? First, we defined walking distance as a half-mile from Metrorail, and a quarter-mile from Metrobus, for a number of reasons:
- Of all the passengers who walk to Metrorail each morning, the median walking distance is just under a half-mile (0.35 miles, actually). Riders walk farther to some stations than others, but the systemwide average is just shy of a half-mile. Since rail riders are on average willing to walk a little under a half-mile today, it is reasonable to use a half-mile as an upper limit for walking in the future. (We don’t have similar survey data on Metrobus – yet.)
- The land use within a quarter- and half-mile is where we see the strongest effects on ridership on Metro today. More on this below.
- Academic literature supports the half-mile radius from rail transit as no better than any other distance, particularly for the link between households and ridership.
- Practically, setting the distance any farther than 0.50 and 0.25 miles increases overlap with other nearby stations and bus stops, which increases computational complexity. Read more…
Walk access to Metrorail has increased 15% over the last 5 years, especially from those living within a half-mile of the station.
So more rail riders are choosing to walk to their Metrorail station, according to the 2012 Metrorail Passenger Survey. But who are these pedestrians?
Around 40% of Metrorail customers in the AM peak walk to the station. The survey found that younger people are much more likely to walk, with those under 35 were nearly twice as likely to walk to the train as those over 35:
However, younger Metrorail riders are also more likely to live within walking distance of their Metrorail station. Half of all riders under 35 live within a half-mile Metrorail, while 22% of those over 35 do. Younger people in our region generally are slightly more likely to live near Metrorail – 15% of everyone under 35 in the region lives within a half-mile of Metrorail, 12% for those over 35. The chart below shows how younger riders tend to live closer to Metrorail: Read more…