MetroRail – Designed for Performance

January 19th, 2017 2 comments

Though it has several key constraints, the Metrorail System’s capacity compares favorably with its peers and even out-performs them in several key measures.

In a previous post, we explained that Metro doesn’t schedule more than 26 trains per hour at any point in an effort to balance reliability with high capacity operations. But it also raises some interesting questions: How does Metrorail’s capacity compare to peers? How does Metrorail compare to its peers in terms of train throughput and what are the specific constraints that prevent trains from operating more frequently? Are there any ways to increase the capacity of the existing system beyond 26 trains per hour?

We developed a white paper (PDF) to answer those questions. Some of the findings might surprise some Metroskeptics or armchair transit planners, but Metrorail has among the highest capacity infrastructure in the industry, which – when in a state of good repair – allow it to outperform its peers in a number of key areas.

core-constraint-graphic Read more…

Returning Metro’s Assets to a State of Good Repair

January 3rd, 2017 No comments

Metro needs over $17B in the next ten years to reach and maintain the State of Good Repair (SGR), which accounts for approximately 70% of its total needs over the same period.

As noted in our our previous post, Metro’s SGR needs are built off of a comprehensive inventory of existing assets as a part of the Capital Needs Inventory (CNI). Each record in this inventory documents the asset’s type, age, expected life, replacement cost, and other attributes required to assess that asset’s 10-year reinvestment requirements. SGR investments include:

  • Rehabilitation that require capital maintenance (including major overhauls, renovations, or rebuilds)
  • Replacements
  • Annual capital maintenance (generally occurs for larger assets such as tunnel or bridges, which require periodic infusions of capital to maintain SGR).

Fig. 1: Risk profile of SGR needs (assets > $10M)

Fig. 1: Risk profile of SGR needs for assets > $10M (click for full report)

After being inventoried, the existing assets then went through the prioritization process using the risk-based prioritization approach, as described in Ramona’s blog post.  Figure 1 illustrates the risk profile of SGR investment needs for assets exceeding $10M, based on the risk of failure and the consequence of failure. The asset groups above the diagonal line carry a higher level of risk and have bigger impacts on safety, reliability, and ridership.

Ten-Year SGR Needs

Given the 10-year SGR needs total to $17B alone, what are some of the major investments that are involved?

  • Railcar Replacement and Rehabilitation Program: $5B over the next 10 years, which is about 28% of total SGR needs.
  • Track and Structure Rehabilitation Program & Rail Systems Program: $3B each, to reach and sustain SGR. The combined $6B for both programs will cover fixed rail, guideway structures, track maintenance equipment, electrification, communications, signals, and other related assets.
  • Bus & Paratransit Program: $2.3B for fleet, facilities, and maintenance equipment.
  • Stations and Passenger Facilities Program: $2.4B to improve or upgrade platforms, station structures, vertical circulation, fare collection, and parking facilities.
  • Business Support Program: $1.7B to maintain and upgrade software and hardware, supporting equipment and services, as well as the Metro Transit Police Department’s assets.

Fig. 2: Total current SGR backlog

Fig. 2: Total current SGR backlog (click for full report)

Backlog and Compliance Needs

Metro’s SGR needs include $6.66B in backlog, also known as deferred asset needs. The assets in the backlog require immediate reinvestment as they are past their useful lives or require rehabilitation or replacement due to compliance issues. Metro’s backlog needs make up approximately 16% of Metro’s total asset base across all asset categories. The largest proportion of backlog are in major systems such as traction power and train control (Figure 2) with guideway elements (i.e., track, tunnels, bridges, and other structures) making up the next largest portion of deferred needs. About 30% of the backlog are compliance based investments such as safety directives to replace track circuits and improve tunnel ventilation. These items, totaling $2B in needs, have been marked as priority as they are needed to address compliance and/or regulatory requirements.

Scheduled SGR Needs

Over the next ten years, different assets will be due for scheduled SGR investments. For example, besides the ongoing replacement of the 1000- and 4000-series rail cars, Metro will need to complete the replacement of the 2000-, 3000-, and 5000-series rail cars during the period of the CNI, along with rehabilitation of all fleets to maintain SGR.

Given that Metro’s capital budget averaged $1B a year for the past six years, maintaining assets in a SGR as identified by the CNI would require an annual average of $1.7B in the capital budget – a 62% increase above today’s level. To support CNI’s SGR investments, Metro would need the region to significantly increase funding to execute these important needs and keep Metro healthy into the future.

What do you notice in this list of repair needs? Are there any surprises?

Prioritizing Metro’s Capital Investment Needs

December 21st, 2016 No comments

Metro used a risk-based multi-factor methodology to score and rank its 10 year capital needs.

Metro’s 2016 Capital Needs Inventory (CNI) aims to capture and quantify Metro’s existing and anticipated capital needs over the next ten years. With our needs far outpacing available funding, prioritization of capital needs is critical. But with the ever present constraints of budget, time, and staffing, how do we determine how to prioritize our new and existing needs across a 10 year period? Metro used a risk based approach to develop its 10 year capital needs prioritization.  Each criterion is defined based on the impact of an investment to improve an asset’s condition, to thereby improve Metro’s state of good repair or to mitigate asset related risks.

The risk-based prioritization approach is illustrated above.  This approach considers both the likelihood of asset failure and consequence of asset failure. The scoring uses weighted criteria, to represent either the likelihood or consequence of asset failure. For instance, the scoring helps us to decide if it is more urgent to replace one kind of asset over another in any given year, given agency priorities and finite resources.  A safety focused weighting scenario, based on the extent that an asset’s failure would affect overall system and rider safety was developed to reflect Metro’s core mission and values.  It was also important that Metro’s weighting criteria be aligned with its larger strategic goals. The image below demonstrates how Metro’s strategic goals were aligned with CNI scoring weights.

 

Once Metro’s 10 year capital needs were identified and compiled, they went through several rounds of prioritization testing based on the risk-based approach and generated prioritization scores for individual assets in the asset inventory.

cip-process

After the completion of CNI, the identified capital needs must be further verified and then converted into build-able projects through a design and engineering process, which will define actual capital projects with scopes, schedules, cost estimates, and delivery methods.

Switching Things Up for Winter Operations

December 19th, 2016 4 comments

With the impending colder weather, Metro is piloting some new track equipment to fight the snow and ice and maintain overground rail service.

Snow on tracks at Twinbrook Station

Snow on a track switch at Twinbrook Station

As a pilot project funded through Metro’s Sustainability Lab, we have replaced the switch heaters at Glenmont Yard with a new energy efficient heater that not only reduces energy consumption, but is also easier to install and maintain.

Switch heaters are vital to winter operations, providing radiant heat to track switches to prevent them from icing up and restricting train movements. Within the Metrorail system, each rail yard controls its heaters on an individual basis, and heaters are frequently in constant operation during the winter to allow tracks to remain operational.

Glenmont is Metro’s smallest yard and also has one of Metro’s more expensive electricity rates, so it was an ideal candidate to pilot the new heaters. Should testing prove successful this winter, we could adopt this new style of switch heater as standard across 58 miles of surface revenue track and 8 Metrorail yards.  This could save Metro over $110,000 annually in energy costs.

Each year the Sustainability Lab tests out new ideas such as these switch heaters for large-scale deployment, and we would love to have your help in finding ways to reduce resource consumption and improve service. Whatever the idea, we’d love to hear your thoughts and consider them.

So help us think big! Submit your ideas online or email them to planning@wmata.com.

Why Metrobus Matters for a Region full of Bus Systems

December 14th, 2016 2 comments

James HamreJim Hamre, the Director of Metrobus Planning and Scheduling, explains that although decision-making often gets made at the local level, Metrobus is a collective regional asset that is critical to the region’s success.

Metrobus Has Long Been an Important Part of a Coordinated Regional System

For decades, Metrobus and local bus operators have coordinated to develop and enhance the regional transportation network. Local systems have strategically expanded service in places where Metrobus did not exist, was not well suited to serve, or did not have fleet or facility resources as the rail system expanded and changed travel patterns. Considerable time and effort went into the restructuring of bus services to coincide with the expansion of Metrorail to form a balanced network that generally made policy, practice and economic sense. The 1997 Regional Mobility Panel (PDF) reestablished the importance of a regional bus network, and delineated the general service responsibility among local providers and Metrobus, although the local/regional balance has changed in the intervening years.

silver-spring-transit-center-082115-6472

Metrobus and RideOn sharing access to the newly opened Silver Spring Transit Center.  Source, WMATA.

Among other factors, Metrobus is important to the region because it: Read more…

Is the DC Streetcar Hurting Ridership on Metrobus X2+X9? No.

December 12th, 2016 No comments

The DC Streetcar has not significantly changed ridership on Metrobus X2 and X9, even though the services overlap on H Street NE. Instead, the Streetcar appears to be serving a new, different market – and has increased net transit ridership in the corridor by 15%.

Although the new first phase of the DC Streetcar serves some of the same sections of H Street NE as the existing Metrobus routes X2 and X9, the streetcar appears to be serving almost an entirely new market of transit riders.  Ridership on the underlying Metrobus routes X2 and X9 have remained fairly steady, even as the Streetcar is serving over 2,500 new riders per weekday.

x2-v-streetcar-ridership-monthly-averages-2

Since it opened in February 2016, the DC Streetcar’s ridership has been climbing slowly and steadily, from around 2,400 to 2,800 boardings per weekday.  The route, just over 2 miles long, runs from near Union Station down the length of H Street NE.  The X2 and X9 buses run on the same stretch of H Street NE, but stop at different bus stops and connect farther west into downtown D.C., and farther east to Minnesota Avenue.  The overlap in markets is fairly small, and the ridership data confirm that the two modes are serving distinct markets – ridership on the X2 and X9 has remained flat, or only slightly down.  Overall transit boardings between the two modes combined have risen 15%, from around 14,700/day before the Streetcar to 16,800/day now.  (Note the lift in X2+X9 ridership in June, likely due to SafeTrack Surge 2).

x29-yoy-change-in-ridership-vs-bus-systemwide

The Streetcar’s arrival does coincide with perhaps a minor shift in the rate of change in ridership on the X2+X9: monthly year-over-year change in ridership turned slightly negative last winter. But this is not dramatically different from the systemwide change in Metrobus ridership. So it’s not yet clear if this trend is due to riders switching to the Streetcar, or other forces.

Although the two modes overlap for a short stretch of H Street NE, the arrival of the DC Streetcar appears to be serving a new, distinct transit market. The Streetcar has not significantly poached riders from the existing X2 and X9 Metrobus routes, which have much higher overall ridership and serve a larger geographic area.

Metro’s Ten-Year Capital Needs Inventory and Prioritization is Complete

December 5th, 2016 No comments

Metro needs to invest $17B over 10 years to achieve and maintain a State of Good Repair.

In June 2016, we introduced the initiation of the 2016 Capital Needs Inventory (CNI), with the goal to develop a list of fiscally unconstrained and prioritized investment needs over the next ten years and to meet the new federal Transit Asset Management (TAM) requirements. After seven months of rigorous work, the first phase of the CNI is coming to a completion!

Figure 1: CNI Final Report

CNI Final Report (click for link to PDF)

What distinguishes this CNI from Metro’s efforts in previous decades? Breakthroughs on several fronts:

  • It represents the first time that Metro developed a ground-up, data-driven and FTA-compliant method for asset prioritization.
  • It consolidates asset data sources and builds a complete asset inventory database that catalogue higher-level assets and asset features.
  • It estimates asset condition (and need rehab/replacement date) based on measurable data such as age of asset and history of rehabilitation, and projects replacement and rehabilitation needs to advance a State of Good Repair (SGR).
  • It establishes a prioritization methodology aligned with Metro’s strategic goals and priorities and uses FTA’s TERM (Transit Economic Requirements Model) to prioritize all asset needs.

Here is a sneak peek of the CNI:

Read more…

Marriott’s Headquarters in Bethesda Helps Metro

November 29th, 2016 1 comment

The relocation of Marriott’s headquarters to downtown Bethesda would bring new riders and revenue to Metro, without straining Metro’s capacity. A win-win!

bethesda_aerial

Downtown Bethesda

Marriott last month announced it will move its headquarters to downtown Bethesda, bringing over 3,500 employees to a location that’s now accessible to the Red Line. The move will help Metro by attracting more riders and fare revenue to the Red Line.  Using our S.W.A.R.M. model, we estimate that the new headquarters will bring about 1,200 new boardings/day on Metrorail, and over $1 million per year in new fare revenue.

What’s more, we’ve already got space for these new riders.  Since most of the new riders would be reverse-commuters (towards Bethesda in the morning) or would originate in Montgomery County, they would not strain existing crowding on-board trains at our pinch points, a.k.a. our maximum load points. Bethesda station has sufficient vertical circulation capacity for them as well.  In short, this move is a win-win for Metro, the riders, and our funding partners, and we applaud the decision.

Checking in Down Stream: Metro’s Net Zero Water Treatment Facility 2 Years In

November 21st, 2016 1 comment

Two years into operation Metro’s solar powered high efficiency water treatment facility continues to work as designed by producing as much energy as it needs on-site to perform the entire subsurface water treatment process.

img_8151According to Basil Borisov, Environmental Engineer at Metro’s Office of Environmental Management and Industrial Hygiene, “During the summer of 2016, the Largo Water Treatment Facility has been generating more power than it uses.  The monthly surplus of electricity has almost reached 300 kWh; for comparison, a typical refrigerator uses 50 to 100 kWh per month.  Excess electricity was generated on more than 25 days out of each month.”

 

Clean energy water treatment supporting a clean Bay – keep up the good work.

 

Data Download: Metrobus Vehicle Location Data

November 16th, 2016 2 comments

Here’s your chance to analyze and visualize the movements of the Metrobus fleet.

In anticipation of the upcoming Metro Hack Night, Metrobus planning staff has generated an automated vehicle location (AVL) systems data set. The data set, for five days in October, shows the time that each Metrobus was at each stop over the course of the day, the buses’ dwell time, and a comparison of actual stop time to scheduled stop time.

Real-time arrival sings at Metrobus stops around the region are powered by automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems on-board buses.

What can be done with this kind of data? Here are a few ideas:

  • Look at how the running times for routes varies across the day
  • Calculate vehicle speeds across the region
  • Dive deep into on-time performance
  • See how dwell times affect running times, speeds, and on-time performance
  • Map the movements of Metrobus vehicles over time
  • Get a better understanding of Metrobus operations, including how vehicles are interlined among routes and the number of different variations of some routes

Come on techies! Dive in and find new and inspirational ways to look at this data.

Please post links to your work in the comments!

Metrobus_AVL_Oct_2016.zip (319 MB zip file)

And some brief documentation:

Metrobus AVL Data Dictionary(.docx, 13 KB)

 

 

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