Archive for November, 2012

How Does Metro’s Subsidy Allocation Work?

November 29th, 2012 Comments off

Like every transit agency in the U.S., Metro receives contributions from the jurisdictions it serves to help supplement revenues from fares and other sources.  The District of Columbia, the State of Maryland and local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have entered into a compact to fund the operation of the Metro’s buses, trains and paratransit. These compact jurisdictions have agreed to split the tab for operating costs each year using a few allocation formulas. The factors have changed over the years, reflecting changes as the rail system was built, populations shifted, and bus service was restructured.

Operating costs are those that occur every year, like a bus and train operator wages and fuel/power for buses and trains. On the other hand, capital costs occur periodically and cover investments in infrastructure, like repairing tracks and purchasing new vehicles.

So, how are the operating costs allocated among the different jurisdictions?  The first step is to take the operating costs for each mode and subtract the revenues associated with each, resulting in net operating cost.  The allocation formulas apply to net operating costs (costs minus revenues).  The remaining steps are different for each mode, illustrated in the graphic below and subsequently described in greater detail.

Simplified diagram of Metro’s subsidy allocation process

Read more…

Regional Patterns in TOD Demand

November 27th, 2012 Comments off

Data source:  InfoUSA

The Washington, D.C. MSA added 275,000 households and 295,000 jobs between 2004 and 2010.  Of that growth, 6.4% of these households and 13.8% of these jobs located within one-half mile of suburban and one quarter-mile of urban Metro station[1].  This is despite the fact that the land area around these Metro stations comprised only 0.5% of the MSA land area, and suggests that TOD locations in the region are capturing 2.76 times their “fair share” of growth when normalizing for land area.

  • Household growth patterns from 2000 to 2010 illustrate that the number of households around almost all of the Metro stations grew, and Metro-proximate households grew at a faster rate than the MSA as a whole. While the Washington D.C. MSA grew by 1.4% from 2000 to 2010, the number of households around Metro stations grew by 4.8% annually.
  • Employment growth patterns show that employment growth in suburban areas of the MSA has been most pronounced around Metro stations, with office-using employment demonstrating a particularly strong inclination to locate near Metro. From 2000-2010, 12% of MSA office employment growth located near transit, and three sectors:Computer systems design and related services; Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services; and Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services represented 41% of office-using employment growth in metro station areas.

This capture rate is a sharp departure from historical growth trends in the region.  Until the 2000s, growth in households and employment had emanated due west from the epicenter of Washington, D.C., and some would argue that outside of growth adjacent to Metro Stations in the historical path of growth – which could arguably include the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor – growth was largely agnostic to transit proximity.

What is driving these shifts?  At least two factors:

  • Regional and national trends indicate that much of the housing growth through 2030 will come from younger, smaller households that are increasingly choosing higher density homes in transit-accessible, infill locations with easy access to employment and entertainment.  Over 67% of the household growth during the 1985-2000 time period had been comprised of one- and two-person households, and the Census projects that upwards of 85% of the future household growth will be comprised of these “smaller” household types.  These households have a built-in demand for walkable, urbane environs that offer multiple opportunities for unplanned human interaction and what Bob Putnam calls “social capital”.  Almost half of all housing consumers express a desire to live in a walkable community, as evidenced by data compiled by the National Association of REALTORS ® in 2004 and again in 2011.
  • Employers seeking competitive advantages in an increasingly-tight market for high-quality labor are returning to urban locations – where their employees want to be – in order to increase retention and attraction prospects.  In addition, research conducted by the Brookings Institution confirms that urbane, walkable communities exhibit calculable and significant value premiums that drive net operating income and asset-level value for developers and investors.


[1] Urban Metro stations include all D.C stations, plus the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Alexandria, and Braddock Road and Pentagon City.  All other Metro stations are classified as suburban.

Categories: Engage, Impact Tags:

Chart of the Week: Getting Past the Max on the Current Tracks

November 26th, 2012 Comments off

Metrorail congestion in 2040 with and without all eight-car trains.

Metro is planning to alleviate these crowded trains and platforms by investigating the potential of running 100% eight-car trains, among other options. This option would require not only planning, but at the very least purchasing more cars, finding places to store and service these cars, and upgrading our power network to power the vehicles.  Going “All 8s” is a major capital investment, which includes  power upgrades, vehicle purchases and storage facilities. Additional operating (recurring) costs are also associated with running all 8-car trains, including increased car maintenance staff and additional power.

If we can reach this goal, each of the current six rail lines entering the DC core in the peak direction could handle a huge volume — upwards of 20,000 passengers per hour, up from between 14,000 to 17,000 depending on the line. Even with the growth expected through 2040 this would mean much less severe crowding than would occur without those additional cars.  The graphic on the right, above, illustrates the additional system throughput provided by running 100% eight-car trains.

To read more about Metro’s future and join the conversation, visit

MindMixer – What Happens to All Your Comments and Ideas

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

Since Metro’s MindMixer site opened on September 27th, the response has been overwhelming. To date, we’ve had over 425 participants provide more than 1900 votes, 450 comments, and115 ideason a range of topics. The first round of questions generated over 150 pages of comments alone! The site is expected to continue through the end of the year at a minimum, so please continue to join the conversation.

Metro is using MindMixer to start a conversation with our customers about how they envision the next generation of Metro. A quick review of the site shows a wide range of comments and ideas, some that are short-term and many that are very far in the future.

All comments and ideas are being reviewed as part of Momentum: The Next Generation of Metro, the agency’s strategic plan. Metro staff is responding to some of the comments and ideas as they are posted. Often this is to direct a participant to work that is already underway or to provide short responses or explanations of current policies. Other ideas have created discussions between participants, which is one of the main purposes for the site. The vast majority of ideas and comments require further study, more discussion of what is possible within Metro’s environment, and/or prioritization among other needs at Metro. Many of the ideas also require substantial resources to implement.

As the site continues, we are collating and summarizing your comments and ideas based on themes, such as core capacity, information provision, and non-Metro expansion.  This high level summary will be used to support Momentum, our strategic plan, as it provides an indication of the elements that are most important to you, our riders. We will also be taking comments directly from MindMixer to incorporate in the strategic plan document. As part of this blog, we will be further developing some of the ideas and comments to form the basis for a Metro 101 section on PlanItMetro. These posts will help increase the level of understanding of transit in this region. Lastly, for those ideas that require further study, they will be compiled and when MindMixer concludes, this information will be circulated to the respective Metro departments. This will help ensure that decision makers throughout the organization review the thoughtful ideas that have been provided on MindMixer.

Veirs Mill Road BRT Study Underway

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

While Montgomery County’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan moves forward through the master plan update process, the county has prioritized some of these corridors for more detailed study.  One of these is the Veirs Mill Road corridor, generally stretching between the Rockville and Wheaton Metrorail Stations.  Managing the effort on behalf of the county is the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) through the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA).  SHA, MTA, and Montgomery County hosted an open house in May to introduce the study to local residents and solicit feedback on some of the issues present along the corridor.  You can view the study’s webpage for more information, where you can access the May 2012 Open House material.

Strategic Importance

Why is the county advancing the study of this corridor?  One reason is apparent with a quick look at the area’s geography and relationship to major transportation corridors.

Veirs Mill Road (highlighted in black) in context

Read more…

Metro and the Region’s (Expanding) Transit Network

November 20th, 2012 1 comment

Conceptual rendering of the Columbia Pike Streetcar.

While many area residents think of Metro as the only regional transit provider, many transit projects under development in the region are being sponsored by Metro’s partner agencies. For example, the Silver Line is currently being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and the Purple Line by the Maryland Transit Administration.

That doesn’t mean that Metro doesn’t have an important role to play in these projects. In fact, sometimes the project sponsors request that Metro – using its resources and expertise as the fourth-busiest transit system in the nation – manage aspects of the project development process.

For Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Metro managed the study of the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The study, which ended this past October, included an alternatives analysis/environmental assessment, conceptual plans and an application to enter the Small Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration.  Many of these documents are available online.  Arlington County continues the project’s development, soon to enter preliminary engineering.

For the District of Columbia, Metro has managed the feasibility study of the Benning Road streetcar extension. The study, which will end shortly, includes alignment alternatives and evaluation of bridge structures.

Metro is also coordinating the interoperability of the multiple streetcar lines.View the press release and the board presentation (PDF) about this study. Metro will be addressing Metrobus service and Metrobus fare transactions on streetcar lines.

Metro is proud to play a large and important role in the planning and coordination of transit projects around the region and is using its strategic planning process, Momentum, to explore ways that it can best serve the region’s transit coordination, operation, and development needs.

Categories: Planning Studies Tags: ,

Chart of the Week: Visualize One Day of Metro and Circulator

November 19th, 2012 3 comments

This great video shows one day’s worth of Metrorail, Metrobus and DC Circulator moving across the region.Metrobus and Circulator are both shown as white dots, while the Metrorail dots are keyed to line color.

The video should be viewed in full screen mode in order to really see Metrorail.

This video was created using the data from the Metro GTFS data feed by STLTransit, who have made similar videos for a variety of other cities.

MindMixer – What We Heard from the First Round of Question about Momentum: the Next Generation of Metro

November 16th, 2012 2 comments

The first round of MindMixer questions for Momentum: The Next Generation of Metro closed on October 26th. 370 people joined the conversation and posted over 90 ideas, 300 comments, and 1,600 votes. There were 4,300 visits to the site, of which 63% were unique visits. There were almost 24,000 page views and visitors stayed on the site for an average of five and a half minutes. The response was terrific and we’re excited to continue the conversation and new questions are currently on the site.

Who Commented

Mind Mixer responses by zipcode. Click for larger version.

Your fellow Metro riders who joined the conversation came from across the region.Below is a map of the number of participants by zip code.Participants ranged from 18 to over 65, with an average age of 36.5. 70% of participants were men.As our ridership is much more evenly split, we’d love to hear from more women, so please don’t be shy!Guys – please tell your female colleagues, friends, and family about the site and encourage them to comment.This month we are advertising on buses and in multiple English and non-English newspapers to further engage our riders, so keep an eye out.

What We Heard

We have compiled a summary of the vote tally from each first round question, as well as a summary of the themes of the comments within each question. The major takeaways for Metro were that our riders have a lot of interesting, creative ideas for small, short-term improvements to their daily ride, many of which could be inexpensive. Additionally, there is a desire for large infrastructure projects to expand the system, connect communities, and increase the capacity in the system core. We also noticed a need for a Metro 101 to better explain the basics of how Metro operates, as well as the pros and cons of ideas and concepts. Stay tuned to PlanItMetro for posts tagged as Metro 101.

Overall, the major themes we heard were:

  • Safety—repair and relieve crowding
  • Address core crowding first
    • More train frequency
    • Bus priority
    • Station entrances; faregates
  • More information
  • Integrate and connect other services, communities
  • Funding—long-term source

How are Metrorail Fares Calculated?

November 15th, 2012 9 comments

FY13 Metrorail Fares by Composite Mileage

Unlike older subway systems in the United States, Metrorail uses “distance-based” fares, meaning the farther you travel, the more you pay.  While a flat-fare system may be simpler, Metro has established fare policy principles that put a priority on equity rather than simplicity.

Peak Fares:  Peak rail fares are based on distance traveled (calculated to the one-hundredth of a mile).  The first three miles have one base fare, the next three miles have an incremental fare per mile, and smaller incremental fare is charged for the remaining distance. The resulting fare is rounded to the nearest $0.05 and is then capped at $5.75.  The peak fares are show in the chart above as the blue line.

Off Peak Fares:  Prior to July 2012, Metro peak fares and off-peak fares were calculated differently. Off-peak fares were fixed at three tier-based fares: short, medium and long-distance trips.  This presentation on the development of a fare model (PDF) describes the old fare structure in detail. The most recent fare increase changed the off-peak fare structure to be more like the peak fare structure, with off-peak fares generally a 25% reduction from peak fares. Current off-peak fares are show in the chart above as the green line.

The table below shows the peak and off-peak fare increments for Metro’s non-discounted full fares.  Senior citizens and DC students, for example,  receive fare discounts.

Table 1:  Metrorail “full fare” fare structure, FY13.

Peak Off-Peak
Flat fare for first 3 miles of travel $2.10 $1.70
Incremental fare for additional miles above 3 and up to 6 $0.316/mile $0.237/mile
Incremental fare for additional miles above 6 $0.280/mile $0.210/mile
Maximum fare cap, regardless of distance $5.75 $3.50

This fare structure accomplishes the Metro Board’s fare policy principle of providing equitable fares (longer distances pay more) while keeping fares reasonable. Read more…

Categories: Fares and Service Tags: , , ,

New Bike Racks at Brookland-CUA and Shady Grove

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

Metro’s Parking Office recently completed new bike rack installations at Shady Grove and Brookland-CUA stations, with parking for over 80 additional bicycles. This work was completed as part of our Pedestrian and Bicycle Capital Improvement Program.

The new racks at Brookland are located on the west side of the station, just off the Metropolitan Branch Trail. At Shady Grove, the new bicycle racks are in two places on the west side: near the station entrance and bus loop, and near the Kiss & Ride loop where bicyclists had previously locked to handrails.

Next up? Pedestrian improvements at Glenmont station – stay tuned!