Archive for December, 2013

Metrorail Fares Are Complicated, For Good

December 6th, 2013 22 comments

Metrorail’s distance-based fare structure is the most equitable.


Excerpt of Metrorail distance-based fare table.

Metrorail is one of only three heavy rail systems in the United States with distance-based fares.  (BART and PATCO are the other two.)  And to the best of my knowledge, it’s the only one with peak and off-peak fares.  With 86 stations (soon to be 91) and two fare time-periods (it used to be three), the average rider has a large number of possible fare combinations.

The benefits of Metrorail’s existing fare structure are many-fold, but chief among them are equity, efficiency, and economics.

The fare structure is fair.   Distance-based and time-of-day fares allow transit riders to pay fares in proportion to the level of service they’re using.  Peak period riders pay more and have more frequent service.  Short distance travel is less expensive than long-distance.  With flat fares, those who take short trips subsidize those who take longer trips, and people who ride during times of reduced service subsidize those who ride during the peaks when trains are most frequent.  With zone-based fares, customers taking short trips that cross a zone boundary pay a larger fare than other customers taking longer trips entirely within a zone boundary.

The fare structure is equitable.  A switch from distance-based to flat-fare that was revenue neutral (not losing money) would raise a Title VI equity concern.  Planning staff have done a preliminary analysis, and such a switch would have a disproportionate burden on low-income riders.  A switch to flat fares that was not revenue neutral would result in higher subsidies from Metro’s funding partners

The fare structure promotes economic efficiency. People use resources more efficiently if they’re priced to reflect the value of the resource.  Economists love variably priced roads like the Intercounty Connector (MD-200) and the I-495 Express Lanes, as the per-mile prices are set to keep traffic flowing.  The same concept applies to Metrorail’s distance-based and peak/off-peak fares. Read more…

Categories: Fares and Service Tags: ,

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

December 5th, 2013 91 comments

Step right up and check out the proposed 2040 core Metrorail configuration with new Blue and Yellow Lines and a third line in Virginia!

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Core Configuration

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Core Configuration

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

What does this network do? The proposed rail network shown above is expected to reduce future crowding on Metrorail, provide enough capacity for future development, and expand the reach of transit in the region, especially to regional activity centers.

Why are we proposing it? This rail network is part of the 2040 Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP). Its purpose is to develop the rail and surface transit network for 2040 that meets the needs of the growing Washington DC region.

What else have we considered? About a month ago, we posted about some of the possible long-range changes to the Metrorail core that we are considering as part of the RTSP. We analyzed four different core configurations, gathered your comments, and the final configuration for the core is shown above. As many of you commented, it is a combination of two of the scenarios (Scenarios B and C).

Next Steps: The next and final step for the RTSP is to use this configuration, along with the high capacity surface corridors, to conduct a final round of analysis. The output will provide us with information on ridership, mode share, levels of crowding, transfers, etc. and ultimately a final network for 2040.

Let us know what you think!

A few extra notes:

(1) The Metrorail network shown in this post will be layered with an extensive high capacity surface transit network to expand transit and meet the needs of employment and population growth in the region.

(2) For the plan to have validity and acceptability across the region and within the federal planning process, it is based on the region’s adopted cooperative land use forecast for 2040. We used the Aspirations Land Use scenario to stress test the core of the system, but ultimately the plan needs to start with the region’s adopted land use. As follow on work to this plan, we will be testing different land uses to see what else we can learn to improve long-range plans.

(3) All of the lines shown, as well as all of the high capacity surface transit corridors, will need corridor studies, alternatives analyses, and full engineering studies. This cannot be done at a regional level, but would need to happen on a project by project, line by line level. So, while we are showing a new Blue Line on M Street, it very well could be on N or P Streets.