Estimating the Impact of the US Citizenship and Immigration Facility on Metrorail

February 24th, 2016

The Federal Government is the region’s single largest employer, and where it chooses to locate its jobs has huge implications for ridership, revenue, and the local operating subsidy.

We recently detailed why the Federal government’s location decisions matter so much to Metro – and you, the taxpayers who help support WMATA through your local taxes.  We’re always keeping an eye on moves within the region and certainly hopeful that any major moves (whether they are in the public sector or private sector) locate near Metrorail.  That’s because locating near Metrorail increases ridership, increases farebox revenue, and lowers the (your) taxpayer burden to support Metro.

Naturally, the news about GSA’s upcoming decision on the location of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services complex (USCIS) caught our eye and wonkiness.  We wanted to know about how much ridership and revenue the different options might generate.


(Note, the WaPo article indicates – “The project calls for 575,000 square feet of Metro-accessible office space and a 15-year lease in either the District, Crystal City, Pentagon City or Prince George’s County south of Route 4. It would bring more than 3,000 jobs and substantial property tax revenue to the winning jurisdiction.”)

We don’t know exactly where the potential location in “the District” might be, but here’s what our Land Use-Ridership Model tell us so far about the other sites.  Putting 3,000 new jobs at any of these sites would produce roughly the same amount of ridership, about 1,000 new trips per day and rail mode share of the building at approximately 15-20%.  The bigger difference from Metrorail’s point of view is likely that the Prince George’s County locations would attract ridership when/where we have plenty of excess capacity on the rails already.  That means filling seats that are otherwise going to be empty.

Preliminarily, the modeling suggest the following (all numbers are average weekday):

  • Crystal City: 900 net new trips
  • Pentagon City: 1,000 net new trips
  • Naylor Road: 1,100 net new trips
  • Branch Ave: 1,000 net new trips

As far as revenues go, the higher the trip count, the greater the revenue impact to Metro.  For the above options, the revenue would be roughly $750,000 to $1,000,000 per year, with the further out stations bringing in the most revenue.  The twinkling star: if this ends up being a great TOD project sitting right near the station, we could see ridership numbers nearly double these estimates.

What do you think about the pros and cons of this site selection decision?

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