Tens of Thousands of Customers Relied on Metrobus During SafeTrack Surges 3 and 4

September 12th, 2016

Surges 3 and 4 saw the highest shuttle bus ridership of SafeTrack so far. Overall, Metrobus shuttles moved around 17,000 trips per day during Surge 3, and around 25,000 trips per day during Surge 4.

With shuttles every 2.5 minutes and Metroway running every 6 minutes, there were about 35 buses per hour during peak periods on Route 1. Taken together, the two services moved about 31,000 passengers per day during Surge 4. As a comparison, that stretch of road serves about 41,000 cars per day.

A small portion of shuttle bus ridership was on the Franconia to Pentagon shuttle, with the remainder on shuttles between Pentagon City, Braddock Road, Crystal City, and National Airport. The sheer volume of ridership on the shuttle buses made the shuttle operation Metro’s busiest bus line, albeit temporarily. At 25,000 trips per day, the shuttles moved more riders than we typically move on any other major bus route, including some of the busiest like 16th Street NW, or the various 30’s buses.

Not all rail customers chose to use the shuttles.

Some riders, especially those traveling locally, switched to other bus routes. Ridership on the Metroway premium bus service more than doubled compared to June, and during Surge 4, it nearly tripled compared to the same period last year! Ridership on the 10A was up 29-64%, and 11Y ridership was up 128-133%, or more than double. Metrobus added service on all of these alternative lines, and Metroway did not charge fares during the Surges. We will be monitoring future ridership to see if any customers decide to remain with Metroway after the surges end.

Overall bus ridership on other lines in the Surge area was up 1%.

These first SafeTrack surges highlight one of bus’ key attributes as a mode: flexibility.

Metrobus has supported the SafeTrack work by moving tens of thousands of passengers along corridors that don’t normally see that level of demand for bus service, in different locations every couple of weeks. There’s been plenty of work behind the scenes to make that happen:

  • The planning and scheduling team has worked out which routes the buses should take, which bus bays they should use at the stations, what time the buses need to leave the garages, and more.
  • Our customer facilities team has ensured there were signs up at all the stops and stations pointing the way to bus service.
  • The bus maintenance team has kept all the buses for SafeTrack up and running.
  • The street operations staff have answered passengers’ questions and worked with the Bus Operations Communications Center and the bus operators to make sure everything ran smoothly.
  • Bus operators have learned new routes in a very short amount of time and safely taken tens of thousands of passengers where they needed to go.

Usually, Metrobus makes service changes only about once a quarter, since passengers count on the consistency and reliability of our service. But when it’s needed, bus service can be very nimble, allowing it to support the important maintenance work being done during SafeTrack.

Did you ride Metroway or the shuttles during Surge 3 or 4? What did you think? What other opportunities are there to capitalize on the flexibility of bus service?

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  1. Ann Wong
    June 9th, 2017 at 22:23 | #1

    Hi, How does Metro determine the number of shuttles/buses will be needed to support an station closure? Does Metro try to estimate how many riders may need the shuttle? If so, how does Metro figure out how many riders will need to be serviced by the shuttle?

    I.e. how did Metro determine that it was going to run shuttles every 2.5 minutes and 35 shuttle trips an hour?

    Thank you in advance!

  2. Catherine
    June 13th, 2017 at 11:27 | #2

    @Ann Wong


    Metro staff look at the rail ridership along the affected segment, which can be calculated pretty easily because of the way people tap in and out of our rail system. Based on past experience, the planners are able to estimate how many of those riders will continue to use the system and how many will divert to other modes (including Metrobus). That lets them plan enough shuttle bus capacity to serve everyone. On some of the larger Surges, they’ve also had to account for the number of buses and bus operators that were available, and how many vehicles could be accommodated in the bus bays at the affected rail stations. On some of the smaller Surges where shuttle bus ridership was expected to be light, they’ve tried to make sure shuttles run at a good frequency (every 10 or 15 minutes, for example).

    We keep a close eye on the shuttle bus ridership in the first few days of a Surge, too, so that if there’s crowding we can add more vehicles and if ridership is light we can run fewer shuttles and preserve the resources for other projects.

  3. Ann Wong
    June 24th, 2017 at 13:53 | #3

    Thank you, Catherine!

  4. Ann Wong
    January 14th, 2018 at 14:58 | #4

    Happy New Year, PlanIt Metro, Catherine!

    I have a follow-on question to the above.

    Has Metrobus ever considered having non-stop buses that connect Metro station to Metro station, in situations outside of a temporary station closure? I’m looking at long haul station pairings, for instance, Greenbelt straight to Largo or Franconia Springfield straight to Vienna?

    Thank you in advance!

    vr Ann

  5. Catherine
    January 18th, 2018 at 10:20 | #5

    @Ann Wong
    I asked our director of bus planning about this, and his response was the following:

    During the Regional Bus Study and in several local and circumferential Transit Service studies the idea of long distance connections was considered. A few, like Tyson’s to Bethesda, Lake Forest to Silver Spring, Springfield to Tyson’s and the new Vienna to Foggy Bottom were tried. Most have subsequently failed to generate sufficient ridership or priority to survive the budget axe. The markets are small and the travel time savings not sufficient to warrant additional services.

    The issue of “regional activity center travel connectivity “ has not been developed as a network concept. There may be service connections that have grown in the past decade sufficiently to warrant a new attempt. However, funding priorities have left little taste for experimentation at the scale necessary to be successful.

  6. Ann Wong
    January 30th, 2018 at 23:10 | #6

    Thank you, Catherine! vr Ann

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