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Metro ridership remains at its lowest level in a decade, a report prepared for the Finance and Administration Committee states. Across Metro’s modes, riders took 9.5 million fewer trips between October and December compared to that point in the previous year, a 5.4 percent drop. In the report, Metro outlines why it thinks people have been shying away from its services.
The Silver Line
Apparently the new kid on the block is having a hard time assimilating: The addition of the Silver Line correlated with less reliability in the Metrorail system overall, with a noticeable dip in ridership beginning in May 2015.
The Weather (But Also Not the Weather)
Declines in ridership abound at nearly all stations, including at different times and across types of trips. In the report, Metro notes that “these widespread declines were not tied to any particular events” or the weather in the autumn or early winter, which was “relatively mild.” (The January blizzard, however, was tough on the system: Metro says it lost up to $8 million in revenue over five days and spent an additional $6 million.)
Why Weekend ridership was especially bad is not such a mystery: Metro notes it was “closely correlated to weather and the level of service related to track work and rebuilding projects.”
That Time a Transformer Caught Fire
The Blue and Orange lines saw significant drops due to a transformer fire outside the Stadium-Armory station last September, which took six hours to put out and disrupted train service significantly through November. Speed restrictions were put in place, and service past or to the station was often delayed or cancelled.
Commutes Are Getting Longer, More Miserable in General
Turns out you’re not getting less patient waiting for trains—they actually are less reliable. Using tap-in and tap-out times to represent commutes, Metro found that median travel times, unpredictability of travel times, and the frequency of severe delays all increased.
D.C.’s new “Kids Ride Free on Rail” pass has meant a drop of between 1,500 and 2,000 bus trips a day due to students taking advantage of the free program. The passes are valid for the entire school term as long as a student is a District resident and enrolled in a public school.
SmarTrip Users Falling Out of Love
“Frequent” users of the plastic reusable cards have been riding less. This means core ridership is down across the board, as they perhaps begin their process of conscious uncoupling with the service.
Operate Together, Die Together
Apparently as rail is going down, it’s dragging the buses down, too, as the report noted that “there is evidence that rail ridership losses are impacting busses.” Though on the upside, Metrobus isn’t in it alone, since other regional bus services are also dropping at sharper rates than its bus service. So there’s always that.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery