Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Metro’s new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, starts working for the transit agency today. He’s already said that riders shouldn’t see fare increases until reliability improves, a proposal that should please Metro’s increasingly dissatisfied riders. Another possible bright spot? A proposed entry/exit “grace period.”
A customer satisfaction report finds that riders’ satisfaction with Metrorail is down six percentage points from last quarter and ten percentage points from one year ago. Although riders’ satisfaction with Metrobus has moved in the other direction—up eight points from last quarter and one point from last year—the report states that “reliability alone accounts for 30 percent of a customer’s dissatisfaction,” and that Metrorail customers are “experiencing more problems during their day to day trips”: two problems on average per trip, according to Metro’s data.
A “problem,” as defined by the report, could be a broken fare machine, an out-of-service-escalator, or an unavailable employee. These experiences are up 300 percent from two years ago, when the average rider reported less than one problem a trip. Among Metro’s biggest losses to rail customers’ satisfaction are railcar malfunctions preventing dispatch or causing trains to go out of service (63 percent combined), track repairs (16 percent), and an “other” category including congestion, delays, and police activity (comprising 13 percent).
One way Metro could easily boost goodwill among rail riders is through a proposed grace period that would allow people to enter and leave the same station without incurring any costs. Currently, “same-station entry/exit transactions represent about 0.5 percent of all rail transactions in a given month,” according to the agency, indicating that riders get fed up with poor service and decide to use another mode of transportation after already having swiped through a Metrorail gate. Metro estimates it would lose close to $2 million per year in revenue if it were to provide a 15-minute grace period during which it would credit back fares to riders who chose to leave a station.
Meanwhile, total Metrobus complaints are down roughly 20 percent since last year, according to the report, from 117 complaints per million trips to 95 complaints per million trips. Driving that downward trend are fewer complaints regarding delays, no shows, and rude or unsafe operators. Metro says it’s working to put more 7000-series railcars into service, employing overtime for weekend maintenance on trains, and “continuing rehab and repairs to restore normal service at Stadium-Armory following [the Sept. 21] substation fire.”
Luckily for riders, Wiedefeld may get his way on fares, when Metro’s board votes Thursday on the proposed 2017 fiscal year budget. It “maintains current fares and service levels while requiring no increase in overall jurisdictional operating subsidy.”
Photos via Metro Board Customer Satisfaction Report