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Metro reports its on-time rates

Metro's latest report on its own performance shows that Metrorail's on-time performance was slightly better this July than it was a year before, but Metrobuses weren't doing as well as in the previous year.

Metro's rocky ride

USER PHOTOS: Share pictures of your experiences on Metro trains and buses.

TIMELINE: Take a look back at mishaps and tragedies in the system since 2009.

The monthly scorecards, instituted by Interim General Manager Richard Sarles, track some of the performance indicators that directly affect riders. The latest scorecard, reporting performance in July, is scheduled for presentation to a Metro board committee today.

The results are broad summaries of system-wide performance. For example, Metrorail's on-time rate was calculated at 88.6 percent for this July, compared to 86.4 percent for July 2009. While up slightly from last year, this July's on-time performance had declined slightly from the previous month (89.9 percent for June).

July was the first full month in which Metrorail reduced the number of rush-hour trains on the Red Line, the busiest line, in an attempt to improve the consistency of train arrival times. (Metro had announced plans to do this, but did not note the schedule change on June 27, the date the performance report says it took effect.)

What changed on Red Line
Before June 27: Trains departed Shady Grove and Glenmont every five minutes. Between Grosvenor and Silver Spring, the stations where some trains turn back to increase service at the busiest stations, trains were scheduled to operate every 2-1/2 minutes. There were 44 trains on the line. Of those, 37 were six cars long and seven were eight cars long, for a total of 278 cars.

After June 27: Trains now are scheduled to leave Shady Grove and Glenmont every six minutes. Between Grosvenor and Silver Spring, they are scheduled for every three minutes. A total of 41 trains are assigned to operate, with 22 six cars long and 19 eight cars long, for a total of 284 cars.

So the line has fewer trains, which Metro officials hope will mean that they won't get bunched up at rush hour and have a better chance of maintaining the scheduled I just described.

Red Line riders, have you noticed a difference? I'm not sure the summer, with its lower ridership, is a real test of this plan. We may not really be able to judge it till we see an evaluation for September and the rest of the fall months.

The slight improvement from July to July also is tough to evaluate. July 2009, the benchmark for this particular Vital Signs report, was the month after the Red Line crash, when service was remained disrupted. However, this July had its own problems, with the severe thunderstorms bringing down trees and power lines, and interfering with rail service.

Escalator availability was about the same this July as last year, but had declined slightly compared to this June. Elevator availability also was about the same as last year, but down slightly from June 2010. Nothing encouraging there.

The on-time rate for buses in July was 72.8 percent, down from 77 percent the previous July and slightly down from the 73 percent recorded for June 2010. With buses operating on many congested routes, with plenty of traffic signals and occasional detours, this on-time rate is almost certain to remain below that for Metrorail.

Metro's report says that July's on-time performance continued a three-month string in which nearly three of every four buses kept to its schedule. (As with Metrorail, the transit authority cuts itself some slack in defining "on-time.") Also consistent with the previous months, one out of every four buses ran late 75 percent of the time or was early 25 percent of the time.

By Robert Thomson  | September 16, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Metro, Metrobus, Transit  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail  
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Next: BRAC town hall tonight

Comments the service is just as crappy as last year immediately after the crash. What a surprise!

What I want is a web page by metro addressing the steps required to return to automatic train operation along with their progress. If they aren't held accountable they will drag it out as long as they can!

Posted by: Razor04 | September 16, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Maintaining schedules at the cost of reduced passenger capacity. Is the head of Metro scheduling autistic?

must keep schedule
must keep schedule

Posted by: jiji1 | September 16, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Well the theory with running fewer trains was that they'd be running longer trains (you know those elusive 8 car trains?). Of course when half the trains arrive with one or more cars out of service we just get reduced capacity all around.

Posted by: Razor04 | September 16, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I've noticed the Red Line difference, and it seems to be good so far. There are a LOT more 8-car trains, and the annoyance of being stuck in a tunnel with the "there's a train right ahead of us" message playing repeatedly seems to be gone. This is a good change. Let's see if it stays that way!

Posted by: pikamander007 | September 16, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Well, they may have addressed some of the Red Line issues but the Blue/Orange lines in and out of Rosslyn still suck.

Maybe once a week you get through to Rosslyn without a delay and in two months I've been able to get maybe three (3) 8 car trains on the orange line. That counts both morning leaving Vienna and afternoon leaving Rosslyn.

Which would bother me less IF the trains ran on something approaching a consistent schedule. However.... while Metro *thinks* they are meeting the goal of "maintaining schedules" they don't answer the overall question of exactly what schedule that happens to be. Again, Orange/Blue lines you end up with trains that may run every couple minutes, or trains that run every 7 - 15 minutes.

Posted by: mika_england | September 16, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Remember a train can be a few minutes off schedule yet still be considered on time using their metric.

Posted by: Razor04 | September 16, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"Remember a train can be a few minutes off schedule yet still be considered on time using their metric."

I understand that. Which goes to show that Metro's assessment of their own performance is always going to be positive. It's easy to have 'good' performance when your employees are the ones who both make up the metrics and assess the performance against those metrics.

Posted by: mika_england | September 16, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Can we hire a GM from a Japanese rail system (or any system outside the US)? We'd probably make progress then!

Posted by: Razor04 | September 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

measuring year over year performance, when performance sucks, is not a very good measure. case in point...elevator/escalator availability.

also, lack of stats on outages/problems (in real numbers and percentage of overall rides) seems like a huge oversight. You could run 100 trains and if 50 of them get taken out of service, they arent calculated into the on-time %age. thats skewing the picture.

Posted by: mpfierro | September 17, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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