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Metro says bus, rail revenue off

By Robert Thomson

Metro's financial staff says that bus and rail revenue is below projections.

The results from the first quarter of Metro's fiscal year are within 2 percent of what they should be to meet the budget for the 2011 fiscal year, according to a report prepared for the Metro board.

Year-to-date revenue is $10.3 million below budget, and expenditures are $7.1 million below budget. Total revenue in September was $66.8 million ($63.2 million in passenger revenue), which is $3.4 million off the budget.

Rail passenger revenue for September was $47.8 million, or $1.5 million below the budgeted amount. For the first three months of the fiscal year, rail passenger revenue
has been 4 percent below projections, but the trend is improving, according to the report.

In July and August, rail passenger revenue was $2 million and $1.9 million below expectations, respectively. September results showed a slight improvement.

Through the end of September, bus passenger revenue was $34.2 million.

Overall ridership -- as opposed to revenue -- is 2 percent below the levels of the last fiscal year and 4 percent below what was anticipated in the current budget. Rail ridership is at the same level as a year ago, according to the report. Year-to-date average weekday bus ridership is 6 percent below the level for the last fiscal year and 7 percent below expectations for the current budget.

The only growth area in ridership is for the MetroAccess service, used by the elderly and people with disabilities.

The transit staff is trying to figure out what's going on with ridership. Average weekday bus ridership is down about 6 percent. While there is no single reason for the decrease in ridership, contributing factors may include the economic climate, on-time performance, the fare increases and the reduction in the transfer period from three to two hours, according to the report.

Jim Hamre, a bus expert with Metro, said bad weather also may have contributed to a decline in bus ridership. He also noted that bus ridership surged in the months after the 2009 Red Line crash, which may affect comparisons between the budget years.

Jim Graham, who represents the District on the Metro board, asked the staff for a review of the impact that the D.C. Circulator bus is having on Metrobus. The Circulator buses charge $1, undercutting the Metrobus fare of $1.50 with SmarTrip.

Carol Kissal, Metro's finance officer, said the staff also is looking at the potential impact of a reduction in the fare subsidy for federal workers in January. The subsidy is scheduled to decline from the temporary high of $230 a month back to $120.

By Robert Thomson  | November 4, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

Perhaps the fact that the cost of riding Metro has gone up EXORBITANTLY and service, including customer service has gone down. I ride Metro everyday and its NOT worth the cost!

Posted by: ARM4 | November 4, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I say there should be a third party audit of metro. A few years ago the parking attendants stole millions from Metro.

I would like to see their budget and costs for the last 5 years.

Posted by: metro_realestate | November 4, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

When metro raised the fares and added a surcharge I now make sure to board before 7 and leave work in order to get on before 4:30. I now work 1 day a week from home saving 10.00 in fare and now I have my wife drop me off at the station saving 4.50 per day. So I am spending less on metro then before because you hit my limit for what I will pay. If they raise it again I will work another day from home.

People will figure out how to negate any fare increase if the service is not worth it.

Posted by: normanp2 | November 4, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if they spent more time not letting people hop on for free like they do here in Silver Spring, they would be in better shape. This is a constant problem all over Metro, and they claim a police officer has to witness it to do something. The problem is that you can never find a metro officer where they keep jumping the turnstile.

Posted by: europamo | November 4, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

What a revelation. Provide poor service and raise prices, then business drops. What planet do these idiots live on?

Posted by: Trout1 | November 4, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

What planet do these idiots live on?

Presumably the same one as our (lame duck) Congress.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 4, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with europamo,

Every time I ride the bus, and I mean EVERY time, I see atleast one person get on at subsequent stops who walk right by the fare gate without paying. Usually it is 2 or 3 and I am only on the bus for 7-10 minutes, and thats only one bus.

And the worst part is that most of the time the driver sees it happen and says nothing.

Since drivers obviously aren't equipped to deal with it, or simply don't want to, the enforcement has to be taken out of their hands. Perhaps something like a small turnstyle or faregate like device could be installed in the front of the bus. To get through, you have to pay. Seems like a pretty simple way to force everyone to pay.

Considering the number of scoffaw riders I see, I wouldn't be surprised if Metrobus is losing 10-15% of their revenue to nopayment.

Posted by: Nosh1 | November 4, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if they spent more time not letting people hop on for free like they do here in Silver Spring, they would be in better shape. This is a constant problem all over Metro, and they claim a police officer has to witness it to do something. The problem is that you can never find a metro officer where they keep jumping the turnstile.

Posted by: europamo | November 4, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

___________________________________________

THIS is what you think the big issue is - people piggybacking in behind someone with a SmarTrip card (or claiming that they just put money on their card) and getting a free ride?

Don't get me wrong, such behavior is a shameful abuse of the system. But it's not the true reason that Metro's revenues are down. A good business plan has enough wiggle room, so to speak, to make such abuses insignificant.

Posted by: georgetownred | November 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if they spent more time not letting people hop on for free like they do here in Silver Spring, they would be in better shape. This is a constant problem all over Metro, and they claim a police officer has to witness it to do something. The problem is that you can never find a metro officer where they keep jumping the turnstile.

Posted by: europamo | November 4, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

___________________________________________

THIS is what you think the big issue is - people piggybacking in behind someone with a SmarTrip card (or claiming that they just put money on their card) and getting a free ride?

Don't get me wrong, such behavior is a shameful abuse of the system. But it's not the true reason that Metro's revenues are down. A good business plan has enough wiggle room, so to speak, to make such abuses insignificant.

Posted by: georgetownred | November 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I attend language school in Arlington, and the students and faculty tell me they are now driving because it is now cheaper to drive than pay the outlandish price on the metro/bus here.

Posted by: madmike272 | November 4, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Several times I have entered a rush hour bus that quickly fills up, where the driver is taking a break outside and so, no one gets charged. That's what? 40 people at $1.50 each? $60.

Much more frequently than that, the fare reader is not working at all on a bus, so everyone gets waved onto the bus without paying. If one bus's fare reader does not get fixed until the end of the day, how many busloads of people at both ends of the line are getting free rides? That alone, could cost several hundred dollars a day for one bus.

It seems like a lot of missed revenue.

Posted by: informedtraveller | November 4, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

A lot of us have already figured out that if you already have a car, it really is cheaper to drive. Plus, you don't have to be bothered with some fat jerk taking up your seat or sitting on you, loud mouth kids, cellphone yappers, smelly homeless people begging, service outages, the weekly suicide,restrictions on drinking and eating and you can listen to your music LOUD! Bye, Metro!

Posted by: PepperDr | November 4, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Well Georgetownred, yes, I do think it is an issue and a serious one.

Total projected revenue for MetroBus is ~750 million for this year. If 10% of the rides are for free, then thats 75 million bucks Metrobus isn't getting, and that ain't chump change especially considering you and metrobus think a 2% decline in ridership is a big deal.

And lets be honest here, although its anecdotal, there is plenty of reason to think (see above posts) that the 10% non-paying customers number is probably wildly low.

I wouldn't be surprised if metrobus all of a sudden found itself with an 80-90 million dollar "extra" at the end of the year if everyone who rode the bus was actually paying the fare.

Posted by: Nosh1 | November 4, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I work for an auto insurance company and when we significantly raise our premiums we actually end up losing money because we stop writing as much new business and we don't retain our customers as well.

Metro is experiencing the same thing. The fare hikes were way too extreme with not enough improvements in service. Fewer and fewer people are taking the metro because of it and causing less money to come in.

Get some actuaries to price the metro fares not accountants and I'm sure you'll get some better results.

Posted by: rderr27 | November 4, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Make Metro not dependable by closing stations on weekends, make riders wait while track work is going on, and fares, is enough to make people shy away from riding the train.

Posted by: Hattrik | November 5, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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