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Posted at 8:12 AM ET, 02/18/2011

VRE surpasses 20,000 daily riders

By Jennifer Buske

The Virginia Railway Express reached a new ridership milestone Wednesday, serving more than 20,000 daily riders, rail officials said.

VRE provided 20,133 passenger trips, shattering the January ridership record by more than 200 trips, VRE officials said.

"Today, everyone who has ever served on the board, or assisted VRE - whether elected officials, agency officials or executive appointees - should take a moment and smile at what you've helped to create," VRE Operations Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said. "I know I am, and do every day when I think of what VRE means to so many on a daily basis."

The number of riders using the commuter rail service continues to rise, VRE officials said. Ridership is up 7.5 percent over the same period last year, which equates to about 152,000 more people taking the train and avoiding the clogged highways in Northern Virginia.

Bulova said she attributes the growth to the region's commitment to invest in various transportation alternatives. When VRE was created in 1992, it's mission was to serve 10,000 riders.

"Back then we hoped that one day we'd grow the business to carry 10,000 and I still remember back in 2000 when we accomplished that feat that it seemed remarkable, but in a few short years we've doubled even that milestone," she said.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, only 13 of 27 commuter rail agencies recently showed a growth in ridership, VRE officials said.

VRE Chief Executive Dale Zehner said it is the ongoing commitment of the VRE Operations Board that has helped make the commuter rail a success. He also said VRE's reliability is luring people in and he believes riders will stay as long as the company continues to meet their expectations.

So far for February, VRE officials said their on-time performance is at 97 percent.

By Jennifer Buske  | February 18, 2011; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Northern Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Railway Express  
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VRE service is much better than Metro for long trips.

It is cheaper to ride the VRE from Burke Centre to DC (with a monthly ticket(40 trips) - $5.00 per trip) than Vienna Metro to DC ($5.15 per trip - peak).

VRE Parking - Free.
Metro Parking ~ $4.50

VRE Free Wifi - coming soon!
Metro - No

Posted by: marchar123 | February 17, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

VRE is crowded now and verging on being unsafe. It used to be that when I got on at Alexandria that I had to stand, I now get on at Crystal City and I have to stand, sometimes people are shoved in the train like sardines, if we have to stop quickly, there will be injuries. VRE Officials have seen to it that the number of parking spaces outpace the room on the train. They also show in a recent forum that they prefer single cars in the lot and that the building of extra parking discourages the use of car pools and buses to get to the train (I'm assuming they are afraid of losing ridership to these other methods of travel).

They are also looking at removing bicycles from the train, currently bikes are ONLY allowed on the last three trains in or out of the city. I'd like to know who's REALLY looking over VRE and making sure they provide a reasonable service to the taxpayers of Virginia.

Please also review the on-time rates for VRE, ask them if they include canceled trains in their performance review. Among many passengers the phrase "A canceled train isn't a late train" is used to show that VRE doesn't seem to count these as late.

Posted by: pramseycom | February 18, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

VRE is running at what must be 100% capacity, even accounting for the less crowded trains at the tail end of evening rush. VRE wants to add capacity, but are space-constrained by the Amtrak yards north of Union. This is becoming a real problem as the on-board experience has moved from difficult to trying.

20K is a great milestone, and I laud VRE for it, but SRO train service is less than desirable.

Posted by: ennepe68 | February 18, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The VRE's growth has come at the expense of customer service. Two weeks ago I received a Fare Evasion Summons for accidentally purchasing a monthly pass one stop short of my destination. I am now faced with a $181 fine or a court date for an honest mistake.

During the past nine months that I’ve been riding the VRE I’ve experienced multiple “mistakes” performed by the VRE – I’d like to know how many VRE employees were fined for the following:

• Conductor misinforming me that I had a mandatory court date for a simple charge.
• Train doors not opening at the Rolling Road Station so passengers could not get off the train (the train left the station without letting us off)
• Train doors opening beyond the end of the Rolling Road platform leaving passengers facing an eight foot drop off the train
• The train not stopping completely while passengers got off at Rolling Road
• The train moving as passengers were boarding the train
• Air Conditioning not working
• Delays of countless hours
• Ticket Vending Machine eating my ride pass
• Many, many unresponsive ticket vending machines

This list could go on and on. I’m sure that all of this “mistakes” have reasonable explanations – I’ve been the recipient of many long worded emails explaining the events and promising a focus on customer service. The point that I making should be very clear: I, as customer, have been extremely tolerant ofthe VRE’s mistakes. I’m extremely disappointed and outraged that the VRE has not extended me the same courtesy.

Posted by: avgibson | February 21, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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