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Metro's Growing Popularity

Question for you Metro riders out there: The subway system has set a cluster of records for ridership over the past few months. Some of this lately has to do with the Nats games at RFK, but that's not all of it.

What do you think is going on? Is it gas prices? Are you noticing that the trains are more crowded during your morning and evening commutes?

Friday was the latest date to join Metro's list of top ten ridership days. There were 783,093 trips taken Friday, making it the seventh highest ridership in the system's history. RFK was a sellout that night, the first of the Nats' three games against the New York Yankees.

I took a train from McPherson Square to Stadium-Armory at about 7:30 p.m. I was surprised about how many latecomers were on the train, but it was a smooth trip. We left after the seventh inning, so we didn't experience the full post-game crush from the sellout. Anybody have a report on how the trains have been performing, or on the usefulness of the free Metro shuttle buses from the stadium to Union Station?

Here's what Metro said today about the record-setting pace:

Metrorail ridership reached 783,093 trips Friday, June 16, the seventh highest weekday ridership in the system's 30-year history. Friday marked the fourth consecutive day last week and the seventh day this month to see a high weekday ridership. Friday's sold out Washington National's game contributed to the high ridership. It is traditionally unusual for Fridays to be high ridership days.
Ridership on June 13 was 786,843, June 14 was 774,802 and June 15 was 777,287. Each set a record as a top 10 weekday ridership day. Ridership on June 6 was 758,927 and June 7 was 764,511. Each set a top 25 weekday ridership record.

-- Robert Thomson
(For the vacationing Steven Ginsberg)

By Robert Thomson  |  June 19, 2006; 1:47 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

I've noticed a slight uptick on the Red Line in the mornings. I board at Cleveland Park and commute down to Farragut North every day. Seems that they're a skosh more crowded nowadays.

I'm not sure if it's the gas prices, although that's a good guess. I sold my car in January, but I did it because I never used it, so it's not like I've switched to Metro all of the sudden.

Posted by: Ed | June 19, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Ed, I take the Red Line from the other side: Silver Spring to Farragut North. I second your observation of the "skosh" more passengers.

I used to drive the 9 miles from home to work, but gave that up for Metro about five years ago when I thought about how I was paying $10 a day to warehouse my car downtown. At the time, when I added up the costs of driving vs. Metro, I figured I saved $750 a year. Bet it's more now.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | June 19, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't call it "popularity", which suggests riders are happily choosing Metro. I worked and lived inside DC and I never took Metro if I could avoid it (certainly not enough to make me cough up $5 for a SmartCard), usually preferred the bus and was lucky to live at the intersection of three good lines. Lately I have a new job outside of DC and am happy to have an easy car commute and very reasonable parking fees. I have heard so many complaints about Metro from co-workers over many many years and it seems to be getting worse. I know Metro is working on getting 6-car trains as the norm, but that won't solve all the problems.

Posted by: Not a Metro fan | June 19, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't it be tourism? I've noticed crazy amounts of vacationers above ground, so maybe they're all in the subway too.

(I haven't noticed much more crowding on my own commute, but it's very short, just 1 or 2 stops depending on how far I feel like walking. So I don't see the crushing crowds at, say, Smithsonian.)

Posted by: PQ | June 19, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I've generally been very impressed with how well Metro does moving the very large crowds quickly out of Stadium/Armory after the Nats games (and we always stay 'til the end, so we're in the full crush).

That said, I do have a rant about Saturday's travel TO the game (at about noon). I had noted Metro's announcement of single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston -- AS WELL AS their claim that the work would add TEN MINUTES to the trip. I hate to add to the "Metro always lies" chorus, but that supposed ten minutes -- try an HOUR. Yes, it took 1 hour and 45 minutes to get from Vienna to Stadium/Armory. Had Metro told the truth about the length of the delays, we would have started the trip earlier -- because they did not, we missed the first 3 innings of a great baseball game, and will probably consider driving next time.

Posted by: Orange Line | June 19, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

There have been a couple of letters printed in Dr. Gridlock's column about the reserved parking spaces at Metro lots. The issue is commuters who pay extra for the reserved parking spaces, but park in the unreserved spaces that are located closer to the station entrance. That means that the unreserved space is not available for "public" use. His reponses have been pretty snarky - if it's more money for Metro, who cares. One of your colleagues reported recently that Metro is thinking of expanding the number of reserved parking spaces. This is going to become a bigger problem for those of us who can't afford to pay the premium price for a reserved spot.

Posted by: Maggie | June 19, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes this blog just makes me laugh.

"We left after the seventh inning"
Excellent. When the sterotypical Washington sports fan is described, this detail is a must.

As for going to RFK - the parking is plentiful and has excellent traffic flow. Driving to RFK is a snap but the good times will end with the new stadium. It will be at least $25 to park and the traffic flow will be much worse.

Posted by: Joe | June 19, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Great. This will just convince Metro's Board of Directors to raise fares again (because they CAN).

Posted by: guez | June 19, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Growing in Popularity?!

Our dysfunctional supposed mass-transit system provides NO ALTERNATIVE to ANYTHING!!

Train faster than driving? Not when doing track maintenance DURING THE MIDDLE OF A WEEK DAY! The constant inconvenience of numerous broken escalators is also a non-plus.

Cheaper than driving? Not when the Metro's well documented financial misfeasance constantly drives fares and parking fees up! Any mention of improving services is immedately met with "We'll have to raise fares." Bull$%&! How about managing the money you do have in a non-criminal manner.

Metrobus? Not even a possibility due to lack of ability to follow simple schedules. Wanna bet your job on the timleyness of a Metrobus? Didn't think so. The sad part is lots of people don't have a choice.

In short, Washington Area Metro Su&*%! I loathe every second I'm aboard whenever I'm forced to take it. Yeah, its clean. It is also very "broken" and needs a desperate overhaul of its management from top to bottom.

Posted by: Occassional Rider | June 19, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Somehow I think this has more to do with the rapidly worsening traffic problems in certain areas of this city and less to do with any improvement in Metro's performance. With some streets reduced to parking lots during rush hour, what other choice do you really have?

Posted by: its the traffic... | June 19, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

An Orange Rider for years, I am incredulous that the system which has increased ridership even prior to gas increases, does not supply station managers with authority and technology to keep hundreds of people from crowding the station. At Farragut west in the past two weeks, it has taken my over two and one half hours to get from FW to Vienna, normally a half hour ride. The station manager, who is not to blame as he/she is not able to control the situation, stands over the platform shouting "do not crowd the platform. Another train is coming". Dangerous crowding and overwhelming waiting is only waiting for incidents such as brake failure and accidents to occur. This system is wonderful but as in the old days, it requires some thinking to have a limit to the weight the cars must support on each run. We all are a little heftier than in the days of wrought iron elevator doors with the man to count the passengers and close the door. The Metro trains and support system was not meant for such abuse.
When we have a Metro board made up of real riders, like Mr. Tangherlini, we might see someone listening to the riders.
The Board should devise a discount system for those of us (and in the majority) who have sat in crowded trains being pushed by other trains, or disabled and offloaded. Where do they take the money from all those parking fees which are now $3.75.

And when rails are overwhelmed, the bus system could use a few hundred more runs, for the Rosslyn station lines on certain days are unbelievable.

Posted by: Ellen O'Donohue | June 19, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Wow... people just love to complain. I come from the NY area.. so yea, DC Metro is a little less convinient than I'm used to - but I realized that it's miles beyond anywhere else in the country!

In response to the blog entry: Yes.. I for one switched to mass transit in the past 6 months as a reaction to gas prices. I actually live in SS and work near Baltimore, so I take it to Union and switch to MARC (so perhaps we can attribute at least one of the extra riders... me... to the failure of our governor in Maryland to support mass transit initiatives in our own state... That new metro comissioner should really send Mr. Ehrlich a Thank you card or gift basket or something). In reality, it has ALWAYS been cheaper for me to mass transit it to work (Even at only 37cents a mile, my 60 mile round trip commute was $22, far more than my $12/day TOTAL for metro + MARC fares).. now account for $3/gal, add wear and tear, and driving is at least 45cents a mile, possibly more, and its outright obscene to drive 60miles a day. But spending $50+ a week JUST IN GAS was immediate enough to really slap me upside the head. So yes, I think the price of gas is causing the change in ridership - although it's not always logical (because gas REALLY isn't the bulk of the cost of driving... take the price of your car and divide by 175,000 miles.. add oil changes, tires, at least 1 transmission and 1 timing belt over that 175,000 miles and a million other things.. and THERE's the cost of driving) I think that gas prices are the most immediate thing that the many stupid human beings that can't see further than the end of their nose see, and bingo.. up go transit ridership (so heck, I say increase the gas tax! people will finally act intelligently, we'll solve about 15 of the country's biggest problems, transit systems will be almost free of government subsidies because they will operate so efficiently due to high riderships... etc... I love the idea!)

Now... because I hate reading stupid comments and not speaking up.. some response to my fellow commenters:

The complaint about the quality of the metro system: It's mass transit... you pay practically nothing for it compared to driving.. and it's really much better than ALMOST everywhere else...

The complaint about fare hikes: ... I just this past weekend downloaded the budgets for NYC transit and DC Metro (public information... download em yourself if ya dont believe me here) ... Add together Rail and Bus, and the average taxpayer subsidy per ride in DC is $1.53... In NYC it's $0.76... So I'd really quit complaining about the fares... the government is paying most of it for you (my thanx to all the idiots who get in their car every morning... pay the taxes, but dont use up any of the funds.... now if only I could find a way to stop funding their dumb highways as well... hrmm) The difference is quantity.... high ridership = high efficiency = lower fares... while crowded at rush hour, that hardly pays to keep metro open all the time... more people need to ride it all the time for their everyday trips, not just commuting... ridership is a fraction on the weekends (and if you've ever been riding it on the weekend, you know that;s almost all tourists anyway!) So who is to blame for the fares? Quite simply put, WE ARE... the residents of the DC metro area.. quit complainin and go get on a metro train next time you go shopping on the weekend... the rush hour trains are well over paying for themselves... go ride one of the non-peak trains thats sucking down the subsidies and jacking up fares!

Now.. that last comment ties into my one complaint for Metro.... ridership ISSS going up... looking at the numbers, it seems like about 20k riders/day for work days.. at an average fare of $2 (i bet that number is actually higher too) thats $10M/year extra... in your pockets... go spend that on some more cars so ya can run some more 6 car trains on the lines that get 4 or 8 car trains on the lines that get 6! With these increases in ridership, you're gonna have some angry customers if ya dont start spending those fare dollars to improve the system now!

Posted by: PJB | June 20, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm a bit lost here, as I think many people are misguided about the real cost of driving v. taking the Metro.

When I was working in DC, my commute from Twinbrook to Farragut North was $10.40 per day. That's $3.20 each way and $4 to park in the lot.

If you consider that an average garage in DC charges about $180 in monthly fees and people work, on average, 21 days out of the month, that's about $8.50 per day to park. Factor in about a gallon or two of gas each day, and you're really only saving a couple bucks each time that you take the train.

Is that worth giving up the flexibility of having your car downtown in case of an emergency or an alternate destination after work? Not to mention the regular inconsistencies and delays that Metro sometimes forgets to tell us about until we're in the station.

It's obviously not cheaper to drive, but some people make it sound like the Money Truck is rolling up to their door once they start using public transit.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | June 20, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Then there's the cost all that driving has on our environment.... Not mentioned even once.

Posted by: MW | June 20, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Metro is just as bad for the environment as driving. They both use similar amounts of fossil fuels per user.

Posted by: zs | June 20, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

"Metro is just as bad for the environment as driving. They both use similar amounts of fossil fuels per user."

What stats are there to support that claim? None, since it is obviously bulls*%t. If metro doesn't go to where you work or you don't want to make the sacrifice for the good of the region and planet, fine, but don't make false statements to justify your choice, because it makes you sound like an idiot.

Posted by: hogwash | June 21, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"Metro is just as bad for the environment as driving. They both use similar amounts of fossil fuels per user."

IFFF this claim has even an ounce of truth (which I doubt it does) it is ONLY during times of very low ridership... the energy to transport a packed train is only slightly more than to transport an empty train... I promise you that at the very least, rush hour trains are far more efficient per user than driving.

As for "the cost difference isnt THAT much"... You left out wear and tear my friend... feel free to dillude yourself into believing that this cost doesn't exist, as your little analysis shows, but if you'd like to face reality, then keep reading...

Lets say $20,000 is the average cost of a car... once ya hit, say, 200,000 miles it pretty much has no resale value left, so lets say 200,000 miles is the average lifespan (its probably actually lower.. but lets say you're a thrifty driver that hangs onto your car for a long long time)... 20,000/200,000 = $0.1/mile. Now let's add just a few basic maintianance items... oil changes $25/4,000mi = $0.006/mi, tires $500/60,000mi = $0.008/mi, transmission $1000/100,000mi = $0.01/mi, timing belt $500/90,000mi = $0.005, brake jobs $500/40,000mi = 0.0125 ... that's the big ones that I can come up with off the top of my head... there's a million other small things..... Point being... standard business mileage reimbursement it ~0.45/mi at the moment... and if ya listen to pretty much ANY auto guru they'll tell ya, rent a car, cause 0.45/mi doesn't actually cover it all! If 0.15/mi of that is for gas.. the other 0.30/mi was completely omitted from your analysis ... what's your commute? 15 miles each way? 30 miles? that's another $9/day.... plus your calculated 8.50/day parking + 4.5/day gas... you're up to $22/day over time. compared to maybe $5/day on metro... a savings of $17/day... times 250 working days a year... $4,250/year.... I consider that pretty significant.. maybe you don't... keep driving if ya don't... perhaps once your glutenous disregard for the world's limitted resources pushes the price up to $10...$15 /gal, then it'll be significant enough for ya... mabye it won't still, i dunno your situation... i'm just tryin to fillin the holes in your deceptive math. The fact that people pay attention to nothing but the immediate upfront day to day costs that you mention is exactlly the problem with this country. We are driving up the cost of urban living, pushing the lower-middle class out to the cheaper suburbs, raising the demand for gas, and at the same time ever increasing the price for it... it is just one of the many myths that perpetuate the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.. and it's perpetuated by people who think that just cause it doesn't show up on this month's credit card bill, the cost doesn't exist... it does.

Posted by: PJB | June 21, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Post-game crush: I typically make it into the Stadium-Armory station before WMATA blocks entry in order for the platform to clear. On Friday night, leaving right after the final out, I was not able to get in before the entrace was blocked. It was about 7-8 minutes before they let us in, which was not too bad.

Posted by: WFY | June 21, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I always drive to RFK. The nearest two Metro stops to my house are at Van Dorn and Franconia-Springfield. It's a minimum of 45 minutes on the train. When I drive, I park as close to the exit for the RFK Access Road as possible without parking on the end of a row (want to shield the car from traffic) and I'm usually home within 20 minutes of pulling out of the space after a game. No comparison, in my view--driving to RFK is better if you live in Virginia.

Posted by: Rich | June 21, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse


"Metro is just as bad for the environment as driving. They both use similar amounts of fossil fuels per user."

"What stats are there to support that claim? None, since it is obviously bulls*%t. If metro doesn't go to where you work or you don't want to make the sacrifice for the good of the region and planet, fine, but don't make false statements to justify your choice, because it makes you sound like an idiot."

Go to google, wikipedia, or the library and look up the average energy usage per passenger mile and you will find that cars are actually slightly more efficient than trains and buses are a little more effecient than cars on average. Metro trains don't run on solar, wind, or foot power, so the power has to come from somewhere, and it takes a ton of electricity to move those trains.

I'm believe strongly in green living and want us to change from fossil fuels to renewable and pollution free sources for our health and for the environment. Unfortunately metro doesn't meet this goal and by using the arguement that building metro will lower pollution is a cheap way to ignore the real issues. This pigeon holes ideas such as electric cars, since they don't fit in the mass transit ideology, even though combined with a solar powered home would be zero emissions.

If I have to pick I would rather people drive 3 miles to work rather than ride the train 20-50 miles no matter where it goes.

Posted by: zs | June 21, 2006 7:02 PM | Report abuse

zs is obviously a GM shill. BTW, your last sentence makes no sense.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 9:24 AM | Report abuse

"zs is obviously a GM shill. BTW, your last sentence makes no sense"

Great argument "blank". You definitely put some thought into that.

To clarify my last sentence. The goal needs to be conservation and weening ourselves off fossil fuels. Riding the train 50 miles from Baltimore or the metro 20 miles from Shady Grove does nothing to help this cause. The fact is a person that lives closer to work (within a few miles), shops in their neighborhood, and limits the amount they travel in either cars, metro, or any other fuel burning form of transportation is doing far more to conserve.

My angst is with the idea that metro is an environmentally friendly choice, and then using that idea to promote poor policies such as dense development near metro stations that aren't near job centers (i.e. Vienna, Dunn Loring, Springfield). It's used as a way to skirt the real environmental issues since there is an implied idea out there that using trains is great for the planet.

Posted by: zs | June 22, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

zs, the jerk store called, and they're running out of YOU!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I think the big problem with Metro is the "dwell" time at the stations. For some reason they didn't put enough doors on the cars so people have difficulty getting on and off. That makes the dwell time longer, which makes the overall travel time longer and delays all of the trains. It makes very inefficient use of the tunnels and stations. I think New York has more doors and their dwell time is shorter. (i.e. They load and unload faster). You get less seats but the ride is shorter so standing isn't as big a deal. Also you can get more runs out of each train so the frequency can increase for the same cost of operations. Sydney got their dwell time down real low for the Olympics. I think it was less than a minute.

Hopefully the next car order that Metro does will include more doors and less seats or they should look into retrofitting the existing cars.

Also why don't they run the Virginia Commuter trains through to Maryland and the Maryland MARC commuter trains through to Virginia. That way you could go straight from Gaithersburg, Rockville, Silver Spring, New Carrollton, or even Baltimore to L'enfant plaza or Alexandria and vice versa with less stops and no transfers. I think the Paris RER works that way.

Finally think about running 10 car trains and have the two cars on each end alternate stopping at station platforms. New York does that for their long trains at their short station platforms. AMTRAK does it too.

All in all DC could easily improve thier system operation and capacity with a little tweaking.

Posted by: Mark | July 5, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

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