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Metrorail Ridership Still Strong

During the hearings late last year on the Metro fare increases, many riders talked about the likelihood that people would abandon the trains and take to their cars in reaction to the biggest Metro fare increases ever. So far, I don't see such a trend in the ridership numbers that Metro posts on its Web site.

pids Metro photo.jpg An ideal world. (Metro photo)

Now, of course, it's still early. The fare increases took effect on Jan. 6. But so far, the weekday ridership numbers are higher than on weekdays last January. One example from last week: On Thursday, Jan. 24, 722,390 Metrorail trips were recorded. On Jan. 24, 2007, which was a Wednesday, ridership totaled 719,701. From a week earlier: On Thursday, Jan. 17, rail ridership was 713,053. On the same date in 2007, it was 691,186.

Ridership varies from day to day as well as year to year, and it's tough to spot a trend over just a couple of weeks. Weather, school schedules, special events -- lots of factors can make a difference. It's best to keep watching the numbers. But so far, it doesn't appear that the Big Bailout that some predicted is happening.

If that's so, I would not characterize it as a credit to Metro's improved service. The same Metro Web pages that record the ridership totals also list the daily service disruptions. (It's to Metro's credit that these accounts are readily accessible to riders.)

Some typical problems from Jan. 24:
"6:12 a.m. An inbound Red Line train at Shady Grove was taken out of service because of a mechanical problem. One train shared the opposite track around the disabled train, and one train was turned back for service. Customers experienced significant delays."
"8:38 a.m. An outbound Orange Line train at Clarendon was taken out of service because of a report of fire on the track, and customers were required to exit the train. Several trains were turned back for service. Metro provided shuttle bus service to help transport customers to nearby Metrorail stations. Customers experienced significant delays."

You see these problems every day. But have you seen any signs on the platforms and on the trains that the old ridership isn't there? Or are the trains still stuffed?

By Robert Thomson  |  January 30, 2008; 5:16 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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