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Posted at 10:06 PM ET, 03/15/2010

Metro ridership rebounds quickly from storm lows

By Erica Johnston

Metro rail ridership rebounded quickly from its February blizzard low, and increased in a few days by more than 750,000 trips, the transit system said Monday.

On Feb. 10, the day that blizzard conditions essentially shut down the Washington area, Metro operations were severely curtailed, and the number of rail trips dwindled to 36,097, a figure described by a spokeswoman as “very, very low.” But by Feb. 18, the number of trips had soared to 803, 641, Metro said.

Typically, according to Metro, that level of ridership characterizes days during the height of the tourist system or during large-scale special events.

The rail system has come under sharp criticism in recent months, particularly over safety issues, and riders have complained about crowding and other issues.

The ridership figures, spokeswoman Angela Gates said Monday night, are “good news for us.” She said Metro was “glad to see that riders are still putting their trust in us.”

On Feb. 18 a year ago, 731, 585 trips were taken on Metrorail. The explanation for the sharp increase in Feb. 18 ridership this year was not immediately clear.

One possibility was that effects of the storm on surface travel had not yet disappeared.
“When the region opened for business after the blizzards, many roadways were still piled high with snow banks,” which blocked traffic and parking areas, so commuters climbed on board Metro” outgoing Metro general manager John Catoe said in a statement.

“It looks like they’ve stayed with us,” he said. “The high level of ridership has continued through the first half of March.”

Ridership levels have apparently not been affected substantially by a fare increase that began Feb. 28, Gates said. The increase of 10 cents a ride “ didn’t really have an effect” on the number of trips, she said.

She said about 750,000 trips a day were recorded last week.

-- Martin Weil

By Erica Johnston  | March 15, 2010; 10:06 PM ET
Categories:  DC, Traffic and Transportation, Virginia  
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