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More households near transit mean more transit riders

Pop quiz! Can you name the 5 Metro stations that have the highest number of households within a half-mile walk?

Here's a hint: More riders walk to those 5 stations each morning than to just about any others in the system.

It's not a coincidence. According to WMATA's PlanItMetro blog, "the more people can walk to transit, the more people do walk to transit—and data across Metrorail stations prove it."

But there's at least one surprise: 3 of the 5 stations with the most households in a half-mile walkshed are in Maryland or Virginia, not the District.

Households and walk ridership per Metro station. Image by WMATA.

Columbia Heights has by far the most households within walking distance. That makes sense. It's one of DC's densest neighborhoods, and the Metro station is right near its center.

But the second most household-rich Metro station is Arlington's Court House. Rounding out the top 5 are Ballston, Silver Spring, and Dupont Circle.

All 5 of the most household-rich stations are also among the top 10 stations with the most riders who walk to the station each morning. The rest of the top 10 walking stations are Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Bethesda.

More riders may be walking to jobs from the downtown stations, or from Rosslyn, but those are the destinations, where riders in the morning are getting off. The origin stations are the more residential ones.

All in all, Metro's stations fit neatly along a trendline that shows a strong correlation between more households nearby and more riders arriving to stations by foot.

Even the outliers tell a story. U Street and Mount Vernon Square have the 6th and 7th highest number of households nearby, but they underperform on walking Metro ridership. One might speculate that Mount Vernon Square is so close to so many offices that more people simply walk. U Street is a little farther away, but it's still close enough to downtown that buses and bicycles may be better options for a large portion of riders.

What else pops out as interesting?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


Add a comment »

Am I blind?

Where is Georgia Ave-Pentworth

by Richard on Aug 13, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

Feels like Foggy Bottom should be higher on the household axis. Maybe students aren't a household?

by Andrew on Aug 13, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

A significant portion of the Mt Vernon walkshed is also within the Gallery Place walkshed - red line riders likely go there instead in order to avoid a transfer. That probably accounts for a decent portion of the low score for MVS.

by Josh on Aug 13, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

A few things to note:

1. Not all stations are labeled.
2. This isn't measuring the number of HH's within the walkshed of a certain station, but of a certain station entrance. That's why you see Dupont Circle N; referring to the north entrance of the Dupont Circle station.

U Street is another case: U Street's western entrance is labeled, but the walkshed for the entire station is likely much larger, since the station's two entrances are roughly 2.5 blocks apart.

by Alex B. on Aug 13, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

How do they know people are walking though ? Asking doesn't always equal truth.

A person could get dropped off and walk a bit to the station, get off a bus then walk to the station; etc.

Are they tracking to see that the same riders use the same station both ways

by kk on Aug 13, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

There are very few bus connections from Virginia to DC, which is going to lead to more metro ridership than in some of the DC stations. Columbia Heights would probably be a higher still in ridership if it wasn't for the multitude of bus routes. I too question where Georgia Ave/Petworth is on this chart.

by alex on Aug 13, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Some stations appear to have more walking entrances than households. For example, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Brookland, and King Street (Braddock Road looks to be about 1:1). Not sure what that means. Could indicate that 1/2 mile walkshed is too small if people show the willingness to walk farther. Or, could mean households are larger and contain multiple regular users (a lot of young people sharing apartments?). Or, as kk gets at, may indicate a problem with the walk data. There could be other explanations.

by jh on Aug 13, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

Every identified Arlington station is above the trend line, indicating a high percentage of walkers for the resident population.

by Michael Perkins on Aug 13, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

we'd all love to walk to metro stations...we all can't afford $3k/mo in rent

by Jack Jackson on Aug 13, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

I don't think there's any reason to doubt the veracity of the station access mode data. People have zero incentive to lie about whether they walk or drive or bus one way or another. For every person who may put walk instead of drop off likely there is a person mismarking in the other direction.

by MLD on Aug 13, 2014 1:35 pm • linkreport

yep, i live close to woodley park, but i nearly always take the buses - circulator, 14th street, 16th street and the 42. they're all a more direct shot to the places downtown. i wouldn't take the metro unless i was going to NE, or VA or MD.

by jen on Aug 13, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

@Jack Jackson

Walk to Naylor Rd Metro: 2 bed 1 bath - $20,000 ($665 Condo Fee)

by csd on Aug 13, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

The stations that are below the trend line tend to be closer to downtown. That could mean those areas have a higher share walking, biking, or taking the bus to work. The commute is a shorter distance so walking, biking, or riding the bus is as quick (and maybe more pleasant) as the subway.

by Laurence Aurbach on Aug 13, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

Given the density of Columbia Heights, it seems inadequate that it only has 6 faregates. Huge lines of people waiting to exit the station back up onto the platform. The Columbia Heights station could also use a south entrance to take some of the pressure off the north exits.

by MrTinDC on Aug 13, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

Very, very key point raised by Alex B.: these are based on station entrance walkshed. I just realized they're not even separated, but rather they have only chosen one entrance (e.g., no U Street eastern entrance).

I think that would be really important to factor into this. Columbia Heights, were it given a second entrance at something like Harvard and 14th Street, would be massively improved and really connect better to the surrounding area. Where is that data?

by Low Headways on Aug 13, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

A lot of people along the green line find it easier to get to their job via bus because you wont have to transfer. I live between u street and columbia heights metro (about 7 min walk) however, i take the bus because it gets me down to Farragut (g street) faster and is more reliable. People from outside the district dont have that option, so they are forced to use metro for longer distances

by corey on Aug 13, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

Has there ever been talk of a second entrance at Columbia heights? The line to get out is way too long and seems like it would serve the area well.

by Jonathan on Aug 13, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

Another entrance at Columbia Heights might be possible. It would probably end up around 14th & Harvard or Girard.

by MLD on Aug 13, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

FWIW, it shouldn't be a surprise that MD and VA station catchment areas are top walking places given that buildings can be much taller in some of those places, compared to DC and its height limit.

by Richard Layman on Aug 14, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

Dan -- Thank you for this article. While many employers are located near Metro, we NEED for more residents to be located near Metro or other good transit. Your article makes that pitch.

by Tina Slater on Aug 17, 2014 9:27 pm • linkreport

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