WMATA budget deep dive, part 1: Metrorail service cuts
In this series, I'll examine the different components of WMATA's proposal to close its $189.2 million FY 2011 budget gap, plus a few other options not part of WMATA's proposal. At the end, I'll offer some recommendations and alternatives.
WMATA proposes a range of Metrorail service reductions totaling $32.5 million. They estimate the reductions would reduce ridership by $9.1 million, creating a net budget savings of $23.4 million. The budget book confusingly calls this net savings "subsidy savings."
Page 14 of the budget (page 16 of that PDF) lists the reductions. The Board only needs to select $15.4 million of the $23.4 million to balance the budget as presented.
The first group would be cause minimal impact on ridership, but cause some inconvenience. That includes:
- Reducing service on certain holidays and other seasonal adjustments
- Widening headways in the morning peak period from 6 to 8 minutes between 6 am and 6:30 am
- Restructuring the Red Line to more closely match actual service by adding running time and slightly widening headways
- Closing 10 mezzanine entrances early on weekends and 5 mezzanine entrances at 8 pm on weekdays (where there are multiple entrances)
- Closing 3 stations altogether on weekends. The budget doesn't list what stations they have in mind, but Judiciary Square would likely be high on the list.
The total cust reduction for this group is $2.03 million with lost fare revenue of about $100,000 (from the closing of 3 stations on the weekend) equaling a $1.93 million "subsidy savings." Approximately 60,000 annual passenger trips would be lost with these proposals. Another way to look at it is you save $19 for every $1 in fare you lose.
The second group can be described as having moderate impact on ridership, constricts the system's reach and has a measurable economic impact on the region. This group includes:
- Weekend headways reduced to 15 minutes during the day on Saturdays, 20 minutes during the day on Sundays and 30 minutes at night
- Opening one hour later on Saturdays and Sundays,
- Opening one half hour later on weekdays,
- Closing the rail system at 2 am or 1 am (with more savings coming from the 1 am closing) on Friday and Saturady nights
- Reducing the Yellow Line to a shuttle between Huntington & King Street at night and on weekends
- Eliminating the Yellow Line extension from Mt. Vernon Square to Fort Totten.
These proposals cut $16.3 million in service and have moderate loss in fare revenue ($3.93 million), saving $12.37 million. About 2.1 million riders would be lost with this group and you only save about $3 in subsidy for every $1 you lose in fares. They would also have a significant impact on economic activity as workers currently utilizing the rail system in the early and late evening hours would lose service completely.
Further, the headway widening and early closings would have a considerable impact on destinations in the District of Columbia and other activity centers such as Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Prince George's Plaza and Largo. The potential elimination of Yellow line service to Fort Totten and its conversion to a shuttle on weekends would also undoubtedly affect business at National Airport.
The third group would have a major impact on ridership, rail service and the area economy and includes:
- Widening weekday headways to 15 minutes and 30 minutes at night
- Reduce weekday peak service by eliminating all eight car trains
- Closing the rail system at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
These $19.42 million in service reductions would cost $6.01 million in fare revenue but save $13.41 million. Approximately 2.7 million riders would be lost. You only save approximately $2 for every $1 you lose in fares.
The loss of peak capacity by eliminating eight car trains (58 railcars) is staggering. Widening headways would dampen the short trips that have been growing on WMATA in spite of the recession and even further impact night destination economic activity. Closing the rail system at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights would also choke destination activity and likely put more drunk drivers on the road.
|Group||Impact||Cost reduction||Lost fare revenue||Net "subsidy savings"|
|1||Minimal ridership loss, riders inconvenienced||$2.03||$0.10||$1.93|
|2||Moderate ridership loss, measurable economic impact||$16.30||$3.93||$12.37|
|3||Significant ridership loss, significant econ. impact||$19.42||$6.01||$13.41|
Few proposals to reduce service are good ones, but the magnitude of service reductions in the second and third group necessitate alternate strategies for closing the FY11 WMATA budget gap. I'll be looking at those in coming posts.
Next: Bus service reductions.
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