Posts about Ridership
It's common knowledge that the Northeast Corridor is Amtrak's best line, but the northeast is not the only place in the US where a lot of people ride intercity trains. This map by Michael Hicks shows that California, the area around Chicago, and the Pacific Northwest also stand out.
In the map, each circle represents one Amtrak station. The larger the circle, the more riders there are at that station.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
We could tell a lot about land use and commuting patterns in our region by looking at the balance between entries and exits at Metro stations. Comparing the new 2012 data with the 1995 data shows how land use and job patterns in our region have evolved.
Which stations' balance has changed the most since 1995?
A station's balance is the ratio of the entries to exits, with the greater number divided by the lesser. This chart plots each station's balance in 1995 against its balance today. The closer to the bottom a station is, the more balanced it is now; the farther to the left, the more balanced it was in 1995.
Stations right on the blue diagonal line had no change in their balance or imbalance level, while stations farthest from the line have shifted the most in balance. Overall, Metro's stations were less well balanced in 1995, as you can see from the way most stations fall below the line.
(Note that a station might have grown or shrunk in overall ridership tremendously, but not move on this particular graph, because it just looks at the balance, not the absolute ridership numbers for the station.)
The biggest permanent loss of balance is at Medical Center. (Federal Center SW has an inflated balance for 1995 because the east entrance to L'Enfant Plaza was temporarily closed at that time.) Here we see the effect of post-9/11 security
What happened to the most balanced stations?
The stations Matt identified as most unbalanced were similarly unbalanced then
Overall, Metro's stations were less well balanced in 1995. Only six stations in 1995 had balance ratios below 1.31, the threshold to make the top ten in 2012. Only two, Union Station and Waterfront, are in 2012 top ten. The other four were Rosslyn (1.07) Eisenhower Ave. (1.10), Medical Center (1.13), and National Airport (1.28).
11 of these 14 stations have shifted in the direction of more exits
At some stations, like Mt. Vernon Square, King Street, and National Airport, new construction is an obvious explanation for the rise in arrivals at work, but the shift has been substantial even where the mix of uses has not changed much. Clearly, a lot more people are using Metro to reach job sites outside the downtown DC core. The particularly sharp rise in exits at Pentagon, Medical Center, Brookland, and Tenleytown suggests that the trend is strongest among students and government employees.
Circle area size represents AM peak ridership.
The data for Ballston are particularly interesting. Fewer people are entering that station in the morning today than 17 years ago. Population in the area has increased, although more slowly than in the rest of the Orange Line corridor.
A more likely explanation is, again, the growing popularity of reverse commuting. Two decades ago, you got an apartment in Ballston to take Metro into DC for work; today, the attraction is the ease of getting into DC in the evening, and you're more likely to commute by car to Tysons or Reston.
Some other close-in stations in largely residential areas have seen similar stagnation or even decline in entries in the AM peak. Cleveland Park, for example, has been essentially flat, with 2,321 morning entries in 1995 and 2,329 in 2012. Brookland's AM peak entries have fallen from 2,172 to 2,075. But these stations, unlike Ballston, have lost population within walking distance, so it's hard to judge what role reverse auto commuting played.
As a Metro train rolls along the tracks, who gets on and off? Where are they going? You can't read minds, but thanks to Metro's ridership data, you can watch patterns of riders
on a typical train in a great new tool.
Morning peak riders at Union Station on a Shady Grove-bound Red Line train.
Image from RidingMetro.com.
When public agencies release data sets, people can do all kinds of fascinating things with them. Yesterday, Matt Johnson used the Metro ridership data to show us which stations are busiest (with more to come), and Aaron Wiener looked at the most popular trips on different lines.
Reader Graham MacDonald sent along this interactive tool he created, RidingMetro.com. Pick a train line, a direction, and a time of day, click play, and see a simulated train pick up and drop off passengers.
At each stop, the symbol for the train gets larger or smaller as the number of passengers on board changes. Meanwhile, circles at other stations on the map show where the passengers on the train are going.
Look below the map, and bar graphs show how the ridership of trains at this particular stop compare to equivalent stops along other lines.
It's all aggregate data showing
a typical train total numbers of riders along segments of the lines, not one actual train, but you can almost imagine the riders on board a train all going to their many destinations.
What interesting patterns do you notice from playing with this tool?
Thanks to data from Metro's planning department, we have the ability to analyze many different ridership patterns. Today, let's take a look at stations, and see which are the busiest.
During the weekday morning rush period, many people are entering the Metro system to get to work. The busiest stations for entering customers fall all across the region.
Here's a table of the top 10:
|Metro AM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations|
|4||West Falls Church||6,816.1|
Half of these stations are end-of-line stations with large park-and-ride lots. Pentagon and West Falls Church are both major bus hubs, as is Silver Spring. Union Station, of course, is at the top because it's where many commuter rail riders enter the Metro system.
The entries at these 10 stations account for 30.7% of all entries during the AM peak across the system.
And where are these riders going? The busiest stations for exits are all in the region's core. Here's the top 10:
|Metro AM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations|
Of all the people who exit the Metro system during the morning peak period, 50.3% of them exit at one of the top 10 stations. These 10 stations account for more exits than all the other stations combined, with 118,757 people exiting these stations on average each morning.
Also of note, the 2 Farragut Square stations combined handle more than twice as many exits as the third place station, Metro Center. Without the objection of the National Park Service, the Farragut stations would have been one station, and a crowded one at that.
We can see similar patterns during the evening rush hour.
The top 10 evening entry stations are all in the regional core, with just one, Rosslyn, outside downtown Washington. The only station in the AM peak top 10 exit list that is not in the evening entry list is Pentagon (which is 13th place). It's been replaced by Smithsonian (which is 14th in the AM exits list).
The top 10 entry stations for the PM peak represent 45.7% of all PM peak entries systemwide, a slightly smaller share than the share of the top 10 morning exit stations.
|Metro PM Peak period entries: Top 10 stations|
And where are these evening commuters headed?
|Metro PM Peak period exits: Top 10 stations|
|6||West Falls Church||6,555.5|
The evening exits top 10 looks a lot like the morning entries top 10. But Huntington and Franconia-Springfield, which are the #7 and #9 top entry stations in the morning have dropped to #12 and #11, respectively. In their place are 2 central stations, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle.
This difference can probably be attributed to the entertainment venues and restaurants near these stations. Dupont Circle and Gallery Place are known for their nightlife opportunities, and passengers headed there probably drive the numbers up a bit.
The top 10 PM peak exit stations account for 28.3% of all exiting passengers systemwide on average.
The time between the morning and evening rush hours is what Metro calls the midday period. It's probably marked not just by people running errands or going to lunch, but also by workers who commute slightly later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon than most or who have jobs that don't have 9-5 hours.
|Metro midday period entries and exits: Top 10 stations|
|1||Union Station||6,209.5||1||Union Station||7,114.5|
|2||Metro Center||5,003.6||2||Metro Center||7,085.3|
|3||Gallery Place||4,419.5||3||Gallery Place||6,151.8|
|4||Foggy Bottom||4,311.3||4||Farragut North||5,866.7|
|6||Dupont Circle||3,776.0||6||Foggy Bottom||4,812.2|
|7||L'Enfant Plaza||3,721.1||7||Farragut West||4,488.9|
|8||Farragut West||3,572.9||8||L'Enfant Plaza||4,076.9|
|9||Pentagon City||3,532.5||9||Dupont Circle||4,055.2|
I think the fact that the top 3 midday entry stations are the same as the top 3 exit stations is interesting. Union Station makes a lot of sense, considering its role as an intermodal hub. The reasons for Gallery Place and Metro Center are less clear. Keep in mind that people changing trains aren't counted; only people leaving or entering the faregates appear in these numbers.
Additionally, 9 stations are in both lists. Rosslyn, #10 in the midday entries list does not appear in the exits list because it has fallen to #12. Instead, Smithsonian appears in 5th place on the exits list. This is probably because many people (especially tourists) are headed to see the monuments or museums in the vicinity. Few are leaving the Mall area yet, though, perhaps accounting for Smithsonian's absence from the top entry stations list (it's 16th).
The period after the PM rush is the evening period. Note that these numbers do not include the average ridership for the after midnight service provided on Fridays.
|Metro evening period entries and exits: Top 10 stations|
|1||Gallery Place||7,489.0||1||Dupont Circle||2,884.3|
|2||Metro Center||5,897.4||2||Gallery Place||2,803.5|
|3||Foggy Bottom||4,533.8||3||Columbia Heights||2,772.5|
|4||Farragut North||4,523.3||4||Pentagon City||2,512.6|
|5||Union Station||4126.5||5||Silver Spring||2,493.6|
|6||Dupont Circle||3,963.4||6||Shady Grove||2,349.8|
|9||Pentagon City||2,519.4||9||Union Station||2,034.9|
|10||McPherson Square||2,345.8||10||Fort Totten||1,969.5|
As expected, Gallery Place and Dupont Circle, major nightlife areas, appear in both the evening entry and exit top 10. Most of the other entry stations are in the core. Navy Yard comes in at number 8, perhaps due to Nats games during May, when the data were collected.
Shady Grove, Vienna, and Silver Spring are all major suburban hubs, and their presence in the top 10 exit list isn't surprising. Columbia Heights and Fort Totten are both stations that haven't appeared in other top 10 counts, so their inclusion is somewhat surprising.
What surprises you about these numbers?
Using GTFS data, STLTransit has created videos showing all of the transit vehicles in a city over one day. Here's Washington's.
The video shows one dot for each schduled Metrorail, Metrobus and Circulator vehicle. View the video in full screen (click the rectangular icon in the lower right of the video) to more clearly see the trains, which the video shows in a color corresponding to their line.
WMATA's planning department has started posting more graphs and charts of ridership data, like one today changes in ridership over 5 years. A few recent charts show how holiday ridership compares to regular weekdays, Saturdays, or Sundays.
On holidays like MLK Day and Presidents' Day, when most offices are closed, Metro runs a Saturday schedule. That seems sensible, because the ridership pattern across the day closely resembles the typical Saturday.
When the federal government is closed but most private companies still have work, like Columbus Day and Veterans' Day, Metro runs a Saturday schedule with extra peak service. Then, the ridership graph looks like a blend between the Saturday and typical weekday pattern:
On some of the holidays where virtually everyone is off and people generally travel, like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Labor Day, Metro runs on a Sunday schedule. The ridership pattern looks a lot like a typical Sunday as well, except Thanksgiving where it's even lower:
Even though the final numbers aren't in yet, we were able to get an exclusive look at the ridership chart for today, during Hurricane Sandy. Here it is:
MARC is proposing changes to the schedule on its Brunswick Line which significantly improves service to Montgomery County stations. The changes reflect new, recently-released boarding statistics for the line's 19 stations, statistics which can help them better serve commuters.
The data show, among other things, that Montgomery County stations account for roughly half of the line's eastbound riders; Germantown is one of MARC's big stations; riders go to destinations other than Rockville, Silver Spring, and Union Station; and Frederick branch ridership is not meeting projections, probably due to its infrequent service.
In addition, the Brunswick Line is a significant part of MARC's service; Brunswick and Point of Rocks ridership is big but smaller than Montgomery County's; and West Virginia has hundreds of people who ride the train despite infrequent service, long travel times, and ticket surcharges due to lack of state funding.
The Brunswick Line is arguably the most complicated of MARC's 3 lines. It's certainly the longest, running for 73 miles northwest through Montgomery and Frederick Counties and on to Martinsburg, West Virginia, with a 13.5-mile branch line to Frederick.
In addition, like MARC's Camden Line, it runs on tracks owned and controlled by freight carrier CSX. And it is constrained, despite growing ridership, because CSX refuses to allow MARC to add trains until the State of Maryland funds and builds a third track.
On weekday mornings, Brunswick Line trains bring people from Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia to jobs in Montgomery County, the District, and Alexandria and Arlington. On weekday afternoons and evenings, Brunswick Line trains take them home.
Meanwhile, there are big plans for the future along the line. Montgomery County is encouraging transit-oriented development on its part of the Brunswick Line. Frederick County is doing the same in and near Frederick. Even West Virginia is getting in on the act.
But good policy requires good data. So, where do the ridership data come from, and what do they show?
MARC's counting method
The data come from counts conducted on Wednesday, February 8, and Wednesday, March 14. MTA passed out the data at the monthly MARC Riders Advisory Council meeting on April 19.
On count days, conductors are supposed to count everybody who gets on and off their train at each station. The total number of people getting on and off each train is supposed to be equal.
The boarding numbers are misleadingly precise. That is, a count of 123 eastbound boardings on Frederick on March 14 does not mean that exactly 123 people got on. However, the numbers are still useful, as they are probably generally accurate, and anyway, they are the only numbers available.
The Brunswick Line overall
The Brunswick Line accounted for roughly 1/5 of total MARC boardings, while the Penn Line accounted for roughly 2/3, and the Camden Line accounted for the rest. Here is a comparison of Brunswick Line boardings to MARC's other two lines:
|MARC Line||Direction/Total||February 8||March 14|
|Brunswick Line||Eastbound (am)||3,898||4,102|
|Brunswick Line||Westbound (pm)||3,562||3,844|
On both days, there were more eastbound than westbound boardings on the Brunswick Line. This may be a precision error, or there may actually have been 300-some people each day who went to work on MARC and home a different way.
Montgomery County has 11 stations: Silver Spring, Kensington, Garrett Park, Rockville, Washington Grove, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, Germantown, Boyds, Barnesville, and Dickerson. Rockville and Silver Spring are major destination stations as well as origin stations.
9 daily trains in each direction currently make stops in Montgomery County. 2 eastbound and 4 westbound daily trains currently stop at all of the county stations.
Here are the boardings for Montgomery County:
|Direction/Total||Station/Total||February 8||March 14|
The data show three notable facts:
- Germantown is a big station, by MARC standards. It's the biggest station in Montgomery County and on the Brunswick Line overall, and it's bigger, in terms of one-way boardings, than all Camden Line stations and all but 4 Penn Line stations (Odenton, Halethorpe, BWI, and Penn Station). (This comparison excludes Union Station.)
- Rockville and Silver Spring are not the only destination stations in the county. People also ride MARC to jobs in Germantown, Metropolitan Grove, Gaithersburg, Garrett Park, and Kensington.
- On the March 14 count day, there were more eastbound boardings at Montgomery County stations than at all other stations on the Brunswick Line combined.
The Frederick branch
The Frederick branch has 2 stations: Monocacy and Frederick. The trains run on a 13.5-mile line that branches off just east of (and not connecting to) the Point of Rocks station. The State of Maryland built and owns most of the track. Currently, 3 eastbound trains leave from Frederick between 5:12 and 7:10 am, and 3 trains bound west for Frederick leave Union Station between 3:50 and 6:30 pm.
Here are the boarding numbers (all eastbound) on the Frederick Line:
|Station||February 8||March 14|
The Frederick branch opened in 2001 with 3 eastbound and 3 westbound trains. Projected ridership was 1,600 by 2005, with double the number of trains. Obviously, Frederick ridership is still much less; on the other hand, the number of trains is still the same as in 2001. That more frequent trains would increase ridership is a reasonable assumption.
Brunswick and Point of Rocks
There are also 2 stations in Frederick County that are not on the Frederick branch: Point of Rocks and Brunswick. Currently, 6 eastbound trains leave Brunswick between 5:00 and 7:40 am, and 6 daily westbound trains stopping at Brunswick and Point of Rocks leave Union Station between 3:35 and 7:15 pm.
Here are the boarding numbers at Point of Rocks and Brunswick:
|Direction/Total||Station/Total||February 8||March 14|
|Point of Rocks||448||485|
|Point of Rocks||1||2|
Brunswick is the second-biggest origin station on the Brunswick Line, and Point of Rocks is roughly tied for third with Gaithersburg.
The eastbound boarders include residents of Virginia and West Virginia as well as Maryland. However, there do not seem to be any data on how many.
Some of the westbound boardings may represent West Virginia residents who work in Kensington, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, or Germantown, and transfer from a Brunswick-bound train to the West Virginia super-express that leaves Union Station at 4:55 pm. In Montgomery County, the super-express stops only in Silver Spring and Rockville.
West Virginia has 3 stations: Harpers Ferry, Duffields, and Martinsburg. Currently, 2 eastbound trains leave Martinsburg at 5:25 and 6:30 am, and 3 trains bound west for Martinsburg leave Union Station between 4:55 and 7:15 pm.
Here are the boarding numbers (all eastbound) at the West Virginia stations:
|Station||February 8||March 14|
West Virginia no longer contributes to MARC funding. Eastern Panhandle legislators are trying to do something about this. Meanwhile, since 2009, West Virginia riders have paid a surcharge of $2 per one-way ticket, $20 per weekly ticket, and $80 per monthly ticket.
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