Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Ridership

Transit


National links: No more grocery stores

Walmart has turned many towns into high-dry food deserts, Nashville is considering its transit options, and Uber had to get creative to get insurance. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Alison & Orlando Masis on Flickr.

Walmart's small town shuffle: Walmart is closing shop in a number of small towns despite only recently arriving and putting other grocery stores out of business. Residents say the effect is devastating. (Bloomberg)

Music City moving: Nashville's transit authority is working to put forward a plan for developing transit. The most robust possibility would build new light rail, streetcars, and bus lines, and would cost $5.4 billion. The smallest plan, at $800 million, would focus on buses and the existing commuter rail line. (Nashville Tennessean)

Uber insurance: Uber as a ride hailing service might not exist if not for one of its employees convincing insurance agents to cover drivers. There's a lot of grey area in how to insure someone who is waiting for the app to connect them with a customer. (Buzz Feed News)

Build up for cars: As soon as cars came on the scene in cities, residents and businesses needed places to put them. In dense places, people put cars on elevators and stored vertically. These pictures show how that technology evolved from the 1920s to 1970s. (Mashable)

To live and ride in LA: Transit ridership has gone down in Los Angeles by 10% from the high reached in 2006. Officials are wondering how to attract more high-income riders, and whether they should stick with current plans to build more bike and bus-only lanes. (Los Angeles Times)

Cities as testing grounds: Gridlock at the US Capitol and in state houses nationwide has liberal leaders testing new laws and ideas at the municipal level. The hope is that cities will prove certain laws work, which will lead to change at state and federal level. (New York Times)

Quote of the Week: "The government is one group that doesn't get to choose its customers. We want to make it work for everyone." Jennifer Pahlka, who started Code for America to help cities work better with their citizens. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Roads


A lot more people will ride Metro (and not drive) if the FBI makes a smart choice on where to move

Our region has been discussing where the FBI will move for years. A new analysis shows the choice is between a good option (Greenbelt), a mostly-good option (Springfield), and a pretty terrible option (Landover). Let's hope the federal government makes the right call.


Photo by Tim Evanson on Flickr.

The FBI wants to leave its aging headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, and many in the District would not be sad to see it go. The FBI, like other security-related agencies, wants a high-security fortress with impenetrable walls and what amounts to a moat. That's not ideal in downtown DC, where shops, restaurants, condominiums, and top-tier office space are all in high demand. The block-size dead zone that is the Hoover Building in its current state is bad enough.

The current FBI site does have it's upsides: it's near every single Metro line and countless buses, and since it's in the center of the region it's not very far from anyone. A new site near the Beltway, like the three finalists, all will force longer commutes on at least some people, and push more people to drive, increasing traffic.

How much traffic, however, depends very much on how close the site is to Metro. Build a new headquarters next to a Metro station and near bus lines, and many people will use it; force people to take a shuttle bus, and many fewer will bother.

The more people ride Metro, the better for all of us

Even residents who have no ties to the FBI should care deeply about this important decision. Metro is struggling from low ridership that is squeezing its budget, thanks to maintenance woes, cuts in federal transit benefits, management failures, safety fears, and much more. Our region needs a healthy Metro system to move the hordes of commuters that traverse the region every day.

One of the best ways to strengthen Metro is to use "reverse commute" capacity. Trains are the same size and number going both in and out of downtown, of course; if they're full going in but empty going out, that's a lot of wasted capacity. Large employment centers at outer stations, like at Medical Center, Suitland, and now with the Silver Line, Tysons Corner, drive that reverse traffic. Plus, research has shown that people feel much more willing to use the train if the office is very close to a transit station; a short to medium drive, walk, or bike ride is more palatable from home to the train than on the other end.

No shuttle at Greenbelt; a long shuttle at Landover

According to the recently-released Environmental Impact Statement, an FBI headquarters at Greenbelt could mean up to 47% of workers, or 5,170 people a day, could ride Metro, and they would mostly be using the extra space on reverse peak direction Green Line trains. There would only be 3,600 parking spaces, meaning at most only 3,600 more cars on the Beltway and other roads.

A site in Springfield, Virginia, is almost as good; the station is 0.3 miles from the potential site, and the General Services Administration estimates there would need to be a shuttle, though many people would not need it; this is similar to the distances at Suitland, where there is a bus but many people walk. The EIS predicts 4,070 riders, or 37% of workers, take Metro, and also 3,600 spaces.

Landover, meanwhile, is far, far worse. That site is 1.9 miles from Metro, much too far for walking and forcing everyone to ride a shuttle (which would also take longer, naturally). The EIS estimates only 19% of people ride Metro and a need for 7,300 parking spaces, or about double the added traffic.

These Metro mode share estimates do seem too high—all of them, but definitely Landover. According to public ridership data from WMATA, the Suitland and New Carrollton office parks are getting about 10% of workers riding Metro. It strains credulity that 19% of FBI workers would ride a shuttle to a site 2 miles from the station when 10% don't do the same for a much shorter half mile trip.


Suitland. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Will everyone who can't park take Metro?

Why the discrepancy? The methodology assumes strict limits on parking based on the National Capital Planning Commission's policies. NCPC limits parking to one space per three employees at federal facilities outside DC but within 2,000 feet of a Metro station, and one space per 1.5 employees farther from Metro. That's a very progressive policy that pushes federal agencies to help their employees get to work in ways other than solo driving.

The EIS assumes anyone who can't park will ride Metro, except for a carpool/vanpool rate based on similar federal installations of 10-11%. But will the FBI obey? The National Institutes of Health, right at a Metro station, has been resisting NCPC's policy; the FBI surely has even greater clout if it wanted to build massive amounts of parking. And even if it didn't, it seems doubtful that the lack of parking, while a strong motivating force, would push 19% of employees onto Metro and then a long shuttle ride.

Regardless, it's clear that a choice for Greenbelt or Springfield would help the FBI have a positive impact on Metro's health and minimize the traffic effects, while Landover would do the opposite. Because there are more jobs on the west side of the region than the east, the Beltway and other roads similarly have extra capacity going east, which is one of several reasons why adding jobs to Prince George's County also will strengthen our region.

The federal government may ignore all of the impacts on other commuters and our region's transportation systems when making the decision about a site, but drivers, Metro riders, and just all taxpayers whose dollars help fund the roads and rails should hope the choice is a wise one.

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Transit


Explore how many people have used each Metro stop over time

Metro ridership tends to fluctuate each year, but the numbers we hear usually don't zoom in on how use varies from station to station. This interactive graph lets you view and compare how much use each station has seen since Metro's inception.

To view multiple stations or lines simultaneously, just hold down your control button while clicking on the places you want to compare. Each station's ridership, which is its average number of boardings per weekday, then shows up as a series on the graph.

There are plenty of fascinating trends to uncover here. For example, note how Pentagon ridership reached its highest level just before the resolution of the Cold War, or how Stadium-Armory exploded with riders during the Nationals' brief stint at RFK.

What do you notice in these graphs?

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Transit


See where Metrorail riders go from each station

Ever wonder where everyone at your Metro station is going? This visualization from PlanItMetro shows both how many people enter at any given station on an average weekday along with where, exactly, all of them exit.


Graphic by PlanItMetro. Click for interactive version.

I noticed that a lot of Arlington riders use Orange lines to commute to stops on the Silver Line. Specifically, about 8% of the riders who get on at Ballston head out to a new Silver Line station.

What do you see when you use the tool?

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Transit


33% of Metro rail trips stay within one city or county. Where are they?

A few days ago, Metro planners wrote that about two-thirds of Metrorail trips cross county or state boundaries. What about the trips that don't?


All maps by the author.

Commenter Richard said he was surprised there were any intrajurisdictional trips in Prince George's County, given the lack of development around the stations. To understand it, I delved deeper.

This analysis, and Metro's, consider the jurisdictions of DC, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County. Because the morning peak period best represents the commute trip, my analysis considers the morning peak only.

Metro's data only counts a trip as cross-jurisdictional if it ends in a different jurisdiction from where it started. But my analysis also excludes trips like Prince George's Plaza to Suitland, which cross a boundary and then return to the original jurisdiction.

Prince George's County

In the case of Prince George's, there are four isolated segments with three or four stations each. These short segments don't have a lot of synergy to collect the longer trips Metro riders typically take, and there's not a lot of transit-oriented development around any of the stations. Not surprisingly, few trips stay entirely within Prince George's.


All graphics by the author.

In Prince George's the Blue Line section from Capitol Heights to Largo has the highest intrajurisdictional rate. During the AM peak, 3.47% of trips that start at one of those stations ends at one of them. The Greenbelt end of the Green Line is next, with 3.00% of trips staying within that section.

On the other end of the line, between Southern Avenue and Branch Avenue, 2.49% of trips that start there also end there. The New Carrollton branch trails, with just 1.24% of riders staying within that section.

Why would people take trips between these stations? Some passengers are likely making "bridge" trips connecting between two bus lines. In some of the other jurisdictions, those trips might also happen on the bus network, but none of the Metro lines in Prince George's have much parallel bus service. Additionally, while there's not much development, there is enough to generate some trips that don't cross the county line.

One more methodology note: There are some border stations which are in two jurisdictions, like Capitol Heights on the DC/Prince George's boundary. I counted all trips between Capitol Heights and one of the stations toward Largo as a Prince George's trip, and any trip between Capitol Heights and a station in DC as an intra-DC trip. The same went for the other border stations: Friendship Heights, Southern Avenue, Takoma, and Van Dorn Street.

Montgomery County

Next door, in Montgomery County, the numbers are quite different. Both ends of the Red Line extend into Montgomery County, but between Silver Spring and Friendship Heights the line is in the District.

The Glenmont end has 5 stations, counting Takoma, which is just a block inside the District. Glenmont, Wheaton, and Silver Spring are all major bus hubs. Silver Spring is a major jobs center, which probably helps draw intrajurisdictional trips.

On the other side of Rock Creek, the Red Line penetrates deep into Montgomery County, running all the way from Friendship Heights out to Shady Grove. Bethesda and Medical Center are home to many jobs, and Rockville and White Flint have growing employment markets.

In terms of intrajurisdictional ridership, the Shady Grove end does better: 22.70% of trips that start within that segment stay there. Only DC has a higher rate of intrajurisdictional trips. The Glenmont end of the line sees 5.13% of trips stay within the section.

Fairfax County

Across the Potomac, Fairfax County has four disconnected segments. We'll discount the Huntington end, since Huntington is alone in Fairfax. The next station on the line, Eisenhower Avenue, is in Alexandria.

The other sections consist of the Blue Line between Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street, the Orange Line between Vienna and West Falls Church, and the Silver Line between Wiehle Avenue and McLean.

The Franconia end of the Blue Line really doesn't have a chance to get any synergy, with just two stations. Van Dorn Street is technically in Alexandria, but, like Takoma, is right on the boundary. On the Orange Line, Fairfax has been trying to build TOD around its stations, but the three stops are all in the median of I-66. The Silver Line, on the other hand, serves the major jobs center in Tysons and extends far beyond to a park-and-ride at Wiehle Avenue.

Even though the Silver Line had only been open for about three months in this data set, it performs the best within Fairfax. Of the trips that start at one of the five stations, 6.05% are to another of those stations, which is almost a full percentage point above the Glenmont end of the Red Line.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Franconia section of the Blue Line within Fairfax comes in second place, with 1.79% of trips that start at one of those two stations going to the other. The Vienna end of the Orange Line sees only 1.71% of trips that start there also end there.

Alexandria

In Alexandria, there's a contiguous section of the Blue and Yellow lines between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street and Eisenhower Avenue. This section contains just four stations.

Only 4.10% of trips that start in Alexandria stay within the city.

Arlington County

Like its neighbor to the south, Arlington has one group of contiguous stations in two corridors. In the north end of the county, the Orange and Silver lines serve six stations from East Falls Church to Rosslyn. The Blue Line and (south of Pentagon) the Yellow Line serve five more stations along the Potomac River between Rosslyn and National Airport.

This area includes major jobs and housing centers in both corridors, but especially in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Of the trips that start at one of these 11 stations, 13.28% stay within Arlington County. That puts the county in third place for intrajurisdictional trips in the AM peak, after DC and Montgomery's Shady Grove branch.

District of Columbia

Finally, as expected, the District has the greatest amount of intrajurisdictional ridership. A whopping 75.83% of trips that start within the District stay there.

That shouldn't surprise anyone, since the District has the largest contiguous section of the Metro system, the densest and most transit-served central business district in the region, and dense transit-oriented neighborhoods.

Generally, cities and counties that have encouraged transit-oriented development around their stations, like Montgomery County's west side and Arlington, have more intra-jurisdictional ridership than others. But simply having more stations and track mileage also has a lot to do with it.

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Transit


Maryland is #4 in the nation in transit ridership

Jim Titus recently took on Maryland governor Larry Hogan's claim that that fewer than 10% of Marylanders use transit. There's another national survey that provides data for every state, and confirms that about 30% of Marylanders used transit in a specific month—fourth highest in the US.


Photo by brownpau on Flickr.

Commenter Uptowner pointed out another good source for transit usage: the National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS).

In the survey, last administered in 2009, participants report their daily travel habits, which become part of national estimates of travel behavior. The survey asks other questions as well, including how much people rode transit in the previous month.

Here are the numbers from the 2009 NHTS:

All Respondents 16+Working Respondents 16+Respondents 16+ Answering Transit Question
Transit UserRegular Transit UserTransit UserRegular Transit UserTransit UserRegular Transit User
MD30.0%8.6%32.4%11.0%35.8%10.3%
VA17.6%4.4%19.1%5.3%26.2%6.6%
DC76.7%33.1%78.8%37.7%80.4%34.7%
US17.1%4.8%17.4%5.6%24.1%6.8%

As the table above shows, 30% of Maryland residents 16 and older used transit in the previous month. That rises slightly, to 32%, when we exclude non-workers. Also, some respondents do not answer this question; when we examine only those answering the question, almost 36% of Maryland respondents report riding transit in the previous month.

The Maryland sample is of a sufficient size (643 respondents aged 16 and up) to allow for 95% confidence that the estimate is accurate within about five percentage points.

The survey asks respondents how often they used transit in any way, which gives us additional information to examine. I classified those taking at least 20 trips as "regular transit users," a category that 8.6% of Maryland respondents qualify for. This isn't far from Governor Hogan's assertion that less than 10% of Marylanders use transit, but it only covers the heaviest of transit users. When we include everyone who rode transit in the previous month, we get the 30% figure.

Unfortunately, the NHTS doesn't provide information at a more local level than the state, so we can't look at Montgomery or Prince George's counties or respondents in and around Baltimore; transit ridership in these more urbanized areas is likely higher than the state average.

The NHTS lets us look beyond just Maryland

Virginia's transit usage is close to the national average of 17% transit users and 5% regular transit users. DC's is much higher: Over three-quarters of District residents had ridden transit in the past month, and about a third had taken at least 20 rides in the month.

The NHTS data makes it possible to calculate transit usage rates for people 16 and old in each state (and DC), though the sample size is small enough in some states to make those estimates less reliable. Still, using those estimates, Maryland has the fourth-highest level of transit usage in the country, behind only DC, New York, and Massachusetts.

RankStateTransit UsersRegular Transit Users
1DC77%33%
2New York47%21%
3Massachusetts31%6%
4Maryland30%9%
5New Jersey28%7%
6Illinois26%8%
7Oregon23%2%
8Utah23%2%
9California23%5%
10Colorado23%5%
11Washington23%7%
12Pennsylvania22%7%
13Minnesota20%3%
14Connecticutt19%2%
15Virginia18%4%
16Delaware15%5%
17Rhode Island15%3%
18New Hampshire14%4%
19Georgia12%2%
20Vermont11%2%
21Hawaii11%3%
22Florida11%2%
23Texas11%2%
24Wisconsin11%2%
25Arizona10%3%
26Nevada10%2%
27Alaska10%3%
28Maine9%1%
29Michigan9%2%
30Arkansas9%4%
31Missouri9%2%
32Ohio9%3%
33Indiana8%1%
34North Carolina7%2%
35New Mexico7%1%
36Mississippi7%0%
37North Dakota7%1%
38South Carolina6%2%
39Oklahoma6%1%
40Nebraska6%1%
41Montana6%1%
42Kentucky5%1%
43Tennessee5%1%
44Louisiana5%2%
45Iowa5%1%
46Alabama5%2%
47South Dakota5%2%
48West Virginia5%1%
49Idaho3%1%
50Wyoming3%1%
51Kansas2%0%
Click on a column header to sort.

However you slice the data, it's clear that far more than 10% of Marylanders use transit. Moreover, Maryland is one of the most transit-dependent states, and it would be a huge disservice to Marylanders to minimize the role transit plays in their lives.

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Transit


See traffic patterns at all 91 Metro stations in one glance

Those aren't bridges—they're graphs of how many people enter and exit each Metro station for each quarter of an hour. Reddit user BioNrd created the image using Metro's October 2014 data, which the agency recently made available.


Click on the image to see the full version.

The darker dots are entries, the gray ones exits. You can see the stations with the greatest traffic are the ones with the dark peak in the afternoon (stations generally downtown). What else do you notice?

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