Northern Va. Metro ridership down after start of 24/7 track work

WASHINGTON — Far fewer people in Northern Virginia are riding Metro compared to a year ago, mirroring a trend across the system that has contributed to Metro’s plans to cut service while raising fares.

Data provided by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission shows that the total weekday average number of Metrorail trips in Virginia was down 9.8 percent in November compared to a year earlier. Metrobus weekday average ridership was 7.1 percent lower than the previous year.

The drop was smaller for weekends — but still significant — since Metro ridership had already dropped sharply after weekend track work ramped up following the 2009 Red Line crash.

The total drop for all of November compared to a year earlier was 6.7 percent on Metrorail to 7,393,886 trips. The total drop on Metrobus was 4.5 percent, to 1,536,577 trips. On the other hand, the number of trips on the MetroAccess paratransit service rose 11.1 percent to 27,844 trips.

The drops are in line with previous data on ridership through the end of June of last year.

With declining ridership, most Metro stations have significantly more parking available.

In November, when track work was focused on the Red Line after several surges had already impacted Virginia, parking facility usage at Franconia-Springfield was 10 percent lower than a year earlier. At Vienna, usage was down 16 percent.

Across Northern Virginia, 64 percent of spaces were full on an average weekday compared to 73 percent in November 2015.

 

Station/Lot Nov-15 Y-T-D FY16 Nov-16 Y-T-D FY17
Huntington 68% 70% 69% 65%
West Falls Church 54% 56% 45% 52%
Dunn Loring 76% 77% 60% 54%
Vienna 78% 81% 62% 58%
Franconia 66% 69% 56% 52%
Van Dorn St. 107% 109% 105% 97%
East Falls Church 115% 121% 112% 114%
Wiehle-Reston East 87% 90% 82% 82%
Northern Virginia Total 73% 76% 64% 62%

 

The Metro Board is considering a proposal to reduce scheduled service at all times of day while raising fares and local contributions. They had requested feedback from the public by Monday, Jan. 30.

On the plus side, at least some of Metro’s ridership losses could be Virginia Railway Express’s gains.

Average daily VRE ridership was up 6.7 percent between November 2015 and November 2016, from 18,231 daily riders to to 19,462 riders. That is an increase from 331,333 trips during all of November 2015 (with one fewer weekday) to 373,006 trips taken in November 2016.

VRE’s January report found that trains were on time 85 percent of the time in November 2016 and 91 percent of the time in October 2016. Interference from other trains was the most common cause of delays, which includes any train that arrives at its final destination more than five minutes late.

While most VRE trains have at least some seats available, the most popular trains — Fredericksburg Line trains 303 and 307, and Manassas Line trains 327 and 329 — can be standing room only in some cases.

VRE data show that parking is usually available for riders at or near all stations, other than Quantico.

In July, when Metro track work cut direct Metro service between Franconia-Springfield, Alexandria and the District, VRE set ridership records.


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