DC Metro More Reliable But Riders Are Not

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has blamed much of the rail system’s ridership declines on the system’s reliability problems and all of the track work it did in 2016 and early 2017 to fix those problems. Now, the system has become more reliable, but riders don’t seem to be returning.

The Federal Transit Administration has published month-by-month ridership data for all transit systems through June, 2017. The numbers show that Metro rail ridership in February, March, and April of this year were all about 10 percent less than in the same months last year. In May, however, it was only 1.5 percent less, while June 2017 ridership was actually more than in June 2016–though only by 0.6 percent.

While that’s grounds for a bit of optimism, Metro rail ridership still has a long way to go before it returns to its 2009 peak, which was 28 percent higher than the year ending June 2017. I don’t like making predictions because there are too many unknown variables, but I suspect ridership will never return to those levels partly because many former riders have lost faith in the system and partly because the band-aid work done on the system in the last year won’t solve its long-term reliability problems. Time will tell.


5 thoughts on “DC Metro More Reliable But Riders Are Not

  1. prk166

    If the growth of trips using Lyft and Uber is growing at the expense of the subway — which appears to be at least part of the reason for the drop in NYC; in fact there it looks to be affecting transit far more than taxis — , if ride share is taking market share from WMTA, it’s hard to see metro DC having any different of an outcome.

    Uber, Lyft and others already 20,000 drivers domiciled in No. Va that have registered with the state of Virginia ( out of @ 60k in the whole state ). Maryland estimates to have 74,000 drivers. It would seem reasonable to assume at least 1/4 if not closer to 40% are operating in DC’s MD suburbs. I couldn’t find any estimates on how many are based out of the District of Columbia.

    We’re probably talking about something around 50,000 – 75,00 ride share drivers in metro DC on top of existing taxi services. That’s a big growth in competition for transit. If most of those new drivers are picking up trips that were previously using transit – and that seems to be the case in NYC – it’s hard to see Metro getting back to that 2008 peak.

  2. prk166

    Wait….. Metro ridership is down by nearly a third over it’s peak that was nearly a decade ago AND after opening up a new multi-billion dollar metro line through some of the wealthiest zip codes in country?

  3. Sandy Teal

    How much can Metro improve reliability when the new Silver line has to share tunnels and tracks with the Orange line? There goes any room for error, and the choke points will affect so many more people.

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