Tag Archives: ridership

Skewed Metro Ridership Forecasts Too High

We can’t rely on WMATA ridership forecasts.

Today, I look at forecasts for MetroRail and MetroBus for the two most recent comparable periods with available data. In the period from July 2017 through March 2018, MetroRail forecasts were above projections in four months and below in five months.

This doesn’t sound too bad until one examines the overall numbers. Metro overestimated ridership for these nine months by nearly 2.8 million. Actual ridership was 2.1% lower than expected by WMATA in its budget forecasts.

On the good news front, the rail ridership forecasts were not as off as the previous year.

In July 2016 through March 2017, WMATA overestimated rail ridership every single month, resulting in a net overestimate of 19.4 million or 13.0%. However, though WMATA projections are less wildly optimistic, notice that the skew direction remains the same.

The improvement was less strong in MetroBus ridership forecasts and the skew direction remained overly rosy. Here are the projected and actual MetroBus ridership for the most recent period.

WMATA projected more MetroBus riders every month than expected with the projections worse in the most recent months. Overall, there were nearly 4.5 million, or 5.1%, fewer riders than anticipated by the budget forecasts.

Like for MetroRail, the previous year’s MetroBus projections were abysmal.

The previous year’s projections were off by even more in every single month. WMATA overestimated MetroBus ridership by 9.3 million. Actual ridership was 9.2% lower than the forecast.

WMATA needs to reform its projections so they do not skew in favor of overestimating ridership. Indeed, if anything, it would be better to err on the conservative side since Metro’s budget relies in part on the expected collection of fares related to these projections.


Metro Ridership Still Falling

Today, I’ve put together MetroRail and MetroBus ridership over the same period from July though March for FY2017 and FY2018.

Among the nine months with comparable data, MetroRail ridership was up over the previous year in four months and down in five months. The months with decline, especially January, saw overall greater slump than the months with gain.

As a result, MetroRail ridership for more recent period is a net 1.57 million lower, or 1.2%, over the previous year. Metro should find this very discouraging. SafeTrack ended, at least temporarily, in June 2017, so the current year is completely post-SafeTrack. Its completion along with the “Back to Good” campaign has simply not halted the long-term hemorrhage.

Moreover, one can hardly blame the decline from December through March on a brutal winter this year. This planned closing of  stations in summer from 2018 through 2021 for weeks on end doesn’t seem likely to help matters either.

If you think the rail numbers are somewhat discouraging, take a look at the bus numbers.

MetroBus ridership is off by 8.6 million (!) over the previous year, an incredible decline 9.4%. No month saw a year-to-year increase. Declines in ridership impact Metro’s budget, as it depends on fares to provide a significant portion of its budget.

Data Sources: Vital Signs Report (Q1-2017), p. 21; Metro Performance Report (Q3-2018), p. 40.


Metro Ridership Down Another 5% Last Year–Now at 2004 Levels

metro ridership

Metro ridership is down 5% over last year. As Metro did not project this decline, this means that Metro faces a substantial budget shortfall of $15 million from the decline in rail revenue and $5 million in bus revenue. Yet, Metro plans to add another 59 employees to the system.

If it raises fares, ridership will decline even further. Metro also needs to spend money on the rail system, as its reliability still seemingly continues to decline on a near daily basis. People don’t want to ride a system that is undependable.

Bringing it home to Maryland, it would be interesting to know how many few people are boarding or alighting at Maryland Metro stops. Additionally, how does the steady decline in ridership affect the projections for Purple Line ridership, as many of its passengers are expected to change to the Red or Orange Lines?