D.C.’s Metro system has a problem–costs are going up while ridership has leveled off (boldface mine):
The problem may be summarized in simple terms: Metro’s operating expenses are increasing while its revenues are not, largely the result of declining rail ridership. So Metro will ask its jurisdictions in Washington, Virginia, and Maryland for more money to fill a potentially large hole in its proposed $1.8 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts next July….
The transit authority has blamed falling rail ridership on a number of factors: federal government sequestration, the rise of teleworking, and the loss of the federal transit benefit, to name three.
Rider frustrations are more difficult to quantify. Daily delays caused by railcar breakdowns and, to a lesser extent, track or signal problems may have pushed some rail customers back to their cars where falling gas prices await their commutes.
I’ll add one more source of “rider frustration”: the weekend track repair schedule. There are so many weekends where I think long and hard about using the Metro because the trains are running so infrequently due to scheduled repairs. This in a city where most mew households don’t own a car. It’s hard to test this hypothesis, however, since the ridership data Metro releases isn’t fine-grained enough to look at this.
Underlying Metro’s problems is the ‘identity crisis’ Metro is having. It was originally designed as a way to move suburbanites in and out of D.C. without driving–that is, it was a commuter rail. More and more, at least in D.C., and possibly Arlington, it’s serving as a mass transit system in the way that Boston’s T or New York’s subway system does.
Time for D.C.’s and the ‘DMV’s’* leadership to enter the 21st century.
*‘DMV’ is apparently what all the kewl policy wonks are calling the D.C. Metro area. Not only is it dorky, but it implies we’re all in this together, when, in reality, D.C. gets the short end of the stick. But that will have to be the subject of another post.