Oddly, A Transit System That Transits Poorly Doesn’t Have Many Riders

So D.C. Metro is finally coming to grips with the notion that lousy service, especially infrequent trains, discourages people from using it (boldface mine):

Total transit ridership decreased by 9.5 million since last year, amounting to 5.4 percent, according to the second quarter financial update for fiscal year 2016, which the Metro Board of Directors will discuss at Thursday’s meeting….

Rail ridership sank the most, declining 6.1 percent on weekdays and a whopping 12 percent on weekends when compared to the previous year. Average Saturday ridership was down 17 percent if the Million Man March bump in October is excluded. “The ridership declines have impacted nearly all stations, time periods and trip types and cannot be attributed to poor weather,” the report says, though notes that limited service on weekends due to track work and rebuilding contributed to the decline.

Yes, weekend service is a problem. It’s not just the lost revenue, but poor weekend service (2-3 trains each per hour) means people won’t have buy-in. If Metro becomes just another commuting option, people will be less likely to use it overall:

Apparently as rail is going down, it’s dragging the buses down, too, as the report noted that “there is evidence that rail ridership losses are impacting busses.” Though on the upside, Metrobus isn’t in it alone, since other regional bus services are also dropping at sharper rates than its bus service. So there’s always that.

I realize there’s a need for maintenance, but somehow Metro has to figure out how to make the service more reliable, especially for city residents. Since the overwhelming amount of funding comes from fares (a really stupid idea, but that’s a separate post topic), lower ridership only weakens the system.

I hate using terms like ‘death spiral’, but we are definitely veering towards negative feedback territory.

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1 Response to Oddly, A Transit System That Transits Poorly Doesn’t Have Many Riders

  1. Min says:

    “I hate using terms like ‘death spiral’, but we are definitely veering towards negative feedback territory.”

    Minor schoolmarm point. You mean positive feedback. Negative feedback would reverse directions. 🙂

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