Oddly Enough, Bad Service Leads To Less Mass Transit Use

While the Washington Post seems to harp on the payment of $460,000 to consultants to point out the obvious*, those involved with the governance of Metro (such as it is), D.C.’s mass transit, might actually be getting it (boldface mine):

After years of hand-wringing over the source of its plummeting ridership — teleworking, a shrinking federal workforce, lower gas prices, ride hailing, bike sharing — a consultant concluded what has been obvious to the hordes of riders who have abandoned the system.

It’s the service.

Metro turned to a consultant late last year to delve into the issues driving its faltering ridership, which by May 2018 had tumbled well below 2009 levels of 750,000 average weekday trips to just over 626,000.

Transit ridership is trending downward in major cities across the country, but Metro’s ridership slide was particularly dramatic — with trips falling nearly 10 percent between May 2016 and May 2018. Now Metro says two-thirds of the losses over the last two years have come during off-peak hours, when rebuilding efforts make riding difficult and the accompanying disruptions drive customers away.

The model, developed by consultant VHB, found the factors that “best correlated” to ridership changes are service-related: train frequency, the number of trains in service and the proportion of trips delayed beyond periods of 10 minutes or 30 minutes, according to Metro.

“Not surprisingly, when the number of trains serving a station increases, ridership increases; and when the percentage of trips delayed increases, ridership decreases,” Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said.

“Public transportation only works if three things come together: Convenience, reliability and affordability,” Metro board chairman Jack Evans said. “That’s it. You don’t need consultants to tell you this.”

Actually, Councilman Evans, the WMATA leadership desperately needs someone to tell them this. Because they’re sure as hell not listening to riders.

This Metro rider pointed out that the decline in weekend travel accounts for about thirty percent of the total ridership decrease, so it’s clear the decline in off-peak use accounts for a similar amount.

If people only use Metro for commuting, then they will use cars for everything else. If D.C. is serious about Vision Zero, it needs to get people out of cars. But the opposite is happening due to Metro’s lousy service: people are using taxis et alia more, and they’re not ditching their cars (I know one couple who live four minutes by foot from the Waterfront Metro, but haven’t ditched their car because they need it on the weekend to get… anywhere.

The overemphasis on safety is also a problem (mass transit is already far safer than driving) because it has allowed WMATA to ignore the real service, reliability, and responsiveness problems (this goes back to the Obama Administration, by the way).

To conclude with the obvious:

“If you focus on service and provide good reliable service, then transit is making the argument for itself,” he said. “If you’re delivering service that is valuable for the money then people want more of it.”

Yes, indeed.

*It did, however, get them to right a story about it, didn’t it?

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1 Response to Oddly Enough, Bad Service Leads To Less Mass Transit Use

  1. Sounds like Buffalo. The more they cut services for both the train & the busses, the more they complain about declining ridership. I’m at a point where I walk almost everywhere.

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