Metro (Washington, DC) Loses Significant Ridership in Virginia

December 13, 2007
A recent report by Adam Tuss, WTOP Radio of Alexandria, Va. stated:

Documents prepared by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission,
and obtained by WTOP, show between Metro’s 2006 and 2007 fiscal
years, 12 of Virginia’s 20 rail stations saw weekday passenger trips drop.

As a whole, weekday ridership numbers were down by more than
431,000 trips during that time period.

Even more troubling for the transit agency, some of the largest declines
came at both “end of the line” stations, Vienna and Franconia-Springfield.
Coupled together, those two stations totalled more than 285,000 fewer
trips from the 2006 fiscal period to the 2007 period. Metro’s fiscal year
begins on July 1.

The figures are weighty because the transit agency will be deciding a fare
hike Thursday. Metro Board members are concerned increasing fares
could drive even more suburban riders away. It is known as elasticity,
the point at which riders say taking Metro is too expensive, and decide
to head to their cars instead. Metro Board members from the suburbs
have been trying to find ways to lessen the impact on the riders they
represent by lowering increases on parking and for longer rail trips.

“Gas may be over $3 a gallon, but folks are already starting to give
up on us,” Metro Board member and Fairfax County Supervisor
Dana Kauffman tells WTOP. “The fare increases will drop, but so
are, in advance of any type of increase, our ridership numbers.”

Three out of the four Metro stations in Alexandria saw weekday
ridership decline. It happened to five of the 11 stations in Arlington
and four of the five stations in Fairfax County as well.

COST Comments on this report:

The Washington, DC area is second behind the New York area in urban transit market share and the Virginia ridership is a substantial portion of total ridership. However, as stated above, the Virginia transit ridership declined in the 2007 fiscal period. The population density in Washington DC is many times that of Austin’s. Austin’s Coalition on Sustainable Transportation (COST) believes ridership on the Leander to Austin commuter train will be as low, or lower, than projected by Capital Metro after it opens in late 2008. The Leander to Austin line is already projected to be several hundred million dollars over the capital and operating budget promised to voters. This will require taxpayers to subsidize each daily rider from Leander to Austin with some $20,000 per year. This commuter will not improve congestion or pollutions as advertised. In fact the train has no positive societal benefits and has a number of negative impacts. It will take many riders longer to reach their destination than with existing express buses; the exorbitant costs will siphon funds from the bus system, increasing fares and reducing service for many who depend on daily public transit and have no choice; the train will increase congestion by stopping traffic at crossings and will create new safety hazards for vehicles and pedestrians. Basically, the subsidizing of middle income train riders will be at the expense of lower income transit riders.

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©2007 Coalition On Sustainable Transportation