Update: Metrorail ridership off 2.7% so far in August

For those who don't know, Metro publishes ridership information on their web site. I went ahead and nailed down the numbers for August, and ridership is off 2.7% for the month so far. These figures are adjusted so weekends line up in comparison. All figures are for Metrorail only.

Sorry that it's a JPG of an Excel spreadsheet, I don't have access to better publishing tools at the moment.

After a debate in the comments to the previous post, I was curious if the "trend" of less ridership has lasted into August. It appears it has. Weekend ridership has certainly been hit, not surprisingly given the amount of track work.

The fact that ridership is off during the week makes me think a certain percentage of people have selected an alternate way of getting to work. We'll see if this continues for the rest of the month, and if it also happens in September as well. To be clear, I'm not pinning this all on the 6/22 crash. I find it interesting that weekday ridership is still down, given that the Red Line has restored nearly full service at rush hour.

How can we make any sort of conclusion, given that there is a major recession going on, and that may impact how many people use public transportation?

Well, let's compare May 2009 to May 2008. We should be able to compare this difference to August 2009 versus 2008. The economic situation in May is not that different than August, and there was no major rail crash in May.

Unfortunately Metro screwed up their ridership information. If you believe what is on their web site, then ridership was up just about 4% in May. However, the data from May 11 and May 12 is not correct. If you go back to the May 2008 archives, the ridership is listed as "TBD." These two days should be compared against weekday ridership data, and those 362,024 and 352,542 numbers don't make any sense for weekday travel. If you filter those two days out, you end up with ridership being off by 0.18%.

I don't trust Metro's reporting very well, and only wish it was available on their site in a XLS or something easier to work with.

If we suppose that for some reason Metro's numbers are correct, and that ridership in May and June were up over 2008, even in the midst of the recession, then the fact that we are down another 2.7% in August is significant. That points to the fallout from 6/22 as being a big reason for a decline. There was indeed a 1.71% increase in ridership in June, if you exclude the data from after the 6/22 crash.

If ridership being down 2.3% in July is a Big Story, then being down 2.7% in August is just as big. I would venture to guess about 1.5-2% of this decline is due to the 6/22 crash. Since the trend continues during rush hour days in August, I imagine some people have given up on Metro.


  1. Well, we'll wait to see if i owe you a six pack until the end of August. But I don't put much wieght in a 2 or 3% decline especially given the economy.

    But you could be right, though I don't think it has anything to do with safety concerns.
    Everyone commutes in the way that is the best balance of cost, time and convenience. For a small fraction people at the margin (like... a couple percent) it's probably a close call whether Metro or some alternative is the best choice.

    Right now, the red line is somewhat shittier for some people, so anyone who at the margin of Metro being the best choice, and rides the red line, might have switched. But once things get better, I bet you they will switch back.

  2. Yeah, I don't think 1% of Metrorail riders have given up due to safety concerns, it's more that their commutes have gotten much more difficult.

    Got two weeks to turn the trend around. You can even just buy me a cheap beer at the Red Derby, if you'd prefer.

  3. Don't worry...the wildlife will pick off the remaining passengers. At the Fort Totten station I saw a family of raccoons by the smartcard machines and station managers office at about 5pm on Tuesday the 18th. I called DC animal control and they did not seem to be concerned, even though raccoons are known carriers of rabies (which is a horrible way to die by the way). I also talked to the station manager who claimed WMATA wasn't doing anything about it. He also looked worried and had a hoe ready to defend himself. Anyhow, in case WMATA is reading this and gives a damn, DC animal control is (202) 576-6664.

    I will try to take a photo of them tonight if they're out terroizing the station manager again. They're only about 20' from the station smartcard machines.

  4. I used to ride the metro everyday, but now I drive because the commute has become so unreliable. My commute used to be 20 minutes, now it's anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour on the metro so it's easier and faster to drive.