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Transit's Future
The Death of the Washington Metro
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  • Gene

    There are a hell of a lot of people in DC who use the Metro and for whom it’s the best option, and that number may shrink but it’s not going to zero. I commute to DC 2 days per week for my job and the Metro is super-convenient once I get into the city. (I’ve also been riding Metro regularly since 2000 and in my experience the breakdowns and delays in the system today are no more frequent than they were then.)

    But I’ve seen a dramatic increase in telework just within my own company over the past 15 years and I suspect that’s a huge part of the explanation.

    • Andrew Allison

      The issue is the fare recovery rate, i.e. how much do taxpayers pay for each trip taken.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The capital is always going to be the capital, a thing different from just any city. TAI helpfully reminded us that it includes not only a government but also a lobbying industry. I’d guess that whatever that latter-mentioned industry wants for the Metro is what the Metro will get.

    • J K Brown

      Hidden in your assessment is that, yes, this is government. That means that regardless of productivity benefits, the individuals who run the agencies and lobbying firms, who wouldn’t be caught dead on the Metro, will maintain large bodies of lesser workers in the offices. Those staffs will use the Metro, but with the ridership winnowing to the lowest level staff as not using the Metro signals status.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Sounds like you are reporting from the scene.

  • SpiderPie

    Wow, this is so surprising and disappointing. I lived in the DC area (Crystal City) in 1998-2000, and I rode the Metro everywhere. Back then, it was clean, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive. Too bad it’s taken a downhill turn.

  • demboj

    Tourists outnumber residents in DC. The DC area got more than 15 million tourists in 2015, the last year where we know the full statistics. There are only 2-3 million people in the whole Metro area. Less than half of residents have any need of Metro on a regular basis. So, the Metro was really intended for the tourists (and as a fall-out shelter); it was never meant as basic transportation for DC and suburban folks, no matter what they would like us to believe. The tourists see only the bad news on Metro. I’ll bet that if ridership is down, its tourists who are leading the decline.

    • CapitalHawk

      If you can’t get basic, easily found, facts such as the population of the DC MSA correct, why should we read the rest of your thoughts. So, here are some facts:
      1. The DC MSA has over 6 million people.
      2. The Metro was originally intended, and still serves as, a method to move workers from the suburbs into the core of DC for work. The Metro exists as a substitute for highways going from the Capital Beltway into the center of DC, especially in Maryland.
      3. The Metro has a secondary effect (purpose?) of boosting property values near stations.
      4. The vast majority of riders on Metro are daily commuters with another decent number using it to go to major events (basketball, hockey and baseball games, and concerts).

      • demboj

        CapitalHawk: The Metro does not reach 6 million people in the metropolitan area. It reaches no more than 2-3 million people. That is a fact. If the “vast majority” of riders are locals and not tourists that is a problem, not a solution.

        • MarkRoulo

          “As of the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, the population of the Washington metropolitan area was estimated to be 6,097,684…”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_metropolitan_area

        • CapitalHawk

          Over 4 million people live in DC, Montgomery and PG counties in Maryland, and Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia. The jurisdictions I just listed all have Metro stops in them. You are wrong.

          • demboj

            What is this fixation you have with the population. This is not a quibble about the population of the DC metropolitan area. I don’t care if there are 100 million people in the region. I say that Metro is not serving the population. Metro does not “reach” the whole population. Look at a map for yourself. It really only covers the downtown DC area where most tourists go, plus the very closest in suburbs. DC is 10 miles square but the Metro area extends for 40-50 miles beyond the borders. The rate of effective “reach” declines markedly with every mile away from the DC border. The Metrol area goes for A simple look at a map will tell you that a majority of the population have to walk or take a bus or car several miles from their homes or from their work place. Metro doesn’t serve their needs in my opinion. Hence the park and ride lots at the stations. People might walk in an emergency or for the novelty but most will never do that on a daily basis. Here’s a map that shows what I mean. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiZl_ew_bDSAhWJ7SYKHYR9DXQQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.welovedc.com%2F2009%2F11%2F24%2Fdc-mythbusting-metro-map-to-scale%2F&psig=AFQjCNFPsS0dNA3M7GkoX85VvRb0vKD46A&ust=1488309000850243

          • CapitalHawk

            My fixation is to point out your facts are wrong. I think that matters, even though you seem to think “facts are irrelevant.” It undermines your other arguments. If Einstein went around saying the sky was orange and then expounding on the theory of relativity, people would have doubted him too. And you are wrong on the purpose of Metro as well. It is a commuter rail and just like every commuter rail, most riders drive to the station and park there. I’m only aware of one subway system in the USA that functions as you seem to think they ought to – NYC – and even NYC has commuter rail that functions like the Metro in DC (people drive and park at the stations).

          • demboj

            By pointing out that the population of the Metro Area is double what I estimated, you have doubled the number of people who are not being served by Metro and proved my case. Instead of only 2-3 million people not being served, you have established that the true figure is 4-6 million people. Thanks.

          • demboj

            Your facts are irrelevant. They have nothing to do with the issue.

  • I’m surprised about bus ridership decreasing, but not about train ridership. While Metro service is poor and hampered by safety concerns, another big reason why ridership is down is that the Metro hasn’t kept up with where people actually live and work. If you live and work outside the beltway, then Metro is almost useless, and ever increasing numbers of people in the area do in fact live and work outside the Beltway. Even for those of us who still live and work inside the Beltway, using the Metro isn’t easy unless you happen to live in one of the ultra-expensive areas around a Metro station. Otherwise you have to take a bus to the station, which typically adds about 30 minutes round-trip to your commute. At that point, you’re better off just driving.

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