No Consensus on How to Address Declining D.C. Metro Ridership
Faiz Siddiqui reports on the ridership challenges Metro is facing in the Washington, D.C. area. The system is grappling with a ridership decrease averaging 125,000 daily riders over the last 10 years. Younger riders, ages 18 to 29 in particular, are using other modes and riding less on the weekends.
Paul J. Wiedefeld, Metro's general manager, ties ridership declines to factors outside the system, including lower fuel prices and telecommuting. However, one study pointed to service as the primary issue driving people away from Metro.
More than a year after Metro cut late-night service and reduced the frequency of trains on five of six lines amid chronic safety and reliability problems, ridership has plunged to 2001 levels. Now that the agency has secured $500 million a year in dedicated funding for capital needs, riders and their advocates say it's time to shift the focus to restoring some of that service to win back customers.
But Metro board members do not agree about which service improvements the agency should pursue. Some feel that restoring late-night and off-peak service should be the focus. Others believe the problem is reliability and increased headways, particularly at night. Still others say competition from ride-hailing services is the big concern and have proposed requesting more funding from local jurisdictions to subsidize service.