Transit Agencies Struggling to Predict Ridership, Even as They Raise Fares

At transit agencies like D.C, Metro, bad ridership projections beget bad fare scheduling which begets bad budgets. And so on.
March 13, 2017, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority's well documented challenges with maintenance and ridership are further complicated by inaccuracies in the region’s travel forecasts, according to an article by Martin Di Caro.

Bad projections, according to Di Caro, breed "unreliable budgeting and eroding confidence that Metro’s leaders have the best data possible to manage the current ridership losses."

Metro recently announced a fare increase, but it "remains unclear where Metro’s ridership and fare revenue need to be to avoid annual debates over fare hikes and service cuts," according to Di Caro. A report by Metro's inspector general [pdf] found "that the transit authority’s key departments recognize the old way of predicting commuter behavior and setting fare levels no longer works."

Yet, D.C. Metro is not the only Metro in the country struggling to build better predictive modeling. "Metro reached out to other major systems via survey, confirming that they 'face similar constraints in making changes to fare structures, such as economic factors, available funding, political opposition, and public board reaction,'" according to Di Caro.

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Published on Friday, March 10, 2017 in WAMU
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