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Metro Reports Declines in Ridership and Revenues
Metro pulled in $20 million less than what it expected to in the most recent fiscal year, thanks to sequestration, nasty weather, and all that pesky track work. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user bclinesmith.
Comments () | Published September 9, 2013
Revenue for the 2013 fiscal year at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority came in $20.3 million below expectations, and much of the credit for the lost money can be chalked up to frustrating track work, inclement weather, federal budget sequestration, and even a presidential declaration.

In a report presented today to Metro's board, the transit agency said the gap in projected revenue was also created by dropping ridership, which in turn led to fewer fare collections. Over the course of a year, 9.3 million fewer people than expected rode Metrorail. Weekends, especially in June, saw some of the most significant decreases in ridership from 2012. Twelve percent fewer riders boarded Metro trains on weekends in June 2013 than in June 2012, the report found.

Of the $20.3 million shortfall, $6 million was attributed to two events: Hurricane Sandy, in late October, and President Obama's decision to declare Christmas Eve a federal holiday. In the case of Sandy, Metro shut itself down for two days as the monster storm approached the Washington area, even though the second day's weather was not terribly severe.

Metro is also chalking up modest losses in ridership to federal worker furloughs brought on by budget sequestration, which went into effect March 1.

There were a few positive one-time events, though. Metrorail ridership was bolstered, albeit briefly, by Obama's inauguration in January and on April 10, when Metro recorded its fourth-highest single-day ridership ever during the peak of cherry blossom season with 872,000 fares.

Bus ridership came in slightly above budgeted expectations, but below the 2012 mark.

Despite running more than $20 million behind in revenue, Metro says it still finished its fiscal year about $30 million ahead thanks to expenses coming in $50.5 million under budget. Most of the savings were in labor costs, which were $45.5 million less than expected.

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  • Rob0405

    The factors mentioned are important, but I think ridership over the long term is affected most by cost, followed by reliability. People have much less incentive to take Metro if it is more expensive and less convenient than driving. The system cannot be funded on the backs of riders, who are unwilling to keep paying higher and higher fares for a broken system.

  • Tom

    Yeah, I used to be committed to basically car-free living. But, metro on the weekends has made that impossible. Headways are way way way too long. I increasinly find myself just driving places. Most of my friends have done the same. Driving has become the default means of transit for my friends on Cap Hill when they are leaving the neighborhood or getting groceries. The idea of public transit dosen't even cross their minds.

    The opening of the Silver line seems likely to only further tip to solidify Metro's place as a commuter rail line. Useful for commuting downtown, but little else. It's a shame. Especially when the city as a whole seems to be moving in a more urban direction.
    DC needs a beefed up circulator system to get people around the city. It's pretty user friendly and efficient.

  • wanker16

    "Weekends, especially in June, saw some of the most significant decreases in ridership from 2012. " - No joke! WMATA has made it very difficult for riders to depend on the system at the weekends. I think most people just became fed up with the track work and endless delays at the weekend and now consider other options (either not traveling or using a different mode of transportation).

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