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

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.