Metro is touting its on-time performance in a new report, saying buses and trains are running as well or better than last year. But what the report does not say is that Metro is still not meeting some of the key goals it has set -- even after lowering its targets last year.
It also touts small margins in some places, while glossing over similar margins in others.
The report, slated to be presented to the board of directors Thursday, says trains were on time 89.8 percent of the time in the first three months of the year. It boasts a 0.5 percent increase from the same time last year as an improvement, despite remaining slightly below the agency's target of 90 percent. Just over a year ago, when those 2011 numbers were measured, the agency had a goal of running 95 percent of its trains on time.
|Category||2011*||2012*||Old target||New target|
|Rail on-time performance||89.3%||89.8%||95%||90%|
|Bus on-time performance||77.6%||77.6%||80%||78%|
|MetroAccess on-time performance||90.1%||92.5%||92%||92%|
|* First quarter of the year, January-March|
With the bus system, the agency has chosen to round up in the same report, even with a similar margin of less than 1 percent. The report says it met the 78 percent goal for the percentage of buses that arrive on time. However, an appendix in the report shows the actual number is 77.6 percent. That's 0.4 percent below the actual goal, nearly the same margin it touted as a noteworthy improvement on the rail system. The rate remains the same as in the first quarter of 2011, meaning no improvement.
Meanwhile, Metro's old target for the bus system's on-time performance was 80 percent.
Even so, "on time" may not be what it sounds like. Buses considered on time can be two minutes early or seven minutes late.
Trains are considered on time if they are two minutes later than scheduled during peak service -- or up to 50 percent of the wait time during off-peak times. That means if riders are expecting a 15-minute wait on a weekend, Metro considers the train to be on time if it arrives in 22 minutes.
In one bright spot, the report said the percentage of escalators that were working rose 1.7 percent, from 87.4 percent to 89.1 percent -- just crossing the new goal of 89 percent. But it still ranked below the old target of 93 percent.
And on-time performance on MetroAccess, the system's service for riders with disabilities, was slightly better than the goal, at 92.5 percent during the first three months of the year, compared with the goal of 92 percent. That was an increase of 2.4 percent from a year ago.
Last May, when the agency said it was changing its targets, General Manager Richard Sarles defended lowering the bar as a good strategy. "It focuses staff on making improvements," he told The Washington Examiner. "It's a good way of managing."