Metrorail ridership drops 6 percent after fare hike

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Photo - A metro train arriving at Farragut North Metro station, Monday, October 10, 2012
A metro train arriving at Farragut North Metro station, Monday, October 10, 2012
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Metrorail ridership fell in the first six months of fiscal 2013 as fare increases and weekend track work took their toll, according to a new report by the transit agency.

Total ridership fell about 6 percent from 105.5 million riders a year ago, with a 2 million trip drop in peak ridership and a 1.3 million trip drop in weekend ridership. Metro attributed both drops to fare increases, with the weekend decrease partly due to increased track closures.

Metrorail ridership rose in 2012 after dropping in 2011 and 2010.

All aboard
July-December 2012 July-December 2011
Metrorail ridership 99,211,360 105,544,000
Metrorail revenue $412,400,000 $397,100,000
Source: Metro

Despite the drop, fare increases that went into effect in July prompted rail revenue to increase to $412.4 million for the first six months of the fiscal year, from $397.1 million a year earlier, according to Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas.

While riders experienced about a 5 percent increase in fares -- the second hike since 2010 -- the actual change depends on when and how far they travel. Many passengers were also hit by a drop in the federal transit benefit, which fell from a maximum of $230 in 2011 to $125 in 2012. That transit benefit was restored this year.

Despite the gains, Metrorail revenue is still $20.2 million below budgeted expectations, Lukas said. While Metro also assessed weather, the economy and service quality, the report didn't point to any of those as the culprit for the falling ridership.

"None of these factors have changed significantly enough from last year to this year to account for the ridership drop," the report

says. "Given the timing of the ridership drop in July 2012, it is clear that the fare increase combined with the reduction in the federal transit benefit is having a larger impact than was anticipated in the FY2013 budget."

The report also attributed ridership drops to Hurricane Sandy and the Christmas Eve federal holiday. The former closed Metrorail for two days in October, leading to 1.4 million fewer riders and $4 million in lost revenue, according to the report. The latter lost 300,000 riders and $800,000.

Even without those anomalies, however, Metrorail revenue still sits at $15.4 million lower than accounted for.

More than 80 percent of Metro stations experienced ridership drops, while those that increased "are generally those stations that have the most intense economic development," according to the report.

The Navy Yard station had the largest growth, likely due to attendance at Washington Nationals baseball games, while the Dupont Circle station saw the biggest decrease -- its southern entrance was closed while the escalator was replaced.

More than 95 percent of stations saw revenue increases, the report said.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner