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Weekend ridership falls as Metro works on tracks

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir
Ridership on Metrorail has dropped on weekends since Metro started an aggressive push this summer to repair the aging rail system.

From July through November, ridership fell 6.4 percent, with an average weekend ridership of 569,231 trips compared with 608,384 in the same period last year, according to data from the transit agency. It's also the lowest level in at least four years.

It's the "excruciatingly painful" delays from the track work that are causing people who have other options to flee the system, not the soured economy that Metro has been blaming, according to a former executive who asked not to be named.

Changing ridership
Fiscal yearWeekend ridershipChange from prior year
July-November 2008576,370--
July-November 2009603,8844.8 %
July-November 2010608,1860.7%
July-November 2011608,3840%
July-November 2012569,231-6.4%
Source: Metro

"To purposefully impose delays and advertise that fact -- even for something as necessary as track work -- and not expect riders to flee the system is to poke your head in the sand," said the ex-executive.

But spokesman Dan Stessel said there is no evidence that track work is driving the decline. "For some people, I'm sure track work causes them to change their plans. There hasn't been a significant dropoff in ridership attributed to track work."

Instead, he said the weekend numbers appear to be down due to unusual events this year that drove ridership down -- and unusual events last year that drove those numbers up. This year, Hurricane Irene wiped out ridership almost entirely when it hit on a Saturday in late August, he said, while last year the system had a surge of people for Comedy Central's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" march.

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