According to WMATA’s latest performance review, overall Metrorail ridership is dropping, and weekend ridership is plummeting.
Overall there were 4.2% fewer Metrorail riders in FY13 compared to FY12, and weekend ridership in June 2013 was fully 12% lower than weekends in June 2012.
Although Metro’s report claims the drop is due to Hurricane Sandy and the federal government’s unanticipated extra Christmas Eve holiday, the obvious explanation is terrible weekend service. Neither the hurricane nor a one-day holiday in December had any effect on that June 2013 number, after all.
Obviously Metro needs to perform a lot of maintenance on weekends. That’s necessary and appropriate. But WMATA could do (and used to do) more to make the system usable on weekends.
It’s not necessary to run 24-minute headways on an entire line in order to single track one short segment. For example, if Metro needs to single track between Foggy Bottom and Smithsonian, they should still be able to run regular service between Vienna and Foggy Bottom.
The location of track crossovers does limit where Metro can turn trains around, but crossovers are never more than 2 or 3 stations apart, so it is always possible to turn trains around somewhere.
WMATA’s heavy maintenance schedule hurts, but it’s a temporary problem. In a few years, presumably, maintenance work will catch up and weekend shutdowns and single tracking won’t be as common. On the other hand, WMATA’s denial to admit terrible service turns riders away is a potentially bigger problem. And if they’re not putting out the best service possible, that’s a huge problem.
Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.