Image by Matt’ Johnson licensed under Creative Commons.

Metro wants an 85% customer satisfaction rate for rail and bus, and it’s currently not hitting that. But there are some signs that railcars are becoming more reliable, which could help curb the system’s loss of riders. This comes from Metro’s released latest quarterly vital signs report, which is essentially a report card on how the agency is performing.

Image by WMATA.

Customer satisfaction on Metrorail was 69% for the first three months of the year, up one percent from the same three month time period last year. Metrobus satisfaction came in at 74%, the same as it was in January-March last year.

In Q1, railcars were more reliable and 7000 series cars came in on schedule

Metro trains themselves have been quite reliable lately, which is one reason customer satisfaction may not have declined even as SafeTrack has continued to shut down portions of the rail system.

The report shows that reported railcar delays were down 70% compared to the same time last year (although with the milder winter, some of that decrease isn’t due to the cars themselves), and the increased reliability meant that half as many trains were offloaded. The railcar fleet beat Metro’s target of 75,000 miles between delays by 6,000 miles, which is better performance than we saw last year.

The 7000 series railcars had an especially good three months, averaging 145k miles between delay (and 12k miles between failure), making them the most-reliable fleet for the quarter.

Image by WMATA.

The 7000s continued to come in steadily, at 20 new railcars per month. All 1000s and 4000s are on schedule to be removed from service by the end of the year. By removing these cars, Metro hopes to get rid of the most unreliable cars (the 4000’s) and the ones that restrict how Metro can operate (the 1000’s), which means fewer breakdowns for riders.

Image by WMATA.

Fewer people rode Metro than the agency anticipated

The report certainly isn’t all good news for Metro. Actual system ridership on both bus and rail was down 19 million trips compared to the agency’s forecast, and down 16.7 million trips compared to the period from January to March last year.

Image by WMATA.

Metrorail’s weekday average ridership in the quarter was 595,000 trips per day - a 10% year-over-year decline from the same time in 2016.

Metro is still in financial trouble

On the financial side of the house, Metro put out a third-quarter budget update that summarizes the agency’s finances from July 2016 through March 2017 (the first 9 months of the 2017 fiscal year). While Metro projected $449 million in fare revenue for Metrorail for Q1, it only collected $383 million. Metro did let some people go, cut back some rail service, and made other internal changes, which saved the agency $76 million.

All that said, Metro won’t have to ask the local jurisdictions for additional end-of-year money to close another budget gap, which it might have had to do if ridership was even lower.

Image by WMATA.

Image by WMATA.

What stands out to you in Metro’s report? With SafeTrack wrapping up, is it reasonable to think Metro performance is beginning to turn a corner back in a positive direction?

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Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.