Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2008 Metrobus Performance Report

I recently received the Metrobus Performance Report for 2008.  It's available here (PDF - main sheet) or here (entire collection as Excel).  As expected, a lot of the same lines are listed among the worst performers as in 2007.  Here they are for 2008:

24T: This bus only averages 189 passengers per day.  Fares only pay 9% of operating costs, and each rider costs area governments $7.24 in subsidy, for a total subsidy of almost $350,000 per year.  This performance is even lower than last year, with declining cost recovery ratio (defined as passenger revenue divided by operating costs).  Travel between the Metro and Tyson's Corner Westpark Transit station is duplicated by a much faster, more frequent bus provided by Fairfax County Connector.  Eliminating or cutting back this line further should be on the table.  There are some people along Westmoreland Street in Arlington and Lewinsville Road in Fairfax County that would lose bus service if this line is cut back, but this is the lowest performer in the system and funds should be diverted to where they can make a greater impact.

98:  This evening Adams Morgan shuttle link is still one of Metrobus' worst lines.  It's expected to be replaced with a circulator service, transferring the responsibility for funding the line to the District.  Oddly, it's not listed in the main table but shows up in each table listing lines that failed to meet basic criteria.  Like the 24T, it failed all of WMATA's performance criteria, with one of the lowest cost recoveries in the system, high subsidy per passenger (over $10 each), and low ridership (less than 6 passengers per trip even though it only runs during times that demand is expected to be high).

N8:  This line increased in failed criteria from 3 to 4.  The line decreased in ridership by over 10%, and all related performance criteria suffered.  The line serves about 350 passengers per day with a subsidy of $1M.

For lines that failed less than 4 criteria, I'm just going to list them. 

S80, S91

C7, C9 (repeat from 2007)

15K, 15L (repeat)


E6 (improved in ridership since 2007)

66, 68 (declined in performance since 2007)

17 (A B F M) (repeat)

18E, 18F (repeat)

Other notable lines are the B30 and the 5A.  These are the only WMATA links to the BWI and Dulles airports.  Both have too few passengers per revenue mile, probably due to the length of the line.  Other than that, they perform adequately, with generally good cost recovery (the 5A is the highest in the system) and moderate subsidies compared to other lines.

The best lines have changed little from last year, as expected:

For daily passengers, the 30s lines were split up into different statistical bins, so they lose their #1 spot to the 70/71 combination.  The northern portion of this Georgia Avenue/7th street line is a prime candidate for upgrading, in my mind, to streetcar, but according to DC (PDF) it's unclear whether the line will be streetcar or BRT.

For cost recovery, it's the 5A followed by the 18(GHJ) express buses from Pentagon.  These lines' cost recovery is helped by the fact that they charge a premium fare for express service.  The highest cost recovery among local buses is the X2, same as last year.

By passengers per mile, it's the X2 and the 42 bus.  These lines are great "pedestrian accelerators", with relatively frequent service (check this against schedule) and low overall route length.  The X2 is on the short list for upgrading to streetcar service.

By subsidy per passenger, it's the X2 again.  I don't know why the subsidy increased so much this year, but last year it was a lot less.  Annual operating costs were higher by more than $1M, and passenger revenue was less than last year.  Ridership was down overall by about 500,000 per year. 

By passengers per trip, it's the C2/C4 combination just like last year.  I believe the data for the P12 line is not correct for number of revenue trips, based on the spreadsheet stating 6,000 trips for this year and 30,000 trips for last year, with approximately the same ridership.  I just don't buy that the same number of people are riding the same bus line, with a dramatic cut in frequency that I'd never heard of.

Just like last year, I think this performance just demonstrates how good a line the X2 is.  It's no wonder that DC is considering upgrading the line to streetcar.  Let's hope they get the funding and overhead wires issues sorted out quickly so we can start laying some tracks.