3 Months After Metro Fare Increase: Revenue Up 7.7%, Ridership Down 4.4%

Metro fare revenue is up 7.7 percent comparing October through December for 2013 vs. 2014. Image via Metro presentation [PDF]
Metro fare revenue is up 7.7 percent, comparing October through December for 2013 vs. 2014. Image via January 2015 Metro Quarterly Financial Update presentation [PDF]
Metro released its latest Quarterly Financial Update [PDF] at this week’s Finance Committee meeting. The report gives an early glance at the impacts of Metro’s mid-September 2014 fare increases.

Financially, the news is good. Comparing the second quarter, October to December, of FY2014-13 vs. FY2014-15, fare revenue is up 7.7 percent.

The picture is not all good, though. Revenue is up; ridership is down.

This week, the agency also released ridership data from December. Compiling monthly ridership data for the same second quarter three-month window as the above revenue data, Metro’s ridership is down 4.4 percent. Though the average is not particularly instructive (November and December are generally low ridership), for those three months, overall Metro system ridership dropped from 30.8 million per month in 2013 to 29.3 million in 2014. See actual monthly data compiled in this spreadsheet.

One interesting post-fare-increase trend within the data is that bus ridership is down quite a bit more than rail ridership. For October, November, and December, bus ridership dropped 5.0 percent. During the same period, rail ridership declined only 2.7 percent.

Overall, Metro buses still carry about 30 million riders per month — three-quarters of Metro ridership. Rail carries about 10 million riders per month — a quarter of overall ridership.

There are lots of overall trends that impact ridership, so it is impossible to attribute all the revenue increases and ridership declines solely to fare increases. The state is seeing upward trends in transit utilization. Metro continues to make “service changes” that amount to cuts to the bus system. Metro spokesperson Marc Littman has emphasized that other factors can impact ridership:

[I]t will take up to six months to really gauge the revenue impacts of the fare changes. And while we expect some temporary drop in ridership, you can’t tag it just to the fare changes. Gas prices today are the lowest since February 2011, the economy is picking up, they latched the gates at half the Metro Rail stations and are cracking down on fare evasion. Too many variables to draw conclusions that it’s all related to the fare changes.

Even with revenue trending upward, departing Metro CEO Art Leahy, at least as of yesterday, was still predicting an impending fiscal crisis could be only a couple years off. With such an ambitious rail expansion program, Leahy had pressed for Metro to approve three successive fare increases. His board only approved the initial 2014 increase. Leahy’s tune has changed slightly, though. Before, he was saying that “we” face a coming deficit. Yesterday, the pronoun changed to “you.”

  • M

    Although they may not account for most of the increases in fare, I personally know many people that only ride Metro occasionally that didn’t know about the fare changes. As a result, the first time they rode after the increase, they also went ahead and bought a day pass, even if they no longer needed it (i.e. they bought it because they needed to transfer and didn’t realize that was included in the new fare.) As a result, they spent $7 when in fact they only needed to spend $3.50. In many cases it wasn’t until I talked with them later that they realized they just paid twice as much as they needed to.

  • Alex Brideau III

    While it probably doesn’t affect the decrease in bus ridership, the recent temporary closure of 4 Blue Line stations could have played a role in the drop in rail ridership.

  • amanda

    A monthly pass no longer makes much sense unless you know you will essentially use it twice a day every day. Once you are paying per ride, you ride a lot less.

  • amanda

    compare with nyc mta where base fare is $2.50 and monthly pass is $112

  • June H

    I agree with the monthly pass statement. With a monthly pass, you are more likely to hop on a bus or rail even for a few blocks or if driving is more direct. They are also an incentive to ride Metro for weekend or off-hours recreation even though less traffic often makes driving faster. With free transfers, the new monthly pass rate makes no sense for commuters which I assume are the majority of all regular riders. Bring the monthly pass back down and see if that increases ridership. Then tourists or occasional users pick up the heftier cost for convenience usage.


    1.75 is still cheap. The real price should be $3.00 and $150 a month for a pass.

  • I want to see a year’s worth of data in July of this year when all the stations that can be turnstiled will have been “latched” for one year:


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