Metro is behind in terms of the money that comes in from Metrorail and Metrobus fares, despite the increased cost of fares, because fewer people are riding the bus.
Metro Board Finance and Budget Committee chairman Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said the statistics in the report from staff to the committee this week might confuse riders.
“They had projected an increase in rail ridership in 2018 compared to 2017,” Goldman said. “That growth in rail ridership never materialized.”
Metro officials received less revenue from fares, including bus, rail and MetroAccess than expected.
Metrobus ridership is lower than in last fiscal year. “That’s not true for rail,” Goldman said. “Rail is roughly – compared to the same month[s] of 2017 – maybe stable or just down a percentage.”
Rail ridership through March this fiscal year is 1.2 percent less than what it was during the same period of fiscal year 2017. Bus ridership through the end of the third quarter is down 9.4 percent, compared to fiscal year 2017.
“I feel comfortable saying rail ridership has stabilized, although it would be good to have another six months of data before feeling totally confident about that,” Goldman said.
Metro officials said the revenue for fiscal year 2018 quarter 3 (January through March) is $601 million, which is $20 million below what they were hoping to earn.
“Total transit ridership on all modes – Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess – through the third quarter was 212 million trips, a decrease of 10 million trips, or five percent compared to the prior year,” officials wrote in a memorandum to Metro’s Finance and Budget Committee this week. “Ridership was below budget for all modes through the third quarter, and total ridership for all modes was below budgeted trips by 7.3 million, or three percent.”
Too few people taking trips on Metrobus caused the largest share of the gap in operating revenue. The bus fare revenue is not only lower than Metro officials had expected, but also it is less than that of the previous year, even though fares are higher for both bus and rail trips.
“While bus revenue was three percent lower than last year, it was 15 percent below budget through the third quarter. The fare hikes, growth in alternative means of transportation and increased telework, or working from home, are harming Metrobus ridership counts, officials wrote in the memorandum.
Fiscal year 2018 through March (end of quarter 3), bus ridership was $93 million, 3 percent less than levels through quarter 3 of 2017 and a $3 million difference. It was $16 million, 15 percent, less than what management had included in the current budget.
For rail, fare income of $391 million was $3 million less than the budget, although it was an $8 million increase, or 2 percent, from 2017.
The decrease in revenue earned for MetroAccess, Metro’s service for the elderly and people with disabilities, was less than 1 percent below budget. The number of trips taken was 2 percent below budget and below fiscal year 2017.