Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) made significant gains in train and bus reliability, escalator availability, and reduced injuries among both employees and customers, according to the agency’s annual report card.
“This report documents our path of progress, and the good news for riders is that last year we improved in 10 of the 12 areas that we track,” said GM/CEO CEO Richard Sarles. “While we have more opportunities to improve, this report allows us to give our riders and stakeholders a big-picture view that reflects the overall customer experience.”
The report reveals that both rail and bus on-time performance improved for two consecutive years. Each weekday, the trains traveling over the 106-mile Metrorail system make more than 20,000 station stops. In 2012, 91% of those stops occurred on time, providing reliable service to roughly 212 million customers.
The 1% improvement over 2011 accounts for nearly 50,000 additional stops made on time during the year. Metro measures train and bus arrivals at every station and stop rather than terminals — a tough standard that is designed to reflect customers’ experience.
Additionally, the rail system made an unprecedented gain in the reliability of its train cars, exceeding the target for mechanical performance in the fourth quarter for the first time since Vital Signs was published in June 2010. The 13% improvement in reliability over last year means that on average cars traveled 5,500 more miles before experiencing a failure (28,000 more miles in Q4).
The improvements in car maintenance mean fewer offloads and delays for customers. Metro has been able to put into service an average of 23 more cars each morning in 2012 compared to 2011, reducing crowding.
The “Vital Signs” report, which is updated quarterly and available to the public at wmata.com, was created to improve transparency of the agency’s rail and bus system performance. Following its third full year of reporting performance metrics, the 2012 annual report marks year-over-year progress and identifies performance trends.
The report shows that bus fleet reliability jumped up 9% — with 669 more miles between mechanical breakdowns than the prior year. By placing 147 new buses into service, and retiring older, less reliable buses, each bus in Metro’s fleet on average is now capable of making the equivalent of 10 more laps around the Capital Beltway before encountering a problem that affects service.
Bus on-time performance also improved 3% over the last two years. The improvement means more than 1,200 bus trips were made on-time to waiting customers. Metrobus delivered nearly 57,000 bus trips a day.
Also important to customers, escalator availability increased 5% last year, an achievement made possible through aggressive maintenance, the addition of 18 new technicians, and the replacement and rehabilitation of 28 units last year as part of Metro Forward.
Metro also became safer in 2012, as customer injuries dropped 10% to a rate of less than two customer injuries per million trips. Most customer injuries are slips, trips, and falls.
Employee injuries likewise declined, with 5.04 injuries per 200,000 hours worked. This was the second consecutive year of decreased employee injuries, and the 2012 injury rate was five percent better than the target for the year.
The two areas that did not show improvement in 2012 were overall crime rate and complaint rate. The 2012 parking crime rate of two crimes per million riders was down significantly from 2011, and rail robberies and assaults were down 19% and 16%, respectively. These successes were tempered by an increase of 28% in snatches and pickpockets on rail. The bus crime rate remained very low at one crime per million riders, but increased on average over the prior year due to an uptick in snatches and pickpockets.
Metro Transit Police have focused on high-crime stations, using tactics such as crime suppression teams to target would-be snatch thieves. In partnership with (Washington, D.C.) Metropolitan Police and other agencies, Metro has successfully advocated for new tools such as “bricking,” where customers can contact their carriers to have a stolen electronic device remotely disabled (making it as useful as a brick). Also, 32 additional officers will begin patrolling Metrobus in late 2013.
During 2012, customers communicated their concerns, with complaints up 6% over last year due to major schedule changes on both bus and rail systems, in part to prepare for the introduction of Silver Line service next year. Controversial advertising displayed on the system drove complaints earlier in the year.