Arlington County’s bus service saw another substantial dip in ridership this spring compared to the same time last year, new numbers provided to regional transportation planners show.
Arlington Transit recorded a 15 percent drop in riders in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, covering April through June, compared to the same period a year ago.
The latest figures forwarded to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission show that the bus service recorded 745,850 passenger trips over that three month stretch, down from 874,695 a year ago.
That number is actually a 6.6 percent increase from ART’s ridership figures covering January through March. But those numbers were also disappointing ones for the bus service, as they represented a 17 percent drop from the same time period in 2017, meaning that ART has recorded ridership declines for the last two quarters in a row.
The latest ridership statistics represent an even steeper drop still from the same time period in 2016, when ART recorded 905,661 passenger trips — equivalent to a 17.6 percent decline.
These figures come as bus services nationwide cope with ridership declines, as the D.C. region as a whole struggles to convince riders to embrace public transit. The NVTC’s numbers also show that Metrobus ridership in Northern Virginia localities dipped by 9 percent this quarter compared to a year ago, though Metro ridership did tick slightly upward at most Arlington stations.
“The depth of erosion in bus ridership has been more than what we were expecting,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey previously told ARLnow. “As riders returned to Metro after SafeTrack, we would’ve expected a modest reduction, but it’s just been more substantial than we thought.”
The county has indeed previously blamed some of the decline in bus ridership on riders returning to Metro after the aforementioned intense rehab work, though the rail service has continued to deal with lengthy delays due to construction, which recently resulted in some riders embracing bus options this summer. Other potential culprits include the increasing popularity of ride-sharing or telecommuting.
Dorsey says the county’s approach to reversing that trend will remain the same as ever: “keep investing in places where people want to go.” He added that the county is also working to “refresh” some of its older ART buses, which could help lure riders back to the service.
“We’re investing in new coaches for greater comfort, which is always helpful,” Dorsey said. “When ART was introduced, one of the benefits that convinced people to move to the bus was they were cleaner and quieter. But as they’ve aged, that competitive advantage has declined. We just need to reinvest in ART a little bit.”
Arlington Transit bus riders could see delays across several routes over the course of the next week.
Unspecified “mechanical issues” are causing the delays, according to an ART service alert issued today (Monday). ART did not list specific routes that will be impacted, noting only that the routes will operate “at reduced frequencies” and that it will issue alerts about upcoming delays “as needed.”
A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, which oversees ART, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the nature of the mechanical issues. ART buses have on occasion suffered brake failures, leading to significant crashes, though it is unclear whether this week’s delays are in any way related.
So far, buses on ART Route 77 between the Courthouse Metro station and ART’s Shirlington station have recorded several delays, and some departures have been canceled entirely, according to county service alerts.
“Staff is currently working to quickly resolve these problems but we anticipate service disruptions on ART routes throughout the week,” ART wrote in the alert. “We apologize for the inconvenience as we work to ensure the safety and reliability of our fleet.”
ART opened a new, $17.6 million “light maintenance facility” on S. Eads Street last fall, and the county is planning to someday open a “heavy maintenance facility” in Springfield, after the County Board approved the purchase of a site there for $4.65 million.
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) A PRTC commuter bus smashed into the side of the Lenox Club apartment building in Pentagon City Wednesday evening.
The crash happened just before 6 p.m., along 12th Street S. The bus, which was not carrying passengers at the time, hopped the curb, struck the front of a convertible and ran into a storefront on the side of the building.
Three people were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. Among those injured were the bus driver, a pedestrian and one person who was inside the building, Savage said.
Structural engineers have been called to inspect the base of the high-rise building, which remained open for residents. 12th Street S. between Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street remains closed while police investigate the crash.
No word yet on whether the driver will face any charges.
401 12th St. S. pic.twitter.com/8QqXRzvC2M
— LincolnACFD (@LincolnACFD) March 29, 2017
— Josh (@josh13x) March 30, 2017
— Tiffany Harrison (@TiffAnn_89) March 30, 2017
Photos (top) courtesy Sid, @josh13x
ART 43 will run from the Crystal City Metro Station to the Crystal City VRE station and Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro Stations between 5:55 a.m. and 8:55 a.m. and 3:20 to 7:17 p.m. starting March 31.
The bus will only run during rush hour on weekdays; there’s no planned off-peak or weekend service yet. The bus schedule indicates a 20-minute travel time from the Crystal City Metro stop to Courthouse.
The new bus is designed to serve as an alternative to the Blue Line. On the same day, Metrobus is launching two bus lines of its own — called 10R and 10S — that will travel between Crystal City and Rosslyn.
Arlington says the three lines will combine to ensure a bus going to Rosslyn from Crystal City will be available an average of every 10 minutes.
Every afternoon for the past week — and quite possibly for longer than that — this Loudoun County Transit bus has parked itself on the right shoulder of the busy ramp from Route 110 to Route 1 in Pentagon City, forcing cars to veer to the left as they drive by.
Other commuter buses in the area like to idle on the side of bumpy, narrow Old Jefferson Davis Highway while waiting to pick up passengers in Crystal City, but for some reason this bus likes the on-ramp.
There’s got to be a safer place to park, right?