Metro is measuring overcrowding wrong

Have you ever wondered why Metro says that your line is not that crowded even though you can barely get on trains?

Customer’s perceptions of overcrowding far exceed what Metro is seeing in their data. As a general rule, if customers perceptions don’t match what you are measuring there’s a good chance that you are measuring things wrong.

In their quarterly vital signs report and in their official goals, Metro publishes the average carload over the course of an hour, but what matters to passengers is the crowd on the train you’re trying to board – not the one coming in 20 minutes.

This is particularly important when trains come at different intervals since crowds increase with wait times. It also means that WMATA may be understating peak carloads during rush hour, since demand should spike based on when people leave work and is not constant over the hour.

However, based on materials from a WMATA committee meeting today, it appears that WMATA already has the technology to easily improve on their reporting to better reflect customer experiences since they can observe the ridership on every car of every train.


(1) Metro should adopt standards for the maximum average carload per train in addition to the maximum average carload per hour.

(2) Metro should track and report on the average carload per train in their vital signs report, alongside the average carload per hour that they already produce.


Posted in Overcrowding

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