In a typical year, riders of Virginia Railway Express service contribute 50 percent of the commuter train system’s operating revenue.
Nothing has been “typical” in recent years, and it looks like the VRE fiscal year ending in June will see a rider contribution of around a quarter of that goal.
For the first nine months of the fiscal year, July through March, passenger contributions (largely tickets and parking) have totaled just under $7.1 million, compared to $64.1 million in operating expenses, according to VRE data provided to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
That’s slightly below the projection of 13 percent recoupment of costs for the full fiscal year, but the current quarter likely will allow the full-year results to hit that mark.
“Ridership has been growing steadily,” the transit agency reported.
As indeed it has, from an average daily ridership of 2,083 in January to 2,785 in February to 3,889 in March and 4,366 in April.
That, however, is well below the average daily ridership of 18,692 in February 2020, the last pre-pandemic month. And until employers begin more robust back-in-the-office efforts (if they ever do), the passenger counts are likely to remain negatively impacted.
Other than ticket and ancillary fees collected from passengers, VRE receives funding from the state’s gas tax (about $15 million per year) plus subsidies from local, state and federal govenrments.
Virginia Railway Express is operated by the Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, with its operating board made up of officials from the various jurisdictions. Using trackage owned by CSX, VRE runs commuter service from points west and south into Alexandria, Arlington and the District of Columbia weekday mornings, then back out in the afternoon.