Blame COVID. Blame employees who won’t give up the work-from-home approach. Blame summer vacations.
Add them all up, and average daily ridership on Virginia Railway Express, though improving to a degree, still leaves plenty of room for growth.
The transit agency – whose service focuses largely on commuters traveling from the outer suburbs to Alexandria, Arlington and the District of Columbia – has recouped only 12 percent of operating costs through farebox collections for the first 11 months of its fiscal year beginning July 2021, according to data transmitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
That compares to the system’s goal of 52-percent cost recovery in normal times.
VRE’s average daily ridership of 4,956 in July was up from 2,589 a year before, but down slightly from June. That’s perhaps no surprise, given mid-summer vacations. Only about 11 percent of peak-service-hour seats were occupied during the month, officials said.
In an effort to entice riders back to the system following a third spring and summer of COVID, and in hopes of creating a market among market for those who have not given it a go before, there will be no charge to ride during VRE trains September, with several routes offering free October service, as well.