Post Content

Virginia rail system looks to rebound from pandemic ridership nosedive

An Amtrak train passes the Burke station (staff photo by David Taube)

(Updated April 1) Empty parking spaces have been common sights near Fairfax County’s five Virginia Railway Express stations over the last two years.

Like those of other transit agencies nationwide, the commuter railway service’s woes during the COVID-19 pandemic have been well-documented, but a new ad campaign airing this month and next is looking to regain riders.

VRE hoped that the introduction of vaccines would mark a turning point in the pandemic, but the emergence of new Covid variants and the rise of remote work has stymied efforts to bring ridership levels back up.

“We’ve been at this and have just stayed focused and tried to keep it all in front of us,” VRE CEO Rich Dalton said at a board meeting on March 18.

While there were typically over 18,000 daily riders in 2019 and the first two months of 2020, VRE saw 1,532 daily passengers on average in the first half of 2021 and around 2,747 daily passengers in the second half.

This year, the average daily ridership was 2,083 in January, 2,785 in February, and 3,666 from March 1 through March 18 — the highest average since March 2020, according to data provided to FFXnow.

“We are trending up…pretty quickly,” Chris Henry, VRE’s director of rail operations, said at the meeting. “Our goal is to try and figure out what is that new baseline gonna be.”

VRE plans ad campaign

In an effort to attract returning and new riders, VRE plans to launch a marketing blitz that will include radio and mobile app ads.

VRE expects to spend no more than $50,000 on digital advertising campaigns for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Public affairs administrator Karen Finucan Clarkson said VRE will also try to engage riders through real estate and leasing agents as well as community events, such as farmers markets, festivals and fairs.

She said VRE plans to hand out information with a QR code that shows people how to ride, along with free coupons to ride.

The rail service is also working with businesses, chambers of commerce, and other organizations to pass along information to employees and new hires.

“VRE is…an important asset for the region and its strong economic growth, providing benefits whether their employees ride VRE or not,” Joe Swartz, director of government and community affairs, said. “Giving workers transportation alternatives leads to vibrant communities and economic growth.”

VRE will also participate in a statewide campaign called Re-Discover Your Ride. Set to launch on June 1, the campaign aims to help public transit agencies regain riders and is being funded by federal COVID-19 relief money.

VRE Planning Program Manager Nick Ruiz noted that other rail services have seen similar declines.

The Tri-Rail system in South Florida has returned to around half of its pre-pandemic levels, but its service operates in both directions throughout the day with major employment destinations along its route, according to Ruiz.

“I think that’s allowed them to see much more of a resilience,” Ruiz said.

To determine its new baseline, VRE is monitoring shifts in telecommuting, hybrid work schedules, and the federal government’s return-to-office plans. A 2019 survey indicated that most VRE passengers work federal jobs.

In his State of the Union address on March 1, President Joe Biden called for most federal workers to return to in-person work. He later released a plan to expand public-facing services starting in April.

Recent Stories

A new self-storage facility appears likely to replace a soon-to-be-demolished, four-decade-old warehouse in Herndon. On Monday (Sept. 26), the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission unanimously approved plans to construct a…

The Vienna Planning Commission made clear Wednesday (Sept. 28) that in concept, it’s in favor of redeveloping the Vienna Courts offices as duplex housing, but the lack of open space…

(Updated at 11:20 p.m.) An October weekend once filled with fall events is starting to clear out, as Fairfax County braces for Hurricane Ian. The storm that devastated Florida after…

Morning Notes

Fare-Free Connector to Metrorail Transfers Start Tomorrow — “To continue to improve transit service in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved service and fare changes on…

Are you tired of going to the gym? It might be the crowds, the locker room, waiting on equipment or the time it takes to commute to the gym.

Having a personal trainer come to your home will keep you accountable, save you time and allow you to workout in the comfort of your own home.

Skip the hassle of the gym and try our in-home personal training service.

Our services are reasonably priced, convenient, effective and are risk free.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Ending your marriage and living in the shadows of its pain is one thing, but when children (2 and 4 legged ones) are involved it’s not only about you. Divorce Mediation is the way to resolve the past and establish a solid, cooperative foundation to reorganize the relationship with your former partner. Everyone involved will benefit and you will gain peace-of-mind. Divorce Mediation is the cost effective way to negotiate your divorce and sign a Separation Agreement that is equitable and fair. 

Walid Jawad will facilitate the divorce process in a calm and thoughtful manner to help you establish the foundation for your next phase in life.  Walid’s 5-Star google reviews is a testament to his dedication to limiting divorcing couples’ stress during this intense transitional period.

Mediate your divorce virtually from the convenience of your kitchen table for $1,200 and save yourself the average Virginia cost of $15,000 per divorce and $22,000 with children. Make a complimentary appointment with Walid at Aether Mediation here: www.aethermediation.com

Submit your own Community Post here.

Reston Home Tour

Reston Museum’s 20th Reston Home Tour features homes include an award-winning modern masterpiece tucked back in a wooded oasis, a beautifully-landscaped personal “club house” offering amazing views of the golf course, a newly-renovated Reston Town Center townhouse with a water

Ravel Dance Company presents the Nutcracker Ballet

The Ravel Dance Company will present this holiday tradition for the 2nd year at the gorgeous Capital One Hall main stage. It is a wonderful way to start the holiday season. Follow Clara through her journey to the Pine forest,

×

Subscribe to our mailing list