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VRE recaps year with mixed results and sends proposed FY 2014 budget to commissions for approval
BY SCOTT SHENK
In its final meeting of 2012, the Virginia Railway Express operations board addressed the next budget proposal and looked back on a year of mixed results.
Board Chairman Wally Covington started with good news, saying VRE set records for on-time performance and total ridership figures.
He said 2012 was the first year the Fredericksburg and Manassas lines' on-time performance topped 95 percent.
Also, average daily ridership in fiscal year 2012 topped 19,000, Covington said, the highest ever for the commuter rail system.
Total ridership for the year also set a record.
VRE handled a total of 4.772 million rider trips in budget year 2012, which ended June 30. That's a 6 percent increase over the previous year's ridership of 4.512 million.
In fiscal 2010, the commuter rail service reported 4.033 million rider trips and the year before that 3.857 million.
GOOD AND BAD NEWS
The first five months of fiscal year 2013--July through October--haven't been so good, though, as fare revenue was down more than 9 percent compared to the previous year, according to CEO Doug Allen's monthly report.
November was better, though. Allen reported that fare revenue last month was nearly $45,000 more than expected.
However, he added, there has been a dip in riders on Mondays and Fridays recently. Fridays saw a significant drop in November, with 1,282 fewer riders each Friday compared to last November.
Allen suggested that teleworking commuters might be the cause of that drop.
Both Allen and Covington also noted during the meeting that along with the good, VRE had some tough times in 2012.
There were two suicides, in October and November, in which pedestrians stepped in front of VRE trains.
The commuter rail system also was pressured by state auditors this year, after an FBI investigation revealed that a former facilities manager had been taking kickbacks from subcontractors.
Spokesman Mark Roeber said after the meeting that the audits "came out very favorable to us."