Things to listen to whilst transiting: “The Cult of Tesla” on High Country New’s Range podcast series. Why are so many people so devoted to Tesla?
I don’t usually post stories that are a year old. But a colleague sent this one over and I thought it was more intriguing than anything else open in my browser. The gist of it: the bus system in Missoula, Montana, went fare free in early 2015 and — shocker — ridership went way up.
It’s worth considering, of course, that the Missoula metro area only has about 115,000 people — that’s about 16K shy of Pasadena’s population, for sake of comparison. That said, Missoula’s bus system still found that the benefits were numerous: buses got quicker (with no fares to collect), the system was more equitable, it attracted more discretionary riders and lower administrative costs, among others.
So what about big metro areas? Excerpt:
Although a small number of public transit systems in larger urban areas experimented with offering some version of fare-free service over the years (from Denver, Colorado in 1979 to San Francisco, California in 2008), finding a source of funds to replace their substantial fare-box revenues proved too difficult. In fact, as of 2012, no public transit system in the United States with more than 100 buses offered fare-free service.
That’s the rub. Metro’s “fare recovery ratio” (the percentage of operating costs covered by fares) has been stuck in the the 20 percent range for several years now. But the agency still expects to bring in about $346 million in fares in the current fiscal year. That is a big chunk of change and the reason fares won’t be vanishing here without some other government agency (i.e. one that doesn’t seem to exist) picking up the tab.
What would happen if fares were suddenly free for, say, the top 100 most populous regions in the U.S.? My guess is ridership would certainly go up but the degree to which probably would depend on whether bus/rail capacity/speed/frequencies were also expanded. I am venturing to guess that such a strategy might be a sound one when it comes to fighting climate change, given that generally speaking taking transit is one way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Still, for some towns free fares appears to work well in the present day. Which towns? They tend to be university towns, rural and/or a resort community. Kudos to them and the local agencies that agree to pay for it. And if you hear of an elected official or candidate — especially one at the federal level — talking about free transit for all, email me. As that’s a speech we would actually want to listen to!
Related: In the OC, the OCTA Board voted Monday to reduce day passes from $5 to $4 in response to bus ridership falling from 69 million in 2007 to 43 million in 2015. That strikes me the same as throwing down a sharrow on a street — it’s symbolic, at best. The real issue in the OC: cuts to bus service, buses getting stuck in traffic, more sprawl and lack of rail service beyond Metrolink.
FUN FACT!: it looks like it has been six days since a woman has left a comment on the Source. And that woman was Anna Chen, who in this case doesn’t count. Which reminds me, have any readers seen “Sausage Party?” Is it worth seeing in theaters or should I wait for iTunes? Email me.
More commentary in the wake of a federal judge’s recent ruling that upheld the federal approval of the Purple Line Extension and required Metro to redo parts of those studies. Chris argues that the Westside really needs a better transit option and the subway is that option.
Make no mistake, safety concerns should be of the utmost importance, and the ideal situation would be that Metro and Beverly Hills work out an agreement on how to best redo the impact statement. However, there’s little to suggest future reports or lawsuits will produce new evidence against the route, and this puts BHUSD in a weak position for future litigation. So while we can expect Beverly Hills’ interests to appeal the decision and continue throwing money at this issue, we may be witnessing their last gasps of serious opposition.
A lawsuit by the city of B.H. and BHUSD in state court against Metro ended in Metro’s favor. We’ll see what happens with the lawsuit by the same plaintiffs against the Federal Transit Administration.
The one reader comment (anonymous, of course) accompanying the Daily Bruin story made me LOL — it alleges a “massive media campaign” against Beverly Hills. Alternative hypothesis: members of the media actually read the judge’s ruling.
Voters in the Seattle metro area will be considering a ballot measure this fall by Sound Transit that would increase taxes to pay for transit expansion. Fulfilling a records request, Sound Transit recently provided a political campaign for the ballot measure with the emails of Orca card holders. #whoops
The Times reports that those emails likely should have been protected under law. Sound Transit has said it has asked the campaign to delete the emails from its files and the campaign has agreed.
As we’ve noted before, it will be a big autumn for transit agencies at the polls, especially on the Pacific Rim. The San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco and L.A. areas will all be considering ballot/bond measures to raise money for transit. The Portland area is looking at 2018.
Categories: Transportation Headlines