MBTA ridership back up despite fare increase
The MBTA reports ridership in August was higher than last August, despite the July 1 fare increases.
The T says it had been counting on ridership to drop 5.5% due to the fare increases, but it actually increased 1.2% over last August. Ridership did dip slightly, by 0.1% in July. Ridership was up 2.7% on the Red, Orange and Blue lines and 1.4% on the Green Line. Bus ridership did slip by 0.6%.
"The robust demand for public transit is a clear sign that we need to maintain a strong transportation system in the Commonwealth," state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said in a statement.
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How's "The Ride" making out?
The disabled really got hammered with a 100% fare increase, by far the highest proportional increase. Is their ridership "up" as well? (I can't open Excel sheets right now)
8,100 (AUG-11) to 7,000 (AUG-12).
That's because fares for
That's because fares for people with disabilities were so low to begin with.
If someone can't afford a $1 fare, I hope they're getting some other types of assistance, whether they're disabled or not.
There is a drop, though
So, AUG-11 saw 5.2% increase, JUL-11 saw 6.7% increase. On the other hand, AUG-12 is only a 1.2% increase, and JUL-12 was a 0.1% decrease. That looks like a 4-6% difference in the wrong direction. Where did it come from? I'm not going to claim that it's entirely on the fare hike, as there's plenty of other factors out there, but I'm sure that had a strong effect.
Why do you call that the
Why do you call that the wrong direction? Why would you want a crowded, overworked system to be still more overcrowded?
The T is not close to its potential
It's just being run inefficiently, and has been neglected and mismanaged.
But Boston's population continues to grow, and the economy continues to recover. So, we should expect T ridership to continue to grow as well.
The alternatives are a decline in population, another recession, or a flood of people with cars onto the highways and parking lots, demanding that more of the city be bulldozed.
Actually, since every single
Actually, since every single ride in the system is subsidized, fewer rides would lower the burden on the finances of the T. And the money not lost in subsidies could be used to maintain the system.
Doesn't work that way
If fewer people ride, then the subsidy goes up, not down. The numbers you see such as "net subsidy per passenger" are driven by fixed costs which stay the same regardless of how many people ride.
Quick example: if it costs $20,000 to provide a day's worth of bus service, and 10,000 people ride it paying $1.50 each, then there is only $15,000 revenue. Under this simplified scenario, this makes for a $5,000 subsidy, or $0.50 per person.
Suppose ridership drops to 8,000 people. The bus still costs $20,000 per day to operate, but now it receives only $12,000 in revenue. Therefore, the subsidy rises to $8,000 or $1.00 per person, directly because ridership declined.
Also consider another scenario, where fares are hiked to $2.00 and this causes ridership to decline to 7,000 people per day. Now the revenue is $14,000, leaving a $6,000 subsidy, or ~$0.86 per passenger. In other words, it is possible for a fare hike to cause the need for a higher subsidy per passenger. This may happen if the ridership declines precipitously due to the fare hike.
About 94% Correct
The marginal cost to the system with another passenger is small but non-zero. Each time a bus stops to pick up or let off a passenger, time and fuel are expended. When subway trains need more cars, there is extra electricity, capital in use, and wear and tear maintenance and cleaning costs added. Schedules could even be reduced somewhat with fewer passengers, and thus fewer drivers and supervisors too.
The marginal cost is really small
Especially for a subway train which is going to make those stops regardless. Whether a bus or a train makes a stop has a tiny effect on fuel/power consumption. The additional passenger can be regarded as nearly pure revenue, if you are going to be running the service anyway.
But you do bring up a good point about reduced schedules. If the subsidy starts to rise for some reason -- perhaps because ridership declines -- then an agency might seek to reduce fixed costs by reducing the number of operating vehicle-hours. However, this is the first step towards a transit "death spiral" if you will.
Reduced schedules lead to reduced ridership which causes the subsidy to rise yet again, which motivates the agency to further reduce schedules and further diminish ridership. The end result is a dead transit system, or one barely limping along as a last resort. It's not pretty, and it's happened in cities all over the country at one time or another.
Highway and parking lot subsidies can cause this transit "death spiral" too, by drawing riders away and into cars. If it passes a critical point, the only way to save the system is increasing transit subsidies. Which is what usually ends up happening.
Yes, we already have critical mass here
Lucky for us, we have plenty of T ridership to mostly stay out of trouble. Even now, however, many bus routes don't have enough riders to justify much or any evening and weekend schedules. It is clearly illogical to assume that more torture applied to other transport means will yield enough marginal increase in riders on low demand routes. Motorists have been already tortured with removed roadway, slowdown features, reduced parking, higher parking fees, and yet, bicycling in the rain and snow appeals to only a few. Even riding the MBTA is much more appealing than that. Low ridership routes may simply lack demographics, population density, or destination density to draw customers.
Nationwide, public transit was probably in rough shape from the late 1950s through 1980s because people much preferred driving. They still prefer driving, but have disincentives applied. Most places in this country are without enough density or enough driving disincentive to support much public transit still.
So what you're saying...
Driving is torture. Unless it's heavily subsidized.
P.S. Many bus routes exist for the purpose of coverage, not profit. They're a social service, and will never be able to pay for themselves under any circumstances. That's not their point. In this discussion, I'm not talking about coverage routes.
So routes that are "coverage
So routes that are "coverage routes" could be discontinued or reduced even more, which would lower costs, but would have minimal impact on total ridership.
Since the MBTA did reduce some service in July, but total ridership has still increased, it is not a certain "death spiral" to reduce some services.
"They still prefer driving,
"They still prefer driving, but have disincentives applied. Most places in this country are without enough density or enough driving disincentive to support much public transit still."
Well except for the fact that the number of older retired folks who cannot or don't want to drive is going up (including the Baby Boomers) as well as young people in their teens, 20s, and 30s who are putting off getting drivers licenses, not buying cars, and intentionally living places where they don't need to drive for the most part (and occasionally using ZipCar when they do).
The MBTA is operating
with ridership that's beyond capacity, in some cases considerably. Something has to give. And the extra $ being raked in by rider revenue is a drop in the bucket for what's needed to properly maintain the system, let alone fund it's in many case outrageous obligations.
Beyond capacity? Same for roads.
How is the MBTA being operated beyond capacity? What data do you have to support this?
I could claim roadways are currently operated beyond capacity and insufficient to meet demand.
The problem is people. They just want to use either all at the same time!
People could just use both facilities at off-peak times when capacity exists. Adding more MBTA buses in many cases won't help increase peak capacity because the roads they use are still over capacity. There was a recent study in NYC evaluating the benefits of increasing cab medallions. The results found that people would get a cab sooner, but added traffic from more cabs would cause a net increase in trip time. Cabs add much more to traffic than personal vehicles because cabs are usually in motion, much like public transport buses. NYC can do some congestion control with bridge and tunnel fares that Boston is less able to.
And once again, the answer is demand management.
Glad to see that you're getting on board, too, Markk02474.
There would be lots of ways to effectively do this, however, as I discussed in my other comment linked to above, the mindset of the body politic has to change and government has to gain their trust again.
With respect to NYC, the City of New York does not control any of the tolls on the bridges and tunnels. The Hudson crossings are all controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the East River crossings (at least those with tolls) are controlled by the MTA (as successor to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority). Anyway, it would not be necessary for the City of New York to use those as congestion charging measures - they are useful merely as demarkation lines. The grid system in Manhattan lends itself beautifully to a London-style congestion charging scheme. It would be even easier for users to figure out than the one in London.
It doesn't matter however. Boston could take the London congestion charging scheme right off the shelf and implement it as is. But don't hold your breath because that idea is going absolutely nowhere in the Legislature (which would be required to act for it to be implemented by the City). Also, I don't think that this mayor, or any other for that matter, would have the political guts to do it anyway. Finally, the congestion in downtown Boston does not even approach that of Manhattan or the City (in London) so it's probably not necessary yet (dynamic open-road tolling on 128 and 93, however, is a completely different story).
Say, like charging higher T fares during peak times? Charlie Cards make it possible! That would solve MBTA overcrowding and drive passengers to schedule trips in less congested times. This is what many drivers do, in effect rescheduling trips to times when roads are less congested. Its clear that demand management is missing and needed in public transit too.
From a personal liberties standpoint, a big brother system with cameras everywhere as in England is unacceptable here, unless you really want to help Republicans win elections.
Public Transit Can't Succeed Without Punishing Drivers
Study: Have to punish drivers - public transit not attractive enough on its own. We already knew this for bicycling, where there are not even fares.
Come on, Markk02474, you know better than this.
I split my commuting between biking and cycling. I ride the T on the weekends. So I'm a driver, cyclist and T rider, and I don't think that I'm being punished when doing any of the above (maybe a little bit when riding the T, as it has really become unbearable over the past 3 years or so).
However, the conclusion of the study was a foregone one. If we believe its simplified take away media-ready line, then let's agree to shut the T down for a year and see who gets punished. Where are those million trips going to go?
You know exactly where most of them are going to go - right onto the existing roadway network. So let's expand the roadway network then, right?
The notion that the money spent on the T could go to road expansion is just silly. It is non-realistic bombastic b.s. The amount of money that would need to be spend on eminent domain takings along 128 alone would be astronomical (yeah, lets take a few thousand acres in Weston, Wellesley, Newton, etc. - that should be realtively inexpensive). It's a non-starter before you even consider all of the other problems it would cause.
Once again, the only viable way to address the problem (until teleportation becomes widely available) is demand managment programs for highways and the T.
First, do no harm
Stop making existing roads narrower and slower to drive on. This actually saves money that is being spent on worsening driving.
Bicycling is closer to driving than public transit. Biking and driving are direct point A to point B. Public transit requires using common locations at both ends and an often indirect path, with stops between. Given the choice between direct modes, dry, comfortable, and no labor is the natural preference over bicycling for a vast majority, even when bicycling is essentially free and driving not.
The study does give useful info comparing transit in Germany to the US and points to less efficiency in our public transit. Capital for newer, more reliable systems is probably much of that difference.
edit: Car and van pooling deserves mention. It is somewhat between driving in directness and comfort and public transit as grouping begin and endpoints. Its mode share is far larger than bicycling, yet smaller than public transit. The challenge is coordination of riders and many computer tools are addressing it.
Poor Put Upon Drivers
Now that they're only catered to 99% of the time, how will they survive?! If that creeps down to 98%, we'll definitely get a revolution on our hands.
Not even close
The problem with most anti-transit studies is that they are *gasp* biased for two reasons:
1. They assume that most public transit riders are at one end of the spectrum or the other: either the do-gooder, tree-hugging upper crust of society or the poor/elderly/students.
2. They assume that there is uniform propensity to want to drive as a first desire for means of transport, and that using public transit, walking or biking are secondary.
Number 1, while it encompasses some of the ridership of all public transit systems doesn't account for a sizeable portion of riders who ride because of ease-of-use and avoiding congestion, especially Monday-Friday. Why say, would a driver pull into a commuter rail stop when he/she can just keep driving into the city? The answer is because 3 or 4 or 10 miles down the road he/she knows that there will be congestion and, as long as the transit system if functioning properly--which overall it does--it avoids that congestion entirely (on rail) or mitigates that congestion (on a bus) by removing the hassle element of having to navigate through it.
And, let's be honest, congestion isn't caused by punishing drivers--in fact it's the lack of. Cheap/free parking is the number one literal driver of people to an area by automobile, followed by ease of getting into and out of that area. People grumbled, for example, when the cost of parking on a Boston parking meter went from $1.00/hr to $1.25/hr, but look at Cambridge where the parking is still $1.00 and notice the increased congestion both from A) cheaper incentive to drive there and B) constant searching for an open metered space.
Number 2 builds off of Number 1 and accounts for why, even on weekends and holidays, many urban dwellers and inner-suburbanites choose willingly to take public transit. Again, I site ease-of-use, this time coupled with trip purpose. Let's take at a grocery store and a bank that are both two miles away: "I need to use my car to get the week's groceries" vs. "I don't need to use my car to go the bank--why move it."
Yes, more than two camps
I agree that two or three boxes aren't enough to categorize MBTA riders (sufferers!). It covers most users, so analysts want to simplify stories for readers and the media.
Cities like Cambridge are just leaving money on the table by creating a metered parking shortage and not raising the price. Boston took advantage of the shortage of metered spaces by raising the price. Better would be to price by area, so its more expensive where shortages exist. Such a market rate is even an incentive to increase street parking capacity instead of always reducing it. Air pollution is reduced too with less hunting for spaces.
Time wise, on the T or driving, a combined trip to the bank and grocery shopping saves time. I'd drive to both in one trip. For public transit, what works really well is having a grocery store near to a subway stop so people can easily carry a couple day's worth on the way home from work. Sadly, the taxpayers who put the subway stop there gave a free, huge windfall to area property owners, making square foot costs too high for markets.
Just keep making stuff up
Yup. Cambridge is just leaving money on the table. By promoting the exemplar of everything you monomaniacally rant about in the form of the Kendall Square area. Booming economy, ever-increasing build out of lab space, office space, retail space and residential condo space with declining car use. Apparently people and businesses flock to it despite the disincentivizing of car use. Sinful curb bump-outs, kowtowing to pedestrians, appeasing those Hitlers of the streets -- bicyclists ("Give my fixie Lebensraum!!") Somehow skimming a few additional bucks out of the meters seems to be less of an issue for the city elders than enticing some of the only functioning parts of our economy with textbook transit-oriented development.
Face it, in a densely settled urban area people will prefer to NOT drive. Ram a multilane highway through the middle of the city (like they did in that obscure town you may have heard of...Boston?) and it doesn't matter. You eventually have to get off that fucker and then you're in traffic. Allowing cars to fly in urban areas makes little sense. What you advocate for makes sense in the big rectangular states, but not Massachusetts. Even on the German autobahns the parts with no speed limits are outside of urban areas, where there are enforced limits. Unimpeded speed may be fun but it's not the way to get around in the city, like it or not. If cars end up inconvenienced for the benefit of walkers, bikers, transit system infrastructure, well...tough poop. And I say that as a regular driver.