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PRESERVING THE AMERICAN DREAMRECOVERING FROM SMART GROWTHSAN JOSE, CALIFORNIATHOMAS A. RUBINMISINVESTMENT IN TRANSITIN LOS ANGELESNovember 11, 2007
OVERVIEW • Failure of the MTA Grand Strategy • Bus vs. Rail, Costs, Value, and Budget • Bus Works in Los Angeles, Guideway Transit Doesn’t, so Strengthen What Works – and Abandon What Doesn’t
Bus vs. Rail, Costs, Value, and Budget • Productivity, Cost-Efficiency, and Cost-Effectiveness of MTA Bus and Rail Transit • Peer Analysis • MTA Internal Comparisons • MTA Bus and Rail Subsidies • Allocations of MTA Budget to Bus and Rail
Greater Los Angeles Transportation Reality Check “Southern California, the land of low-density, single-family detached homes on large lots connected by endless freeways, where driving is king.”
SoCal TRANSPORTATION REALITY I • Of the 69 U.S. Urbanized Areas with Populations of 500,000 or More, Greater Los Angles: • Has by far the highest population per square mile, over 50% more than Greater NYC • Is second to last in both freeway centerline miles and and total roadway miles per capita • Is 45th in daily vehicle miles traveled per capita
SoCal TRANSPORTATION REALITY II • SoCal has third best “homes-jobs” balance • Average vehicle miles per freeway lane mile is by far the highest in the nation • LA has by far the “widest” freeways in the U.S. • MTA buses and trains are among the most crowded in the U.S. Why do we have congestion? Too many people, not enough road capacity – and transit is not a congestion relief tool.
Peer Analysis I • Source: National Transit Database, Federal Transit Administration, Report year 2005 Transit Profiles, Top 50 Reporting Agencies • All 12 Heavy Rail Systems (MTA Red Line) • All 19 Light Rail Systems (MTA Blue, Gold, and Green Lines) • 20 Largest Bus Systems (out of 44) (Agency acronyms at end of paper.)
Peer Analysis II • Metrics (Not Considering Capital Costs): • Productivity (consumption per unit of service): Average Passenger Load • Cost-Efficiency (cost per unit of service): Cost and Subsidy/ Vehicle Revenue Hour • Cost-Effectiveness (taxpayer cost per service consumed: Subsidy/Passenger and Subsidy/Passenger-Mile • MTA-Preferred Metric: Farebox Recovery Ratio
Heavy Rail – Conclusion • The Red Line is very productive – due, in part, to the discontinuance of some Bus lines and shifts of others to feed it. • Cost-efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and farebox recovery ratio are all well below peer norms. • While average passenger load is high, the Red Line has yet to achieve half of the 298,000 daily riders projected – for 2000.
Light Rail Conclusions • Productivity is high • Cost-efficiency is very low • Cost-effectiveness is below major peers • Farebox recovery ratio is low • This is an expensive way to move people in Los Angeles
Bus Conclusions • Productivity is very high – second highest of the 20 in the peer group. • Cost-Efficiency and Farebox Recovery Ratio are above average. • MTA Bus is number one in the peer group on Cost-Effectiveness
Overall Peer Comparison Conclusions • All MTA modes are very productive. • MTA Bus is above average in cost-efficiency; MTA Rail is near or at the bottom. • MTA Bus is above average in farebox recovery; MTA Rail does very poorly. • MTA Bus is the most cost-effective of the nation’s larger bus operators, MTA Rail fares not very well.
Understanding the History of MTA Ridership is the Key to Transit Decisions • The following graphs show the ridership of MTA and its predecessor, SCRTD, back to 1980. (Strike years ridership are adjusted.) • The first graph shows the annual ridership by mode; the second shows the trend lines for the four key periods that followed major transit decisions regarding fare levels and the degree of priority given to rail. • The facts behind each period are then presented.
Consent Decree Ridership Change • During the Consent Decree period (FY96-FY07), note that over half of the total increase has been the increase in Bus. Considering that over half of the Rail riders are former Bus riders, this makes the Bus increase even more significant. • Also, much of the Rail increase was due to the CD’s reduced fares and expansion of Bus service, which allowed Rail riders to access the Rail stations.
Understanding MTA Ridership History I Pre-Fifty Cent Fare: From FY80 to FY82, fares increased from $.55 to $.65 to $.85 – and ridership fell 11%. Fifty Cent Fare: When the fare was reduced to $.50 for FY83-FY85, ridership increased over 40%, with virtually no increase in transit service provided.
Understanding MTA Ridership History II Rail Priority: From FY85 to FY96, the monies that funded the Fifty Cent Fare – slightly under 20% of the Proposition A .5¢ sales tax collections – shifted to rail. The Blue and Green Lines and the first two Red Line segments started service. Fares went to $.85, then $1.10, and finally to $1.35, as the level of bus service provided was reduced – & ridership dropped 27%.
Understanding MTA Ridership History III Consent Decree: The Consent Decree that settled Labor/Community Strategy Center v MTA went into effect in mid-FY97. MTA completed the last two legs of the Red Line, the Gold and Orange Lines and started construction on the Gold Line Eastside and Expo. Ridership is projected to increase 37% through the end of FY07. However, MTA states that it cannot continue to fund both current transit operations and rail expansion.
Debunking a Misimpression I • Rail proponents often claimed that the high capacity of Rail allows Rail operating costs per passenger and passenger-mile to be less than that of Bus. While there are cases where this can be correct, such as the NYC subway, the key to doing this test is performing the proper comparison. • For example, on page IV-2 of the MTA Adopted Budget FY2007, we see the following: Bus Rail Cost per Unlinked Trip $2.29 $2.84 Cost per Passenger-Mile $ .61 $ .48
Debunking a Misimpression II • These statistics makes it appear that Rail can be competitive with Bus in certain transit operating situations in Los Angeles; however, the problem is – these are system-wide average Bus numbers. • Because of the high initial capital cost for new Rail lines, it is contra-indicated to build Rail in any alignment where there would not be high ridership; however, Bus capital costs are so low it can be, and is, effectively used in far more situations, as the following graph illustrates.
Debunking a Misimpression III • The graph on the following page is from data from Subsidy/Passenger by Bus Line Family, MTA Quarterly Line Performance Trends Report, 12/31/97, showing the cumulative percentages. • For example, 40% of the MTA Bus Lines at that time had subsidies/passenger of $.91 or less, 80% had subsidies/ passenger of $1.21 or less.
Debunking a Misimpression IV • When system-wide Bus averages are used to compare to Rail lines, then the mean value ($1.07 on this graph) is what is used. • However, half of the Bus riders had a subsidy/ passenger of $.96 or less – and 30% had subsidies of $.71 or less, and 10% had subsidies of $.52 or less, under half of the mean value. • Rail line costs should be compared to the values at the lower end of the curve, for the most utilized Bus lines, not the mean. (The best Bus-vs.-Rail comparison is comparable service in the same or comparable corridors.)
Impacts of Capital Costs I • In the preceding, we have shown that MTA Heavy and Light Rail compare poorly to MTA Bus in operating costs and subsidies. • The next step is to add capital costs, which will resolve the issue of the utility of Rail in Los Angeles beyond any doubt. (All data following is expressed in constant MTA FY2007 dollars, using data from the MTA FY2007 Budget and other MTA sources.)
Impacts of Capital Costs II While it is, at best, extremely questionable if Urban Rail has any operating cost/subsidy advantage over Bus in Los Angeles, there is absolutely no doubt about capital subsidies – the capital subsidy per “Guideway Transit” passenger (Light and Heavy Rail plus Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit) in Los Angeles is dozens of times that for Bus passengers.
Comparisons of Total Costs/Subsidies I • In the preceding graphs, I have added markers for the Wilshire/Whittier family of bus lines, current the highest ridership family of bus lines in the nation, with ~100,000/working weekday. • “Pre-Rapid” refers to Lines 18 and 20, and their limited stop variations, before Rapid Bus (Line 720) was introduced • “Wilshire Rapid” is Line 18, 20, and the remaining limited stop lines, and Line 720, after Rapid Bus service began.
Comparisons of Total Costs/Subsidies II • While cost and subsidy/passenger is important, cost and subsidy per new passenger is even more important for many key Los Angeles transit decisions. • This metric was originally developed by the Federal government in response to research showing that many, often two-thirds or more, of passengers on new Rail lines were former Bus passengers.
Comparisons of Total Costs/Subsidies III • The comparison of Guideway Transit to Bus in Los Angeles could not be clearer: • The taxpayer subsidy per passenger added by the Consent Decree was 5.4% of that for Guideway Transit; for Wilshire Rapid Bus service, 3.7% • New Guideway Transit passengers pay 2.2% of the costs of their rides; CD Bus new passengers, 27.5%, Wilshire Rapid new Bus passengers, 51.3%
Why The Orange Line Was A Mistake I • The justification for the Orange Line was time savings – originally, in the DEIS/DEIR, 28.8 minutes between North Hollywood and Warner Center for BRT on the Orange Line vs. 50 minutes for Rapid Bus. • It has now been extensive documented, and MTA has admitted, that both times were wildly inaccurate, even fraudulent, in favor of the Orange Line. • The graph following shows the history of travel time projects to actual reality.