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Transit Systems Raise Fares But No Service Improvements

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By Justin Horner

In a pair of revealing reports, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) tells us that:

a) Despite lower gas prices, rising unemployment, the economic “situation,” and declining revenues, public transportation ridership is basically the same as it was last year (ridership decreased 1.2%, a negligible amount, but still less than the decline in the miles Americans drove (1.7%)); while at the same time

b) according to a new survey, more than 80% of the transit agencies APTA asked nationwide reported flat or decreasing local, regional and state funding. Of these systems, nearly 60% reported higher ridership over the past year

I’m no economist, but I know that when you have to offer the same level of service with less money, something has to give. To wit:

--89% of the systems surveyed had to raise fares or cut service (with nearly half doing both!)
--65% of the systems reduced or eliminated off-peak service, while 48% have reduced their system’s geographic coverage
--50% of the systems were forced to eliminate staff positions (with several systems cutting more than 400 employees!)

And that’s not all! Without coming relief from the state or the Federal government…

--2/3 of the agencies are considering further service cuts; and
--1/2 considering fare increases (with some, like Sacramento Regional Transit, for a second time)

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the Supplemental Appropriations bill up for a vote this week in DC. The provision permitting 10% of a transit district’s stimulus funds to be used for operations is still included.


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