There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Credit where credit is due

Between the fear-mongering and the unnecessary panic at Monday's meeting of the Sacramento Regional Transit board was an assessment of the district's management that deserves some publicity.

"Year-to-date revenues exceed expenses by $6.4 million due to total revenues being above budget by $4.3 million and operating costs being below budget by $2 million," according to the Key Performance Report.

For the eighth month in a row, the amount of money brought in from fares to cover the cost of the service exceeded the district goal. General Manager Mike Wiley told the board that the 29.5 percent the district recovered in June is a number the district hasn't seen in many, many years. June's fare recovery was 8.9 percent higher than budgeted. Total June fare revenue -- $3.3 million -- was the first time the district took in more than $3 million in a month. The 2008 fiscal year ended 5.5 percent over budget. That increase will come in handy. About $1.1 million will be available to back-fill any lost state money.

For the 2008 fiscal year, total ridership was up 3.14 percent. June light rail ridership was up 15.7 percent over last June, and ended the fiscal 2008 year up 8.07 percent. June bus ridership was up 4.3 percent. But the bus numbers for the fiscal year weren't as good. RT's bus service took a 5 percent cut in January. By the end of the fiscal year, bus ridership was 1.1 percent below the year before.

These figures helped RT cut costs. The district's cost per passenger mile was below budgeted goals for both rail and bus service. Rail service was 11 percent below the goal and bus service 1 percent less. Viewed in terms of passenger productivity, bus service was 2 percent above and rail productivity 5.15 percent higher.

One other bright spot was news about crime. June's crimes per 1,000 passengers -- both felonies and misdemeanors -- was 0.016. For the fiscal year, the rate was 0.017.

About the only area where RT missed its goal was in bus on-time performance. The district missed that goal by 3.5 percent. As the report points out, the district was a victim of the very reason buses are so valuable: traffic congestion. As the report said, "This will likely continue to challenge RT and affect our on-time performance."

"Meeting a greater demand for transit service in the face of a three-sided economic squeeze that includes the Governor's proposed raid of dedicated transit monies, the rumored suspension of Proposition 42 funds and losses from declining sales tax revenue, RT will continue to maintain strict cost containment measures into fiscal year 2009," declares the Key Performance Report's management notes.

Clearly management at RT is doing its part. It's time for state lawmakers to get on board and keep their funding promises.

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