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

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Distasteful jobs

I'm not going to be attending Monday's Sacramento Regional Transit board meeting. At about 6 p.m. I'm going to be doing the work required prior to having a colonoscopy Tuesday morning. I'm not sure who will have the more distasteful job Monday evening, me or RT's staff.

General Manager Mike Wiley will report to the board that total ridership in April declined for the first time since last November. Ridership in April was down 3.62 percent compared with April of last year. The number of riders was also down when compared with March. The rolling year total -- May 2008 to April 2009 vs. May 2007 to April 2008 -- shows the district still 7.34 percent higher than the comparison 12 months.

Bus ridership in April was down for the third consecutive month, falling 2.29 percent in comparison with April 2008. The rolling year total shows bus ridership just 3.33 percent higher than the previous 12 months. Will these numbers fall of a cliff after September's service cuts?

While light rail ridership showed a slight increase from March to April, the total April ridership was 4.84 percent below the April 2008 total. The rolling year total shows light rail ridership up 11.57 percent.

More troubling, at least as far as budgeting for the coming year, is the fare recovery figures. While the district did 3 percent better in April, the 24.5 percent fare recovery was below the 26 percent goal for the year. The year-to-date rate is just 24.4 percent.

Wiley's April Key Performance Report puts the district operating revenue $4.2 million under budget. The fare revenue in April was $596,000 below budget targets and nearly $2.1 million below targets for the fiscal year. And fares are only part of the problem. The district budgeted $6.1 million in local subsidy funds -- i.e. sales tax revenue -- and received just 2.78 million. For the year, local subsidy funds are running $2.16 million below budget. The Total Fiscal Result: The district was $4.98 million in the hole as of April.

RT says the hole is too deep to fill by simply cutting expenses. As a result, some combination of services cuts and fare increases will be required.

On the agenda Monday will be the question of whether to set in motion a second fare increase this year. RT is proposing raising single fares by 25 cents to $2.50 and daily passes by 50 cents to $6.50. The "discount" fare would rise 15 cents to $1.25. RT is also considering either eliminating the free ride that people 75 years old and older receive or changing the qualification to 85 years old. RT would also either eliminate or increase the price of Paratransit monthly passes. Paratransit has suggested a third alternative: Limiting the total number of rides that the monthly pass would cover.

(Click to view readable size image) (View Staff Report)

RT has said it wants to limit service cuts as much as possible, but Monday night will see the first hearing on cuts that would eliminate nearly 10 percent of bus service. Here's the preferred choice, still painful but limited to routes that have alternatives for current riders:
(Click to view readable size image) (View Staff Report)

These changes would go into effect Sept. 6. But if the 2010 fiscal year budget still looks like it isn't out of the red, RT will begin looking at something from this below list for implementation in January 2010:


Moxie said...

Arrgh. I use the 141 off-peak all the time. My job requires that I travel to various state offices with a rolling briefcase. It's fine to walk in the summer, but RT is ignoring the fact that winter happens. Same goes for the changes to 34. These changes will probably lead me to drive more. Why are our priorities so jacked up?

John said...

Personally, I think getting rid of the community routes first would be a better option. These routes are unreliable. Allowing route deviations may have been a great idea when the system was first added, but it doesn't make sense today. And besides, as I've learned from monitoring the "alerts" for my local No. 9 and No. 10, RT often cancels service for hours at a time because drivers can't be located.

This routes should be first to go.

ranma9037 said...

While I didn't make it too the board meeting(NH service has always been sucky),I did find the link to in the Twitter updates and sent the auto-generated letter through them.If they(the RT board)had to plan for January,if they were really smart,they would look at evening bus service on a route-by-route basis(a fair number of stronger bus routes are productive even on weekend evenings)and leave light rail untouched.Even past staff reports say it's costlier not to run light rail on weekends(on the standpoints security issues and lost fare revenue)than the status quo.At worst,light rail should run at least every 30 minutes on Sunday if they were that desperate.Extended service hours on all days is vital to light rail's viability.

Rolling briefcase said...

Thank you for the post, i liked reading it, you always impress, keep doing that my friend.