On Monday evening, General Manager Mike Wiley volunteered to skip his monthly Key Performance Report to make time for the crowds who wanted to rail against proposed fare hikes and service cuts. He was most likely happy to avoid the onerous task of delivering still another report about declining ridership and fare income falling short of expectations.
In May, the district experienced a double-digit decline in system ridership, the second month in a row of negative growth. And for the second month in a row, fare revenue was under budget, which has exacerbated the district's financial situation.
The report Wiley wrote but didn't deliver at the meeting attempts to put a smiley face on May's bad news by pointing out that systemwide ridership remains up 4.74 percent higher than last year. Conveniently ignored is the fact that in April that same statistic was 7.15 percent and in March it was 8.51 percent. At this rate, it won't take long for this statistic to go negative.
April's total ridership was down 3.62 percent. May's total ridership dropped a whopping 15.2 percent, with bus ridership falling 13.3 percent and rail ridership declining 17 percent.
"Last year's escalated fuel prices helped boost RT's ridership significantly and this year, the impact of a higher [un]employment rate and furloughs are finally impacting transit ridership," Wiley said in the report.
But that drop in ridership and the impact furloughs have had on state worker buying patterns has exacerbated the district's budget troubles. Fare recovery in May was below the district's goal by 2.1 percent.
"In the month of May," Wiley said, "RT's fare revenue was under budget by $755,000."
This follows April's fare recovery shortfall of $596,000.
Wiley continues to say the district could still meet or exceed the district's annual fare revenue goal. But that may be just wishful thinking.
Fare increases will arrive in September. But will they, like the fare hikes that took effect in January, fall short of raising the amount of money the staff predicts?
Before RT has a chance to answer that question, the staff will be back before the board in July to discuss service reductions that would take effect in January.
Yes, getting to skip that report was a thin silver lining to a dark and stormy night.
June 22 (May) Key Performance Report
June 8 (April) Key Performance Report
May 11 (March) Key Performance Report