Sunday, July 12, 2009

More on the XBL and profitability

Last week I lamented that the National Transit Database did not provide figures for mode share. However, I did find something interesting: farebox recovery data. For example, Rockland Coaches, a.k.a. Red and Tan Lines, a division of Coachusa, made an $8.4 million profit in 2007 (PDF), just over two dollars per trip. Evidence that quickways help bus operators to make a profit.

I've now crunched the data (all from 2007, updated link) and come up with some overall numbers to substantiate my impression:
AreaAverage farebox recovery ratio, weighted by unlinked trips
Nationwide transit40.5 %
Nationwide bus27.5 %
Buses in the tri-state area (NY-NJ-CT)38.1 %
Agencies that use the XBL95.9 %

Note that these agencies that use the XBL do not run all their routes through there.

Here are the twenty bus agencies with the highest farebox recovery ratios:
StateNameFare Revenues per Total Operating Expense (Recovery Ratio)
PATrans-Bridge Lines, Inc.105.8
NJNew Jersey Transit Corporation-45 (NJTC-45)104.4
NJTrans-Hudson Express102.8
NJRockland Coaches, Inc.102.2
NJCommunity Transit, Inc. (Community Transit)101.3
NJOlympia Trails Bus Company, Inc. (Coach USA)100.9
NJOrange-Newark-Elizabeth, Inc. (Coach USA)100.8
RIBonanza (BZ)96.8
NJAcademy Lines, Inc.93.9
NJHudson Transit Lines, Inc. (Short Line)88.1
NJSuburban Transit Corporation (Coach USA)86.5
NYAdirondack Transit Lines, Inc, (Adirondack Trailways)82.6
NJDeCamp Bus Lines79.3
NYMonroe Bus Corporation78.2
NJLakeland Bus Lines, Inc.74.6
NYMonsey New Square Trails Corporation71.8
VABlacksburg Transit (BT)61.8
NCChapel Hill Transit (CHT)61.7
FLGainesville Regional Transit System (RTS)55.8
CAUniversity of California, Davis (Unitrans)53.6

The last four obviously do not use the XBL. Of the others, I'm not familiar with Orange-Newark-Elizabeth; Wikipedia says they just run three local routes in those three cities, but given the rest of the pattern I'd be surprised if they didn't have some XBL revenue. There is a clear pattern: all the bus agencies in the NTD that make more than 70% farebox recovery use the XBL, and all the ones that make less than 63% do not.

I would like to point out what these agencies for-profit corporations (and one division of NJ transit) don't have: specialized vehicles, passenger information, offboard fare collection, subway-like station spacing, traffic signal priority and other Intelligent Transportation System applications. They have one single "iconic station" (I suppose you can call the Port Authority that), and one Exclusive Bus Lane. I'm not saying none of those other things matter, but let's have some perspective.

Other than that, all I can say is that with the amount that's been written about farebox recovery, I'm baffled as to why no one seems to have noticed this before.


Adirondacker12800 said...

Coach Orange-Newark-Elizabeth does local service in Newark and it's close suburbs with a bit of service farther out. Very very busy bus lines in the core - every 5 minutes during rush hour kinda busy. The three basic routes are South Orange Ave to Downtown Newark, Central Ave to Downtown Newark and Broad St.-Frelinghuysen Ave-Newark Ave. between Downtown Newark and Downtown Elizabeth.

.....though there are XBL lanes in downtown Newark....

Cap'n Transit said...

Thanks, Adirondacker! It looks like you're right; the profile sheets don't list any "fixed guideway directional route miles," unlike the other Coachusa services that go through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Even so, the company has consistently made a profit in the hundreds of thousands every year going back to 1998. What other bus company in North America can you say that about?

The XBL lanes in Newark differ from the Lincoln Tunnel lane in that they're not physically separated or counterflow. I'd be surprised if they were the reason for ONE's profits.

Cap'n Transit said...

Correction: from 2000-2004, ONE made profits in the millions.

Alon Levy said...

You're not comparing apples to apples. Public agencies' farebox recovery ratios include maintenance of the ROW and stations; the private companies you've listed don't have to do either.

Cap'n Transit said...

I don't understand, Alon. The only figure in my post that's not an apple is the one for "nationwide transit." Outside of that, which figure contains station and ROW maintenance?