Friday, December 10, 2010

The 2009 farebox numbers

The 2009 National Transit Database is out. As usual, everything from 74% up is inclined planes and the ferries and buses of northern New Jersey; 39-71% is college towns and urban rail; 30-39% is big city bus and light rail systems, and below 30% is small and medium-size towns and assorted boondoggles.

The top farebox earner, as last year, is the Chattanooga inclined plane, and it earned even more this year, almost a million dollars, for a farebox recovery ratio of 214.9%. This is a silly thing to count as a transit system, since it costs $14 per person, and the directions webpage only gives driving directions. The Pittsburgh inclines, which are well-connected to the bus and light rail networks, earned $110,000 for a ratio of 119.1%.

The two largest New Jersey ferry systems, Port Imperial and BillyBey, which both do business as New York Waterway, earned six million and almost a million dollars last year, respectively, for recovery ratios of 130% and 114%. One newcomer to the 70%-plus club was the University of Georgia, but that's just because the University pays for 98% of operating costs. I'm kind of baffled by the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority (PDF), serving the area around Florence, South Carolina. They claim to get 71% of their funding from fares, yet operating expenses were $16 per unlinked passenger trip, but fares were only $1.50. It seems like they must have gotten some big contract, but I don't see what it is. It's not a university town like Athens.

The other big story is the Stagecoach Group. This multinational transit firm from Perth, Scotland controls Coachusa, the company that owns the seven Lincoln Tunnel bus lines highlighted in blue in the table below. Some of their lines are profitable: Trans-Hudson Express, better known as Red and Tan in Hudson County, cost only $1.42 per trip to operate on average, and charges $1.45 for local routes and $4 for the New York-bound Route 99S. Orange-Newark-Elizabeth and Community Transit have also run an operating surplus for the past three years. The others bring them down, though, particularly Suburban Transit and Short Line. In 2007 their operations required a $7 million subsidy, in 2008 it was $11 million, and in 2009 it was back down to $5.6 million. I don't know how they keep those afloat, or if there will be some changes in the future.

NameFare Revenues per Total Operating Expense (Recovery Ratio)
Trans-Hudson Express177.0
Trans-Bridge Lines, Inc.128.8
Orange-Newark-Elizabeth, Inc. (Coach USA)125.8
Bonanza (BZ)119.3
Community Transit, Inc. (Community Transit)101.3
New Jersey Transit Corporation-45 (NJTC-45)101.3
Hudson Transit Lines, Inc. (Short Line)96.0
Martz Group, National Coach Works of Virginia (NCW)88.5
Rockland Coaches, Inc.84.0
Academy Lines, Inc.83.6
Monroe Bus Corporation80.5
DeCamp Bus Lines79.2
Suburban Transit Corporation (Coach USA)79.2
Lakeland Bus Lines, Inc.77.5
Monsey New Square Trails Corporation77.3
Adirondack Transit Lines, Inc. (Adirondack Trailways)77.1
Olympia Trails Bus Company, Inc. (Coach USA)74.4
Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority (PDRTA)71.8


busplanner said...

On Stagecoach (Coach USA) profits:

1. They have large charter operations that allow them to utilize equipment they own (especially on weekends) in a profitable manner. They can charge certain expenses to the commuter operation (5 days a week) and offset those expenses with the charters.

2. For the NJ operations, most of their equipment is provided by the state through NJ Transit. They have no capital expense.

3. For the intrastate NJ operations, they receive a hidden subsidy from NJ Transit by participating in the local bus pass program and being reimbursed for pass flashes at a rate higher than the flash value of the pass (cost of pass divided by # of flashes/month).

4. For NY State operations (Short Line/Rockland) they receive reimbursement from the state based on a passenger mile formula.

On Ferry profits - NJ stepped in and provided major support through building new terminals. Also, NJ Transit supports much of the feeder service to the ferries (bus/rail/light rail) without which the ferries could not survive profitably. On one bus route, monthly ferry pass riders ride free.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Orange-Newark-Elizabeth lines don't cross the Hudson. Or the Hackensack or the Passaic. Probably the mighty Elizabeth river and maybe a branch of the Rahway river.

And if I remember correctly not only does the state own the buses ONE uses it also built and owns the garage they use. From my hazy memory, the bus lines were operated profitably by the South Orange Ave Independent Bus Operators Association, a co-op. The buses and the garage finally got so decrepit the state found it cheaper to buy them out and start fresh instead of building them a new garage and buying them a new fleet.

busplanner said...

To Adirondacker12800 - O.N.E. is a consolidation of a number of local bus companies purchased by Coach USA, not just South Orange Avenue Independent Bus Operators Association. The core of O.N.E. grew from a 1986 purchase of private bus lines, many of which competed wheel-to-wheel with NJ Transit bus lines. NJ Transit and O.N.E. then swapped some route authority to eliminate the wheel-to-wheel overlaps.

I don't believe NJ Transit built a new garage for O.N.E. though O.N.E. and its predecessor companies did/do participate in the NJ Transit capital improvement program which provides buses and other capital equipment such as bus washers, towing vehicles that the state can recapture if the private bus company folds.

The new garage is a Coach USA facility shared by O.N.E., Trans-Hudson Express, Olympia, Megabus, and, perhaps, other Coach USA operations. Obviously, there are some economies of scale that help hold down costs for the various operating entities.