Back in February, I discussed the farebox recovery ratios of bus routes within New York City. Now commenter George K has prepared a guest post based on the data for Long Island Bus.
New York City's relatively high farebox recovery ratios can be explained by a combination of factors. One is the higher density within the boundaries of New York City compared with the suburban-type density of Nassau County. Another factor is the abundance of autoless households within NYC that are essentially transit-dependent.
Nassau County lacks both of these features. With a population density of 4,735 people per square mile (according to City-Data) and rates of auto ownership of close to 90%, Nassau County is very auto-centric.
Since there was only one route that turned an operating surplus (the N40/N41), I have decided to group the routes into categories based on their overall farebox recovery ratios (Note: This is before the service reductions were implemented).
50%-75%: N4, N15, N16, N22, N23, N24, N31/N32, N35, N43, N48/N49, N58, N70/N71/N72
25%-50%: N1, N2, N3, N17, N19, N20/N21, N25, N26, N27, N28, N33, N36, N45, N46/N47, N54/N55, N57, N62 Industrial, N65, N79, N88, N94
<25%: N8, N14, N50, N51, N53, N62, N66, N67, N73/N74, N80, N81, N87, N93, N95
I notice a pattern in each category:
>100%: The N40/N41 connect the Freeport, Hempstead, and Mineola Long Island Railroad stations, essentially providing a crosstown service. These lines run perpendicular to the Long Island Railroad, connecting 3 major transit hubs.
75%-100%: The N6 runs between the Jamaica Transit Hub in Queens and the Hempstead Long Island Railroad station. Once again, the N6 feeds into 2 major transit hubs and goes into New York City where, as mentioned earlier, there is a higher population density, and a higher proportion of autoless households.
50%-75%: These routes are generally oriented towards the western part of Nassau County. Some of these routes (the N4, N22, N24, and N31/N32) go into Queens and connect with the subway. Others, like the N15 and N16 connect minor hubs (like Rockville Center and West Hempstead), and run on corridors with enough demand to be split between bus routes (like the N70/N71/N72)
25%-50%: These routes tend to radiate out of major transit hubs into areas with less demand.
<25%: These routes are the “coverage” routes, many of which have been eliminated. These routes tend to go from sparsely populated areas into minor hubs, meaning that there isn’t a lot of demand in those corridors.
As the Cap'n stated in another post about the G train, subsidizing transit would be more efficient if competing highways weren't also subsidized. On Long Island, there are a lot of open highways, which are much more attractive than buses in Nassau County. As a result, everybody suffers. Transit users suffer because only the bare minimum of service is provided and auto users suffer because they end up having to pay taxes because the farebox revenue doesn’t cover as much of the operating costs as it should.