Sunday, July 19, 2015

The (less than) 1% solution; not pretty

The Washington Post reports interesting survey results. "Why Don't Americans Vote? We're Too Busy."

Call it cynicism. Call it turtle soup. Many people see the utterings of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (and a few others) as too bizarre to take seriously.

In Los Angeles, the MTAs buses now carry ads that boast: "Metro is 25 years old ... 1.5 billion rides and counting." Counting on voters who are too busy to ask the simple questions. "At what cost?" "At what opportunity cost?"

There are about 10 million people in MTA's service area (LA county). The average person (all ages) takes 3.8 trips per day (U.S. data).  Use 300 days/year. The percentage of L.A. rail travel is about less than 1%. Could that be? "1.5 billion and counting" sounds much better. 

But MTA data show that estimated daily (weekday; system wide, all bus all rail) in FY 2015 was 1,423,458. In FY 2010 it was a little higher, 1,445,109. In other words, slightly worse than flat. Using  the same parameters as above, MTA serves 3.25% of all daily trips.

But look closer. The National Transit Data Base includes the agency's 2013 data. Rail (light + heavy) accounted for just over 24% of the boardings (24% of 3.25%, actually less than 1%!) -- and just over 27% of operating costs but almost 74% of capital costs. This is all too much to shoe horn into a boast to plaster onto the sides of buses. And it's not pretty.