May 25, 2006
TriMet Fares to Rise Again (and Again)?
This alert hit TriMet's e-mail list yesterday. Under the semi-automatic diesel cost response plan that TriMet instituted earlier in the year, a nickel fare increase is being proposed, and another nickel is possible.
This would put an all-zone fare at $2.00 or $2.05.
May 24, 2006 11:23 PM
2 is easy, and even 205 is easier than 195. Then again I pay in lump sums for the month, so that's kind of irrelevant to me.
Gas costs, I guess. When are they gonna go biodiesel? Isn't the little shuttle fleet all biodiesel now?
May 25, 2006 6:44 AM
And the end of Fareless Square?
May 25, 2006 8:03 AM
Chris Smith Says:
Oregonian coverage this morning at:
May 25, 2006 9:17 AM
Evan Manvel Says:
I'm a bit surprised. I would think with gas costs increasing, ridership would increase from drivers, leading to more income (and more costs related to those riders, yes) but not as much of a need to increase fares.
I was shocked the other day when I paid to get on a bus. I guess I've just been biking everywhere for a year, so I didn't realize all the fare increases.
The way to avoid the fare increase, I suppose, is to stock up on transit tickets now, sort of the "forever stamp" for TriMet. Then we've got holding costs, costs of inflation, and costs due to lost tickets. But I'm still tempted to go buy 100 tickets before the new fare increase.
May 25, 2006 10:00 AM
"I'm a bit surprised. I would think with gas costs increasing, ridership would increase from drivers, leading to more income (and more costs related to those riders, yes) but not as much of a need to increase fares."
Remember. Tri-Met is NOT on a business model. They aren't even non-profit. They're a Government Entity created and run on a massive subsidy tax. Usually 60-65% of service is subsidized.
Unless prices raised to about $5.00 for an all zone trip, or about $1.00-$1.15 per mile they will never cover their costs. Especially with the expensive nature of their union contracts, bidding process, and lack of price sensitive capitol equipment.
So the curve of increase goes in hand with their requested tax hand out also. If ridership increases because of less people driving it still means they need more money to haul all of them.
Technically they SHOULD NOT need the extra money, but remember they're not out for profit, they're out to basically subsist for political motive. Which means they're not increasing prices to make anything, they're increasing them just to get by.
May 25, 2006 10:22 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Time for TriMet to get a long term contract with a bio-diesel outfit.
btw, if TriMet were a for profit outfit, many, if not most, of its lines would have been discontinued long ago.
May 25, 2006 11:16 AM
Ron Swaren Says:
A cost increase? No surprise, and there will be more as big ticket projects come on line--even ones that voters reject.
When will we design mass transit vehicles that are not so expensive to operate? Both operating and maintenance costs spiral upward as vehicles get bigger: not just fuel consumption, but bigger and more expensive parts and more complicated repairs. The tradeoff, though, is passenger safety. We want people to be safe from collisions, especially from other big vehicles. In the 60's and 70's Ford trucks earned a reputation as being the cheapest and simplest vehicle of their sort to maintain. They just didn't adapt to the coming fuel shortage of the 70's. But, the lesson is: it can be done.
But that is why I would suggest for the streetcar, that production locally could result in design improvements that reduce its construction and operating costs --- but it will always be subsidized to a great extent. Hopefully the benfits of dense development will offset the subsidies.
Perhaps we should specifically design buses that are simple, yet safe, as we try to restrain these costs. There is a gamut in vehicles that are considered safe--from small scale school buses to luxury motor coaches- so I think that a city bus could be designed that would be comfortable and safe but also much less costly to operate. Why subscribe to the product offered by the big manufacturers? Every other city is going to face the same problem. Maybe it's time to go to a new generation of public transit vehicles. Made in Oregon.
May 25, 2006 12:05 PM
Trimet consumes more diesel per week than any biodiesel companies on the west coast produce all year long. They are looking at ~5% biodiesel mixes for the fleet.
May 25, 2006 2:29 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
There is nothing like a secure long term customer to make a substantial investment in bio-diesel pencil out.
re bus costs...the push is now to make buses more like lightrail vehicles, not less. MAX trains have the lowest cost per ride in town, better than Streetcar or bus.
The cost center for TriMet is bus lines with low ridership; without the fare increase some of them will be on the chopping block.
May 25, 2006 6:16 PM
Michael Wilson Says:
Lenny Anderson writes: "MAX trains have the lowest cost per ride in town, better than Streetcar or bus."
Do you have some supporting documentation for this statement and if so could you let us know where it can be found?
May 25, 2006 6:19 PM
Chris Smith Says:
Lenny, it's all in how you measure. You may be right on a passenger-mile basis, but I think Streetcar does better on a per-rider basis (but has shorter average trips).
May 25, 2006 6:27 PM
Michael Wilson Says:
With the city and other government entities
providing programs such as the City hall's passport program to help offset the cost of transit and some businesses doing the same for their employees does anyone have figures on how much income these and other similar programs provide to Trimet?
I have heard that PSU is the largest buyer of Trimet passes, or tickets that they then discount to students, faculty and other employees. Does anyone have any information on this?
DEQ, as I recall, requires that businesses and other interest reduce employees trips. I have not heard that this has been discontinued and am working on the premise that this continues. Anyone have any idea of how this impacts the number of riders that Trimet reports?
May 26, 2006 8:02 AM
jim karlock Says:
PortlandTransport: This would put an all-zone fare at $2.00 or $2.05.
JK: A reminder that even mass transit uses fuel.
adron Says: Tri-Met is NOT on a business model. They're a Government Entity created and run on a massive subsidy tax. Usually 60-65% of service is subsidized.
JK: Trimet puts it at 80.5% subsidy (riders pay only 19.5% of the actual cost.) .That $72 monthly pass really costs $369.23 ($72/0.195)- enough to make payments on a brand new little car with lots left over for insurance and gas!
adron Says: Unless prices raised to about $5.00 for an all zone trip...
JK: Make that $10 even for a $1.95 all zone ticket. ($1.95/0.195)
Lenny Anderson: MAX trains have the lowest cost per ride in town, better than Streetcar or bus.
JK: Bus costs more because TriMet provides service to a lot of low ridership lines that rail doesn’t. If you compare apples with apples: The North Portland light rail operating cost is $1.76 per ride while the bus was $1.22 per ride, 30% cheaper. If you count capital costs (which you should) the comparison is $9.99 vs $1.61, a 620% difference. (These numbers are from a handout given by John Charles at the Wheels to Wealth conference in Oct 2005.)
Trimet: Westside MAX provides the transportation capacity equivalent to another 1.2 lanes in each direction on the Sunset Hwy.
JK: OK, now lets account for the fact that about 2/3 of those people would be on the bus if MAX didn't exist: the real effect of Westside MAX is to remove about 1/3 of 1.2 lanes of traffic = 40% of one lane. But it costs much more than one lane of road would. That is how light rail increases congestion: it carries only a fraction of what a lane of road does (and no freight) at several times the cost, while claiming to carry huge numbers of people.
Trimet really should be concentrating on providing economical service to the maximum number of people instead of gold plated light rail in an attempt to attract yuppies out of their BMWs.
May 26, 2006 2:34 PM
Nathan Koren Says:
If ridership has actually gone down despite the rise in gas prices, then that is a very bad sign indeed. It means that Trimet fares are now on the wrong side of the price/demand curve, which is a very bad place to be. It's a negative feedback loop. This means that if Trimet raises fares further, the resulting fall in ridership will offset any increase in revenue.
I'd have to do a more detailed analysis of the market elasticity to estimate exactly how much, but I know that in other transit markets, there are cases where net revenue has actually fallen when fares were increased, due to the decrease in ridership. This causes fares to rise again, driving off still more riders until at last only those riders who have absolutely no alternatives remain: those who are too poor to own a car, the disabled, the elderly, children -- exactly the segments of the population that can least afford to shoulder high fares.
Trimet obviously hasn't gotten to this point yet. but if ridership is now falling (even as the incentive for car-owning people to take transit is obviously rising), then it's definitely heading in that direction. They should reverse course. Given the increasing cost of gas, I suspect that Trimet would get more benefit from getting on the other side of the price/demand curve. That is, if they actually lowered fares, then the increase in ridership might well offset the loss in revenue. Possibly even increase revenue.
If that doesn't work, then I would support cutting non-performing bus routes before I would support raising fares. True, this would disenfranchise some people, but raising fares disenfranchises everybody, and can throw a transit system into a death-spiral from which it is very difficult to recover.
May 26, 2006 3:16 PM
Michael Wilson Says:
I have to wonder why Trimet is paying so much for fuel? Recently my wife read an article about farmers in the midwest who used the futures market to keep the cost for fuel low and Southwest Airlines uses the futures market as a hedge against fluctuations in the price of fuel.
Does Trimet pay the pump price? Do they have a long term contract? Or how do they handle this cost?
May 26, 2006 3:29 PM
Chris Smith Says:
The newspaper reporting has said that TriMet does buy on contract and gets the best prices in the state. I have not read anything about them hedging on the futures market.
May 27, 2006 10:10 AM
Jim Howell Says:
TriMet can’t seem to figure out why it is losing passengers, despite ridership at transit agencies increasing in other cities due to higher gas prices. Could cutting service while raising fares have anything to do with it?
During the past year, TriMet has cut bus and rail service by 4% while it has raised fares by 13%. They are certainly not hurting for funds. Total operating revenue increased 11%, while inflation grew by only 3%.
The increased cost of diesel fuel is no excuse for another fare hike. Over the past year, the monthly cost of diesel has increased by about $240,000 but farebox revenue, adjusted for inflation, has increased by $610,000. Do the math. This leaves a surplus of $370,000 a month. Why then are TriMet officials whining that they need to increase fares again in September?
May 27, 2006 9:59 PM
Jason McHuff Says:
The argument that rides on TriMet are 80% subsidized does not paint a clear picture. While they do get big chunks of dough from taxpayers and the feds, much of that money goes to provide LIFT service for disabled people and trips that are underutilized and provided as a public service, not because they financially make since. Now, if someone only rides on bus trips used solely by a couple other people, they are getting a great deal (high subsidy). However, if they are like many people and stick to high-preforming lines, they pay for a good amount of the actual cost.
As for Interstate Ave, the switch to light rail, in terms of both the construction and operating costs, may not make sense in the short term. However, tracks and LRVs last a lot longer than buses and roads and can handle increases in ridership easier.
However, I do believe that Westside MAX has been sucessful. Specifically, I have herd that 50% of riders were new to transit, not 1/3. Also, what about the fact that it allowed all those buses to be taken off the Sunset, allowing more room for other vehicles?
May 28, 2006 12:15 AM
Usually I'm the one bringing out the points JK does, but I'm doing to throw some devil's advocacy out there. :)
"JK: Trimet puts it at 80.5% subsidy (riders pay only 19.5% of the actual cost.) .That $72 monthly pass really costs $369.23 ($72/0.195)- enough to make payments on a brand new little car with lots left over for insurance and gas!"
That would be a really really crappy car. An average middle class type mid size sedan (26k) is going to break 369 bucks. Usually a car of a mid size is about 405-520 bucks a month on a 6 year loan on basic interest with good credit. ...we all are probably aware that the majority of American's do NOT get the good credit deal either. :) So in that case I say let's pay full fare. But also lets stick tolls on roads and make the drivers pay full fare!! Then we'll see some real competition.
"adron Says: Unless prices raised to about $5.00 for an all zone trip...
JK: Make that $10 even for a $1.95 all zone ticket. ($1.95/0.195)"
The only reason they are so high is of bad planning, and exhorbantly expensive design plans. (Like tunneling two tracks thru a mountain).
If the lines where built ala the lines that existed and where built out of market demand before - I would wager a grand bet that they'd have been MUCH MUCH cheaper. The only problem is special interest groups and city Governments don't seem to want to give invididual entrepenuers the rights to build such systems anymore, and lawyers & regulations have made it so unfeasible it's not worth the effort.
May 28, 2006 12:19 AM
btw - totally off topic.
JK, you should have contact info somewhere. Like on yer website.
May 29, 2006 12:53 AM
Bob R. Says:
A note on fuel efficiency -
According to the May 24th TriMet press release regarding fuel prices, the agency consumes approx. 6.5 million gallons of Diesel fuel annually. (What portion of that is dedicated to LIFT service is not stated.)
According to their 2005 ridership data, TriMet provided 230,061,600 passenger miles of bus service (excluding LIFT).
That works out to a fleet average of about 35 miles per gallon. If LIFT service can be separated out from the total fuel consumption statistic, that means that standard bus service provided at an even better rate of fuel efficiency than 35mpg.
(The USA fleet average for all new cars and light trucks sold in 2004 is 24.7mpg, based on NHSTSA and EPA estimates. I could not find a figure for real-world consumption/mpg of all cars/light trucks currently on the road... anybody got a link?)
- Bob R.
May 29, 2006 12:57 AM
Bob R. Says:
I should add that the point of my above post was to compare bus passenger-miles to a theoretical single occupancy vehicle serving the same passenger. If we were to replace all bus service by buying every passenger a car, the car would have to achieve an average real-world MPG of 35 or consumption would increase. Obviously, buses do not achieve 35mpg. :-)
- Bob R.
May 31, 2006 4:15 AM
jim karlock Says:
adron Says: That would be a really really crappy car. An average middle class type mid size sedan (26k) is going to break 369 bucks.
JK: We should compare apples to apples. Bus to crappy little car. Actually new little cars are a lot more comfortable than a bus and you can actually sit down and consume food, coffee etc. A little Hyundi is under $200 per month.
adron Says: So in that case I say let's pay full fare. But also lets stick tolls on roads and make the drivers pay full fare!!
JK: Roads are already fully paid for by users though license fees, weight-mile fees, gas tax and the like. Some of this money is also siphoned off for mass transit.
September 18, 2006 5:32 PM
April 30, 2007 9:48 AM
Chris Waymire Says:
I just wanted to chime in.
I live in Inner SE and work out in Beaverton. I hate the drive, so I ride my bike as often as I can. The thing that gets to me is that I ride to the Goose Hallow MAX station, take it through the tunnel and get off at the Beaverton Transit Station. That's two stops and a 12 minute ride. However, it's takes me through all 3 zones. So, I end up spending $4.00 every day. It's cheaper and faster to drive. Even with the current gas prices!
Now I still ride for the enjoyment and to get some exercise, but maybe this explains some of the reason ridership in Portland isn't getting better. I've emailed Tri-met a few times about this, trying to discuss the zoning, but never gotten a response.