Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Public Transportation

Yesterday I made my way from Arroyo Grande, CA (AG) to San Francisco, CA. The trip consisted of driving 218 miles from AG to the Fremont Bart Station, taking BART from the Fremont Station to the Montgomery Station and finally walking to the hotel I’m staying at. The public transportation, round trip, costs to me included $10 for long term parking, $11.20 for the BART ride and about three hours of my time (the difference between driving and taking public transportation). I did this to save the $46/day the hotel charged for overnight parking. So I saved $92.53 ($92+$21.73-$21.20), not including the money spent on printing the parking pass at FedEx Office or my time. I’ve read that the farebox recovery of BART is 58.4%, so the true cost of the trip is $19.18. Giving the total savings of $84.55. Since I’m adding 3 hours to my journey, I’m valuing my time at $28.18/hr. Google estimated my traveling costs at $21.73, based on the IRS tax deduction amount per mile.

Since my employer, and me sometimes, values my time at more than my savings per hour I probably should have driven to the hotel and paid for the parking.

All of this got me thinking on why isn’t public transportation better. I think it has everything to do with keeping the farebox recovery from coming even close to the 110% required to expand and grow the system organically. Due to the low farebox recovery rates public transportation is beholden to the government for funding expansions or providing better service. Budget priorities often delay or hinder the construction of system expansions. BART is currently in this situation because of the California budget problems. Its being forced to raise rates, or decrease service, due to cutbacks in the 41.6% of its budget that comes from gas tax money or the general fund.

If the farebox recovery rates covered the full cost of the trip BART would need to adjust fares based on ridership. If ridership goes up BART could choose between expanding service or reducing fares. If ridership goes down BART could adjust service to meet the current demand, by running trains less frequency. The true benefit of full farebox recovery is the ability to expand the system without requiring outside funds, except for issuing bonds to fund the construction. The tax payer would be relieved of having to pay for public transportation and the users of the system would have expanded service.

I guess the downfall of my idea is that a vocal portion of the public feels that people shouldn’t be forced to pay full fare for their trips. I just don’t get the logic in that. You force them into a bad public transportation system and limit their access to locations and places without providing a means for them to help improve their transportation options.

And if you are wondering I feel the gas taxes funding transportation projects should be inflation adjusted and meet all of the costs of maintaining and expanding the roadways.

1 comment:

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