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MARTA's Bus "Fix"

ebeech121

Cyburbian
Messages
83
Points
4
I've decided to stay.

There was an article in my school paper (Georgia State Univ) about MARTA and what it considers a "fix" for it's debt problems.

Scaling back the 124 route bus system!! Another article (I think online) stated that MARTA is changing all but 17 of these 124 routes.

I don't think the problem is efficiency of travel time and people-moving. I think the problem is the $84,000+ holiday party MARTA officials threw. Plus the $20,000+ in perks.

ANyone have a better idea how to expand MARTA's pocket change without altering all but 17 of 124 routes?

There has to be another way!
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
the big d's advoacate

Everyone who doesnt ride the bus complains that it costs tax payers too much. Everyone who does ride the bus say it is needed for their travel.
Except in a few places, buses can not figure out how to become efficient.

Here is an idea. In many south american countries I find private buses, vans, etc.. that roam around and pick people up. Now the conditions of these vehicles are not always that great (but face it, either are Marta buses), but you get what you pay for and some are very nice.

Maybe privatization is the win win here.

The people needing served get served, and it costs the people who dont want it nothing.

This is far fetched for our "developed" country, but tell me your thoughts. Could private buses be the answer? If the idea is modified with safety regulations, it might work.

And to clarify, I like to ride tansit. In fact, I prefer it to driving and ride it everytime I can. (so just incase I came across as a transit basher, I'm not) :)
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
H said:
Here is an idea. In many south american countries I find private buses, vans, etc.. that roam around and pick people up. Now the conditions of these vehicles are not always that great (but face it, either are Marta buses), but you get what you pay for and some are very nice.
As someone who used to work for the Inter-American Development Bank on urban transport issues let me say it won't work. The unregulated public transit concept results in a lot of negative externalities (pollution, accidents, congestion). Also, the only places where this would work are where traffic flows are robust enough and even then during peak hours (so they would sap the ridership from the transit authority during profitable times but not provide late night/evening service) is in major cities.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Dharmster said:
As someone who used to work for the Inter-American Development Bank on urban transport issues....
great, so lets pick your brain a little more.

Dharmster said:
...let me say it won't work..
Wont work or doesnt work. I agree it doesnt work, but neither does MARTA the current focus system. I do however believe it could work.

Dharmster said:
The unregulated public transit concept results in a lot of negative externalities (pollution, accidents, congestion).
Why do you assume it would be unregulated? I assume it would be regulated. The US has pollution and safety standards on other private autos, so why would transit autos be different? And as far as accidents and congestion, should it be less considering you are (hopefully) consolidating passengers from solo personal autos.

Dharmster said:
Also, the only places where this would work are where traffic flows are robust enough and even then during peak hours (so they would sap the ridership from the transit authority during profitable times but not provide late night/evening service) is in major cities.
I am talking about closing the inefficient transit authority bus system so there would be nothing to sap away. And yes it would only run during peak hours, that is why it would be profitable. This is why the transit authoirty is inefficient.

During non-peak hours market would warrant cabs, and there is nothing wrong with that. Sure it might cost the passenger more because the rest of the non-riders would not subsidize, and that is the point.

But since most people ride during peak hours, it would be a win-win. Cheap transport and no subsidizing. :)

Please comment more. I am just theorizing and thinking creatively off-the-cuff here and have no real stake in this claim. And lets face it, the current US bus sysytem is NOT working hence the point of the original post on this thread. I do like the private bus system and feel it can work. Again you get what you pay for so there is level of service for everyone... some of the more luxurious services might even help lure people out of there personal autos and reduce traffic. And in a city like Atlanta (where MARTA is) this would be a huge improvement :)
 
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jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
There are lots of minor changes that can make or break a bus route but as always transit agencies are mired in layers of bureacracy and resistant to change.
we have a dozen or so routes in the city and still others that could be profitable if the proper changes were made. One i'm thinking of could be profitable if the bus stops were moved to every other corner. This would allow them to shave 5 minutes off of the schedule and cut buses from the route without affecting the headways.

Our most profitable route is the Market-Frankford El. It carries 120,000 trips a day. If you cut the unprofitable bus routes that feed into it it the El would cease to be profitable. Many of the other bus routes that take people from the El to their jobs would also be less profitable.

When you cut a transit route or drasitically reduce service you're not just losing that one base fare. You're losing the transfers they might buy, you're losing their return fare. In addition you're not just cutting a place to come from, you're cutting a place to go to. These cuts have ripple effects that are felt throughout the system.

What i'm trying to say here is, we don't REALLY have a profitable route because all of those routes depend on feeder services that are not profitable. So unless the farebox return for your entire transit operation is 100% or better you don't have a profitable route in your system.

You'll never get to a level of profitability in a transit system b/c the service cuts will always be one step behind the subsequent drop in ridership. There is no profitable transportation system. Highways aren't profitable, airports aren't profitable, harbors aren't profitable. We subsidize transportation because our economy wouldn't exist without it.

Transit systems perform poorly for one of two reasons (or a combo) - poor management or poor leadership/capital funding at the state and local level.
Privatizing transit (or any gov't function) isn't going to change anything. Your taxes still have to pay for capital programs, they still have to pay for 50% of operations, and now you have the added burden of high-paid management, corporate execs, and quarterly earnings reports. That profit comes from increased fares and/or from the drivers' salaries/benefits.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
I understand the ripple effect, but if the private buses replaced the public buses I dont see why it would happen during peek hours. Off-peek, sure I can see that, so maybe we need to look at cutting out all off-peek hour public transportation? It costs the same amount in gas, electricity, salary, etc.. but it services less people and is the least profitable. Therefore, the ripple effect can be avoided.

I feel no public service will be lost by this because If the need is there, the private bus company will meet it and if the need is not there then there is not a loss to public service. If there is not a need, then there is not a loss, right?

I am just thinking outloud here, so please dont bash me :)

jresta said:
Privatizing transit (or any gov't function) isn't going to change anything. Your taxes still have to pay for capital programs, they still have to pay for 50% of operations, and now you have the added burden of high-paid management....
For clarification:

Why would taxes pay for 50% of operations of private bus companies? Why couldnt the capital programs money be put into other programs once the buses are privatized?
 

ebeech121

Cyburbian
Messages
83
Points
4
I don't really think privatizing the bus system will work especially in ATL since it is tied to a public train system and dividing the two would take a long time to complete.

Also, the money spent to do so would cost way too much--MARTA is already going to raise the fare to (I think) $2.00, but I don't know if the extra 25 cents a trip will cover all the expenses of changing a system like that. Granted MARTA is not the NY subway system, but you have to take into consideration things like severence packages or early retirement benefits. I'm pretty sure MARTA could be sued if they told laid off workers "OH, jeez...you won't be getting the severence pay we promised in your written work contract. Better luck next time."

I understand why you have suggested the private bus system, but like I said--dividing the train from the bus will be a long, drawn out death of MARTA.

P.S. It's nice to see someone else with a little ATL around here! :D
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
H said:
I understand the ripple effect, but if the private buses replaced the public buses I dont see why it would happen during peek hours. Off-peek, sure I can see that, so maybe we need to look at cutting out all off-peek hour public transportation? It costs the same amount in gas, electricity, salary, etc.. but it services less people and is the least profitable. Therefore, the ripple effect can be avoided. ?
Cutting all off-peak trips doesn't automatically make the system profitable. The expensive part about running a bus is the driver. One bus driver = 60 passengers while One train driver = 800 passengers. If you can find and retain quality drivers who are willing to work part time then that's great but it's not your main problem. First and foremost it's an economy of scale. Presumably you'll still have crush loads during rush hour so you're really not going to be able to cut back your equipment as you'd like and even if you could a 40% reduction in fleet size doesn't equal a 40% reduction in costs. As well, cutting all off-peak runs, in this city anyway, would lead to a 30% to 40% drop in ridership and an even steeper loss in revenue. People travelling during the peak are using the most heavily discounted fares in the form of monthly and weekly passes. People travelling off-peak are usually paying cash or using tokens and paying for their transfers.

Like i said earlier - service cuts will always be one step behind.

H said:
I feel no public service will be lost by this because If the need is there, the private bus company will meet it and if the need is not there then there is not a loss to public service. If there is not a need, then there is not a loss, right? ?
I'm not following how a private bus company is going to run a service for significantly less than a public agency. Drivers and mechanics will get paid less with fewer benefits and the fares will be slightly higher but transit prices outside of NYC are very inelastic. Even charging $3 where SEPTA charges $2 still will not cover the cost of operations because it will exert serious downward pressure on ridership. I think you're forgetting that a good chunk of transit ridership in bigger cities has a choice. They can drive to work if they want to, or get a ride, or buy a car, or move. When transit fares go up or lines disappear that's what they do.

For the people who have no choice there lives are made that much worse. Paying $8 a day for transportation when you're only making $8 an hour is a serious burden. A one hour commute to work that covers 7 miles because of limited connections makes the costs of daycare and family maintenance that much more expensive. Think about the consequences of further distancing them from employment.

H said:
Why would taxes pay for 50% of operations of private bus companies? Why couldnt the capital programs money be put into other programs once the buses are privatized?
NJ Transit and NY MTA subsidize the operations of dozens of private bus companies. The MTA is actually getting ready to take over a lot of these private operations in Queens b/c it will cheaper for them to run it than to pay private operators.

This whole time we have just been talking about operations b/c that's all a transit system could hope to be profitable on. Where do you think capital dollars come from? The only US system that i know of to do that was PATCO that runs between NJ and Philly and that was only for one year. The rest of the operations comes from bridge tolls. The capital money comes from bridge tolls and federal sources.

Even if it were possible to fork over capital money to a private fleet the buses still have to get fixed. Diverting capital money to pay for operations is just robbing peter to pay paul. It's like the first rule of a free market - You can't live off of your savings (capital) or sell off your assets and call it profit.

Your tax dollars pay for Army Corps dredging projects, double-stack clearance projects, new terminals, and even real-time shipping networks (i'm actually working on this project now). Auto drivers have their networks and equipment subsidized at the factory, in the showroom, at the gas pump, and on the highway.
As far as i know the gas tax doesn't pay for the highway patrol and motorist assistance programs. I know it doesn't pay for half the calls of local police departments.

Transportation is not profitable and never will be for this reason - There is little to no human need for transportation. There is only a need for access. Transportation is an economic engine and someone has to pay to put gas in it.
 
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