Monday, October 13, 2008

public funding of transportation

from Alameda County Dept of Public Health's Unnatural Causes Report


WarrenG said...

People on Caltrain travel the farthest and pay the highest ticket price. Next is a ride on BART.

What percentage of the total ticket price is subsidized? What organization(s) are paying the subsidies?

chr15 tree said...

Yeah. That may show some more light on this, the percentage of the total ticket price represented by the subsidy.

What else does the graph show? That routes used by a greater percentage of white riders are likely to be subsidised to a greater level.

I wrote a piece on a similar subject here in the UK for my Masters thesis.

What I found was that '(not necessarily white) middle class professional commutors' [for commutor read living out of town in the 'nice' suburbs, these people are for the most part white but there is an an increasing percentage of other races] were more likely to get involved in local politics and therefore be in a better position to influence public funding.

Those with the shorter journeys tended to be lower paid workers and [for want of a better expression] alien ethnic groups. Who, whilst complaining about rising prices of transport/public services see little point, or, have no interest in involving themselves in local politics and put up an us-and-them type barrier.

... oops, sorry to go on...

Another thing that might be interesting to look at is, who runs each route? and who OWNS each company, and their politics?

Beth said...

Subsidies are public monies, being allocated from the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC). MTC controls approximately $1 billion annually in federal and state transit dollars, and allocates these to regional transit facilities. Policies of MTC have not prioritized the needs of the most vulnerable residents who rely on public transportation, nor have they made decisions based on cost-effective principles, e.g. the proposed Warm Springs BART extension line, in which future usability of line is much in question.

The huge subsidies are especially ironic given the need and economic breakdown of ridership: 38 percent of AC transit riders have incomes of $25,000 or less, while only 13% of BART riders have incomes at this low level. 53 percent of Caltrain riders have incomes over $75,000. 61 percent of AC transit users are transit dependent, compared to 16 percent of BART riders.

Of course, the $2.78 vs. $13.79 transit subsidy is a per-rider subsidies, and does not make clear the length of trip (which clearly Caltrain will be longer given that it is a commuter rail…however I am not sure how this is relevant, because one could just as easily use “time of trip”- which might likely find the bus longer). As for the percentage of the subsidy [subsidy/total cost of trip], I have not yet found. However, I would argue that is not necessarily a pertinent question with regards to public policy, in which (at least I believe) funding should be equalized by individual citizen, not length of trip. I feel huge public subsidies to residents in the peninsula should not be public priority. At least those are my political leanings which some might disagree.

With regards to the second comment of "political disfranchisement" - of course this is real. (First of all, I would not blame certain communities for being disfranchised from the political system, all for very good reasons. However, that is another topic). Nevertheless, there have been many instances of political mobilization around this issue of transportation funding. These are documented in 1998 by Urban Habitat who wanted MTC to conduct a comparative analysis of which communities would be positively/negatively affected by new highway projects, which MTC refused to conduct. In 2001, African American ministers in North Richmond advocated for a bus system in that MTC said was the most cost-effective project proposed in 2001; however, MTC instead diverted monies to commuter rail lines. 2005 a lawsuit was filed against MTC for violating civil rights laws with regards to public planning. The court ruled that MTC maintains "separate and unequal" transit systems. There are other instances as well.

I think the kicker to this is that there is a disparity in subsidy and also a disparity in service levels. Between 1986 and 2004, AC Transit has cut its overall level of service while BART has increased its service level, even though ridership declines are shown to be equal. So, essentially service levels are being expanded in places where there is no data indicating more ridership, AND in places where the public subsidy output is higher.

Lots of thing impact service level cuts, but government subsides have a direct correlation to the level of service available. These have real impacts on low income communities: only 28 percent of residents in Alameda County's disadvantaged neighborhoods have transit access to a hospital and less than half of the same residents have access to a supermarket within a half mile walk of their homes. These are people, as I said before, who are dependent on the availability of transit services. AC transit service cuts in the late 90s cost users 30.7 million in transit expense increases. If you add in income losses and lost travel time (with time being calculated at $5/hr), service cuts to AC transit cost $48.1 million.

I am not anti BART and Caltrain; however, with the ever increasing ballot initiatives to earmark funds, it is important to keep in mind that earmarking funding for AC Transit and BART are directly taking funding away from the bus system and from populations who are the most in need of transit services.

Guanaco said...

You tell 'em Beth!

chr15 tree said...

Beth... Not a personal attack, just a healthy and hopefully interesting discussion. Your response is brilliant. I would love to go further on this as your comments seem to mirror so much about public transport here. But given my location and definate ignorance of your transport systems, politics and funding policies I doubt i could put up much of a debate.

However somethings are universal.

The ratio of the subsidy in relation to the ticket price is relevent especially as it may reflect an even subsidy ratio accross the range or even a greater percentage for the ACtransit. As for the time/length of trip, OK this may not really be as relevent as the cost/value of the trip. i.e. how much does it cost to run the service vs how much will the fare paying passenger pay for the trip. Remember (here in the UK, at least) government is trying to discourage car use.

A train service has a much greater running and infra-structure cost than a bus service, some of the subsidy may be tied up in this. I did a little (and i stress a little - and a little knowledge is often dangerous) research and see that the MTC have obligations to fund Federal projects, Is Caltrain one of these? If so, a greater level of subsidy may be explained by the obliation to federal governement to pour cash into the infrastructure.

I guess your beef is with the MTC's funding policies and why they continue to pour money into longer distance travel for the middle class commutor, while the lower piad and essential service workers are being looked after less.

It would be interesting to see what the full economic brekdown of ridership is as noted in pargraph 2 of your response. Wht si the income of the remaining 62% of ACtransit riders, ditto the balance of the Caltrain riders.


chr15 tree said...

The source of the graph in you post is interesting.

Fiber Optic Cable said...

Hi, Sis.

I love Public Transportation. 7 years living in Boston with no Car were the happiest transportation days in my life.

I'd love to see this data normalized against 3 other variables: 1) Tons of CO2 removed/amount of subsidy, and 2) show the ethnic participation rate for each of the transit "area's of service", and 3) Subsidy/rider per cost of transportation given.

If Caltrain has a substantial impact on Carbon emmissions, that may be a legitamite policy reason to increase the subsidy, independent of Race or Economic strata.

It may also be true that even though CalTrain only has 40% minority riders, the area it serves is only 15% minority. This would be an indication that the transportation is increasing minority access to different housing and employment opportunities, instead of being "trapped" without access to public transportation.

It may be that AC Transit subsidizes 85 percent of the travel costs per ride, where as Caltrain only subsidizes 70 percent.

Just remember:

Buses: Good.
Electric Powered/Hybrid Buses: Better.
Commuter Rail: Good.
Electric Powered Commuter Rail: Better.
BioDiesel: Good.
BioDiesel backing up a Plug in Hybrid: Better.

Telecommuting: Best.
Fixed Streetcar/Trolley expansion leading to more planning, and ever expanding maintenance costs: Bad.