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Friday, August 26, 2005

Chron scolds Metro for not exploiting almighty rail

Today, the Chron editorial board scolds Metro for failing Houston, but still insists on plugging the Danger Train:
Despite optimistic pro- jections [sic] of increased ridership on its bus system, Metropolitan Transit Authority officials continue to wrestle with a slump in the number of people using mass transit here and resulting declines in fare box revenues. Particularly worrisome, the successful light rail line should be pumping up those statistics with thousands of additional boardings each month, and climbing fuel costs should have made Metro more attractive to commuters.
Which is it, Chron? Is the light rail line successful, or has it failed to increase ridership? That said, kudos to the editors for pointing out Metro's dismal financial results:
According to a performance audit of Metro by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., passenger fare revenues plunged more than 14 percent during the last four years while operating expenses per passenger rose 35 percent. The audit found that passenger complaints increased significantly last year. A majority concerned driver behavior.
Yikes. Those are some pretty bad numbers. So are these:
"Metro's fare recovery ratio has been declining, and at 15 percent is low for the transit industry," the audit report says. Rates of 25 percent or more are common among big transit systems, it says.
The report says ridership slipped 5 percent in the three years, from 100 million yearly boardings to 95 million
On-time performance fell from 86 percent to 84 percent, and passenger complaints increased from 18.5 to 20 per 100,000 boardings.
Average occupancy: 10 riders, down 10 percent
Stories like these drive me into the arms of the Cato Institute.

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