One thing that I’ve been asked since my article on Wednesday on Bus Rapid Transit is how UTA is doing. There are news articles saying that their numbers are improving, but there is a higher taxpayer subsidy now than there used to be. At the bottom of the Legislative Audit there are some numbers that are instructive in illustrating how UTA is handling their stewardship:
Measure 1: Revenue Passenger Miles (RPM)
RPM is a standard metric that is used across mass transit, from public airlines to private transit authorities. By this metric, UTA is not doing so great. RPM decreased from 299 million miles in 2006 to 272 million miles in 2012, a 10% reduction.
Measure 2: Boardings
This is one of two measures where UTA can hold its head high. Boardings in 2006 were at 38.5 million and have increased to over 42 million in 2012, a 9% increase.
Measure 3: Farebox Revenue
What is farebox revenue? This is the money actually collected by UTA for services from passengers. It is also the other measure where UTA should be commended. The amount of money collected for services jumped 90% from 2006 to 2012 ($23.9 million to $44.5 million).
Measure 4: Farebox Revenue per Passenger Mile (FRPM)
As farebox revenue has gone up, so has FRPM, doubling from $.08 to $.16 in 6 years. This indicates that UTA is able to charge a premium over what they did in 2006, while reducing RPMs driven. This is a positive number and indicates that UTA has the potential to further increase fares while driving down subsidies from the government.
Measure 5: Revenue per Boarding
With farebox revenue and boardings both going up, it would make sense that revenue per boarding would go up too. It has, increasing from $.62 to $1.05 from 2006 to 2012.
Measure 6: Cost per Revenue Passenger Mile (CRPM)
This is one of the key measures that can tell if UTA is outspending its revenue or not. Unfortunately, their CRPM has doubled over 6 years, going from $.67 to $1.33. This far outstrips revenue growth and may be related to the debt service on capital projects. However, with $12 billion in capital projects projected between 2015-2040, this number may further rise, making it a challenge to avoid further fare increases and/or a decrease in government subsidies.
Measure 7: Subsidy per Revenue Passenger Mile (SRPM)
With CRPM increasing dramatically from 2006-2012 and FRPM not increasing at the same pace, subsidies have had to increase as well. The SRPM has doubled as well, going from $.59 in 2006 to $1.19 in 2012.
Measure 8: Subsidy per Boarding
The subsidy per boarding has also increased, from $4.59 per boarding in 2006 to $7.64 per boarding in 2012.
Measure 9: Farebox Recovery Ratio
The higher this number, the less the system is subsidized. There are some rare cases in Asia where this ratio is actually over 100%, meaning that the system generates a profit. While that hasn’t been the expectation with UTA, the recovery ratio is still an excellent measure of how efficient a system is in with tax dollars. UTA has stayed steady, with a recovery ratio of 11.9% in 2006 and 12% in 2012. Compared to other systems in the United States, this performance is right at the bottom.
While there are certainly some areas of progress in these measurements, it also shows that UTA needs to spend more time finding ways to maximize tax dollars and less in expanding to new infrastructure projects. If this trend were to continue, revenue may rise, but so will expenses. For a fiscally conservative state, it’s not the most fiscally conservative option.