Sunday, June 03, 2007

Why Ridership Increases with Changed Service is Meaningless

UTA is bragging on how much the changes in the bus service in Utah and Weber Counties have increased ridership, and how they expect a 17% increase in ridership when the changes happen. Actually ridership numbers on the buses should actually increase even more than that and all the over paid planners at UTA and the board will be patting themselves on the back saying what a great job they have done. However, the truth of the matter is, the ridership increase will be meaningless and the planners should be held accountable for different numbers.

Let me show you how ridership increases will be meaningless with this new system and why UTA management should not get away with saying success if ridership goes up.

I will use myself as a perfect example of what will happen with the numbers. Currently I have two ways to get to downtown from my place. I can either walk to Van Winkle/1300 East and catch the 32 bus or I can wall to Spring Lane and 1300 east and catch the 11 which is more convenient since buses that run every hour are useless.

Now if the replacement for the 32 still stops on Van Winkle which we still don't know yet, it will only run during a few trips per day during rush hour so will be useless for anyone that doesn't work in downtown. So say I am traveling to the downtown area mid day which would more fit with my travel patterns. Instead of being able to take one bus directly to downtown I will have to take the new 213 (old 11) to the U. then transfer to either the 220 (old 8) or to TRAX which will be over crowded. Because UTA counts people getting on and off the bus I am counted a second time when I finish my trip to downtown. So in other words even though I am making the same trip I have many times, I am now counted as two riders instead of 1. So there will be a large number of people who will have to ride two buses instead of one. So in other words UTA ridership has gone up using a typical transit system's voodoo accounting. However, has UTA gained any new riders? NO!!

Now lets put things in perspective. UTA like most transit agencies use passenger mile per vehicle mile to tell you how well they are doing. Of course the problem with this number is that it does not tell you is how much they are making per mile. In fact besides transit agencies the only people that use passenger mile per train mile is Amtrak who is the king of bad accounting. For the record I am supporter of train service but feel that Amtrak management has been very poor especially for the 14 years that former transit people have had control. Oh wait, former transit people have been in control of Amtrak until last year and it has gone down the drain in quality, now there isn't any coincidences there right?

Now lets take a look at a successful transportation company and see what they look at. When it comes to transportation companies that are successful you have to look at Southwest Airlines. Does Southwest care about passenger miles? Of course not, they care about revenue per mile. UTA doesn't look at revenue figures. UTA cannot tell you how many people will have to transfer from route 11 to another route when it is cut. But I bet Southwest can tell you how many times a customer has to change planes. I bet you they can break it down if they where to cut a route in half how many people would it affect. They wouldn't be looking strictly at how many people it carries they would be looking at how much revenue the run brings in.

The the first of next year we will have UTA claiming how "successful" the changes in the transit system was. But remember, it is nothing but vodoo numbers, UTA doesn't care about the real numbers.