Friday, September 26, 2008

Rochester's Transit System has Creative Minds

Thanks to chrisck's comment on AOA, I read this NY Times article about Rochester's Regional Transit Service (RGRTA), and how they implemented a plan to reduce fares to $1 per bus ride.

The article is interesting on multiple levels, and leaves me questioning more deeply whether CDTA is making the right move with the planned April Fool's fare hike.

In my transit-riding superhero mind, I dream of Plan B from the hardworking CDTA staff that explores some of the strategies used in Rochester, and leads to a decrease in the astronomical fare hike... or even scrapping a hike altogether. A girl can dream, right?

According to the article, Rochester's Transit Authority sees this as a great way to increase ridership:
“With gas prices at record highs, there is no better way to convince people who are beginning to look at public transportation,” said Mark R. Aesch, the chief executive of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, which runs the bus system.
And check out this interesting note in the article:
Just four years ago, the Rochester authority was in financial straits and facing large deficits. Since then, it has lobbied successfully for increases in state aid, receiving $32.8 million this year, up from $16 million four years ago. It helps that a local assemblyman, David F. Gantt, is chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee.
Ahhh... so is RGRTA receiving significantly more aid per ride than other transit systems of comparable size? My guess is, probably not -- wouldn't the article have noted if aid was disproportionately distributed?

Then there's this deal with Rochester's school district from the article:

One of the most important is with the Rochester City School District, which uses the Regional Transit Service as the primary bus system for nearly all of its students in the 7th through 12th grades. Several years ago, the school district paid the equivalent of a regular fare for each student rider, according to Mr. Aesch. But about three years ago, with the transit system facing a financial crisis, he began discussions with the district about radically altering the arrangement.

Mr. Aesch told school officials that the money they were paying to transport students only partly covered the cost and that the system could no longer afford the service without a significant increase in payments. The school district agreed to an increase, and it now pays about $2.22 for each student ride.

I don't know what the current deal is between CDTA and Albany's school district, but I doubt an increase in transportation costs would fly in Albany where tax payers are already overburdened paying for all those charter schools.

The article mentions these partnerships which I think CDTA could do A LOT MORE OF:

In Rochester, the transit system has also formed agreements with private businesses and colleges. It runs shuttle buses on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology and provides special weekend service to the campus, for which it receives about $1 million a year. The developer of an apartment complex in suburban Brighton pays $1,200 a year to ensure that a bus line runs by the property.

And last week, the Rochester authority announced a new agreement with Bryant & Stratton College, which has two campuses in the area. Under the deal, the college will pay $17,700 in exchange for 350 bus passes that it can distribute at a discount to students. In exchange, transit officials have agreed to continue service on a little-used section of a bus route that goes to the college’s campus in the suburb of Greece, and to run a bus there later in the day for students taking evening classes.

Yes, CDTA does currently have arrangements with our local colleges and universities, I don't know the details, but my guess is there's room within this sector to pull in more bucks.

Rochester's plan does include some service cuts... but so does CDTA's.

And so it goes...the tale of two transit plans:

One includes a 50% increase per ride, bringing the fare well-above the $1 mark.

The other includes a 20% decrease per ride, bringing the fare down to the psychologically sound $1 mark.

Which plan would entice you to choose the bus?

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