In 2011, business increased for 70% of METRO
's Top 50 operators, which is even higher than last year's reported increase of 42%. On average, the uptick for those operators is very slight compared with last year's 9%, at 9.4%. Twelve percent said business was down, significantly lower than 2010's 20% figure. On average, business decreased by 9.2%. For 17% of operators, business remained the same.
To increase business, significantly more operators secured government and school contracts than in 2010, at nearly two-thirds of respondents, compared with 46% last year. Seventeen percent of carriers formed co-ops with other providers, and the same number diversified into limousine and paratransit operations. Other efforts cited primarily included university and employee shuttle contracts.
Actions to offset costs, particularly increasing fuel prices, included fuel surcharges at 71%; rate increases at 55%; and fuel hedging, reducing idling and highway speed at 11%. About 28% of operators reported having to downsize staff, up 2% from 2010, indicating that while business may be growing for many carriers, they are not necessarily able to hire more employees or retain workers.
The most favored marketing methods were once again word of mouth, selected by 41% of respondents, and the Internet, chosen by nearly one-third of surveyed operators. Internet use for marketing is slowly increasing, on average, by about 2% each year. Selected by less than one-tenth of operators were print ads (6%), Yellow Pages (4%) and Radio/TV (2%). More carriers appear to be using the Yellow Pages, with an uptick of about 3% over the last two years.