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General Manager Survey: Majority Faced with Budget Shortfalls, Escalating Costs

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

©iStockphoto.com/picha
©iStockphoto.com/picha
Two out of three transit executives responding to METRO's sixth annual General Manager Survey reported  their system is facing a budget shortage. While raising fares (66 percent) and cutting service (60 percent) were the top two choices for dealing with these shortages, eliminating positions (51 percent) and delaying projects (47 percent) and vehicle purchases (33 percent) were in close company. Nearly all survey respondents said escalating costs for health care and fuel have pushed them to find solutions. Some implemented wage freezes, fuel surcharges/hedging, tapping reserve funds, cutting benefits and switching insurance. Advertising was the top choice for generating more revenue, with 77 percent.

Four out of five respondents were male (82 percent), while average number of years a respondent worked in the transit industry was 24. The longest tenure was more than 40 years and the shortest reported was five years of service.

Looking at titles, the majority fell under the GM category (34 percent), while executive director was the next highest with 17 percent reporting.
The average annual salary was $119,000, with a median salary of $103,000. The highest salary reported totaled more than $300,000 and the lowest was under $35,000.

Although 65 percent of survey respondents said ridership was up this year, three out of four executives do not ride their systems to work.

Nearly three out of four executives applied for discretionary grants, which they intend to put toward a variety of items, including vehicle purchases, transit center construction and solar panel installation. When asked which technologies they were looking into for their systems, a majority of respondents cited real-time arrival info systems, with video surveillance and automatic vehicle location systems tabbed as the second-most popular choices.

Looking beyond the obvious funding challenge, 26 percent of respondents reported ridership as their greatest challenge, while finding qualified staff (19 percent), keeping up with emerging technology (19 percent) and succession planning (11 percent) were other hurdles cited by transit executives.

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