2013 GM Survey: Funding, Politics Top Challenges

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

Transit systems reporting budget shortfalls has stayed steady at 59% for 2013, according to METRO’s Annual GM Survey. And, as expected, funding is the number one challenge faced by transit executives, with 38% reporting. Dealing with politics is the second-highest reported challenge at 13%.

Raising fares, cutting service and delaying projects are the top three tactics used to mitigate budgetary issues. Rising costs such as health care are being met with various tactics including developing wellness programs and having employees shoulder more insurance costs, while agencies are locking in fuel prices to curb fuel costs.

Advertising is again the most-used method of generating revenue (81%). Forty-one percent raised fares, while 33% tapped public-private partnerships to bolster their coffers. New revenue streams added to the list included joint development (21%), benefit assessments (11%) and developer impact fees (3%).

Like last year, the profile of our survey respondents was overwhelmingly male, with 81% reporting. The average number of years in the industry is 24, while the highest number of people (32%) report working between 31 to 40 years in public transit. The average operating budget was $230 million, while the average salary came to $125,000.

The average annual salary was $124,000, with the highest listed as $299,000 and the lowest was $31,000. Although the numbers have crept up slightly, women still have a lower average salary ($110,000) compared to men ($124,000). Sixty percent of participants say they are paid fairly and 71% do not ride their systems to work. Governmental/public affairs take up a majority of transit executives’ time (41%), while handling personnel (15%) and operational issues (13%) are time eaters as well.

Ridership is up for most at 59%, with only 3% reporting a drop. Smart cards, real-time arrival systems and automatic vehicle locators top the list of technologies being considered. Only 2% of participants cite keeping up with technology as a daily challenge.

This year, we asked transit execs what they like about their jobs. Here are some responses: “Every day is different;” “the ability to solve transportation issues;” “providing service that directly affects quality of life for many residents;” and “interaction with employees.”

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