Bus

Despite Dwindling Tax Revenues, Top 100 Fleets Soldier On

Posted on September 9, 2010 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

[IMAGE]100-2.jpg[/IMAGE]Dwindling sales tax revenues continue to have a serious impact on many transit agencies around the nation, with 78 percent of this year's respondents to METRO's Top 100 Transit Bus Fleets survey saying they are experiencing budget issues.

Along with those budget issues, there was an actual drop of 891 vehicles for a total of 63,807 reported by transit agencies from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. New York City Transit (NYCT) still holds the top spot with a total 4,493 vehicles. NYCT is followed by Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) (2,723), Pace Suburban Bus (2,392) and New Jersey Transit (2,373). The Toronto Transit Commission commandeers the number five slot with 1,998 vehicles.

Vancouver, Wash.-based C-Tran — one of this year's three new entries, along with Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (No. 87) and London, Ontario-based London Transit Commission (No. 90) - rounds out this year's Top 100 with 157 vehicles, while Cincinnati's South West Ohio Regional Transit Authority holds down the No. 50 slot.

Budget issues

With dwindling sales tax revenues causing significant budget shortfalls, most of the 78 percent of respondents who said they are experiencing budgeting issues have implemented some form of service cuts, fare increases or both. Many others have also been forced to lay off employees, freeze hiring and salary increases, and delay implementing new services or purchasing new equipment.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (No. 26) reported that it approached its unions for givebacks, resulting in a successful agreement for most employees to take 12 unpaid days off per year, which equates to an almost 5 percent decrease in pay.

Additionally, 68 percent of respondents said they are having problems balancing rising demand for service with those budgeting issues. To help the situation, officials at the Utah Transit Authority (No. 32) say that every four months it modifies the system by dropping less efficient routes and adding or combining routes.

Brighter side

There is still much positive news to be found throughout the nation. One significant turn, for instance, came in April of this year when voters overwhelmingly passed a tax increase to help fund public transportation, which helped St. Louis Metro jump from No. 83 in 2009 to No. 60 this year. As a result of its tax victory, the agency immediately restored services that had been cut and has plans to increase some services in the near future.

Agencies around the nation are also continuing to do all they can to make their communities aware of the services they provide. In Albany, N.Y., the Capital District Transportation Authority (No. 65) reports that it is focusing on developing partnerships with businesses and organizations to get the word out and seek innovative ways to increase ridership.

The numbers

A closer look at the numbers reveals 47,540 buses are 35 feet or longer; 53 percent, or 33,955, of the total vehicles are low-floor applications; and 9 percent are demand response. In total, this year's respondents report that they intend to order 4,518 vehicles in the next year.

Alternative-fueled vehicles, at 17,345 total vehicles, make up 27 percent of the fleet totals reported for 2010, with compressed natural gas (8,180 vehicles) leading the way, followed by various types of hybrid-electric vehicles.

With all the budget and staff cuts going on around the nation, METRO would especially like to thank all of the transit agencies for participating this year. If you know a fleet that belongs on this list or have suggestions on how to improve our future lists, please let us know.

To view the Top 100, click here.

To view a photo gallery of some of this year's Top 100, click here.

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