Position on FY 14 DelDOT transit proposals

November 7, 2013

On Oct. 18, the DTC/DART Division of DelDOT announced transit fare increases and transit service changes for FY 14. The department is making these changes to help offset the rapid rise in transit subsidies over the past decade, particularly those for paratransit services. Such action was strongly recommended by the Transportation Trust Fund Task Force in 2011 and has been continuously supported by the Transportation Strategy Group since its establishment in 2010.

The fare increases proposed by DTC/DART are the first increases since the year 1989 and costs for providing the services have more than doubled over the past 25 years. Although ridership has increased over this same timeframe, the addition of weekend service, night service and statewide services along with the general rise in the cost to provide the services have caused the amount of subsidy to grow to over $80.7 million annually.

The cost of statewide paratransit service has increased the most. When initially implemented, the state administration and general assembly decided to greatly expand the service from the federally mandated .75 miles from a fixed transit route to statewide. What was a reasonable cost at the initiation of the service now requires over half of the entire transit subsidy for less than 10 percent of the service ridership.

The DTC/DART approach is well thought out. It restructures some services, particularly paratransit services, to be more efficient and less costly to provide. It takes a significant portion of the subsidy savings provided by the increase in revenue from the fare box and provides additional fixed route transit service. It is appropriate to ask the users of the system to pay for some of the cost of the service and to increase that cost as prices rise due to inflation. The size of this increase is only as large as it is because we have not had smaller increases over a 25-year period.

Even with the increase in fares, however, we can never expect public transit services to completely pay for themselves directly. From the larger transportation perspective, transit services complement services for highway users by removing many trips from the highway peak hours, thereby, offsetting the need for even larger capital expenses to acquire private land and expand roads and bridges.

The secretary has established a percentage of his annual budget as a performance goal that DART can use to establish future fare increases and service changes. Such a measure is also long overdue and firmly supported by this group. We would, however, recommend that DTC/DART take this a step further and establish farebox recovery rates for each type of service provided, as recommended by the 2011 Trust Fund Task Force Report. Such performance measures would allow the DTC/DART in the future to target the right mix revenue and service adjustments more specifically to the service that is underperforming.

In summary, the Transportation Strategy Group endorses the department’s approach to fare increases and service changes and encourages the organization to continue to make their transit services as efficient as possible, expand transit services where needed and supported and increase fares, when necessary, to meet performance measures.

Transportation Strategy Group

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