Independent analysis identifies costs of extending transfer times

by

TriMet Board discusses tradeoffs of longer transfers or more service

During the Fiscal Year 2014 budget process, the advocacy group OPAL proposed that TriMet extend transfer times from the current two hours to three hours, and allow transfers issued after 7 p.m. to be valid through the end of the service day. OPAL proposed the extended transfer times to help offset the impact of fare increases and service cuts, particularly for riders who are transit dependent.

Currently, TriMet allows a two-hour transfer with the intent that riders can travel to their destination on one fare. Riders making short trips can make additional trips, including round trips, before their 2-hour transfer expires.

Independent analysis
TriMet committed to review their proposal, which included an independent financial analysis by ECONorthwest. The report, Revenue Impacts of Proposed Changes to TriMet’s Transfer Policy”, released to the public today, is based on new, updated data from TriMet and Metro’s recent travel surveys.

ECONorthwest Transfer Analysis

ECONorthwest Transfer Analysis

To predict the number of people who could make additional trips, ECONorthwest examined ridership during four time periods on weekdays and two on weekends. Based on OPAL’s proposed three-hour policy and unlimited transfer time after 7 p.m., the study found:

  • 33 percent of typical midday riders on both weekdays and weekends would be able to travel without purchasing an additional fare.
  • About 25 percent of riders in the morning peak-hour commute and those riding after 7 p.m. would not have to purchase a return fare.
  • TriMet would lose between $2.15 million to $4.1 million in revenue annually.

TriMet is meeting with OPAL, as well as other community stakeholders, to review the analysis and assess any options

Tradeoffs: longer transfers or restoring service
With limited resources, there are no independent financial decisions. Each decision impacts another.

At the July 10 Board of Directors briefing, TriMet presented a preliminary overview of what it would cost to restore Frequent Service to pre-recession levels on 12 bus lines and all MAX. The 12 Frequent Service bus lines and all MAX lines would return to 15 minute or better service every day.

Frequent Service Restoration

Frequent Service Restoration

Restoring Frequent Service would:

  • ease transfers
  • ease overcrowding
  • improve schedule reliability
  • improve bus operation efficiency
  • provide better work assignments for operators with fewer split shifts and more straight shifts

The preliminary cost to restore Frequent Service to the 12 bus lines would cost $6.3 million. To restore the MAX Blue, Green, Red and Yellow lines to Frequent Service is estimated to cost $1.55 million. Fare revenue due to increased ridership has been subtracted from the total figures. About 72 percent of weekly transit trips are taken on the Frequent Service network.

Financial outlook
There are many unknowns on the financial front. The last union contract award is being appealed by the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the outcome of the appeal could have an impact on TriMet’s financial ability to restore service or require service cuts. Two other unknowns are the pace of the economic recovery and the payroll tax revenues, which make up the largest resources to fund transit, and the increased costs for health care benefits.

TriMet is looking for feedback, so comment via comments@trimet.org  or 503-238-RIDE (7433) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Feedback will be presented to the Board of Directors at their July 24 board meeting.