As an infrequent rider on RTD buses, I recently experienced sticker shock when I boarded a bus from DIA to Boulder and was asked to pay $12 for a one-way ticket. Back in the day, the fares were $4.
My first thought was, “Well, I will show them for raising the fares. Next time I will drive.” So I quickly did the math to confirm my beliefs.
Total round-trip mileage from Boulder to DIA is roughly 90 miles. Assuming $.50 a mile for vehicle operating costs, the expense for me to drive would be about $45, not to mention parking fees and the hassle of dealing with traffic. It was clear that the round trip fee of $24 was the most cost effective way to travel, at least for one person.
After I sat down I noticed signage on the bus that encouraged visitors to go to its website for a free lesson in mass transit economics. When I got home, I visited www.rtd-denver.com/economics and learned that fares account for about 30% of total revenues. Approximately 69% is derived from sales tax revenues and one percent comes from on-vehicle advertising and other sources. The economic lesson concluded with a statement that an $18 million deficit is projected for the 2011 budget.
To address this situation, RTD solicited feedback from its customer base over recent months. They asked about possible and preferred solutions that could be considered as part of a fiscal plan to address the projected shortfall. A short list of considerations include wage and hiring freezes, staff furloughs, service reduction and fare increases.
Many of the basic daily services that we take for granted during good economic times are facing challenges at least as severe as those faced by RTD. We can expect to face those challenges for awhile. Stay tuned to see how RTD makes the rubber meet the road.
©Copyright 2011 by CBER.