National Transit Database Comparisons
As part of its review of Capital Metro, TPR commissioned TransTech Enterprises of Corpus Christi, Texas to conduct a comparative analysis of Capital Metro and 18 similar transit systems around the U.S. This study, which is cited throughout TPR's report, indicates that Capital Metro provides a greater-than-average amount of service for a relatively large ridership, measured both in absolute and per capita terms. The statistics also suggest, however, that Capital Metro operates less efficiently than many of its peers and at a higher cost.
In selecting the peer group of transit authorities, TransTech considered areas similar to Austin in transit system characteristics, population size, or economic activity (such as government or major universities). Peer cities reviewed include:
Albany, NY Madison, WI Albuquerque, NM Memphis, TN Charlotte, NC Providence, RI Cincinnati, OH Richmond, VA Columbus, OH Salt Lake City, UT Fort Worth, TX San Antonio, TX Indianapolis, IN Syracuse, NY Kansas City, MO/KS Tampa, FL Louisville, KY Tucson, AZ
TransTech's analysis established benchmark averages among the peer group for a number of different performance characteristics and compared Capital Metro's performance with these averages. The use of averages helps to minimize variations due to the unique characteristics of every operating environment. (For detailed accounting of this information by city see the chart at the end of this appendix.)
Data for the comparisons came from the Federal Transit Administration's 1995 National Transit Database, the most recent reliable and compatible information available. The age of the federal statistics used, however, begs the question: how has Capital Metro performed in years since 1995? Therefore, this analysis also includes 1996 and 1997 data for Capital Metro, to indicate whether the trends observed between the authority and its peers have changed since 1995.
Capital Metro's reported ridership of 28.2 million passenger boardings for 1995 was nearly 76 percent higher than the peer-group average of 16.3 million. Capital Metro's ridership continued to grow in 1996 and 1997.
Service Area Population
Capital Metro's reported service area population in 1995 was 8.9 percent lower than the peer average, although the Austin area's rapid growth is likely to have altered that picture. Figures were not available for 1996 and 1997.
Local Revenue per Capita
Local revenue per capita compares total local revenues generated from all sources (including fares, taxes, advertising, and other sources) to the service area population. State and federal revenues are not included. Capital Metro had the highest amount of local revenue per capita by a wide margin; Capital Metro's $105.30 per area resident was nearly 164 percent above the peer average of $39.93. This trend did not change significantly in 1996 and 1997.
Passenger Revenue per Ride
This ratio measures passengers' average payment per ride. Capital Metro had the lowest average revenues per rider of any of the peer systems in 1995. Capital Metro earned just 24 cents per rider, 49.3 percent below the peer average of 47 cents. The figures for Capital Metro did not change significantly in 1996 and 1997.
Operating Cost per Hour
Operating cost per hour compares operating costs to vehicle hours of service operated. It measures the efficiency of the transit operation, or how well it uses its resources to deliver a given amount of service. Capital Metro's cost per hour in 1995 was $55.96, 20.1 percent higher than the peer average of $46.61 per hour. Capital Metro's operating cost per hour dipped slightly in 1996 but went back up in 1997.
It should be noted that Capital Metro's Special Transit Services (STS), curb-to-curb services for people with disabilities, accounts for a significant part of its difference from the peer average. This can be seen by comparing the same statistics for STS and ordinary bus transportation separately. Note that Capital Metro's operating cost per hour for STS was markedly higher than the average, while its cost per hour for bus service alone is closer to average:
Special Transit Services
Capital Metro $57.73 cost per hour (STS)
113.3 percent above peer average
Peer Average $27.06 cost per hour (STS)
Fixed Route Bus Transportation
Capital Metro $56.67 cost per hour (bus)
10.6 percent above peer average
Peer Average $51.23 cost per hour (bus)
Administrative Expenses as a Percentage of Total Operating Expenses
This ratio measures administrative expenses (the cost of overhead expenses not directly related to the operation of services) as a percentage of overall operating costs. Generally, lower percentages indicate more efficient operations. Capital Metro's administrative costs made up 19.7 percent of the authority's operating costs, 23 percent higher than the peer average of 16 percent. Capital Metro's administrative costs fell in 1996 and 1997, but continue to exceed the 1995 peer average.
Purchased Transportation Expenses as a Percentage of Total
This ratio indicates how much of a system's total operating expenses are related to contracted rather than "in-house" services. Capital Metro spends a larger share of its funds on contracted services than any of its peers, by a wide margin; this is largely attributable to the UT shuttle operation. In 1995, about 20.4 percent of Capital Metro's operating expenses went to contracted services, compared to a peer average of just 4.6 percent. Several of the peer systems did not contract for transportation services at all.
Miles between Mechanical Roadcalls
This ratio measures the number of vehicle miles operated for each maintenance roadcall performed for mechanical reasons. It is an indicator both of maintenance quality and, indirectly, the age and condition of the bus fleet. Higher numbers generally indicate better performance. These statistics are for Capital Metro-operated bus service only, and do not include contracted services. Capital Metro performed 25.1 percent below the peer average, at 4,301 miles between roadcalls, compared to a peer average of 5,741 miles. Capital Metro was still below the 1995 peer average in 1996, but exceeded it in 1997.
Route Miles per 100,000 Residents
This ratio compares the number of miles of regularly operated routes in the service area against its population. Higher numbers usually indicate a denser route network, although local development patterns can influence the results. Capital Metro fell 22.5 percent below the peer average, with 97.7 miles of bus route per 100,000 residents compared to an average 126.1 miles. (These statistics cover Capital Metro service only and exclude the UT shuttle network.) Capital Metro's figures for 1996 and 1997 continued to rank below the 1995 peer average.
Total Collisions per 100,000 Riders
This ratio measures total vehicle collisions to ridership levels, and indicates transit system safety performance. Lower numbers indicate better performance. Capital Metro outperformed the peer average, with 0.33 collisions per 100,000 riders versus a peer average of 0.37 per 100,000. (Once again, these statistics are for directly operated bus service only.) Figures were not available in 1996, but in 1997 were identical to 1995.
Maximum Buses per 100,000 Residents
This ratio compares the maximum number of buses in service during peak periods to the service area population; statistics are for fixed-route bus service only. Capital Metro operated a maximum of 38.9 buses per 100,000 residents, 27.7 percent above the peer average of 30.4. Figures for 1996 and 1997 indicate that Capital Metro's maximum number of buses is now more in line with the 1995 peer average.
In general, Capital Metro has continued many of the trends observed in the 1995 peer comparison. One major area of improvement is the authority's number of miles between road calls.
Capital Metro's ridership measures remain high; other indicators, however, suggest that the cost of service remains high as well, and continues to increase. Administrative costs as a percent of total operating expenses have fallen but continue to exceed the 1995 peer averages by nearly 12 percent.
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