Thursday, May 19, 2016

Calculating how dumb SMART will be

Richard Hall's comment

The Marin Independent Journal's story on SMART train fares (SMART weighs one-way base fares of between $4 and $5 for commuter rail).

From Richard Hall's comment to the story:

These fares are TRIPLE that of taking the bus to SF. They demonstrate that this train is not transportation for the masses, this train is "first class" transportation reserved only for the affluent, so that only the rich can bypass the traffic mess that's being made of 101. Remember that the train is getting billions while the money to add capacity to 101 has been cancelled. There's even talk at the latest SMART meeting to raid Measure A funds which were promised never to be diverted to the train.

Rob's comment:
Hall's fare calculations of course only apply to commuters going to San Francisco. Along with ridership estimates, fare calculations are crucial to determine how a system pays its operating expenses. San Francisco's Muni system, for example, collects only 25% of its operating expenses from fares (page 9), which means that the system requires a 75% taxpayer subsidy.

The California High-Speed Rail project has always had problems determining fares. In 2008 voters were promised a $50 fare between SF and LA, but that was quickly abandoned as not credible, which is why the project has been reluctant to make any more promises about fares, though the latest HSR business plan (page 67) is talking about $89 fare between LA and SF.

It will only be clear how much taxpayers will be subsidizing the SMART system---how dumb it will be---after it starts operating and we know how many passengers it will be carrying.

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