Friday, March 13, 2015

Another false step by Go Hillsborough

Go Hillsborough again has published false and misleading information on their Facebook page.

Go Hillsborough Facebook post on March 11
The referenced document is a United Way study on financial hardship. It does not contain any content supporting the statement Go Hillsborough posted above.

After I brought this to their attention, Go Hillsborough later acknowledged the mistake, and posted a link to the full 220 page study. The statement is on page 30, which we had to find, since Go Hillsborough did not specify their citation:
The fourth item in the Household Survival Budget is transportation costs, a prerequisite for most employment in Florida. The average cost of transportation by car is more than 11 times greater than by public transport. According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average cost in the Miami metropolitan area is $437 per month for gasoline and motor oil and other vehicle expenses, and slightly less in the rest of Florida at $409 per month. By comparison, the average cost for public transportation is $36 per month. The Household Survival Budget in Figure 17 shows the average of the two, adjusted for household size. Actual county costs are shown in Appendix J.
Transportation costs in the Household Survival Budget represent 18 percent of the family budget and 22 percent of the single adult budget. According to the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index transportation costs are more than 25 percent for low-income households in Miami, and increase to 30 percent in northern parts of Florida, and as high as 55 percent in the Tampa area (Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2011) – another indicator that the Household Survival Budget represents minimal costs.
Public transportation is typically the cheapest form of transportation, but it is non-existent in most of Florida; only in Miami-Dade County does 6 percent of the population use public transportation as their primary means of getting to work. For the rest of the counties, less than 5 percent of the population uses public transportation (American Community Survey, 2012). Most households must have a car to get to work, which is a significant additional cost for ALICE households.
Emphasis mine.

Go Hillsborough cherry picked an extremely misleading apples and oranges comparison.  United Way compared the full operational costs of owning a car, which gets exactly where you want to go, when you want to go, with the heavily subsidized fares of an occasional transit rider. If the transit riders are paying $36 per month for transit, they are only riding transit 9 - 12 rides a month. Assuming a $3 fare, that is 6 round trips a month, or 9 round trips a month with a $2 fare.

Since United Way and Go Hillsborough ignored full operational costs of transit, this begs the question, exactly what is the cost to operate transit compared to owning a car?

We can turn to the National Transit Database to get HART's costs, or any other top transit agency in the country.  According to HART's 2013 data, HART's buses Operating per Passenger Mile is $0.80.

AAA regularly publishes the costs of car ownership.  In 2014, the costs actually decreased a bit to $0.592 per mile driven for the average sedan, with a range from $0.464 for a small sedan to $0.736 for SUV 4WD.

AAA's methodology is base on several considerations
The ‘Your Driving Costs’ study employs a proprietary AAA methodology to analyze the cost to own and operate a vehicle in the United States. Variable operating costs considered in the study include fuel, maintenance and repair, and tires. Fixed ownership costs factored into the results include insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges. Ownership costs are calculated based on the purchase of a new vehicle that is driven over five years and 75,000 miles. Your actual operating costs may vary. See AAA’s 2013 ‘Your Driving Costs’ brochure for a list of vehicles and additional information on the underlying criteria used in the study.
However, since the average age of the USA auto fleet is 11.4 years, and not 5 years, the AAA methodology actually overstates the costs of auto ownership. The average drivers are actually paying less than the $0.592 to operate their vehicle, which of course, is cheaper than HART's operating cost per passenger mile in 2013 of $0.80. Driving an SUV is also less expensive than HART.

Driving an SUV costs less than HART
In the same NTDB report, HART also discloses their income sources. 2013 fare revenues were $15,536,072, or 24% of their budget.  The rest of their budget was from local, state, and federal assistance, and 2% from "other funds".

Of the $0.80 per passenger mile operating costs, only about $0.20 is covered by fares. The rest of the per passenger mile operating cost for HART buses, $0.60 is subsidized by the taxpayer. This is about the same amount AAA says it costs to operate an average sedan per mile that is 100% paid by the automobile owner.

Think about those facts.

We are not against transit, or HART, and in fact support full funding for HART's 10 year development plan (TDP), which includes substantial growth of the MetroRapid routes. However, when Go Hillsborough makes misleading statements such as this it erodes the trust in the process.

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