What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

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What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby Elcamo » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:50 am

I'm curious as to what the title says, which routes are the most profitable on the mbta? Any ideas where I can find this information?
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby SM89 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:39 am

Towards the end of the 2008 Service Plan Update: http://www.mbta.com/uploadedFiles/About ... Plan08.pdf

2008 is the latest "biennial" service plan update. For some reason there was no 2010 edition and it doesn't seem likely that there will be a 2012 edition...
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby DutchRailnut » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:43 am

no commuter rail in world is Profitable, in Public transportation Profitable is a non existing word.
as for fare box recovery of operating expenses the average in US is about 50%, other 50% is subsidy.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby obienick » Sat Aug 18, 2012 3:13 am

DutchRailnut wrote:in Public transportation Profitable is a non existing word.


Actually, the Tokyo and Hong Kong metro systems have fairbox recovery ratios WELL over 100%, around 150% IIRC.

Also, IIRC again, they both use distance-based fair structures, which is why Washington Metro has one of the best fairbox recoveries in the US.

The problem is we in the US (and Europe, too) have nowhere near the population density of these cities.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby KEN PATRICK » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:14 am

you need to re-phrase. 'what routes ( service type) lose the least.' light rail then heavy rail. buses are the worst, followed by the boats. ken patrick
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby diburning » Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:15 pm

obienick wrote:Actually, the Tokyo and Hong Kong metro systems have fairbox recovery ratios WELL over 100%, around 150% IIRC.


Yes and no. The MTR subway system (in Hong Kong) is point to point ticketing. You buy a ticket from point A to point B and you use to get in, then use it again to get out. The exit gate keeps the ticket for re-encoding and reuse. Their commuter rail system (Kowloon-Canton Railway) is the same. Their bus and streetcar system is a flat fare IIRC and there are no transfers between the streetcar, bus and the subway.

If the MBTA eliminated free transfers between the green line and the other lines, then yes, the MBTA COULD have a point to point ticketing system which would generate better returns. But that comes at a risk of pissing off riders resulting in decreasing ridership.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:35 pm

and again if Hong Kong and a few other cover daily operating cost,thats just man power and energy used,it does not include renewal of fleet or infrastructure which are listed under capital improvements.
again profitability is non-existing word in public transportation
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:40 pm

KEN PATRICK wrote:you need to re-phrase. 'what routes ( service type) lose the least.' light rail then heavy rail. buses are the worst, followed by the boats. ken patrick


I thought boats covered operating expenses well? Especially when you factor in alcohol sales.

I'd be surprised to hear commuter rail isn't the worst.

Bus should be evaluated on a route-by-route basis more than any mode, because the routes vary so much compared to other modes' routes.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby Matthew » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:11 am

DutchRailnut wrote:and again if Hong Kong and a few other cover daily operating cost,thats just man power and energy used,it does not include renewal of fleet or infrastructure which are listed under capital improvements.
again profitability is non-existing word in public transportation


The profit can be used to finance long term capital improvements. In Tokyo, most of the commuter rail agencies are private. All of them are profitable.

You might try taking off the ideological blinders once in a while.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby DutchRailnut » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:20 am

NO they are not profitable, they cover operating expenses, they still get subsidy in form of capital improvement money.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby diburning » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:53 am

Matthew wrote:
DutchRailnut wrote:and again if Hong Kong and a few other cover daily operating cost,thats just man power and energy used,it does not include renewal of fleet or infrastructure which are listed under capital improvements.
again profitability is non-existing word in public transportation


The profit can be used to finance long term capital improvements. In Tokyo, most of the commuter rail agencies are private. All of them are profitable.

You might try taking off the ideological blinders once in a while.


If your statement is true, it still is comparing apples to oranges. Tokyo has a higher population density (about 50% more than Boston) and as such, more people take the rail rather than drive. It's also most likely faster than driving. They have increased ridership due to space constraints.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:58 am

If any mode covered all its costs, it would clearly be the "most profitable". Since none of them do, the question is complicated. Here people seem to be stating or guessing at the farebox ratio, the % of costs (operating costs in some posts, total costs in others) covered by fares. It's also possible to calculate the $ subsidy per passenger, per passenger-mile, etc. With those 3 measures you might get three different orders. Buses have a poor ratio, but they are the cheapest to buy and operate, so their subsidy may be the lowest (especially since the T doesn't have to build the roads). In the early 1990s I think commuter rail had the best ratio and the highest $ subsidy per passenger, IRRC, but I haven't seen the numbers since about 1992.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby Garrett » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:44 am

Interesting way to put things.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby Matthew » Mon Aug 20, 2012 10:38 pm

Yes, if there's strong ridership, or if the competition isn't subsidized, then public transportation can be a profitable private business. It used to be here, too, until the advent of free highways and parking (and a whole bunch of other issues, but this is getting off track).

The 2008 service plan has a list of bus routes, the revenue and the costs due to each. Look at the table near the end. They go through and compute the per-rider cost to run each route. SL-Washington achieves ($0.09) cents/rider at peak. This data is a bit dated now, and I seem to recall seeing a chart somewhere showing that SL-Washington moved into positive territory sometime since.

It's a lot trickier to separate out these numbers for other modes because they aren't reported separately. I will note something curious: according to the National Transit Database, the MBTA seems to be getting a good deal on the commuter rail operation. The price per vehicle revenue hour is very low in comparison to other agencies. Except that there seems to be some discrepancies with their numbers; they don't match the audited statements of the MBTA on the website. The MBTA may have underreported costs to the NTD, or it may be just my understanding of their numbers is wrong. So I don't know what to make of that.
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Re: What routes on the MBTA are the most profitable?

Postby StefanW » Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:11 pm

Here's a few more docs that I think are useful to shed light on costs per route.
Search any of these for "subsidy" or "recovery" and you should find data that might help.

2012:
http://mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About_the_T/Fare_Proposals_2012/Potential%20MBTA%20Fare%202012%20Impact%20Analysis.pdf

2011:
http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About_the_T/Financials/Stats%20Presentation%209-7-11.pdf

2009 data:
http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About_the_T/Financials/Summary%20of%20performance%20stats.pdf
http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About_the_T/Fare_Proposals_2012/NTD%20Peer%20Net%20Cost%20Analysis%20FY10%201-10-12.pdf


Unfortunately the Blue Book doesn't break it down to per-passenger / per-trip but it's still one of the best single sources of data. You would have to apply the budget numbers to the rider counts though.
http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/documents/Bluebook%202010.pdf
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