2014 Transit Data

In mid-December, the Federal Transit Administration posted 2014 transit data on line, then withdrew it–but not before the Antiplanner was able to download most of the data tables. Two tables that were not available then were “Service” (including such things as vehicle revenue miles, passenger miles, and average daily trips) and “Vehicle Inventory” (including the number of vehicles and number of seats and standing room per vehicle).

The FTA has reposted all of the tables, including the two tables that were previously missing. Those two tables are dated today, so I appear to have downloaded them almost as soon as they were posted. Most of the other tables date to mid-December, so it is likely that few changes or corrections were made since then.

I’ve added the new data to my master spreadsheet and posted it for your convenience. This takes the information I consider the most important, including costs, ridership, fares, and energy consumption, from eight different spreadsheets and puts them in one spreadsheet.

The first 1,894 rows of this summary spreadsheet have all the data broken down by transit agency and mode. Rows 1897 through 1916 have mode totals. Rows 1918 through 1938 have mode totals for those agencies and modes that reported energy consumption, thus making it possible to calculate average energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions by mode. Rows 1940 through 2417 have summaries by urban area.

The raw data from the original spreadsheets fill columns A through AA. Columns AB and AC are the results of calculations of energy consumption in BTUs and greenhouse gas emissions in grams using standard factors such as a gallon of Diesel fuel contains 138,700 BTUs of energy and burning it emits 10,153 grams of carbon dioxide. CO2 emissions from electric-powered transit are based on the average emissions per kilowatt generated in the state in which the transit agency is headquartered. Columns AD through AM contain calculations based on previous columns, including occupancy (passenger miles divided by vehicle revenue miles), fares per trip, and so on.

Close scrutiny may reveal some errors, most of which I’ll blame on the source data. For example, the City of Portland reported that its aerial tram carried 1.7 million trips in all of 2014, and 1.6 million trips per average weekday. It turned out they meant 1.6 million trips for all weekdays combined, which averaged out to 6,400 trips per weekday. I fixed that error, but there may be others.

Looking at some of the transit lines I love to hate, Portland’s streetcars carried an average of 14 people, meaning it filled about half its seats but only 10 percent of capacity including standing room. At least that’s better than Memphis, whose streetcars carried 4 people on average, and Little Rock and Kenosha, whose streetcars carried 3 people.

The star of the streetcar world is not New Orleans (14 riders on average) but San Francisco, whose streetcars average 22 riders. San Francisco managed to attract this many riders despite average fares of 88 cents per trip; Portland’s fares averaged just 4 cents per trip in 2014.

Portland’s light-rail lines do a little better, carrying an average of 28 riders compared to a national average of 24. Denver’s light rail carries just 18 riders, mainly because it runs three-car trains all day even though it rarely needs them. The really poor performers were Buffalo (14 riders), Salt Lake City (15), Pittsburgh (16), and Norfolk (17). Like Denver, Salt Lake is on this list because it runs three- and four-car trains when shorter ones would be sufficient, but the other cities just have complete losers. Of course, when it comes to light rail, even the winners are lowers, as the highest reported occupancy is Phoenix, carrying an average of 40 people, yet its fares still only cover 40 percent of operating costs.

Even more mind boggling than light rail is what the FTA calls hybrid rail, meaning a blend between commuter trains and light rail using individual or double-unit rail Diesel cars. One example is Portland’s Westside Express, which carried an average of 2,000 people per weekday, collecting enough fares to cover just 8 percent of its operating costs. Austin’s hybrid rail does just a bit better, carrying 2,600 trips per weekday and covering 20 percent of its operating costs mainly because it charges twice as much per passenger mile than Portland’s rail line. The subsidies to these lines (including amortized capital costs) are enough to give every weekday roundtrip rider a new Toyota Prius every other year, if not every year.

In any case, I hope you find the revised data useful.


One thought on “2014 Transit Data

  1. P.O.Native

    You wrote ” It is a continual source of amazement that so many Americans consider subsidies to an obsolete forms of travel such as streetcars, light rail, and intercity rail to be normal and acceptable.” and you could not be more correct. Particularly when you consider that today’s busses are so comfortable, so much more economical and way more dependable. Just those reasons are enough to make you scratch your head in bewilderment. Then when you look at our $19 trillion dollar debt (national only not state and local and not counting unfunded liabilities) your jaw drops open as your still scratching. Yet government continues to spend as if there is no tomorrow and the electorate puts one big government candidate (matters not which party) in power after another. Go figure.

Leave a Reply