RTAs greatly vary in the size of the service area they serve and the number of riders they have, leading to varying operating expenses and fare revenues. This section attempts to capture how each RTA performed in terms of their operating costs and how much fare revenue covered said operating costs.
Operating expense describes the cost for an RTA to operate a bus or van. Operating expenses can further be contextualized by looking at vehicle revenue miles or vehicle revenue hours, which show what is the cost of “running” a mile or hour of revenue service. Revenue service includes trips that accept passengers and excludes “deadhead” trips, for example, moving a vehicle back to the garage after the last trip of the day.
Annual operating expenses for fixed-route services increased for all but one of the reporting RTAs by varying amounts (from 0.2 percent to 24 percent) from FY21 to FY22. CATA saw the biggest increase, at 24 percent, followed by VTA with a 21 percent increase. MWRTA saw a decrease in overall operating expenses of 10 percent.
Total operating expenses need to be considered alongside operating expenses per vehicle revenue mile. The operating expenses per vehicle revenue mile measure shows that nine reporting RTAs saw increased operating expenses per vehicle revenue mile in FY22, the remaining six saw decreases in operating expense per VRM. Most expense increases or decreases were relatively modest (under 10 percent). LRTA saw the largest change in expenses, increasing by 167% (+$4.74 per revenue mile). MWRTA, MVRTA, BRTA, and GATRA saw increases between 11 percent and 21 percent. NRTA and FRTA saw the largest decreases, 16 and 17 percent, respectively (+$1.52, and +$1.08 per revenue mile).
Operating expenses per vehicle revenue hour, however, saw slightly more agencies increase costs: 10 reporting RTAs saw cost increases, while 5 agencies reported decreases in vehicle revenue mile expense. After a significant decrease in FY2021, NRTA reported a per-mile expense more than double its FY2021 cost — $92.02 per hour in FY2022, up from $37.26 in FY2021.
Annual operating expenses for paratransit services increased for all but two of the reporting RTAs by varying amounts (.2 to 72 percent) from FY21 to FY22. NRTA saw the biggest increase at 72 percent after having seen the starkest decline in operating expenses in FY2021, followed by MWRTA (49 percent) and SRTA (44 percent). The RTAs that saw increases in operating expenses – PVTA and FRTA – saw increases of one and three percent, respectively.
While overall operating expenses seemed to increase, the operating expenses per vehicle revenue mile measure shows that seven reporting RTAs saw decreased operating expenses per vehicle revenue mile in FY22. NRTA saw the largest total annual increase, increasing from $27.58 in FY2021 to $38.60 in FY2022; FRTA saw the largest decrease, with operating expense per vehicle revenue mile decreasing 48%, from $12.15 in FY2021 to $6.35 in FY2022. A similar trend existed for operating expenses per vehicle revenue hour. Eight reporting RTAs saw decreased expenses per vehicle revenue hour. FRTA saw the largest decrease, from $150.51 in FY2021 to $87.51 in FY2022. Six reporting RTAs saw increases in expenses per vehicle revenue hour. SRTA saw the largest increase, from $96.87 in FY2021 to $128.98 in FY2022.
Farebox Recovery Ratio
Farebox recovery is the ratio of the agency’s revenue from fares and passes to operating expenses. It shows how much of the agency’s operating budget is covered by fares, and, inversely, how much is covered by other sources (tax assessments, federal grants, etc.). Farebox recovery can vary from year-to-year based on ridership, increases in fares and changes in costs, but generally gives a picture of how much of an agency’s costs are covered by its users rather than additional subsidies.
Seven RTAs reported increases in farebox recovery compared to last year (BAT, CATA, CCRTA, MART, NRTA, PCTA, SRTA). Five RTAs reported a decline in farebox recovery (BRTA, GATRA, LRTA, MVRTA, VTA). GATRA and LRTA had the largest decreases in farebox recovery, with GATRA going from 11% to 5.9%, and LRTA dropping from 13% to 8.9%. WRTA continued to not collect fares during FY22; consequently, it reported zero percent farebox recovery. FRTA and MWRTA also reported zero percent farebox recovery this year, as they provided free transit services all year.
Paratransit farebox recovery saw fewer increases FY22 with five RTAs (BAT, CATA, CCRTA, MART, PVTA) recording increases over FY21. Six RTAs reported decreases in paratransit farebox recovery. WRTA reported 0% farebox recovery as it did not collect fares in FY22.