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More of an “A” to the “Q”

July 10, 2010

In the AJC Q&A on the news, there was a question that gets asked a lot. A whole fucking lot.

Why cut the Braves and Lakewood MARTA shuttles? I can see cutting money-losing routes, but surely the shuttles must make money. They are always crowded.

The AJC says:

MARTA says all cuts, including those, were based on fare and ridership data.

Let’s go a little deeper.
The event shuttles are always crowded because people want to go the the event, but once the majority of people are already at that event, the shuttles maintain their route circulation, picking up any stragglers and generally waiting around for riders to return from the event en mass. The shuttles are pretty much empty throughout most of the event, and sometimes the event doesn’t do that well. There are days when baseball games only have like, ten attendees, five of whom drive, yanno?
The services run during events only, so they don’t have an opportunity to make money as circulator routes during any other point in a regularly scheduled day. And if they did run all the time, it’s a low bet that anyone would use them. It’s operator intensive, and since these aren’t regular routes, there’s a possibility that bus operators are on overtime pay, which a rider’s two dollars won’t cover. Lastly, almost all of those users are transferring from rail to bus at Five Points, and the two dollar fare isn’t enough to cover the cost of their rail and bus rides. Money, not necessarily made.

MARTA is no longer allowed to charge extra for the shuttle because private shuttle operators lobbied the U.S. Department of Transportation to prevent public transit agencies from charging for such “extra” services, according to MARTA.

Look, MARTA used to operate the event routes with a one dollar surcharge to the fare. I’m sure riders complained about it. But more importantly, private charter services complained about it to the US DOT who agreed that public transit prices were so low as to offer no room for private services to compete. That’s right: Public transit is so cheap and good for you, it was almost outlawed. It’s like riding a cowboy. Er…
From FTA’s Title 49 (PDF):

604.9 Charter service.
(a) If a recipient desires to provide any charter service using FTA equipment or facilities the recipient must first determine if there are any private charter operators willing and able to provide the charter service which the recipient desires to provide. To the extent that there is at least one such private operator, the recipient is prohibited from providing charter service with FTA funded equipment or facilities unless one or more of the exceptions in § 604.9(b) applies.

(Click to enlarge)
[FTA Charter Resources]

The reason I felt the need to go further with this point is that there doesn’t have to be the shady qualifier “according to MARTA” in the answer. This shit is readily available and is like, the first or second thing that comes up on Google. So, no, it’s not “according to MARTA,” it’s according to the federal government.

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