The Bay Area’s MTC has long been known for prioritizing road and rail projects at the expense of bus operators. So when the MTC initiated a cost analysis of the region’s bus operators, transit activists were understandably dubious. The project sounded like a “blame the victim” study.
But preliminary study results reveal some interesting numbers. Adjusted for inflation, operating costs for the major bus operators increased by 27% over the past 10 years, while revenue vehicle hours were almost unchanged — increasing by a mere 4% over the same time period. Rail agencies also saw major increase in operating costs, but that was offset by increased service.
Does this indicate bus driver salaries and benefits are out of control? Not necessarily. Comparison to other metro areas, such as Boston, Chicago, and New York shows Bay Area is in the mid-range for compenstation (though pension and “fringe” benefits are at the upper tier).
Interestingly, the study does find Administration costs are out of line. For the Bay Area 7 largest operators, Administration makes up 20% of the operating cost, compared to 16% in Los Angeles, and 9% in Boston. This suggests some consolidation may be needed.