On September 15 the King County Auditor completed their report to the Council on their full audit of Metro operations. The first part of the presentation was on September 1, and identified up to $23m in annual savings with little downside, about $60m that would cause pain for riders, and a one-time $105m surplus to get us through the recession.
The entire report is now online; passionate trolleybus defenders, which John and I are not, will want to poke holes in Chapter 4 of Report A (pdf). There’s also a two-page summary of the whole audit if you prefer the Auditor’s writing to mine.
The chart below summarizes the entire audit. For comparison, Metro’s deficit balloons to $142m in 2013. It’s also important to recognize that these savings, if implemented, will take time to realize and not necessarily change the picture in 2010.
Scott Gutierrez has an excellent roundup of politician reaction to the audit results. Details about the last four lines of the chart at left are after the jump.
The next step is the release of the Executive’s proposed budget on September 27th. Triplett’s current plan assumed no savings from the audit (aside from the $105m fleet replacement surplus) but required $90m in suspensions over four years. Furthermore, about $12m annually of the $51m the auditor claims in new fare revenue is built into the Triplett plan. Aside from that, any audit savings would presumably be able to “buy back” service suspended in the plan.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires Metro to provide curb-to-curb service for disabled people unable to use Metro. The service must cover all areas within 3/4 mile of a Metro route, and cover the same span of time as that route. The fare can be as much as twice the fare on the corresponding bus route. Metro spent $50.2m a year on Access last year.
Metro, partly because of Transit Now, provides ACCESS service over a broader region and greater span of time than those requirements stipulate, at an annual cost of over $1m. By going from door-to-door to curb-to-curb service, further unquantified savings are available. However, most peer transit agencies provide door-to-door service.
The current $1 fare could legally increase to as much as $4 once the 2010 fare increase takes effect. However, the audit only considered an increase to $3.50 and estimated that it would raise $2.8m annually.
The audit seeks to save $2.8m through productivity improvements, like more effective scheduling, dispatch, and routing.
Metro could save $2m annually by expanding the Community Access Training (CAT) program, in which it gives vans, maintenance resources, and driver training to human service agencies and gets them to transport their own clients. These rides cost Metro about $4.80, rather than $39.17.
The auditor identified unquantified savings from relaxing some of Metro’s maintenance policies. Basically, they propose a pilot program where Metro extends the service intervals on buses to see if that results in overall savings.
On information collection, and emergency communication, the auditor basically applauded Metro’s recent efforts to improve things. The best idea I read was subscription-based, route-specific text message lists to notify riders.
And onebusaway is mentioned. They’ve hit the big time.
The auditor noted that security expenditures have increased sharply over the last decade, although that partially tracks system growth and improved public perception of system safety.
Metro does a fairly poor job of coordinating employee leave (planned and unplanned) and thus making sure that every scheduled bus gets out on the road, also incurring expenses in overtime and so on. The auditor recommended more use of part-time operators on weekends (currently not allowed) and to cover gaps in operator coverage. They estimate annual savings to be at least $3.7m, assuming the Collective Bargaining Agreement can be altered in this respect.