Photo by joshuadf

I doubt anyone’s mind is on transit stuff this morning, but alert reader Bruce Nourish did a public records request and got detailed route-by-route information from Metro, which he’s thoughtfully offered up in a Google spreadsheet.

Metro provides good systemwide aggregates, and (untimely) route-by-route statistics, abstracted into per-hour numbers that make it hard to say how many people board a bus route. Although Bruce’s data is still from 2009, and therefore predates Metro changes driven by Central Link, has tons of raw numbers pertaining to miles traveled, operating costs, and ridership.

I don’t have any particular conclusion to draw from the numbers, but as always we’re interested in any interesting, intellectually honest points people wish to make in a guest post using this data.

30 Replies to “Raw Metro Statistics”

  1. Courtesy of Mike Shekan, here is the ’08 data. It’s equivalent data, but the format is a little different. As with the ’09 data, if you want the original Excel data, feel free to email me at @gmail.

    I will submit another PRR today for:

    * Info on when the ’10 data might be released.
    * A broad overview of how cost per service hour is calculated, and with what granularity it’s broken out.
    * Information on how boardings farebox revenue are assigned to different route segments. e.g. How are APC counts broken out between (say) 48-South and 48-North.

    Enjoy the data…

    1. Actually, that’s not quite true. That ’08 data is aggregated for all guide times; the ’09 is broken out for Peak, Off-Peak and Night, so you’ll have to mash the ’09 data a bit if you want to compare the two.

  2. I really think Metro is doing a much better job these days in providing ‘timely’ information about how the system is doing.
    They recently rolled out the monthly performance reports on the website, including month by month projections for average weekday ridership for the year. I sent an email thanking them for being transparent.
    ST has always done a pretty good job in that respect, and I still pine for the day we get a comprehensive monthly ‘how’s it going – systemwide’ report, and WHY, like TriMet does about 3 weeks after the month ends.
    Oh well, baby steps. Any Link data for March anyone?

  3. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t get rid of over-incentivized paper transfers.

    1. Seems like we’re going backwards in that Dept. How many decades ago since we last step foot there? And, by next year we won’t even be able to put someone into low earth orbit when STS-135 finishes.

  4. Thanks for making this on-subject with your first sentence:

    Osama Bin Laden owed his existence as a threat to this country to the greed for oil spawned by the last six decades of development patterns that destroyed our own public transit industry.

    Everything we do to rebuild that industry counts as fighting back against everything he represented- and against everything that supported, financed and armed him. Foreign and domestic.

    The stats show we have not yet begun to fight.

    Mark Dublin

    1. So true, so true. The football-like pep-rallies through the middle of last night show just how far we have yet to go in this country to turn around the last 3/4 century’s mistakes.

  5. The 2009 data includes a field for “Minority” and “Low Income”. Can someone shed some light on this? How does Metro determine a low income or minority route and what point does it serve?

    1. There are social/environmental justice rules at the federal and county levels that require the county to keep track of these things. I don’t know if it’s that they serve a majority-minority/low-income area or some other standard — I will inquire. Presumably it’s to make sure that cuts do not disproportionately fall on those groups, or conversely, that service increases do not omit them.

      1. In other words, we have elements of sub-class equity and sub-ethnicity equity. I’m starting to understand the roots of Newton’s First Law of Bus Routes.

      2. Metro, and other transit agencies, are occasionally required to show that their service is non-discriminatory; that minority and low-income populations receive the same attention as the rest.

        There’s a couple pages on their annual report that compare performance on low-income vs. non-low-income routes, and minority vs. non-minority routes. There should be no significant difference between the groups, or else someone is playing favorites. And Metro’s numbers are pretty close.

        The biggest gap is riders/hour and farebox recovery. Low income routes are 26% farebox funded, non-low-income are 24%; low income routes have 44 riders/hour, non-low-income only 39. You could take that to mean that low-income riders are subsidizing high-income riders, and being forced onto more crowded buses, but the gap is pretty slim.

      3. You could unless you consider where the majority of the other 75% comes from. Who pays more in sales tax; low income or high income? Guess why the eastside subsidizes Seattle Metro service.

      4. As a percentage of their income, poor people pay more sales tax. That’s why Washington state’s tax burden is so regressive.

      5. As a percentage of their income, poor people pay more sales tax.

        That’s tangent to the point that low income earners are not subsiding the wealthier transit users but I’m not sure I even buy it. I found some numbers for discretionary spending that would put the median income earner contributing about 5% of total income to sales tax vs as much as 7% for a high wage earner. Data suggests about 22% spending on taxable items for a low income wage earner which is only ~2% of total income (using the King County 10% rate). Obviously there’s a lot of variability based on peoples spending/savings habits and extremes like Bill Gates not being able to spend enough to worry about sales tax and a person so impoverished they have no money left after food, rent and bus tickets to buy anything. But it makes sense that the more money you have “left over” the greater the percentage you’re going to spend on taxable items.

      6. Bernie,

        It’s a bit more complicated than your numbers suggest. According to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, the lowest 20% of income earners in Seattle (average income $11,000) pay an average of 17.3% of their income (about $1,900) in taxes. Aside from individual sales tax, there’s excise tax (e.g. cigarettes, alcohol, gas), business tax (passed on as higher prices), and property tax.

        As far as “the other 75%” goes, that’s immaterial to Lack Thereof’s point. As an agent of the government, Metro is supposed to provide fair and equitable service to all groups, regardless of who can afford to pay. If the difference in farebox recovery were bigger, it would suggest that Metro is disproportionately spending its resources on routes that serve richer populations. That’s all.

      7. But none of the other taxes support Metro (except a tiny portion of the ferry tax). I was considering low income as defined as twice the poverty level. $11,000 is poverty and not surprisingly they pay considerably less in sales tax than someone earning $20k. But as you’re numbers confirm as peoples incomes decrease they pay even less. 17.3% total [and passing along B&O tax and costs isn’t really fair as those costs are there when the rich buy things too] is less that what a median income earner, single taking the standard deduction, pays in federal income tax alone (18.75%). But to be fair you have to deduct from the taxes paid from the subsides they receive (food stamps, transit, housing assistance, medicare, etc.) which would all be considered earned income for anybody else.

        Back to the topic, if Metro routes serving primarily low income areas are returning a significantly higher fare box recovery, say 30% for routes like the 7 vs maybe 9% for an eastside route (I’m guessing at those numbers, they are just meant to be representative) I think there would be a strong argument that the lower income patrons are getting proportionally more service because low fare box recover is indicative of piss poor infrequent service that could never support a car free life style.

      8. Re taxes: I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing here. As Bruce stated, and the report confirms, the poor pay a greater percentage of their income in the form of individual sales tax than the rich do. The numbers steadily decline, from 4.4% for the poorest 20%, down to 0.7% for the richest 1%.

        Re low-income routes: I’m sure that farebox recovery is only one of many metrics used to evaluate how well Metro is serving minority and low-income populations. What you’re saying could certainly be the case, but conversely, imagine if (for example) Metro had service every 5 minutes to Laurelhurst, but only every 30 minutes to the CD. Undoubtedly the latter would have far higher farebox recovery.

      9. Re taxes: I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing here. As Bruce stated, and the report confirms, the poor pay a greater percentage of their income in the form of individual sales tax than the rich

        Using what sort of new math? It’s exactly the reverse as all these sources confirm. Another liberal myth busted.

      10. You’ve heard me whine ad nauseam about sales tax and change fumbling being regressive. So, let me try a new angle: Change fumbling likely slows down low-income routes disproportionately. I can’t back that up with stats, but it would be something interesting to find out.

        And if I’m wrong, that would blow some theories — that have held sway with the county council — about who uses cash to ride the bus.

      11. Change fumbling may slow down low income routes; probably does. But that just means ORCA has failed to penetrate the market most important. On the 255 I’m seeing +90% ORCA usage. On my very limited in city use seeing the exact opposite.

  6. One bit of use for these numbers: Figuring out which diesel routes can yield the most cost savings from the new hybrid coaches. Hybrids can yield the biggest MPG advantage in stop-and-go driving, where their regenerative braking can be put to work. However, Metro assigned their first batch of hybrids to routes with long freeway stretches – and then everyone wondered why they hybrids didn’t show significantly better fuel mileage than the conventional buses they replaced.

    To figure out which routes have the most stop-and-go driving, we can use the boardings per platform mile number. It’s not perfect, but it should be roughly related to the number of stops the bus makes. It can’t account for traffic conditions or stop-lights, but it’s the best measure we have.

    The 11 is the lowest hanging fruit, currently using D60HF’s if memory serves. 8 boardings/mile, and a stop-n-go trip on Madison for the whole route once it’s out of downtown. Unfortunately at peak time it’s interlined with the 125, which has a freeway cruise to West Seattle for only 2 boardings/mile. We could keep using conventional diesels for the interlined trips.
    Close behind is the 48, Metro’s #1 most popular route. 7.75 boardings/mile, notoriously high stop density, and on grueling, congested, stop-n-go streets the whole way. An absolutely ideal route for hybrids, but currently using D60HFs and D60LFs.
    The 67 and 68 are next, both UW routes in the mid 7’s for boardings/mile. They’re both interlined, but their other halves are also decently high on the list, in the top eighth at least, and both are entirely on city streets. I have no idea what buses they’re running on it now, but I would bet you they are not hybrids.
    Finally a non-Seattle route, the 253, just over 6 boardings/mile, conjested city streets from Redmond to Bellevue via Overlake, and set to be Rapidride’d. I think this one actually uses hybrids now.

    So you can extend this list out for pages and pages, and get a pretty decent priority-list for hybridizing routes. As routes are hybridized, the conventional diesels can be shuffled to freeway routes, where they get the best mileage. Operating costs go down, we can stave off fare increases, or even add some service hours with the savings.

    But it doesn’t seem like Metro has any real system for implementing the hybrids, at all; they seem to be doing it at random. Why the 48 wasn’t one of the first routes to get hybrids is totally beyond me.

    1. The 11 uses D40LFs most of the time, Gilligs occasionally, with peak-only trips on D60HFs.

      I would only add to your comment that these new serial hybrids are bitchin’ hill climbers compared to parallel hybrids or straight diesels, so the 11 and 48 are doubly suitable.

      1. I didn’t realize the new Orion hybrids were series hybrids. But I just checked, and they are! Fukkin sweet!

    2. The 68 is always a Gillig. I’m near the 67 less and less these days, but it used to be a mix of Gilligs, D60HFs, and hybrids.

    3. The 253 is rarely (if ever) even a 60-footer, much less one of the hybrids. I think it’s usually a 40 foot Gillig. Lately it’s been getting the retired ST Gilligs along with many of the other Eastside routes.

      I’d love to see the 48 and 11 switched to hybrids, but even more so to trolleys. :) I also feel bad for the 8 every time I hear it roaring up John from the Madison Valley to 23rd.

      1. The 8’s pretty high on the list, but one of the first things I found is that all the absolute highest boarding/mile routes are already trolley routes. Over the past 60 years or so, they seem to have figured out where to best implement trolleybuses.

        Seems like it should be pretty simple – trolleys for the ones with the highest stops/mile, hybrids for the next lower, and conventional diesels for the lowest.

        Long routes like the 8 or 48 are probably less likely to be converted to trolleys anytime soon, though, given the sheer amount of wire that would need to go up. Metro’s given no indication of ever planning to expand the trolley fleet anyway. We’ll be stuck listening to a 330hp engine push a 20-ton vehicle up John for the foreseeable future.

      2. Actually, Metro’s staff are very well aware of the possibilities of saving money by expanding the trolley fleet, and the ones they talk about — the 48, 11, 8 — are the same ones people always talk about on here. The 48 is already under a couple of miles of wire between the U-District and Mount Baker (because of the 43 and 4). While publicly the current trolley evaluation is limited to the current network, there is lots of support among staff for expanding the network after 2014, once we take delivery of new busses and (we hope) Metro’s funding crisis is behind us.

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