While still slightly higher than one decade ago, Bay Area transit agencies’ average inflation-adjusted operating cost per passenger boarding declined for the fourth-straight year in 2014. Combined with rising revenues from increased fares, the subsidy required to operate service (net cost per boarding) actually declined by 7 percent over that same time period. Booming ridership on higher-fare systems like Caltrain and BART has contributed to this trend.
Muni remained the regional leader for lowest operating cost per boarding in 2014, although costs have ticked very slightly upwards in the last few years. But when it comes to net operating cost per boarding, BART and Caltrain have made the greatest strides in recent years. Both systems saw nearly 60 percent declines in the past decade, reflecting surging ridership on both systems. In contrast to BART – where the typical trip requires only 94 cents in operating subsidy – systems like Golden Gate, SamTrans, and VTA all had net operating costs per boarding of over 6 dollars in 2014. While Golden Gate and SamTrans have demonstrated progress in recent years through increased farebox recovery, VTA continues to struggle on this front.