Although per-rider operating costs ticked slightly upward in 2015, transit cost-effectiveness has been relatively stable over the last decade-plus. Combined with rising revenues from increased fares, the subsidy required to operate service (net cost per boarding) actually declined by 17 percent between 2003 and 2015. Booming ridership on higher-fare systems like Caltrain and BART has contributed to this trend.
Muni remained the regional leader for lowest total operating cost per boarding in 2015, although costs ticked very slightly upwards in the last few years. When it comes to net operating cost per boarding, BART and Caltrain have made the greatest strides in recent years. Both systems saw nearly 70 percent declines in the past dozen years, reflecting surging ridership on both systems. BART riders paid $3.43 out of each $4.29 in total cost per boarding, requiring only 86 cents in operating subsidy, whereas on systems like SamTrans and VTA it was around $1.00 out of $7.00, requiring $6.00 in operating subsidy in 2015.