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City Wasting Money on Buses Few Residents Ride

November 8, 2019 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O'Toole

VIA, San Antonio’s transit agency, is in trouble. According to Federal Transit Administration data, the agency has spent tens of millions of dollars of your money to increase transit service by 17 percent since 2012, yet transit ridership (measured through the end of fiscal year 2019) has dropped by 24 percent.

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Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff thinks he has a solution: Throw more money at it. He wants to shift a sales tax now dedicated to protecting the Edwards Aquifer to VIA. This would give the transit agency additional funds to squander as it watches ridership continue to drop.

Transit is already one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the country, costing taxpayers an average of $5 every time someone steps aboard a public transit bus or train. Despite these subsidies, ridership is declining nationwide, though not nearly as fast as it is falling in San Antonio.

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In 2017, VIA collected $23.6 million in fares but spent more than $205 million operating transit. It also spends an average of $40 million a year on maintenance and capital improvements (mainly new buses).

Transit advocates will point out that driving is subsidized, too. Those subsidies should end, but they average only about a penny per passenger mile. By comparison, VIA subsidies average well over $1 per passenger mile.

There’s a good reason why VIA ridership is plummeting: Almost everyone today has a car. Census data reveal that, in 2018, only 2.7 percent of San Antonio workers lived in households that had no cars, well under the national average of 4.3 percent.

Moreover, just 27 percent of workers without cars took transit to work in 2018, down from 42 percent in 2012. In fact, more people who lived in households without cars drove alone to work — probably in employer-supplied vehicles — than took transit to work.

Although San Antonio’s population has grown by 11 percent since 2012, the number of people who take transit to work has declined by 14 percent. In 2018, just 19,600 people in the San Antonio urban area …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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