West Eugene EmX
What is the Number of Riders vs. Trips vs. Boardings?
• Industry researchers provide a model that uses data collected from riders to determine how
many buses a rider uses for their trip and how many trips, on average, they take in a day. Utilizing LTD boarding data and this methodology, LTD serves an average of 10,000 to 13,000 people per weekday. The ridership pool is over 25,000 people. The pool accounts for infrequent riders, as well as those who ride seven days a week.
• The number of riders calculated by opponents (5,768) appears to be 3 percent of the population. This number seems like it may have been confused with the regional modal split numbers that show that transit carries 3 percent of the regional trips. It is a very different number, and their number (5,768) isn’t connected to LTD ridership. People use transit in numerous ways, from single trips using one bus, to regional trips using multiple buses. The same people do not ride every day, which is shown in the ridership pool number discussed above.
• Transit provides a lower number of regional trips because the regional trips are counted over a 24-hour period and count everything from single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips to delivery trucks.
• At peak travel times, transit trips in congested corridors are higher than 3 percent. During the early years of Franklin EmX analysis, LTD’s study of corridors showed nearly 10 percent of trips on transit at peak times at the intersection of Franklin Blvd and Agate Street.
• There is a feeling by No Build supporters that student trips don’t count, which is far from true. Community benefits include taking vehicle trips off the road system, saving on emissions, and providing tremendous value to the institutions served because they don’t have to pave over valuable land, land that can be used to build buildings that serve students.
• In addition to the survey data, a good source of data is LTD’s bus pass sales programs. LTD sells over 3,000 bus passes each month. Customers who purchase a bus pass are frequent users of the transit system. LTD also has thousands of Honored Rider passes issued to senior customers (age 65+), some who ride daily and others who ride infrequently. LTD has nearly 13,000 half-fare cardholders in the EZ Access program that serves people with disabilities. These customers fall into a similar category as seniors, with many customers riding daily and many riding infrequently.
• It should be pointed out that there are a significant number of “choice” riders who use the system. A 2007 report showed 47 percent, which means that these riders had a car available for the trip but chose to travel by bus. It will be interesting to see how this may have changed in the face of the recession. It is possible that the number may have dropped as people struggle to make ends meet.
• It has been claimed that LTD’s automated passenger counts are 15 to 20 percent high. OMOT now states that LTD is within 4 percent on the passenger counts and that this is a reasonable margin of error.
Why EmX? (Travel Time for EmX, Impact on Congestion, Etc.)
• Vehicle traffic has a negative effect on bus travel time resulting in increased operating costs.
• Degrades customer experience (longer trip time, missed transfers, questions of reliability due to running time variances).
• Moving the bus from traffic protects running time into the future, making the system more efficient.
• Other vehicle travel time is reduced when the bus and slow turning vehicles are moved out of the through lane.
The fuel efficiency of EmX is lower than 40-foot buses.
• Newer EmX buses are on par with standard 60-foot hybrid vehicles, and when you look at the total operating cost, fuel remains a smaller portion of these costs. Labor costs continue to be the most significant factor in providing transit service.
• EmX fuel efficiency is still below that of 40-foot vehicle fuel efficiency; however, you must consider the loads carried and the savings incurred from taking more vehicles off the road by using one EmX vehicle rather than multiple 40-foot buses.
• If ridership grows as projected and 60-foot buses are used on this corridor, then the issue becomes moot because the EmX vehicles and other LTD 60-foot buses are nearly identical in fuel efficiency.
• While the number of miles traveled by bus is down, LTD doesn’t control the wild swings in the cost of fuel; and EmX vehicles, which represent roughly 8 percent of the fleet, don’t affect the fuel budget in the way described by OMOT. It also is worth recognizing that the EmX route is carrying a high percentage of system-wide boardings. It is also worth recognizing that revenue, generated from fares, has not been accounted for in the current analysis. This revenue will offset some costs and will be accounted for in the more detailed analysis that occurs later in the process.
Why not add more regular buses or express buses along West 11th?
• Extra frequency is certainly possible without EmX, but these trips won’t be faster because the vehicles are in traffic. Operating express bus service has been proposed, but this requires significant populations that are traveling from one point of origin to a destination, and service on West 11th Avenue needs to serve stops throughout the corridor. LTD uses express service where the right environment exists; a good example of express service is on route 79x UO/Kinsrow that travels from Kinsrow/Chase Garden Apartments to the UO.
• More regular buses would also increase the congestion along West 11th, adding to the problem. The trips would take longer than EmX, be less attractive to the rider, and less efficient for the district.
Why was West 11th Avenue chosen for the next EmX route and how might this affect development?
• The EmX system is planned for each major travel corridor, so it is a matter of determining the order and priority of the corridors. The Eugene City Council asked LTD to examine West Eugene as its next EmX line. If current ridership was the most significant criteria, it is likely that LTD would be evaluating service along Main Street in Springfield.
• Connecting West 11th Avenue to existing EmX service as one route provides a very viable and attractive cross-community link. This EmX pairing provides opportunities for development and redevelopment; what and how fast depends on the private sector.
• The permanence of an infrastructure provides developers with confidence that the service will be there into the future.
• What could this development look like? It could be similar to the mixed-use housing development planned for the Rexius site. The redevelopment of that property, along with its connection to EmX and the bike path, would be very exciting.
• The analysis for West 11th Avenue uses existing land-use patterns and zoning. EmX becomes a stronger element if more dense development occurs through the Envision Eugene work.
Can EmX operate without extra money from the legislature or cutting service?
• Yes. The additional operating costs are covered in the long-range financial plan the District updates annually.
• The bigger question may be, “Can LTD afford not to invest in a system that operates more efficiently?” Investing in traditional transit options cost the community more in the long run.
• The community also may come to a point where they would like to see more transit service. LTD doesn’t believe that the payroll tax would be the mechanism to support expanded transit. This is a conversation the community will need to have. Other properties, such as Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City and King County Metro in Seattle, have chosen to tax themselves in order to provide better transit service.
What should the system look like in 10 years?
• Plans for frequent, high-capacity transit service are in our community’s transportation plan. As the implementing agency, LTD’s role is to see this through to completion. It would be great to have at least two additional corridors built in 10 years, but the pace of development probably needs to change if we hope to achieve the long-term effects of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
• The system will continue to have elements of both regular transit and bus rapid transit (EmX) for many years to come.
• LTD continues to review the pros and cons of a grid system vs. a hub system, but to date, a grid system it is not be cost effective or easily applied to the system of streets in our community. However, EmX does accomplish a number of elements that a grid system provides. A long, crosstown route without transfers is a key component of a grid system, and it is something that EmX would achieve with the West 11th Avenue addition.
• A key element of EmX development will be more bike connections to the system. West Eugene EmX proposes three new bridge crossings of the Amazon channel, providing better bike and pedestrian access from the high density housing just south of West 11th Avenue.
• RideSource will play an increasing role as baby boomers age, but the goal will be to keep active seniors riding the regular fixed-route buses for as long as possible.
How should LTD be organized and financed to avoid the effects of recessions?
• We will rely on fossil fuel until the development of other propulsion systems that are affordable and accessible. LTD is too small to be on the cutting edge of technology, which we learned with the first hybrid buses purchased in 2000. Hybrid development came quickly in the years that followed, and LTD now has been able to tap into this technology. Staff would expect to do the same with battery technology, hydrogen technology, and other innovative developments.
• There is no taxing structure that completely insulates the District from downturns in the economy. We see this as school districts, cities, counties, states, and the federal government address budget shortfalls. The best positioning for downturns depends upon the pace of service growth. As we grow out of the current recession, we will need to be cautious about adding service. While there is demand for more service, the District recognizes that the cycle of adding and cutting service has a significant impact on riders. We also recognize that overcrowded buses has impacts on riders, so the balancing of how and when to add service must be thoughtful.
• Ultimately a secondary funding source should be evaluated. This source should be broad based and provide a way to mitigate the swings in the payroll tax.
Are LTD administrative costs 20-23 percent of the budget?
• There are many ways to count employees and associated costs in the administration category. At LTD, mechanics, facilities staff, and customer service staff all directly support the bus service; therefore, there is a good argument to consider these folks in the operations category. Many other “admin” positions are necessary to put service on the street, such as service planners; however, these positions are considered administration in LTD’s calculations. LTD’s administrative costs are below 20 percent.
Did LTD’s 500-page Alternatives Analysis (AA) report cost over $1.5 million? It is said to have been based on erroneous, subjective, or “outdated” information.
• The West Eugene EmX project has been underway for more than three years and the cost of this work is in the millions of dollars. The alternatives analysis report is a part of this cost and is an important document. The report evaluated the full-build options to determine a common basis for comparison. It also contains analysis that is the foundation for the environmental analysis that comes in the next step of the process.
• The mitigated concepts take the AA analysis to the next level of refinement and are in direct response to the concerns voiced by area businesses and residents. The report provides a rich demonstration of the public involvement process.
• The OMOT group claims that the technical reports have not been made available. At this time all of the technical reports are available on the LTD website.
LTD blames a drop in payroll taxes for the need to cut 18.5 percent of basic bus service, while at the same time, LTD’s personnel costs have increased by almost twice the rate of inflation (5.7 percent).
• LTD’s total reduction in service hours was less than 13 percent and was necessary due to a drop in payroll tax revenues of over 10 percent.
• Over 70 percent of LTD employees are union members, and the labor contract mandated costs through June 2010. LTD negotiated a one-year contract for 2010-11 that included a pay freeze and dramatically changed the medical benefit plan to control costs. LTD administrative employees are finishing the second year of a pay freeze, incurred 6-8 unpaid furlough days in 2010-11, and did not fill administrative positions that were vacant or became vacant throughout the year. Implementing these changes resulted in a reduction in personal services costs of nearly $2 million.
LTD went to the Oregon State Capitol and obtained a 15 percent increase in payroll taxes for transit operations. It is likely that LTD will still have a budget shortfall and cut more basic services in 2011-12.
• No service cuts are projected over the coming 8 years.
• The payroll tax rate was set at .006 ($6 per thousand) when the District was formed.
• The payroll tax rate was not always at the maximum; LTD lowered the tax a couple of times.
• LTD did not implement the self-employed portion of the tax until the mid-1990s in an effort to develop a grant match fund for capital projects. The first project funds were used for the development of the Eugene Station.
• The legislature approved an increase to .007 in 2003. LTD did not begin the phased increased until 2006. The phase-in will be complete in 2014.
• The legislature approved an increase to .008 in 2009. This increase also is to be phased in over a 10-year period; however, the LTD Board has not determined when the increase will begin. It takes a “finding of economic recovery” in order for the District to begin the phase-in of the higher rate. LTD has discussed this with the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, who also was involved in the discussion when the legislature adopted the increase in 2009.
• The District’s long-range financial plan anticipates using revenues from a phased-in rate increase.
In December 2010, LTD began running radio ads claiming a need for the West Eugene EmX Extension based on the success of the first two lines.
• The radio ads did not mention that both EmX lines have been successful. The ads clearly stated that the first line exceeded expectations and the second line would open in January 2011. The ads described the public process around the first two lines, as well as all the work done as part of the West Eugene project. The ads also described the first two public processes as “successful” and stated that LTD staff believe that West Eugene can have the same result.
LTD publicly claims a dire need for the oversize EmX bus on West 11th Avenue.
• Staff have never claimed this, but they have relied on the data analysis to show how ridership will increase systemwide as EmX service is developed. The cost analysis clearly shows an increase in operating costs to provide the higher level of EmX frequency.
• Service was reconfigured in the West Eugene area in order to better utilize resources that are available during this downturn in the economy. The same level of service is provided along West 11th Avenue; however, it is provided by new routes.
LTD claims their two-minute time savings comes from having expensive property acquisition dedicated to bus-only lanes.
• The District’s position is that the time savings (26 minutes round trip) is gained by a combination of dedicated lanes, shared transit (BAT) lanes, signal priority, wider stop spacing, level boarding, etc. It is the package that results in the savings.
• It is good to note that car travel times in the corridor also are reduced over time.
Head of LTD, Mark Pangborn, has publicly stated that despite an 18.5 percent cut in basic service, a loss of only 2.2 percent of boardings resulted.
• LTD reduced service hours by 13 percent and has seen a drop in ridership of 3.2 percent year to date.
• Staff have seen little activity in terms of an increase in RideSource applications in areas where service was reduced.
• Ridership productivity is at an all-time high. In the most recent National Transit Database information, LTD ranks 30th of 555 systems of all sizes in the United States.
At a December Board meeting, a Board member stated that half of LTD’s boardings are students.
• If the goal of transit is to provide mobility and reduce car trips, it does not matter if those trips are taken by students or work commuters. Rider surveys show that 34 percent of riders are “students only” and that employed students and work commuters total 49 percent of riders.
LTD loves to measure all things in the largest scale they can, such as the 14,000,000 boardings annually.
• Boardings is the national standard for measuring ridership.
• LTD currently carries approximately 11.2 million annual boardings.
EmX buses are over per-axle weights for legal operation on city streets, even when empty.
• George Trauger, Director of Maintenance, acquired charts from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The charts show that transit vehicles are overweight on the rear axle when carrying full loads; however, ODOT grants a waiver to transit vehicles.
EmX buses, at nearly $1,000,000 per copy, are poorly selected. It is 60-plus feet and, due to doors on both sides plus the articulation, results in a minimal amount of passenger seats available for a bus of its size and weight.
• Sixty-foot hybrid = $847,000; seating capacity = 58
• EMX = $935,000; seating capacity = 55
• Standing loads on both vehicles are approximately 100.
• Fuel Economy on the Newest Series EmX Buses: Fuel economy is the same as 60-foot hybrid vehicles. No other options are available. The cost to develop other vehicle options, such as carbon fiber vehicles, would be enormous and would require years of testing and passing federal safety testing.
• Turning Radius. Articulated buses have a better turning radius than a 40-foot bus due to the tractor/trailer design. There is no greater congestion caused by these buses.
• The restructuring of the downtown station was done in order to accommodate other articulated buses and to take advantage of more direct routing into the Eugene Station. The station was also designed to accommodate EmX service to the west.
• LTD’s 60-foot hybrid vehicles get 17 percent better fuel economy than standard diesel 60-foot buses.