Via Alon Levy’s great walkability and planning website, Pedestrian Observations, here’s a chart showing transit operating costs using two different payment models:
[Note: these data are from New York City commuter rail, e.g. the Long Island Railroad or LIRR and Metro-North, a NYC commuter rail line.]
Levy has a lot of information on how scheduling and staffing levels can affect costs. Here’s Levy’s key idea:
But whatever happens, the most important reform from the point of view of reducing marginal off-peak service provision costs is letting go of redundant train crew. Halving the variable operating costs is exactly what is required to convert the nearly empty off-peak trains from financial drains to an extra source of revenues, balancing low ridership with even lower expenses. This would of course compound with other operating efficiencies, limiting the losses of branch lines and turning the busier main line trains into profit centers. But nowhere else is there the possibility of cutting costs so much with one single policy change as with removing conductors and changing the fare enforcement system to proof-of-payment.
There’s been lots of conversation about enforcement on the Green Line. People ask things like “why aren’t there turnstyles?” or “why aren’t there more police checking tickets?”
Well, the answer lies in economics. In general, I think Twin Cities rail transit is pretty efficient!