Chart of the Day: Transit Labor Efficiency in NY Metro Area

Via Alon Levy’s great walkability and planning website, Pedestrian Observations, here’s a chart showing transit operating costs using two different payment models:

staffing NY commuter rail

[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!

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.