What we really need is more ferry service, not less!

HRM Council made the wrong decision when it announced cuts to ferry service when it passed the Metro Transit budget.  We need HRM Council to invest in transit in the core, where it makes sense and has ridership, not cut services to fund expensive rural transit.

The decision is being justified using ridership numbers and cost saving numbers that mislead people by not placing the ferry service in context.

metroxCutting the ferry back so it stops at 10:30 instead of midnight on the Alderney route, and so it stops earlier and starts later in on Woodside is reported to save $423,700 a year.

Last year 45.6% of the cost of Metro Transit was paid by passengers through fares, next year it will drop to 40.5%. (2012-13 Metro Transit Business Unit Budget page 4)

Conventional wisdom is that the ferry is cheaper to operate than the bus service, and so says the Metro Transit business plan. (2012-13 Metro Transit Annual Service Plan, page 7)

In 2011/12, the bus system (not including Community or Access-a-Bus) was subsidized (through area rate and general tax pool) by $1.78 per rider.  The ferry was subsidized $1.50.

With the proposed changes, in 2012/13 the bus subsidy rises 18% to $2.11 per projected rider, while the ferry subsidy falls 2% to $1.47 per rider.

So why did Council vote to cut the higher performing service?

Metro Transit’s Five Year Operations Plan states “[t]he vision for this new five year plan is to move Metro Transit up to the next level in terms of building on its past success by further increasing transit ridership…” (2012-13 Metro Transit Business Unit Budget page 9,10) and its report Five Big Moves for Transit states that Big Move #3 is to “[f]ocus on Cost Effective and High Ridership Service.”(Five Year Strategic Operations Plan, page 8)

It’s simple:  Council and Metro Transit are focusing on expanding rural and suburban express service at the expense of downtown service.

Much of the $8.3 million dollar increase to busing is due to expanded rural express service, and the real kicker is that services like MetroX cost taxpayers twice as much per rider to subsidize, even when full.  According to Metro Transit’s own material, the cost per passenger of MetroX is $6.04 compared to a regular bus’s $1.95. (Five Big Moves Information Report Nov 24, page 12)

It does not serve HRM or District 7 for Council to cut our most cost-effective services while expanding our most expensive services. We want more people living in and coming to the peninsula and District 7, on foot and via transit, and we want fewer cars on the road.

The most bang for our buck would be to expand regular service in the core of the city, which is something Metro Transit already calls for but does not appear to have Council’s support to deliver.  (Five Big Moves Information Report Nov 24, page 11)

I’d like to see the ferry and select routes (probably the #10, #1, and #80) run 24-hours a day. Transit needs to be there all day, not just Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, so it can really become the preferred choice in people’s lives.

The only way people will gladly make transit the preferred choice is if people who work nights, work late, are going downtown, to the movies or to visit a friend in Dartmouth know that transit will be there for them.

We must invest where transit is working, and build a transit system we can all be proud of.

2011 to 12
Total Cost Total Revenue Deficit Total Boardings Subsidy Per Boarding
Bus 72625646 29370700 43254946 24257028  $1.78
Ferry 4023017 1976000 2047017 1365777  $1.50
2012 to 13
Total Cost Total Revenue Deficit Total Boardings Subsidy Per Boarding
Bus 80939000 29680000 51259000 24257028  $2.11
Ferry 3982000 1976000 2006000 1365777  $1.47