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Dear Express Editors:
Buses from the Old World have to maneuver through narrower streets than what we have here. Turning radius for the Van Hool is 37.5' -- 4.5' less than its American predecessor. Blaming the Van Hool bus for a minor, internal personnel matter is patently ridiculous. How many more of these silly Robert Gammon articles can readers look forward to?
Joyce is confused. NABI is Hungarian, not American. They only do final assembly in the US to comply with counterproductive "Buy-America" requirements.
Well done Smoothe. It seems we have to read the blogs these days to get reliable news.
Indeed, farebox ratio is not generally used as a comparison metric. It is too easily manipulated by external factors. Yes, BART has 60% farebox recovery, but where in that number is the billions in up-front capital cost computed? Where is the accounting for their $1 billion project to repair and upkeep of aerial structures, or the hundreds of millions being spent on parking garages (i.e. "Transit"-oriented development)? Answer: It is all off-the-books. Moreover, BART does not have to worry about running the expensive local feeder routes -- they get to offload that on AC.
Generally, transit experts compute cost-effectiveness when doing this types of comparisons; i.e. operating costs divided by ridership. This gives some indication of cost per trip and utilization. In that regard, all the bus systems have done badly, though AC has fared far better than almost all other agencies (BTW, it is curious that Gammon fails to include Samtrans in his comparison -- is this an oversight, or deliberate?).
The AC Transit cost has increased from $3/trip to $4/trip. On a percentage basis, Muni has seen similar escalation. There are a number of reasons for the increase, but the main problem (and the one easiest to fix) is the bus bunching and delays on arterial streets. AC Transit has had to dramatically increase the number of buses out on the road to maintain existing headway. This is the reason why the BRT project (and the fast-boarding Van Hool fleet) is so important in bringing the per trip cost down.
It is clear the Express Editorial policy is to write continual hit pieces on public transit -- eBART, BRT, and now AC Transit.
The article blames the financial downturn on a new bus purchase, even though operating and capital expenditures are from separate accounts. As well, it blames to decline in ridership on the new bus, which makes no sense. In fact, the ridership decline (and rising operating cost) is directly due to increased congestion on the roads. More buses have to be put out on the trunk routes to maintain the existing schedule -- hence the reason for the BRT exclusive bus lanes.
Nowhere in the article do I see mention of the #1 reason for the Van Hool design. The ramp design (for wheelchairs) is far superior to that of American buses, and saves several minutes per wheelchair boarding.
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