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To follow up a March 2010 survey of its members asking how the recession is impacting them, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) collected new information from its members in March 2011. The results, released in August, were nearly the same as in 2010: Transit agencies continue to face funding challenges, and are cutting service, raising fares, implementing hiring and wage freezes, and laying off workers to address them. The following charts reflect the information APTA gathered from the 117 agencies that responded to the most recent survey.
A new question in the 2011 survey asked transit agencies to rank the criteria that is stressing their operating budgets. The top three: the status of local/regional funding; the status of state funding; and increasing fuel prices. The least important criteria was the current status of fare revenues, which reflected the trend that many agencies have had to raise fares in recent years, according to APTA.
As a result of reduced local and state funding, agencies are adjusting their capital budgets. Three in 10 agencies delayed vehicle acquisitions, two in 10 reported delayed capital maintenance, and two in 10 delayed capital construction, according to the survey.
Transit agencies continue to cut service and raise fares to address budget shortfalls. Compared with 2010's survey results, a smaller percentage are considering or implementing fare increases (58 percent in 2011 compared with 73 percent in 2010). But, of those agencies that said last year they were considering future fare increase or service cuts, more than two-thirds indicated in the 2011 survey that they implemented at least one of those actions, APTA said.
Transit agencies depend in large part on state and local funding to help cover operating costs. The majority of agencies are facing flat or declining funds from those sources — and that's on top of stagnant or reduced funding reported in the previous year.
In the 2011 survey, fewer agencies noted decreases in fare revenue (28 percent in 2011 compared with 47 percent in 2010) and more agencies saw increases in fare revenue (46 percent compared with 30 percent), mostly due to fare hikes that took effect in the past year. But even with the improved revenue picture, more than one-third of the survey respondents said they are projecting a budget shortfall in the coming budget year.
Agencies' actions to address budget challenges are beginning to have a compounding affect, APTA says, making the service cuts, fare increases, layoffs and benefit reductions even tougher to swallow, as some agencies are either making or considering the moves on an annual basis.