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Uppity Wisconsin - Progressive Webmasters

« Wisconsin Needs A State Wide Smoking Ban | Main | Is Huckabee a Gift to the Democrats from the Gods? »

January 10, 2008


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Erik Paulson

Come on Paul, obviously Rule #1 is considerably more complicated than that. What point are you trying to make with it?

Do you know what the Cost per Rider was in 2000, and how much of the increase since then has been due to fuel costs versus other costs?


Paul, you make some good points here, but I don't buy your Rule Number One. I don't have all the facts at my disposal, but if the city is losing $1 for every rider at the current level of ridership, it does not necessarily follow that it will still lose $1 per rider if the number of riders doubles. Consider the cost of driving a bus with one passenger. That bus will operate at an enormous loss. But if that same bus carries a full load of passengers, it is operating at the same cost but with far greater revenues. The loss/profit per passenger will change with more riders.

Now, if the system is already operating at capacity, your argument holds. If doubling the ridership requires doubling the number of buses and drivers, then yes, the loss per passenger will remain approximately the same.

The problem as I see it is that we need MORE buses operating at all times of the day. If I want to hop on a bus to go downtown, I don't want to have to consult a schedule and plan my trip around infrequent buses. I want to go to the stop and expect a bus to arrive within 15 minutes. If they only come by every hour, then I won't consider the bus unless I am desperate. Obviously this requires heavily subsidizing the service, but if it results in less congestion and less road construction, a case can be made for it.

Dan Sebald

Couple Points:

I contest Rule 1. The reason is that a bus circuit ("flight"?) is ostensibly a fixed cost. The driver's expense does not go up with each passenger. The weight of the bus far surpasses that of the cargo (passengers) so each additional passenger adds minor fuel consumption.

This is why a lot of transportation modes have really reduced last minute prices. They are still making *some* money.

There are some optimization problems here, but I think they are more complex than Rule 1 suggests. I would think the simplest of control methods that would at least get one in the ballpark is to set the optimization as maximum ridership. I.e., set the price as low as possible to just cover costs. If ridership gets too high and people are denied access and the fleet can't be added to fast enough, *then* start talking price increases.

The other point I'd like to raise is the mayor's comment about fuel costs. I recall the mayor saying once or twice now at city hall with regards to the budget that the city made a long term contract on fuel at fixed costs. Perhaps that was just to cover the city vehicle fleet.

michael donnelly

I ride the bus to work for environmental reasons. I own a car since it isn't practical to get around much of the time without one, but I try to minimize my use of it. Given the price of gas and the length of my commute, riding the bus doesn't save me any significant money. If I couldn't buy passes pre-tax through my employer I'd be losing money. That said, it's worth it to me to avoid contributing pollution and to set an example to others.

As a Madison property tax payer, I'd be happy to pay more taxes to support a better transit system. More routes that run more often and express routes to cut people's time will increase ridership. I believe that more people using public transit and fewer people driving is good for the city.

I love what UW Madison did a number of years ago. They increased the price of parking spots on campus and used the additional funds to provide free bus passes to all University employees. For many people, it became common sense to ride the bus.


re: Rule #2. I thought you didn't believe in the Laffer curve.

Old yeller


When was the last time you rode the Bus in Madison?

Were bus some drivers earning $100,000.00 per year under either of your administrations?

Captain Morgan

Something needs to be done about the morning connections at the transfer points. Ironically, it's the 55 Epic bus that always takes off without waiting for other buses when they're late, and it does it at 8:30 which is the last 55 of the morning. Couple of times they drove some stragglers down 151 in a car. But it's the last bus that's going to have a problem being 2 more minutes late because it picks up few people between the transfer point and Milky Way. The 55 should NOT be leaving until all connections have arrived. I don't work for Epic and this is not a plug for them, but the irony is Paul's connection.

I think Madison needs to increase fares, and differentiate amongst the various people who ride the bus more closely. Take a look at the people who ride the bus by choice, and make sure you have the right people. Check with the DOT to see if they have any registered vehicles. If they do, they should be rewarded further for riding the bus.

Another differentiation should be people who ride the bus because they have no other choice because of disability, and the longer their commute to work, the cheaper their pass. It wouldn't take much to do either.

If the residents must step in, then the fees should be less for those more distant from a line.

Also, rear bike racks are needed, as in Minneapolis. This would double the number of bikes which are carried (6 with 3 bike racks) which is 2 more than would have been needed in the most extreme bus-bike scenario I've witnessed - it was a hybrid bus which only holds 2 bikes on the rack which was full. I have a cool driver who let me bring my bike inside, and another was not allowed to bring his bike inside. He was denied because of the lack of room inside, not because I get some kind of special treatment for being Captain Morgan.

Paul - you know Metro will never go for using different equipment for off-peak times. They have several pages on their website explaining that they only use 40' buses even if it's a remote route that never fills up because they're cheaper to maintain, supposedly. And not to mention the articulated bus idea for campus. That's hypocritical.

Adam Young

I have used Madison Metro since I moved here in 1977; for the most part I did so as a matter of personal choice.

But when the new Transfer Point system took affect in August 1998, I only rode the bus if absolutely necessary. Taking a ride past a transfer point is like taking a ride to Timbuktu. The schedules are still imposssible to comprehend, and the size resembles a store catalog.

I wonder how many professionals new to Madison consider taking the bus to work only to give up at the sight of this cumbersome publication.

The only reason Metro can claim higher numbers is because of the agreement with the UW. There are students who board and literally ride just to the next bus stop and this abuse counts as one ride just like the customer who goes to the grocery store on the bus.

In 1980, just before the bus strike, ridership was 20 million per year. Now Metro gets excited to announce 11 million riders. Do the math.

Metro was better run when it was handled by a tranist company from Cleveland Ohio. Its problems precipated when the decision was made to hire a general manager which incredibly ended up costing more money.

The problem with Metro is that NO ONE in the city government wants to admit that the system as it exists today is one big mistake and a complete waste of taxpayers money.

It just grates me when I hear people complain about being able to see through the buses (meaning that there are a lack of passengers) I remember when I took the old "A" line (East Towne-West Towne). At rush hour Metro had to run mutiple buses to accomodate all the riders. Today, one bus is more than enough.

Why should it take 2 hours and 4 minutes to go from Prairie Towne to East Towne? This isn't Los Angeles. The ride from Prairie Towne to East Towne is so long, asking for a transfer is pointless, since it expires while riding out to East Towne.

I'd love to give a pop quiz to every member of the City Council and you, Mr. Soglin. You'd have the schedule in front of you, and would be asked to find the Metro route to get from home and work to various locations in Madison.

Even with the cribsheet located in the schedule, I believe I would be forced to score on a curve so I wouldn't flunk a majority of the test takers.

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