HART Bus at $115 Per Rider Per Day: It’s No Joke!

Filed under: Around Town,Investigations,News |

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Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) bus was founded in 1973. It was created to provide mass transit between specific areas of interest like the train station, Walt Whitman Mall, and the Veterans Administration Hospital among others. It provides a meal service and door to door service to the Senior Citizen Center at Village Green. Through its history it has usually provided valuable services to the community. The purpose of this article is to discuss the bus service not including the door to door or meal services.

The fares for the buses are $1.25 for adults, 75 cents for students ages 5-18, 50 cents for senior citizens (age 60+), individual with disabilities, Medicare card holders, and free for children aged 4 and younger. Transfers to other bus routes cost 10 cents, including to buses of the Suffolk County Transit and Nassau Inter-County Express systems.

On March 7, 2006 the Huntington Town Board voted to authorize the Supervisor to execute an agreement with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for a HART Modernization Study. The amount of money that was made available was $40,000.

Later in 2006 a request for proposal (RFP), No. 2006-005, was issued to solicit the services of an appropriate consultant to perform a HART Modernization Study. Several consulting firms responded.

At a Town Board meeting on February 6, 2007 the Supervisor was authorized to execute an agreement with Abrams-Cherwony & Associates in the amount of $39,828.00 to perform the study. This amount is surprisingly close to the $40,000 made available by the State.

On November 5, 2008 the Town Board voted to transfer the HART Modernization Study to Gannet Fleming, Inc. because they acquired Abrams-Cherwony & Associates. It is now approximately 2 years and 8 months since the initial funding was accepted from the State in March of 2006.

In January 2010 the Modernization Study For HART Bus Operations Final Report prepared By Gannett Fleming was finally given to the Town of Huntington. It is now almost 4 years since the money for the study was accepted from the State.

In February of 2012 a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request was made by The Huntingtonian to request a copy of the study prepared by Gannett Fleming. The Huntingtonian found out about the existence of this HART study because we had filed a FOIL request for the Huntington Brownfield Opportunity Area Study the Town had received in June of 2010. The HART study was mentioned in the Brownfield Opportunity Area Study. At this point it is 6 years since the Town accepted the funding for the study from the State.

Here we are in 2012 and we finally get to see a study that was paid for in 2006. You might ask yourself why did this take so long. Surely there is a good answer for this. But there isn’t. Now we need to look at what we have in the Modernization Study. It is not pretty. It is not pretty because of what the study says and because the Town has not acted on any of the money saving suggestions in the study. They must have had to dust off a lot of dust when we asked for a copy.

We have picked out a few tables included in the study to emphasize what we believe is verified waste in HART Bus operations. The page numbers listed below are the page in the study that the information is from.

From pg 65:

Table 60 – Deficit Score and Rank 

Per Revenue Mile Per Revenue Hour Per Peak Vehicle Per Passenger Combined
Route Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank Score Rank
H-1A 11.13

5

130.80

5

83,950

1

57.549

5

16

5

H-2A 10.04

4

128.57

4

88,250

2

27.79

4

14

3

H-4 6.38

1

94.87

1

307,150

3

6.03

1

6

1

H-6 6.85

3

102.01

3

327,650

5

15.25

3

14

3

H-9 6.47

2

95.82

2

311,400

4

7.31

2

10

2

System 6.97

101.42

223,680

9.35

Deficit Results – In a similar fashion, four subsidy measures were specified (Table 60). The first three record the deficit – or amount of tax subsidy – by operating statistic in which performance is related to revenue mile, revenue hour and peak vehicle. The fourth criterion is the ratio of subsidy (or deficit) per passenger. It should be recognized that the subsidy per passenger not only relates to route performance but also measures the equity in distributing funds to support the bus system. Consistent with the previous analyses, each route is ranked relative to each other and the results summed to attain a score which is subsequently the basis for an overall deficit ranking.
As shown in the accompanying table, and similar to the results exhibited for productivity, route performance varies substantially. Typically, routes receive similar results for many deficit measures; although some differences are noted.

From pg 89:

The problem with the current LIRR feeder service is that ridership levels are relatively low which results in little revenue generated, particularly if the Uni-Ticket is used. The H-1A and H-2A routes only cover 1.7 and 3.2 percent of their operating costs, respectively. The consequences of this financial performance is a substantial subsidy for each passenger carried. For example, each passenger trip on the H-1A requires a subsidy of $57.54 or about $115 dollars, assuming they rode the bus in the morning and afternoon. H-2A is somewhat better, although the subsidy per trip is $27.79 which is about three times the system average.

Looking at the chart and explanations provided above we can begin to understand the costs involved in operating HART Bus. The numbers in red (table 60) are the cost in dollars for the taxpayers for each rider of that bus (Bus route names in blue, click them to see a map of the bus route). Multiply this by 2 for the round trip cost. For dramatic purposes we are going to compare renting a car for each rider to what it costs the taxpayers for each rider:

  • Enterprise Car Rental charges about $750 a month to rent a car.
  • Each rider on the H-1A Bus costs the taxpayers $115 round trip. If you figure there are 21 weekdays in a month then the total cost to the taxpayers for that month is $2,415.
  • A monthly round trip on the H-2A at $55.58 a day costs the taxpayer $1,167.18 a month if you figure there are 21 workdays.

In these scenarios it would be cheaper for the taxpayers to just rent cars for the riders of these buses. The taxpayers would save $1665 a month on teach rider of the H-1A bus and $417.18 on each rider of the H-2A bus. We know that is not a solution, as some riders do not have licenses, and it’s a little ridiculous, but this points out in dramatic fashion that the HART bus system is a drag on the economic well being of our Town.

Even the H-4 route costs the taxpayer $12.06 per rider round trip. Certainly something needs to be done to control these costs. When someone uses a service they should be expected to pay a reasonable sum for that service. The rates to ride HART bus have not been adjusted since 1992. The ridership continues to go down so the numbers in the chart will only get worse if nothing is done.

From pg 102:

Table 82 – Financial Forecasts (All Amounts in 2010 Dollars)

Phase -Year Revenue Operating Cost Deficit
1-2011 $276,300 $3,570,200 $3,293,900
2-2012 $301,700 $4,179,500 $3,877,800
3-2013 $317,500 $4,431,500 $4,114,000
4-2014 $351,600 $5,050,500 $4,698,900
4-2015 $374,700 $5,227,200 $4,852,500

From pg 103:

Table 83 – Operating Assistance (All Amounts in 2010 Dollars)

Phase -Year Federal

State

Local
1-2011 $75,000 $730,000 $2,488,900
2-2012 $100,000 $750,000 $3,027,800
3-2013 $125,000 $850,000 $3,139,000
4-2014 $150,000 $880,000 $3,668,900
4-2015 $175,000 $980,000 $3,697,500

You will notice that the Towns taxpayers are subsidizing HART Bus for over $3 million a year and its projected to go up.

From pg 105:

Table 84 – Bus Purchase Program

Year of Manufacture

2008 2009 2010

Phase 1 2011

Phase 2 2012

Phase 3 2013

Phase 4 2014

Phase 4 2015

1992

2

2

1997

2

2

1

1998

1

1

1

2002

7

7

7

7

2008

2009

2010

3 (New)

3

3

3

3

Phase 1-2011 2 (New)

2

2

2

Phase 2-2012 7 (New)

7

7

Total

12

12

12

12

12

12

12

12

By far the largest expenditure for HART Bus is for hybrid-electric buses which includes the purchase of 12 buses of which three were ordered in 2009 with the other nine being purchased during the implementation plan. The costs of the buses are based on current plans of HART which reflect the purchase of the more costly hybrid-electric vehicles, which cost $200,000 per unit more than a standard propulsion vehicle (over $400,000 each). When some of these new buses arrived they were good for a public relations article and picture. There was no public relations article when the Modernization Study For HART Bus Operations Final Report was delivered.

It looks like the people in the Town are going to be expected to continue to fund the waste and mismanagement in the HART Bus system. This is just another instance of neglect with our money.

We pay for a study (2006), wait a few years for delivery of the study (2010), and then have to file a FOIL request to get a copy of the study (2012) only to find out we have been and are continuing to pay $115 per rider per day. It’s no Joke! But we wish it was.

 

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4 Responses to HART Bus at $115 Per Rider Per Day: It’s No Joke!

  1. I’m afraid to ask yet dare! Since it’s 6 years later is this study outdated?

    AT
    April 12, 2012 7:45 am at 7:45 am

  2. We seem to pay a lot of money to Gannett Fleming to conduct study after study of all sorts of things with no results.

    The Brownfield meeting a few weeks ago only served to allot another $240,000 to continue to STUDY the area in Huntington Station for revitalization. The end result seems to be that some very expensive artwork will be going into an area that study after study has not been revitalized. The Economic Development Corporation run by Joan Cergol has not produced 1 job (except for her’s) since 2003.

    Waste of our money for years. The Hart bus is yet another example of useless studies and wasted tax dollars to only prove what a very smart group of people have been trying to say for a long time now. Only ones making money off our backs are the study groups, developers and a few of the elite inner circle formed by Joan Circle herself.

    FairyGyrl
    April 12, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am

  3. Want to KNOW why Gannett Fleming is conducting ALL these studies? It’s because they are the one’s WHO will be BENEFITTING by the plans they suggest. Direct from their website:

    Gannett Fleming Project Development Corporation (GFPDC) provides complete Design-Build and Construction Management services to owners in both the public and private sectors.

    Through affiliated companies, GFPDC provides the professional services required during the Design-Build process including architecture, interior design, surveying, subsurface investigations, testing, hazardous materials evaluation, and appropriate engineering disciplines. Construction is performed by owner-approved subcontractors under contract to GFPDC. We are also a licensed contractor in several states from coast to coast.

    BUT the most ALARMING thing I found today is they are a multidiscipline consulting engineering firm with more than 45 years of successful project experience as Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems (GFT&RS)

    http://www.gftransitrail.com/index.htm

    A. Galow
    April 12, 2012 6:47 pm at 6:47 pm

  4. Why are people shocked? It’s time to awaken our comatose neighbors who vote Democrat and make real changes.

    Equitas
    April 12, 2012 8:10 pm at 8:10 pm

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