TRANSIT PLAN COSTS $568,000 PER CURRENT BUS RIDER
IN 2035, LIGHT RAIL PLAN WILL COST $386,300 PER
PUBLIC TRANSIT RIDER
IN 2070, IF LIGHT RAIL STILL EXISTS, PLAN WILL COST $455,800 PER RIDER IN 2070
All sources & data are below.
NEW: COST OF THE TRANSIT PLAN PER CURRENT NASHVILLE BUS RIDER: $568,000 per rider. The facts: all data is public information, easily found at the website apta.com. We welcome the pro side or anyone to refute these stats. apta.com. Current DAILY MTA TRIPS: 31,300 (2017). Total DAILY RIDERS: 15,650. Cost: $8.9B divided by 15,650 = $568,690 per rider.
At apta.com, the url sequence is: resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2017-q3-ridership-APTA.pdf
In 2035: total riders will be 23,038. Cost of $8.9 billion divided by 23,038 = $386,318 per rider in 2035. See charts below.
In 2070, if light rail still exists, total riders will be 48,265. Total costs 52 years from now: $22 billion. Cost of $22B divided by 48,265 = $455,816 per rider in 2070. See charts below.
Summary: 14 cities have light rail (LRT) which Nashville is voting on. The ridership data and numbers from LRT systems with decades of data, create realistic, accurate projections of ridership for Nashville in the future. If Nashville builds out the $8.9 billion plan, public transit ridership is projected to increase from current 15,650 riders to 23,038 riders in 2035. The total cost of $8.9 billion divided by 23,038 equals $386,000 per public transit rider in 2035, including the five light rail lines with 31.3 miles of LRT, the tunnel build out, and the bus system (actual total: $386,318). NOTE: we are only against light rail & the tunnel, which is 70% of the plan; we are FOR a strong bus system, BRT, technology & more. Because this plan is 70% LRT & tunnel, we are against it.
In 2070, 52 years from now, with LRT & Bus, projected riders will be a generous total of 48,265. Totals costs, see chart below: $22 billion. Therefore, $22 billion divided by 48,265 equals $455,816 per rider in 2070.
In 2070, Nashville’s CSA population will be 5.39 million people (2% growth rate, double the national average; current CSA pop.: 1.8 million). The riders figure of 48,265 is actually very generous. Remember, public transit is declining at 3.5% annually. In 52 years, as experts confirm, public transit as we know today will not exist. Tech and other factors are rapidly changing how we commute, travel, get goods & live. In 2070, transit riders will be about 2.5% of commuters/drivers (48,265 people). Megan Barry’s $8.9 billion transit plan combined with the extreme operating losses of the LRT-heavy transit system (losses from 2018-2070) will result in a costs of at least $22 billion, a low estimate. The majority of the losses will be due to having expensive, costly light rail and tunnel. Bus systems are more cost-effective and a more effective transit solution than light rail, with operating losses dramatically less than light rail operating losses.
Full analysis: Data and analysis is of light rail ridership in the eight (8) cities similar to, yet all larger (both in pop. and pop. density, PD), than Nashville’s pop & PD. Also , a comparison to the six (6) cities, much larger than Nashville, with LRT systems.
The eight (8) cities are listed below with:
CSA Population, Pop. Density, Light Rail Miles, & Avg Daily Ridership Per Mile.
The Per Mile stat is a key. Nashville is planning 31.3 miles, so we can multiply the average of these 8 cities’ average daily ridership per mile, to project what Nashville’s total light rail daily ridership will be for the entire 31.3 miles of light rail.
We are assuming that all other factors stay the way they are now – which is generous, considering that public transit ridership is declining at 3.5% nationally and locally, and tech is changing commuting dramatically. Light rail is becoming more & more obsolete annually. Local taxpayers continue to pay for the losses of the average city public transit system (Nashville’s MTA lost $77 million on a $93 million budget; most recent audit) running a bus system, though it is vital to public transit, etc, etc. But let’s assume all other factors stay the same.
Someone may say, “well, in 2035, Nashville’s population will be 2.67 million, so these bus ridership figures have to be increased.” In reality, even though population is increasing, bus ridership is declining at 3.5% annually, even though population is increasing. And this model and projection keeps bus ridership the same as it is today. Also, the total rail ridership of 1,443 riders per mile (avg of the 8 cities) is based on cities that have avg pop. of 2.86 million, more than Nashville’s projected 2035 pop. of 2.67 million.
NOTE: $6 billion of the $9 billion cost is for light rail and the tunnel. Breakdown:
Five LRT light rail lines: $3.4 billion
Tunnel: $940 million
Debt service on bonds for the light rail/tunnel: $1.16
Operating Costs for rail/tunnel: $400 million ($46m/year).
Total: $6 billion
Nashville in 2035:
Nashville, 2.67m, 1,862 PD, 31.3 miles
Avg daily ridership due to small PD (less than half of the other cities’ avg PD): 361;
361 x 31.3 miles of light rail = 11,300 daily riders on light rail
Cost Per Transit Rider in 2070, 52 Years from Now
In 2070, 52 Years from 2018, the cost of Megan Barry’s transit plan per public transit rider in 2070: $455,816.
The pro side says we need to plan for far into the future. Let’s look at realistic, generous projections of ridership in 2070.
In 2070, Nashville/Davidson Co.’s population will be 2.02 million, with population density (PD), a key determining factor regarding light rail ridership, at 4,008. Nashville’s CSA population (all 10 counties) will be 5.39 million.
In the chart below, realistic projections for Nashville’s light rail (LRT) ridership are based on the average ridership of six (6) large cities with decades of light rail results and figures. The six cities’ PD average is 5,266 people/square mile, 31% higher than Nashville’s of 4,008; PD for all cities is calculated using the city population (for us, Davidson Co.), not the CSA. A lower PD means people are spread out more, and farther away from light rail lines; another reason light rail will not work in Nashville.
Nashville’s CSA is also smaller than the six cities’ average CSA population. But we will still use the six cities’ average ridership per mile of 2,333 people.
Therefore, in 2070, Nashville’s 31.3 miles of LRT, with 1,167 riders per mile, will have a light rail average daily ridership of 36,527 commuters. Commuters: Of the 5.39 million population in 2070, approx. 69% are commuters/drivers, or 3.7 million commuters in the CSA. The total of 36,527 LRT + bus riders is about 1.3% of commuters, a figure similar to the current average percentage of transit ridership (LRT + bus) in the 14 cities with light rail.
Remember, public transit ridership is declining at 3.5% nationally & locally (MTA audits, 2016-2017), a decline that applies to both light rail and bus ridership. But we will assume, generously, that light rail ridership in 2070 is the same as it is today; though in reality, with tech changing our world, in 50 years, it is very likely that light rail will not even exist. The light rail systems are already obsolete, even more so in 50 years.
Let’s also assume that bus ridership of 11,650 stays the same for 50 years. In reality though, if the 3% declines continue, in 50 years, bus ridership likely will not exist.
Approximately 25% or more of current bus riders will switch over to light rail (probably more), so bus ridership in 2070 will actually be 23,475. Light rail lines replace bus route lines.
LRT of 36,527 plus bus riders of 11,738 (75% of 11,650) equals 48,265, or approximately 1.3% of commuters.
Therefore, 98.7% of commuters are primarily in cars, trucks, and other transport options. It seems surprising that a city government would spend $9 billion to focus on, at best, 1.3% of commuters. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend money and resources on both groups: the 98.7% of commuters and their roads, and the 1.3% of public transit riders?
Total losses from 2018-2070 are projected to be at least $22 billion, a low estimate. MTA is projected to lose $2.1 billion in the next 15 years, see chart below. Operating losses starting in 2035 will be at least $300 million, a figure used to calculate losses from 2035 to 2070, though losses will certainly be much, much greater. Light rail is exponentially more expensive than bus to build, operate, manage, maintain, repair, and more. MTA loss chart is below. MTA lost $70 million in 2017 and projected to lose $76 million in 2018. Chart below: three LRT cities’ public transit losses, on average $627 million a year.
Nashville taxpayers pay about 55% of MTA’s budget. MTA self-funds about 15%. Nashville taxpayers, the state, and the federal govt pay 85% of their budget.
Low projections are that a light rail and bus system will lose about $300 million a year starting in 2033, after the build out. If we just use the $300 million figure only for the 37 years from 2033 to 2070, though the losses will actually much, much higher, the total is $11 billion. The actual losses year-on-year would be $11.4 billion or more.
Add in MTA’s projected $2.1 billion in projected losses from 2018-2033, and the total is $13.1 billion.
$8.9 billion + $13.1 billion = $22 billion, for the 96,497 riders in 2070, or $227,986 per rider.
What are some of the operating losses of cities with large light rail systems? Three examples are: Denver, which Megan Barry’ and her team cites as a “model” for Nashville’s potential light rail, Houston, and Dallas. Their average operating loss, most recent year, was $627 million (chart below).
Why is this so high? Light rail is exponentially more expensive than bus system, and less effective as a public transit model than bus, to: build, operate, maintain, manage, repair, and more.