Seattle conducted a Peer Review a few years ago.
“This section examines transit services and performance in five U.S. cities and two Canadian cities that are North American leaders in transit service delivery and system development. The evaluation is intended to provide insight into challenges and opportunities Seattle will face as the regional rail system is expanded, RapidRide begins in Seattle, and the city continues to grow.”
bettertransit.info posted about it on twitter as “Too Long, Didn’t Read” when actually it’s only 34 pages – and full of really geeky stuff. You may recall that I did reblog a similar comparison by Daryl de la Cruz to the five largest transit systems in Canada: Translink came out of that rather well. This is a bit different in that the cities were chosen by Seattle to compare itself to equivalent North American systems.
This peer review explores how transit performs and is structured and how Seattle compares to other North American cities that are leaders in delivering high quality transit services. Although each city and transit agency is unique, the similarities and differences in these five U.S. cities and two Canadian cities provide useful insight into how transit works in Seattle and opportunities for improvement.
So not as up to date as one might like – and you will note that county/region gets noted for Seattle/King County but not the others. Even so, reading the report will give you an idea of why other systems look up to Translink as a guide to how to do better. I could not resist not retweeting TL:DR but selectively quoting some of the key statistics. At the end of 2008 we did not have the Canada Line in service and some of the best years leading up to the Olympics are missed out. But it was an impressive performance then. And I suppose if someone has the time to update these statistics there would be even more ammunition to throw at the “wasteful” slur which Jordan Bateman persists in reiterating.
OK so I had a look at the US National Transit Database and downloaded one of their massive spreadsheets. Then I picked one agency and one figure I could glom onto. Sound Transit operates a line a bit like SkyTrain but without the automated train control or fancy LIM rail. I then divided their operating expenses by unlinked trips. I converted that to Canadian dollars using the current exchange rate. I went to Voony’s blog and used his spreadsheet of Translink data to figure out the same thing for SkyTrain. So in 2013 the cost per trip on Sound Transit was $8.53. On SkyTrain $1.31.
So much for all that noise about inefficiency. Yes Ian Jarvis was paid more than the CEO of King County. So what. So look at this more recent review published by the CBC and conducted by Todd Litman (whom God preserve).
“Executive pay represents one or two per cent of TransLink’s total budget. It is not a significant factor in looking at the overall cost-efficiency of the system,” he said.