NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Look at Ben Franklin Transit Finds Familiar Problems

August 3, 2015

Ben Franklin Transit is a Public Transit Benefit Authority that serves the Tri-Cities region in Washington. The Tri-Cities region is now home to more than 250,000 people. With an ever-growing population, a healthy and accountable public transit system is needed.  A 2011 study from the Washington Policy Institute found troubling trends at the transit agency, and new research shows problems at Ben Franklin Transit continue, as officials collect more tax money than ever, even as the agency's ridership falls.  Total ridership has dropped 25 percent in five years:

  • Bus ridership is down 24 percent.
  • Vanpool ridership is down 26 percent.
  • Demand response ridership is down 29 percent.
  • Operating costs are up 4 percent.

The drop in demand response ridership has not correlated to a rise in bus ridership. In fact, both are falling. This provides Ben Franklin Transit officials an opportunity to improve their transit service to the public and provide working families some relief from the burden of the taxes they impose. The transit executives should make significant policy changes such as:

  • Allocating funds differently
  • Striving to provide reliable data to provide accurate accounts of ridership.
  • Reducing cost growth in personnel expenses such as benefit costs and wage increases
  • Striving to provide taxpayers with the best value -- including a reduction in the rate of taxes imposed on the public

Even if bus ridership grew at a 1.5 percent annual rate, BFT would hit its 2009-level of bus ridership in the year 2033, 18 years from now. Ben Franklin Transit's new CEO has a unique opportunity to improve outcomes and restore the public\'s trust in the transit agency. Over the past five years ridership has dropped. Ben Franklin Transit should reexamine their service delivery to better meet new levels of passenger demand.

Source: Bob Pishue, "New look at Ben Franklin Transit finds familiar problems," Washington Policy Center, July 2015.


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