A story in the Arizona Republic about Phoenix – Tempe – Mesa lite rail officials cracking down on riders who do not purchase a ticket to ride inadvertently revealed more proof that lite rail is a financial money bomb.  Here’s some of the revelations contained in the story:

  • Rather than force riders to buy tickets like DC and Chicago, Metro light rail riders are on the honor system.  There are no turnstiles or ticket takers.
  • If caught riding without a ticket, the fine is $50, but many violators just get a warning.
  • Metro light rail collects an average of 76 cents per passenger.  This is an interesting fact because tickets are $1.75 one way.
  • Metro light rail spokeswoman Hillary Foose said that the honor system is working because fewer than 1% of riders fail to purchase a ticket.  What Hillary forgot to mention is that Metro has no way of determining how many people do not buy tickets because nobody counts the number of riders and runs the numbers against the revenue.  Metro just puts its head in the sand and makes up a number that makes its policy look good.  The story quotes a frequent rider who said that she sees people boarding without tickets all the time, a statement that conflicts with the 1% guessitmate.
  • Last year the light rail ticket police nabbed 5,660 perps.  If Hillary Foose’s estimate of the percentage of scofflaws were correct, then the number of Metro riders during 2009 should have been 566,000.  According to Valley Metro stats, the number of riders during 2009 was 11,348,343.  Note that the number of riders was 11,346,343, not 11,346,342 or 11,346,344.  Query:  How does an outfit that has no way of counting actual riders come up with the monthly and annual number of riders?   We know Metro is guessing so why the precise numbers?  Why not say 11,300,000 riders?  Is Valley Metro pulling down-to-the-gnat’s-ass numbers out of it bureaucratic butt because it wants to fool people into believing Valley Metro actually knows the number of people who ride the rails every month and year?
  • The ticket police check 12 – 15% of the 1,000,000 boardings per month.  Whoa nelly!  If there are 1,000,000 boardings a month that means there are approximately 10,000 (1,000,000 x .01) ticket perps a month.  That means Metro is losing annual revenue of $210,000 (120,000 x $1.75) if you assume scofflaws only ride one way or $420,000 (120,000 x $1.75 x 2) if you assume they would have bought round trip tickets.
  • Money starved and broke City of Phoenix is paying scarce taxpayer dollars to have 12 Phoenix cops ride the rails looking for ticket scofflaws.  Instead of fighting violent crime and other more important crimes, Phoenix is wasting 12 cops to catch 5,000 – 6, 000 perps a year.  Let’s do the math for the Metro and Phoenix big spenders of other people’s money.  If the average pay and benefits of 12 cops is $75,000 a year that means Phoenix is spending $900,00 a year to catch 6,000 ticket perps and collect $300,000 ($50 fine x 6,000) in fines.  If the money goes to Valley Metro instead of to the Phoenix general fund, then Phoenix is wasting $900,000 a year instead of $600,000.
  • ASU students can purchase an annual light rail pass for $85.