Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

Two staff members at The Rapid have responded to our “Myths vs. Facts” report. When reading through it, we’re reminded of the phrase from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her companions are frightened by the display of power from the almighty Wizard, and then they’re told to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. You can read The Rapid’s response to our report by clicking here.

Their response can be summed up in two images from The Rapid’s 2009 National Transit Database fact sheet:

Pay no attention to the tax dollars behind the curtain

Pay no attention to the spending behind the curtain

The Rapid wants you to ignore capital spending, because somehow that’s special spending. Even though that amount comes from your tax money in the form of state and federal gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, $16 million of spending isn’t really spending at all, according to The Rapid. This Enron-like accounting standard should make any taxpayer laugh, but The Rapid is serious. In effect, they’re saying “You shouldn’t count capital spending when determining the cost of The Rapid.”

What is capital spending? It’s the money spent on buses, other vehicles, buildings, and other tangible large-ticket pieces of property – like $250,000 pieces of art, for instance. The folks at The Rapid only want you to count the money they spend on operating expenses, such as fuel and wages.

One other point we’d like to make is that The Rapid’s staff uses an odd measure of bus capacity utilization. The Rapid’s report authors claim they don’t know where we get the bus capacity of “74.” Well, perhaps they aren’t aware of the data they report to the National Transit Database, which lists the capacity of all of their buses. The NTD lists the seating and standing capacity of each bus. When you add this together and average the result by the number of buses that The Rapid has, you get a result of a capacity of 74 per bus. This has gone up over the last several years because The Rapid keeps buying buses that are bigger than the ones they are replacing. They also state that 24 people per hour use their buses. Using this logic they say that their buses are 60% full. But that makes no sense because passengers aren’t sitting on the bus for an hour at a time. The average bus trip is about 3.7 miles. To determine the average number of riders on the bus at any given time, we use the standard practice of dividing the number of passenger miles provided by the number of revenue miles provided by the bus system. This gives us a rock solid number of 7.3 average riders on the bus at any time. The Rapid’s staff is purposely using the wrong data in attempting to “debunk” our report.