By far the most asked question of the MCTA is “Why do we have those Marty buses if they are always empty?” So, we endeavored to find the answer.
We met with Mr. Bill Powell recently hired as Transit Administrator right from Atlanta, GA. When we approached Mr. Powell with this question, he wondered at what times during the day these observations were made. Because he claims that current annual ridership is 100,000 trips. That is not persons riding MARTY, but trips. So, one rider could be counted a multitude of times. He claims that there is no way to know the number of riders. MCTA found that odd because riders must purchase bus passes. Those purchases would identify riders. Indeed, riders Mr. Powell identified as students and lower wage earners, elderly persons and visitors who don’t know there way around, veterans going to the VA in West Palm Beach.
It is true that Federal Grants (which are always spoken of as though they don’t really come from the taxpayer’s pocket) pay for the actual buses themselves. For your information, each bus costs approximately $450,000. It is all the extras that the county taxpayer gets stuck paying.
What is curious is that Mr. Powell is intent on building a bus terminal. Of course, he wants to expand ridership through marketing. Indian River County’s Go Line has approximately 50 routes compared to Martin County’s 5. And some of those routes according to a local transportation expert should be rearranged to reach more riders. In MCTA’s opinion, Mr. Powell should fix what can be fixed and see if ridership improves by more accurately counting ridership before going for a grant to build a bus terminal.
The costs incurred by the County for MARTY are the following operating expenses:
- $ 797,720 There are two major contracts. One with MTM for the transport portion and one to verify a person’s eligibility for ADA (disability) eligibility service.
- $ 7,840 This is a contracted service through a temp agency for an individual who collects the garbage at each stop and reports a need for repair or maintenance.
- $ 700 IT oversight
- $ 4,921 Data/wireless services and modems for data feeds
- $ 222 Freight and postage including mailing for ADA applications and a delivery fee for a trailer and shipping when bus cameras must be sent in for repair.
- $ 40 County pickup truck repair for the temp doing the garbage referenced above.
- $ 53,839 Software upgrades and maintenance for GPS systems, directional guidance to drivers and for scheduling requests. Software for the cameras on the buses. There are 8-9 cameras on each bus.
- $ 1,346 Printing brochures and paper passes
- $ 59 A collection fee for token transit
- $11,100 Includes 3 driver transport vehicles that are leased for driver shift changes. Also, a pickup truck for the person doing the garbage pickup or if staff needs to travel to check on an issue with the buses. Some of the cost is offset by the county’s vehicle replacement system.
- $ 307 Office supplies
- $ 2,699 Purchase of a cargo trailer to haul pressure cleaner and other needed supplies for maintenance of the bus stops.
- $3,759 Replacement of the security cameras where the buses are housed when not in use
- $1,406 Purchase of masks, gloves etc. because of COVID
- $ 632 Fuel for the pickup mentioned above
- $ 34 New keyboard
- $ 654 Publications and association dues
- $ 125 Conference fee
Total – $887,403
However, MCTA could see where $307 for PPE (optimistically) would not be an annual cost. Nor should the $3,759 for the replacement of the security cameras. Non-the-less, after subtracting those costs, MARTY still costs the county $882,238 annually. Or, $8.82 per ride.