In a document submitted to the state legislature for budget hearings, NJ Transit made public detailed information about fare recovery ratios for all of its lines.
The fare recovery rate is the ratio between a line’s cost of operation and fares received. A bus line that costs $3 million dollars a year to run and takes in $750,000 in fares every year has a fare recovery rate of 25%.
A line with a low fare recovery rate requires high subsidies. A line with a fare recovery rate of 100% breaks even and doesn’t require operational subsidies.
Here are the fare recovery ratios for the rail and light rail side from fiscal year 2014. I will save the data on buses for another time.
Northeast Corridor Line: 88.4%
Coast Line: 54.7%
Raritan Valley Line: 39.9%
Atlantic City Line: 19.6%
Pascack Valley Line: 47.8%
Main/Bergen County Lines: 43%
Montclair-Boonton Line: 42%
Morris and Essex Lines: 48.6%
Hudson Bergen LIght Rail: 33.2%
Newark Light Rail: 29.5%
River Line: 10.0%
Bear in mind that there is a certain amount of estimation that goes into calculating fare recovery rates because of a few factors:
- Tickets are honored across lines. A commuter holding a pass from South Orange to Newark can ride the Newark Light Rail for Free. A one way ticket from New York to Edison is good for travel to other stations in zone 13, so i can be used for travel to South Amboy, for instance. It’s unclear how revenue is allocated in these situations.
- On many lines, the majority of passengers transfer to complete their trip. When Main and Bergen County Line riders board a train to New York at Secaucus, The revenue might be allocated to the Main and Bergen County Line, but they are also taking up seats on trains to the Montclair-Boonton or Coast Lines.
- This is an average farebox recovery rate. It’s an average for the entire week. The Northeast Corridor Line might have a weekday fare recovery rate of 95%, a Saturday rate of 70%, and a Sunday rate of 50%, with an overall average in the 80s.
- Some Lines share stations, like the Northeast Corridor and Coast Line between Rahway and New York.
- The Gladstone Line and Morristown Line are grouped together, as are the Main and Bergen County Lines, and the Northeast Corridor and Princeton DInky.
The lowest performers are the River Line and Atlantic City lines, both in South Jersey. The Atlantic City Line has low ridership and serves a city with a struggling economy, while the River Line is deeply subsidized because it charges a maximum fare of $1.50.
The highest performers are the Northeast Corridor Line and the Coast Line. The Northeast Corridor has very high ridership, with 118,000 riders every weekday. The Coast Line has significantly lower ridership at about 23,000 a day. Nonetheless, both lines have two factors that lead to high fare recovery rates:
1) Weekend ridership, relatively speaking, is higher on these lines. Saturday ridership is about 45% of weekday ridership, and Sunday ridership is 37% of weekday. On other lines, these figures are anywhere from 10-25%
2) On the Northeast Corridor and Coast Line the average fare paid is most certainly higher than other lines because of the long-distance nature of travel. A one-way from Princeton Junction to New York is $14.75!
Also, the Coast Line has the highest proportion of local riders on the system- about 20% of riders are not traveling to Newark or New York, but between suburban stations. This means that passenger turnover is higher, so the same seat can be occupied twice.