RT is looking at service cuts to less patronized routes as well as service adjustments to trim out the worst of the under performing routes. Cries of protest naturally are occurring from the decision however, RT can no longer afford the luxury of funding routes that carry few people.
In Sacramento, one route waiting for the budget ax to fall is the Downtown Trolley which averages about 5 riders per hour. "The bus' value transcends skimpy ridership numbers" states RT driver Stephen Renda in defense of the under performing route. Renda then continues that the tourist trolley bus is a "Welcome to Sacramento' bus for tourists".
Renda also states that Sacramento needs more transit, not less. That brings me to ask this, how is all the extra service you want going to be paid for?
I hear the same in every city. More service not less but let's face a hard reality, transit can't continue to run routes and trips that carry nobody just on the hope that someone might ride. The same people that use the "more service, not less" battle cry are the same ones that have fits when their taxes and fares go up to pay for it or their precious social services get slashed to pay for it.
Transit needs to become efficient if it is to survive. Running routes that fall well below ridership minimum standards is not efficient. In Sacramento, the first route I would eliminate would be the Downtown Trolley. It serves few, is duplicated by other routes and is a luxury the system can't afford.
The RT, as well as most transit systems out there, need to take a good hard look at the routes they run. Many routes can stand some thinning out of a trip here and there. One of the tried and proven techniques of increasing efficiency is being on top of the ridership trends and shuffling service to meet those trends. Yes, that means low performing routes get the ax but it also means increased ridership as freed up service can be sent to routes and areas that justify having the service. Sadly, this technique isn't used much these days as transit has become so political and the brain dead politicians can't comprehend such things as they insist that low performing routes be kept so they can get a few votes at election time.
Low performing areas can often still be served by a simple deviation from an existing nearby route on select trips. This frees up manpower and equipment that can be better utilized elsewhere while reducing the cost to serve the low performing area. Another simple and proven technique is to trim back headways on certain routes. Taking a route that runs every 20 minutes and changing it to every 30 minutes has little impact on the existing ridership (beside a slightly longer wait time) but frees up 1/3 of the service for service elsewhere or just plain elimination.
I'm sure the administration at the RT has plenty of waste as well that can be trimmed to save money. Union contracts are another area that I'm sure has plenty of waste built into it.
Many of the problem transit finds itself in today can be traced back to the 1970's and 1980's. That was the period that many of the low ridership routes routes came to be along with generous union contracts as well as having the money available to just waste without worrying about it. Well, it caught up with the transit systems as costs continue to climb and inefficient operations became ingrained as part of the culture of public transit. Few operations during the 1970's and 1980's were immune to this. While some did well at making the routes efficient during this time like PAT in Pittsburgh during the early 1970's, they became top heavy in administration and were learning the ways of wasteful spending in other areas.
The bottom line here is that transit is at the brink of failure today. Through inefficient operations and plain wasteful spending practices. Of course the riding public is the one that suffers for it and the only way to even begin to deal with the situation that transit systems find themselves in now is to go back to the basics of providing service which includes eliminating low ridership routes and freeing those resources for use in areas that will utilize those resources effectively. Money is not unlimited and it's time for everyone to understand that point.