Gwinnett Transit

Taxpayers pay over 85% of the cost of each rider on a Gwinnett bus

Taxpayers pay over 85% of the cost of each rider on a Gwinnett bus

Information about the Gwinnett Transit system is not easily gleaned from the massive Gwinnett County budget documents.  Perhaps because it requires work to get all the data contributes to the fact that you rarely see complete financials.  But it is important to know what is currently going on with the County’s busses before we expand or change the system.

We wanted four years of data, but at the time of this writing 2018 data was not available, so everything below is from 2015, 2016 and 2017 data.  Governments always separate capital expenses from operating expenses, which is appropriate, but when they do their per customer cost calculations they only use the operating budget.  This is true for bus riders just like it is for school students.  But without the bus system, the County would not be spending tax dollars on associated capital projects, so it is completely reasonable to put all of the costs together.  The County also is also reluctant to include State and Federal dollars spent on a program, but since these are tax dollars they all come from us anyway, and without including all money spent you can’t calculate total costs.

One more note by way of introduction – the County doesn’t really track bus riders, they track something called “Unlinked Trips.”  A person riding only one bus from origin to destination takes ONE unlinked trip.  A person who transfers to a second bus takes TWO unlinked passenger trips.  The only data we have to work with is unlinked trips, but as you can imagine because of transfers the actual number of riders will be lower than the number of unlinked trips, because many bus riders will transfer to a second (or even third) bus to complete their journey.  That means that the actual costs per rider are higher than those we show.

Taxpayers pay $13.50 every time someone steps on a Gwinnett County bus

So, here it is.  From 2015 to 2017 Gwinnett Transit had 4,519,940 unlinked trips.  They took in almost $10 million in fare revenue, but over the same period spent just over $70 million to keep the system running.  Take out the revenue from passengers and you find that taxpayers subsidized the Gwinnett County Transit system to the tune of $60,274,837.  That is an average of $20 million each year.

Over our three year period, we find the total cost per unlinked trip comes out to be an average of $15.69.  The average fare collected was only $2.18, which means that taxpayers paid $13.50 per trip.

At $15.69 per trip, does it really make sense to have bus service in Gwinnett?

Below are the actual numbers for 2015-2017

2015 2016 2017 3-year totals Averages
Unlinked – Bus 975,454 994,633 1,035,561 3,005,648 1,001,883
Unlinked – Commuter Bus 582,089 474,365 376,517 1,432,971 477,657
Unlinked – Demand Response 28,812 27,450 25,059 81,321 27,107
Unlinked Total 1,586,355 1,496,448 1,437,137 4,519,940 1,506,647
Total unlinked decline -5.67% -3.96%
Commuter unlinked decline -18.51% -20.63%
Operating Funds
Fare Revenues $3,880,049 $3,078,115 $2,948,167 $9,906,331 $3,302,110
Local Funds $4,273,512 $6,291,132 $8,205,714 $18,770,358 $6,256,786
State Funds $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Federal Funds $4,908,402 $4,394,038 $7,257,097 $16,559,537 $5,519,846
Other Funds $2,095,741 $1,224,349 $74,556 $3,394,646 $1,131,549
Total $15,157,704 $14,987,634 $18,485,534 $48,630,872 $16,210,291
Capital Funds
Fare Revenues $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Local Funds $54,736 $2,552,342 $6,243,194 $8,850,272 $2,950,091
State Funds $0 $0 $346,454 $346,454 $115,485
Federal Funds $121,043 $10,121,745 $2,110,782 $12,353,570 $4,117,857
Other Funds $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total $175,779 $12,674,087 $8,700,430 $21,550,296 $7,183,432
Total Costs (capital + operating) $15,333,483 $27,661,721 $27,185,964 $70,181,168 $23,393,723
Total cost taking out revenue $11,453,434 $24,583,606 $24,237,797 $60,274,837 $20,091,612
Unlinked trip fair revenue $2.45 $2.06 $2.05 $2.18
Operating funds per unlinked $9.56 $10.02 $12.86 $10.81
Capital fund per unlinked $0.11 $8.47 $6.05 $4.88
Total cost per unlinked $9.67 $18.48 $18.92 $15.69
Total taxpayer cost per unlinked $7.22 $16.43 $16.87 $13.50
Funding breakdown per unlinked trip Percent of Total
Fare Revenues $2.45 $2.06 $2.05 $2.18 14%
Local Funds $2.73 $5.91 $10.05 $6.23 40%
State Funds $0.00 $0.00 $0.24 $0.08 1%
Federal Funds $3.17 $9.70 $6.52 $6.46 41%
Other Funds $1.32 $0.82 $0.05 $0.73 5%

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