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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009 8 years ago

SCAT's numbers on par with other systems

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Although it has only increased the number of miles driven by 30% during the past five years, SCAT has been able to increase passenger fare collection by 88% over that same time period, while its fuel costs jumped 286%.

Since 2004, SCAT has slowly added to the number of vehicles it has in service and the number of miles it drives.

It operated 86 vehicles in 2004. That number rose to 107 vehicles in 2008. The number of miles driven in that same period jumped from 3.7 million to 4.8 million. And, in the last five years, fuel-and-lubricant costs went from $62,822 to $2.4 million — a 286% rise.

SCAT attributes the rise in fuel costs to the explosion in fuel prices during the past few years and the addition of Sunday and late-evening bus service in 2008.

Even with the rapid rise in collections, passenger fares offset only a small fraction of SCAT’s annual operating budget. Passenger fares totaled $3.1 million in 2008. SCAT’s budget that same year was $21 million.

County tax dollars pay the majority of that budget. According to SCAT General Manager Anthony Beckford, roughly 70% of funding comes from Sarasota County, the federal government provides 20% and 10% comes from the state.

Beckford said public transit’s goal is not to be fully self-sustaining on the money it collects from the fare box. In fact, SCAT’s goal is just to earn 14% of the cost of a route through fares it collects. In 2008, fares accounted for about 12% of SCAT’s operating costs.

Of the 32 public transportation systems in Florida, Beckford said most generate 10% to 12% of their operating costs through fares, so SCAT is now at the high end of the state-transit systems.

But federal and state governments set higher goals.

The federal government requires public-transportation systems to generate 20% of their operating costs through fare collection; the state requires 25%.

When asked what happens if those goals aren’t reached, Beckford said “nothing, really.” Both threaten to take funds away, but Beckford said they’ve never done it, and he doesn’t anticipate it happening.

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