Operating revenue per passenger declined from 76 cents in 2021 to 61 cents in 2022; the agency plans a fare increase in 2024
for Clark County Today
The three years of the government lockdowns were devastating to transit agencies around the nation, including Clark County’s C-TRAN. Yet 2022 showed an increase in fixed route ridership but a decline in operating revenue per passenger. C-TRAN’s annual financial report was released in late June.
For each hour a bus is in revenue service, C-TRAN carried 14.5 passengers, up from 12.2 passengers in 2021. Operating revenue per passenger declined from 76 cents in 2021 to 61 cents in 2022. The agency plans a fare increase in 2024 to reverse that trend.
The balance sheet increased by $65 million in 2022. Over the three years of the pandemic, the balance sheet increased by $150 million. A significant part of that cash increase came from the federal government.The transit agency remains free of long term debt.
“C-TRAN was assisted by Federal Stimulus Funding through CARES, CRRSAA and ARP acts that were provided to all agencies in the United States to assist during the pandemic,” C-TRAN officials said in a public records request response. “Some additional factors that impacted the increase in net position was our planned service changes that we built into the budget in 2020-2021, which we put on hold. Those increases have begun to be implemented over the past two years (2022-2023) with more to come in 2024.
“That Federal assistance has not been extended, and it is uncertain if they will take any such action going forward. Other factors influencing the Net Position include growth in the agency’s sales tax revenue, interest income, other ongoing federal and state assistance, as well as one-time grant funding received for capital projects (i.e. capital contributions).”
The Operating Cost Per Revenue Hour increased 15 percent as a result of the 3.0 percent drop in revenue hours and an 11.7 percent increase in operating cost. Each hour a bus is in service costs C-TRAN $180.57, while it brings in $8.84 carrying those 14.5 passengers.
Passenger fares cover 5 percent of operating costs. The farebox recovery ratio is 4.9 percent, meaning Clark County taxpayers cover over 95 percent of C-TRAN operating costs, mainly via sales taxes.
Overall, C-TRAN ridership remains about 36 percent below prepandemic levels. The agency’s transit development plan published last fall indicated C-TRAN officials don’t expect ridership to return to 2019 levels until after 2027.
A small bright spot for the transit agency is its demand transit service, C-TRAN increased service overby 50 percent or 33,000 hours last year. This was primarily due to the creation of a new “micro transit.”
The new service, The Current, began last year. Think Uber or Lyft type of on-demand service in five distinct areas. Those areas are WSU Vancouver/Salmon Creek; Rose Village; Camas/Washougal; and the Port of Vancouver.
Total on demand service carried an additional 61,000 people in 2022, but remains 30 percent below 2019 pre pandemic levels. The Current carries 1.4 boardings per revenue hour. The two most utilized “zones” are Camas/Washougal and Salmon Creek/WSUV (especially when classes are in session), according to C-TRAN.
C-TRAN does not separate The Current costs but includes them in the agency’s total demand response spending. The cost per operating hour in Demand Response is $167.13 per hour. “While ridership in paratransit encompasses less than 5 percent of our total ridership, the expendi