Farebox recovery ratio

The farebox recovery ratio of a passenger transportation system is the proportion of the amount of revenue generated through fares by its paying customers as a fraction of the cost of its total operating expenses. Most systems aren't self-supporting, so advertising revenue and government subsidies are usually required to cover costs. The Hong Kong MTR Corporation is one of the few self-supporting transit systems in the world.

Need for government subsidy

There are several practical reasons for government subsidies of public transit. By subsidizing mass transit, it encourages ridership and subsequently lowers traffic congestion. Another benefit is lowering pollution from single occupant vehicles that are no longer on the roads. The third benefit is reducing infrastructure costs needed to build and maintain more street, highway, and freeway lanes associated with increased traffic congestion. These factors considered together also contribute to a better quality of life as defined by global quality of living measurements.

However, some argue that there would be no need to subsidize mass transit if gasoline (petroleum) were not also subsidized. In 1965, the landmark "Urban Transportation Problem" by John Meyers argued that the urban transportation problem was actually a pricing problem. Consumers do not pay the actual cost for congestion and the government subsidizes all modes. This creates a modal imbalance between all modes but particularly between subsidized urban highways and transit. A study by the International Center for Technology Assessment found that after accounting for government subsidies, pollution cleanup and other costs, the real price of gasoline is estimated to be somewhere between and per gallon. Were gasoline sold within this range of prices, people might voluntarily drive less, choose more fuel-efficient vehicles, and use mass transit.

Farebox ratios around the world

The following table lists farebox ratios for some public transportation systems around the world.

Ratio of fares to operating costs for public transport systems (%)
System Ratio Year
Hong Kong MTR 149% 2007
Osaka (Hankyu Railway) 123% 1991
Osaka (OMTB) 137% 1991
Taipei Rapid Transit System 119% 2006
Teito RTA (now Tokyo Metro) 170% 1991
Brussels 28% 1991
Copenhagen 52% 1991
London Underground 84% 1991
Milan 28% 1991
Munich 42% 1991
RATP (Paris) 43% 1991
Stockholm Transport 44% 1996
Vienna 50% 1991
Zurich 66% 1991
North America
Atlanta (MARTA) 31.8% 2007
Bay Area (BART) 56% 2005
Bay Area (Caltrain) 54% 2001
Chicago (CTA) 44.3% 2002
Edmonton, Canada (ETS) 39.4% 2007
Toronto, Canada (GO Transit) 89.4% 2007
Cleveland (GCRTA) 21.5% 2002
Detroit (DDOT) 13.9% 2002
Los Angeles (LACMTA) 30.6% 2004
Las Vegas Monorail 56.0% 2006
Maryland (MTA) 26.3% 2002
Massachusetts Bay (MBTA) 43.7% 2002
Miami-Dade Transit 16.1% 2002
Montreal (STM) 57.1% 2006
New York City subway 67.3% 2002
New Jersey Transit 56% 2001
Ottawa(OC) 43.2% 2007
New York/New Jersey (PATH) 41.0% 2002
Philadelphia (SEPTA) 58.6% 2002
Philadelphia/New Jersey (PATCO) 61.4% 2002
Puget Sound Region (King County Metro Transit) 19.1% 2006
Puget Sound Region (Sound Transit) 22.2% 2007
Staten Island Railway 15.2% 2002
Toronto Transit Commission 74.5% 2005
Washington, DC (WMATA) 61.6% 2002
Capitol Area Transit, Harrisburg, PA (CAT) 35.0% 2005


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