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The city’s Metropolitan Transit System, which operates 53 miles of light rail and more than 90 bus routes, received a perfect score from the Federal Transit Administration for the second consecutive time.

The esteemed distinction means that for the past six years, MTS has not only been one of the most efficiently operated agencies in the nation, but also that the FTA found no deficiencies in the 24 areas of grant management practices and program implementation it reviewed.

“These audits reflect the results of our continuing efforts to place our limited resources where they are most needed and used,” said Harry Mathis, chairman of the MTS Board of Directors. “This shows that we have a highly efficient and well run operation which provides a high level of service at the lowest cost to the taxpayer compared to other transit agencies.”

In rail and bus route comparisons with nine peers, including Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland, and Phoenix, MTS outperformed them all in categories such as operating cost and subsidy per boarding, operating cost per revenue mile, and farebox recovery ratio (the percentage of operating costs paid by riders’ fares).

For example, where the average operating cost per rail boarding is $3.58 in other agencies, (Dallas operates at a cost of $6.29 per boarding) MTS’ costs are $2.00 per boarding; and with bus operating costs, the average among the other agencies is $4.48 (Dallas again the highest at $6.52), while MTS' bus operating cost are $2.66 per boarding. MTS also has a farebox recovery ratio of 54% while its nine peers average 27.5%.

This is great new for MTS, who recently experienced an 11 percent increase in ridership despite service reductions, and is on pace to generate more than 90 million trips in fiscal year 2012.

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garmonbozia March 30, 2012 @ 3:34 p.m.

I'm sorry, but this is a joke. MTS is not nearly as an effective public transportation system as many other cities.

It's great that ridership is up despite the MTS cutting and even cancelling some services, but that goes more to show of the economic hardships people are facing right now (low pay, high cost of gas) than it does how MTS is running an effective service.

Instead of increasing and expanding upon services (much like Los Angeles which has drastically increased, and continues to increase their public transportation system across the board), MTS has slashed lines and done nothing to invest in the future of San Diego's public transportation. Our highways have continued to get wider and wider every year through many multi-million dollar construction jobs (some projects seemingly starting almost as soon as the previous one ends), and not once has the MTS built a rail to alleviate the onslaught of cars. Even what few express bus routes exist are pretty limiting.

MTS is also quite ineffective when trying to connect to the North County Transit District's Coaster and Sprinter rails that do exist. No direct MTA buses connect to the Sorrento Valley Coaster Station or the Sprinter Escondido Station. MTA-provided Sorrento Valley shuttles don't even operate at all times, making it impossible to make some rails.

The nighttime and weekend MTA service is also very poor. I live in Mira Mesa, and there is now only one route on a Sunday (Route 20), which goes between Escondido and Downtown. If I wanted to get to UTC (6 miles away), I would have to take one bus down to Fashion Valley, and then transfer to another bus up to UTC for a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes, covering 21 miles. I could walk there in 1 hour 57 minutes. This is the opposite of effective.

I realize I may be in a minority, living in an area more north of the city that relies more on cars to get around, but I have seen the transportation system in this area decrease in effectiveness over time while the population increases. Public transportation should only increase in areas of population growth.

So congratulations, MTA...you have a very ineffective and regressive service but you keep costs low enough with a smaller service to make it look good for the books. I would gladly pay more for a more effective service that ran better, more frequently, and invested in the future of San Diego.

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Visduh March 30, 2012 @ 4:56 p.m.

You are not wrong. The MTS doesn't tend to run buses where people need them, and its record with keeping to its schedules is dismal. Wait an hour or more and then three buses come by, bumper to bumper, all showing the same route number. The Coaster would be much more valuable for North County residents if they could get to work and back home using an MTS bus connection. Downtown or near there, it works fine if you can walk. I don't know if this survey also looked at San Francisco; if it did, there is a massive disconnect with reality. The Muni Rail there has wonderful service that is frequent and cheap. Professionals in that city who also live in the city are crazy if they drive a car to work and back. No, this award is most misleading, and is also meaningless to the person wanting to use public transit.

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garmonbozia March 30, 2012 @ 7:05 p.m.

Your point about San Francisco is a good point. I think because the BART utilizes a system of paying a different amount depending on how far you go, that might have affected the part on this survey about costs. But I also feel that the effectiveness and availability of a public transportation system far outweighs the cost of the ride. If you can't ride a bus or rail line past a certain time or to a certain area, what difference does it matter whether it costs $2 or $20?

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Twister March 30, 2012 @ 4:15 p.m.

No reference, much less a link, to sources.

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mridolf March 31, 2012 @ 7:42 a.m.

Yeah, I've always said that MTS can give me a call when they bring the trolley to the airport, the beaches, and the north county. The study seems to be an industry insider sponsored report, concerned only with costs per rider.

I've always thought we could designate our rail system, 'The Trolley to Nowhere'. Or at least, nowhere anyone wants to go.

And by the way, I live in Tierrasanta. There's only one bus line through here, and it only runs weekdays. I guess that keeps out the riff-raff, athough I remember there used to be a bus line that went directly from Tierrasanta to Mission Beach. Guess it wasn't cost effective.

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David Dodd March 31, 2012 @ 8:46 a.m.

I think that public transportation in San Diego is great compared to other areas I've been to. Certainly, it's impossible to have service everywhere, no city does that. But having relied on public transportation in San Diego for well over a decade, I give it a big thumbs-up. Go to Las Vegas and compare that disaster to San Diego.

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garmonbozia March 31, 2012 @ 2:48 p.m.

San Francisco, Los Angeles and most Orange County cities transit systems cover a great deal of their cities -- far more than San Diego covers -- so it's not impossible. If anything, MTS has taken away or drastically reduced lines from areas over the years. Depending on where you live in San Diego, mostly for residents south of the 8, the MTS probably works fine as they have quite a lot more area covered, but north of the 8 is sporadic at best.

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David Dodd April 1, 2012 @ 9:17 a.m.

I grew up in Los Angeles. Of course, back then they had no rail system, but the public transportation system was horrible as late as around 1990 when I left to move to Baja. I've not hung out in San Francisco much, so I wouldn't know about BART (I'm told it's swell), but I found San Diego to be so much better than Los Angeles. True, my travels almost always occur south of I-8, so I will defer to your knowledge about that, but I haven't driven in well over a decade now. You can get anywhere in Tijuana very cheaply and easily, and the places I visit in San Diego I can reach without a problem. I feel quite liberated not having to worry about an automobile or contributing to the problems they often cause.

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SDUnemployed March 31, 2012 @ 11:58 a.m.

I have to agree that the award is somewhat dubious. I have used the public transportation in the Bay Area and it is better than Los Angeles or San Diego, no question. I find the transportation system in San Diego very disjointed and limited. The public transportation in Los Angeles is not very efficient. For Los Angeles and San Diego, you have to drive to get anywhere while I have been able to get to Oakland/Berkeley and San Francisco in a reasonable amount of time. I like taking public transportation to get to the airport-that is not an option in San Diego.

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garmonbozia March 31, 2012 @ 2:27 p.m.

I went to one of the High-Speed Rail community meetings last year, and they were talking about making the San Diego hub right at the north side of the airport. Would be amazing if it worked out because I would hope that would shift or create some routes that would make that a major stop, but I'm not holding my breath. Until then, there is a bus 992 that constantly goes from downtown to the airport. It runs pretty frequently and at most hours of the day.

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Visduh March 31, 2012 @ 10 p.m.

In San Diego, the term "transit system" is an oxymoron. There is NO system to the MTS transit. The buses don't articulate with the trolley or with the Coaster in an effective fashion.

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tokyojimu April 4, 2012 @ 1:32 a.m.

Note that two of the three factors on which the award is based are "...subsidy per boarding" and "farebox recovery ratio".

The reason MTS does so well in these areas is that the fares are so high. The "subsidy" is low and the "farebox recovery" is high compared to other transit systems because we pay $2.25~$2.50 per trip while, for example, riders in L.A. pay $1.50.

Bravo, MTS! Goes to show you that what transit systems are proud of is not in any way related to what riders want. When was the last time the person in the seat next to you griped that he sure wished the system's farebox recovery ratio was higher.

Reminds me of the L.A. MTA official quoted as saying that they needed to raise fares because the buses were getting too many riders.

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