Farebox recovery ratio

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The farebox recovery ratio (also called fare recovery ratio, fare recovery rate or other terms) of a passenger transportation system is the fraction of operating expenses which are met by the fares paid by passengers. It is computed by dividing the system's total fare revenue by its total operating expenses.[1]

Fare structures[edit]

There are two schools of thought in fare collections: a simple, flat rate fare structure (pay a fixed fare regardless of time of day and/or travel distance) or a complex, variable rate fare structure (pay a variable fare depending on time of day and/or travel distance).

In North America, South America, Africa, and Oceania, the majority of the cities use simple, flat rate fare structures due to budgetary constraints. With the majority of North America, most of South America, almost all of Africa, and most of Oceania being heavily reliant on the automobile for both short and long distance travel, majority of the transit budgets are allocated toward construction and maintenance of freeways and roads, with very little funding making way to investments in new mass transit technologies. Inadvertently however, the reliance on simpler fare structures due to their cheaper costs ends up increasing the tax burden on the agencies as flat rate fare structures have lower farebox recovery ratios, placing more pressure to the transit agencies to increase taxes, pursue higher fare hikes, or to cut services to maintain the transit system.

In sharp contrast, majority of the cities in Europe and Asia are heavily dependent on mass transit. Therefore, the majority of their transit budgets are used extensively on mass transit technologies, which enables these countries to install and maintain self-supporting and profitable variable pricing structures. Transit agencies that have instituted a more variable fare structure depending on distances or zones traveled have higher farebox ratios over those that rely on a flat-rate model.[2] In addition, recent urban transit scholars agree that variable pricing methods on public transit would actually be a profitable business which can alleviate many municipal agencies' budget problems.[3] For example, transit riders will be discouraged to travel longer distance due to increasing price as one travels further, reducing human congestion of mass transit riders who ride lengthier trips. On the other hand, an increased number of riders will opt to frequently use the transit system for multiple short and quick hop-on and hop-off trips as prices would be cheaper for shorter trips, which mass transit is better suited for. The downside however is that institution of variable-rate fares requires a high value initial investment in fare ticketing technologies such as the use of contactless smart cards, turnstiles or fare gates, automated ticket machines, as well as the IT infrastructure in which the return on investment may take years depending on the expected transit ridership volumes.[4]

Farebox ratios around the world[edit]

The farebox recovery ratio is the ratio of fare revenue to total transport expenses for a given system.[1] These two figures can be found in the financial statements of the operators. Oftentimes the operator runs multiple modes of transport (e.g. subway and bus), and there is no data for individual modes (segment analysis). In this case the operator is considered as one system, or a group of modes are collectively considered one system.

Fare revenue is not the same as "transport" or "operational" revenue, as there are often secondary sources of revenue such as lockers and paid restrooms. Fare revenue is a subset of transport revenue, which is in turn part of total revenue along with "non-transport" or "non-operational" revenue.

Total "transport" or "operational" expenses are a part of total expenses along with "non-transport" or "non-operational" expenses. Total transport expenses may include expansion projects if they are paid for by the operator.

Ratio of fares to operating costs for public transport systems (%)
Continent Country System Ratio Fare system Fare rate Year
Asia People's Republic of China Hong Kong MTR 123.68%[5] Distance based HK$3.5+ (cash)

HK$3.5+ (Octopus card)

Asia Japan Osaka (Hankyu Railway) 123% Distance based ¥150+ 1991[6]
Asia Japan Osaka (OMTB) 137% Distance based ¥200+ 1991[6]
Asia Japan JR East 84.39%[7] Distance based 2016
Asia Japan Tokyo Metro 119.05%[8] Distance based ¥160+ 2016
Asia Japan Tokyo Toei rail services 73.82%[9] Distance based 2015
Asia Taiwan Taipei Metro 100.14%[10] Distance based NT$20+ (cash)

NT$16+ (EasyCard or other cards)

Asia Taiwan Kaohsiung MRT 83.16%[11] Distance based NT$20+ (cash)

NT$17+ (iPASS or other cards)

Asia Singapore Singapore (SMRT) 100.76% Distance based SGD 1.10+ (cash)

SGD 0.77+ (EZ-Link Card)

Asia China Beijing Subway 59.5%[citation needed] Distance based CNY 3.00+ 2012[13]
Europe Netherlands Amsterdam (GVB) 86.5% Distance based 2016[14]
Europe Netherlands Rotterdam (RET) 80.2% Distance based 2016[15]
Europe Germany Berlin 70.3% Zone based EUR 2.60+ 2010[16]
Europe Belgium Brussels 35.2% 2007[17]
Europe Denmark Copenhagen 52% Zone based 1991[18]
Europe UK London Underground 107.25% Zone based 2016[19]
Europe Spain Metropolitan lines of Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) 93.18% Zone based 2014[20]
Europe Spain Madrid 41.3% 2007[17]
Europe Italy Milan 28% 1991[18]
Europe Germany Munich 42% Zone based 1991[18]
Europe Czech Republic Prague (DPP) 53.2% Flat rate CZK 24+ 2013[21]
Europe France Paris (STIF) 29.7% Zone based for passes
Distance based for tickets
€1.80 2014[22]
Europe Sweden Stockholm 37% Zone based SEK 44–88 (conductor)
SEK 25–50 (SL Access card)
Note: Tickets are not sold on buses.
Europe Italy Rome 36% 2007[17]
Europe Austria Vienna 50% Flat rate EUR 2.00 1991[18]
Europe Finland Helsinki 49%[23] Zone based; each borough forms a zone. Boroughs with a small area are treated as being part of one of their neighbouring boroughs. EUR 2.80–7.00 (cash)
EUR 1.90–5.60 (travel card)
Transfer free of charge
Europe Switzerland Zurich 60% Zone based CHF 4.30+ 2014[18]
North America USA Amtrak 71% Distance & demand based 2009[24]
North America USA Atlanta (MARTA) 24.7% Flat rate US$2.5 2015[25]
North America USA Austin (CMTA) 12.3% Flat rate US$1–US$2.75, depending on modality 2015[26]
North America Canada Brampton (BT) 46% Flat rate C$3.25 (cash)

C$2.65 (Presto Card)

North America USA Boston (MBTA) 40.4% Flat rate US$2.65 (cash) / US$2.1 (CharlieCard) 2015[25]
North America Canada Calgary 50% Flat rate C$3.00 2011[28]
North America USA Chicago (CTA) 42.1% Flat rate US$2.25 (cash and Ventra) 2014[29]
North America USA Chicago (Metra) 42.9% Zone based US$2.75+ 2015[25]
North America USA Cleveland (GCRTA) 20% Flat rate US$2.25 2014[30]
North America USA Dallas (DART) 15.3% Flat rate US$1.75 2016[31]
North America USA Detroit (DDOT) 15.2% Flat rate US$1.5 2014[32]
North America Canada Edmonton (ETS) 39.4% Flat rate C$3.00 2007[33]
North America USA Harrisburg, PA (CAT) 17.1% Flat rate US$1.75 2015[25]
North America USA Las Vegas Monorail 100% Flat rate US$5 2015[34]
North America USA Long Island (MTA) 50.0% Zone based US$5+ 2012[35]
North America USA Los Angeles (LACMTA) 25.5% Flat rate US$1.75, with discounts for seniors, disabled, students 2015[36]
North America USA Maryland 23.1% Variable US$1.6–US$11, depending on distance & modality 2012[35]
North America USA Miami 23% 2015[25]
North America USA Minneapolis – St. Paul 25.2% Flat rate with rush hour and express surcharges US$1.75 to US$3 2015[25]
North America Canada Mississauga (MiWay) 46% Flat rate C$3.25 2011[28]
North America Canada Montreal (STM) 57.1% Flat rate C$3.25 2006[37]
North America USA New York City MTA 37.75%[38] Flat rate US$2.75 2016
North America USA New York City (NYC Ferry) 42.2% Flat Rate US$2.75 2017[39]
North America USA New York/Connecticut (MTA) 36.2% Distance based US$2.25+ 2009 Q1[40]
North America USA New York/New Jersey (PATH) 41.0% Flat rate US$2.75 2015[41]
North America USA New Jersey (NJT) 44% Distance based US$2.25 2014[42]
North America USA Orlando (Lynx) 25.0% Flat rate US$2 2015[25]
North America Canada Ottawa (OC Transpo) 45% Flat rate C$3.65 (Cash)

C$3.30 (Tickets) C$3.00 (Presto Card)

North America USA Philadelphia (SEPTA) 39.5% Flat rate US$2 (cash) / US$1.55 (Token) / US$1 (Transfer) 2015[25]
North America USA Pierce County, WA 29.6% Flat rate US$2 2015[25]
North America USA Philadelphia/New Jersey (PATCO) 49.4% Distance based US$1.4+ 2015[25]
North America USA Portland Metro Area (TriMet) 31.5% Flat rate US$2.5 2012[44]2015[25]
North America USA Greater Seattle Area (King County Metro) 30.1% Zone and peak based US$2.5+[45] 2016[46]
North America USA Puget Sound Region (Sound Transit) 41.5% Zone & distance based US$2.75+ (Bus)[47]

US$2.25+ (Light Rail)[47]

US$1.75+ (Commuter Rail)[47]

North America Canada Quebec City (RTC) 39% Flat rate C$3.00 2011[28]
North America USA San Antonio (VIA) 12.8% Flat rate US$1.2 2015[25]
North America USA San Diego MTS 40.6% Flat rate US$2.5 2015[34]
North America USA San Francisco Bay Area (BART) 80.0% Distance based US$1.95+ 2015[34]
North America USA Oakland Airport Connector 96% Flat rate US$6 2015/2016[49]
North America USA San Francisco Bay Area (Caltrain) 63% Zone based US$3.75+ 2015[50]
North America USA San Francisco Bay Area (SFMTA) 35% Flat rate US$2.25 2016[51]
North America USA Santa Clara County (VTA) 10% Express surcharges US$1.25 to US$12 2016[52]
North America USA Staten Island (MTA) 15.2% Flat rate US$2.75 2015[41]
North America Canada Toronto (TTC) 69.5% Flat rate C$3.00 (tokens/electronic fare card) $3.25 (cash) Jan 2017[53] 2015[54]
North America Canada Toronto, Hamilton and area (GO Transit) 78.2% Distance based C$4.68+ 2013[55]
North America Canada Vancouver TransLink 27.88%[56] Zone based C$2.50+ 2016
North America USA Washington, DC (WMATA) 45.4% Distance and time based US$1.95+ 2015[25]
North America Canada Winnipeg 60% Flat rate C$2.50 2011[28]
Oceania New Zealand Auckland 44% Zone Based 2012/13[57]
Oceania Australia Canberra 21% Flat rate A$4.20 2007[58]
Oceania Australia Sydney 20% Distance based A$0.15 / km 2014[59]
Oceania Australia Melbourne 30% Zone and time based From A$3.76 / hour / zone 2014[60]
Oceania New Zealand Christchurch 35% Zone Based 2012/13[57]
Oceania New Zealand Dunedin 54% Zone Based 2012/13[57]
Oceania New Zealand Hamilton 34% Flat rate 2012/13[57]
Oceania New Zealand Wellington 57% Zone Based 2012/13[57]


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