When the Valley's economy was unraveling in 2008, transit service was an early casualty. Three years of cuts ensued. Dozens of bus lines were eliminated, rerouted or truncated. Wait times grew, and fares shot up on buses and light rail.
Some of those transit cuts, and the resulting hardship for many riders, might have been averted if the Valley's transit network were run by a single unified agency, an Arizona Republic analysis indicates. Unified transit systems are common among fast-growing Western cities.
As it is, in Maricopa County, 11 local transit agencies provide bus and rail service, creating redundant costs in administrative personnel and contracted services such as bus operations and security. At $70 million a year, administrative costs make up nearly a quarter of the system's total operating costs, making the Valley the third most top-heavy region in the country, according to data from federal and local agencies
The fragmented system creates redundant functions and staff that can add to costs. RPTA boss David Boggs, for example, earned $258,000 last year, including benefits. His counterpart at Metro rail, Steve Banta, made $293,000. Transit directors at each of the Valley's larger cities earn at least $80,000 a year. If the agencies were combined, spending on such salaries would likely be less because fewer administrators would be needed, Banta and other transit officials say.