Thursday, December 11, 2014

St car ridership numbers and on time performance has been a fraud

Why is Trimet doing ridership statistics for the Portland Streetcar? I thought the street car was independent of Trimet? It makes me wonder if Trimet's own ridership and on time statistics are fudged also. I bet they are. Has anybody ever audited the Trimet ridership and on time statistics?

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A new audit show ridership numbers on the Portland Streetcar were overestimated by 19% — that is, 1.1 million rides.
Diane Dulken with the Portland Bureau of Transportation said there was a glitch in the TriMet reporting, “and TriMet immediately fixed that, so they provided the corrected numbers to us.”
The auditor’s office found 98% of the streetcar trips were completed on time. But another look found the trips were on schedule 82% of the time.(82% on time is still not believable)
The audit said Portland Streetcar records didn’t exist in some cases or were outdated or had little detail.
PBOT said they’ve already made changes and is ready to meet the demands once the new Tilikum Crossing opens.
Audit shows Streetcar ridership overstated

Administrators for Portland's renowned streetcar system publicly overstated last year's estimated ridership by 19 percent and falsely claimed that nearly every vehicle arrived on time, according to a city audit released Thursday.
The new findings show that estimated ridership hit 4.5 million from July 2013 through June 2014, 1.1 million less than the 5.6 million rides originally reported by Portland Streetcar Inc.
Auditors also found that Portland's claim of on-time service was flat-out wrong.
City goals call for streetcars to arrive on time 98 percent of the time, and officials stated that was happening. But in reality, streetcars arrived on schedule just 82 percent of the time, according to the audit.
In sum, Portland's streetcar system lacks clear targets and reliable data, and too frequently fails to hit the few benchmarks that do exist, auditors concluded.
"Good management requires good information," said Drummond Kahn, director of Portland's Audit Services. "Data problems or a lack of goal-setting make it difficult for management to judge its successes or failures."
The revised numbers still show that Portland's streetcar system added more than 500,000 riders from the previous fiscal year, while on-time reliability is close to that of bus or light-rail service. But the report dispels a purported ridership spike or near-perfect performance.
"The audit was really helpful," said Diane Dulken, a spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. "It's helping us improve a system that's working."
Thursday's report marks the final audit issued under LaVonne Griffin-Valade, Portland's elected auditor since May 2009. During her tenure, Griffin-Valade launched auditors on a variety of high-profile foul-ups or controversies, spotlighting a $47 million software system that went over budget, questionable water and sewer spending and poor stewardship of the city's crumbling streets.
In a report this year, auditors found that the bureaucracy behind Portland's $251 million streetcar system is "convoluted and confusing." Thursday's audit dug deeper, tracking whether the streetcar system was actually meeting targets.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation owns, operates and is financially responsible for a soon-to-be 17-car streetcar system, while TriMet provides the operators. But the city hands over some administrative responsibility to Portland Streetcar, a nonprofit with its own independent governing board and executive director.
The audit found that the Transportation Bureau lacked any benchmarks for safety. It also largely was without targets for running the system in a cost-effective manner. And in cases in which Portland defined benchmarks for reliability, auditors found problems with reporting, information or a lack of success.
Portland's inflated ridership numbers result from faulty estimates provided by TriMet, the audit found. Some ridership numbers were apparently counted twice.
TriMet caught its mistake after auditors questioned discrepancies between local ridership statistics posted online and those contained in a federal transit database. TriMet provided auditors with accurate numbers in recent weeks.
Numbers for fiscal year 2014 were overstated by 11 percent, or about 412,000 rides for the westside line, according to audit work papers. For the eastside line, numbers were inflated by 35 percent, or 677,000 rides. Ridership figures were modestly misreported for the 2013 fiscal year, as well, but other years did not require corrections.
"It's frustrating, but I'm not concerned," Dan Bower, Portland Streetcar's new executive director, wrote in response to written questions. "TriMet has provided solid numbers from the past and as of last week, we have automatic passenger counters on our trains so reliability should improve dramatically."
The audit also highlighted that streetcars don't always arrive on time, defined as up to 90 seconds early or five minutes late. Streetcars arrive on schedule just 82 percent of the time, far less often that the 98 percent that officials reported.
For years, Portland Streetcar relied on staff to manually log service outages or delays, despite the fact that the city purchased a system in 2001 to track reliability.
Bower said the reported on-time statistics didn't match his experience, and he dug into the numbers. In response, Portland Streetcar changed its methodology one month after Bower started, he said, and he called it "odd" that auditors would highlight discrepancies that were already being addressed.
Bower said he now wants a more "realistic goal" for on-time reliability, although none has been established.
"There isn't a transit system in the world that achieves 98% on time performance," Bower wrote.
The audit also found discrepancies with the reported cost-effectiveness of the system.
The Transportation Bureau reported that the streetcar system met its target for cost-effectiveness, at about $160 per vehicle operating hour. But city officials had no supporting documents to back up that claim, according to the audit.
Statistics submitted by TriMet to the Federal Transit Administration painted a far different picture, however. Portland Streetcar reported hourly vehicle operating costs at $323, according to 2012 data, the most recent available, compared with $142 for bus and $188 for rail.
And the audit also found that Clackamas-based United Streetcar, which built six new streetcars for Portland, "has not met minimum contractual requirements" for performance.
According to the audit, seven of nine vehicle systems examined experienced failures earlier than expected. While friction braking and suspension systems have passed requirements, lighting, electrical and propulsion issues have been among the problems, according to the report.
United Streetcar's vehicles, which began entering service in 2013, come with a two-year warranty.
"We need to track this over a longer period of time and identify what issues, if any, are leading to the failures," said Kathryn Levine, who manages some streetcar work for the Transportation Bureau.
Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Transportation Bureau, declined through an aide to comment on the audit.
Portland pioneered the second coming of streetcars in 2001 when it opened a downtown streetcar line under then-city Commissioner Charlie Hales. Mayors from across the country and other federal dignitaries frequently visit Portland to tour the city's system.
Over the years, Portland has expanded its line to the South Waterfront and the Central Eastside. Next year, Portland's eastside connection will complete a full loop when the new Tilikum Crossing opens across the Willamette River.
Asked how the audit might affect perceptions of Portland Streetcar, Dulken, the city spokeswoman, said:
"The audit helps us improve service. The service that people experience every day is what they'll judge us on."
-- Brad Schmidt
  Portland Streetcar annual ridership inflated by 19 percent, 1.1 million rides, audit reports |

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