Comparison of Transit Operating Costs of 17 World Cities.

Arthur Gron
Feb., 2018.

The purpose of this research paper is to determine if the overall size of Toronto public transit's operating budget is within a reasonable range of other cities that are similarly ranked to Toronto.

The 17 cities chosen were partially based on the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) ranking of world cities ("The World According to GaWC," 2017). Cities between Beta+ and Alpha+ were selected, as those cities had a ranking simialar to Toronto's of Alpha. An exception, Manchester though ranked a Beta- city was also included to help diversify the comparison away from a North American perspective. GaWC ranks cities based upon the office networks of 175 advanced producer service firms in 707 cities. To simplify the research, only transit agencies with budgets published in English were selected. Also Alpha++ cities were excluded, as the size of those budgets were magnitudes larger than Toronto's. The following cities were compared;
Los Angeles,
San Francisco,

Only operating costs for transit were compared as the capital costs between cities may fluctuate for a number of reasons. Larger infrastructures projects are not regular occurrences. The cost of building may vary greatly depending on the type of project pursued and local geological/climate conditions.

A per person cost of transit in a municipality was calculated. This was carried out to adjust for size differences of service areas provided by transit. The per person cost of transit was calculated based on total persons residing in the transit operator's service area. A per rider cost of transit was not used. The purpose was to compare municipal budgeting and not the efficiency of a transit system.

Municipalities fund transit using numerous methods, this proved to be a challenge. Some municipalities grant monopolies to private operaters, other municipalities have their transit systems funded by higher levels of government. As such, this comparison of operating budgets for transit systems functioning in the 17 cities is meant as only an approximation. Each municiplity had some form of public transit (bus, tram, light rail, commuter rail). Examining the gross operating costs on a per capita basis ranks a city's priority to providing public transit.



Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) operates public transit in the Atlanta metropolitan area, specifically; Fulton, Dekalb and Clayton counties. ("FY206: Adopted Budget Book," 2015)

Fulton county has a population of 948,550. Dekalb has a population of 700,310. Clayton has a population of 262,460. The service area population of MARTHA is 1,911,320.("Population by County in the Atlanta Area," 2018)

The operating expenses for MARTA in the fiscal year 2017 were $451,220,000(USD). This is approximately $555,027,673(CAD).("MARTOC Report: Fiscal Year 2017," 2017) This makes the per person operating expenses for public transport in Atlanta approximately $290(CAD).


Auckland Transport is responsible for all of the region's transport, excluding state highways. ("Auckland Transport:About Us," 2018)

1.42 million live in the Auckland Region. ("Auckland fastest-growing region," 2013)

$427.5(NZD) million public transport expenditure (page 10)(operating funding) total revenue is 1,713,900,000. ("Auckland Transport Annual Report 2017," 2017) Public transit spend is approximately $387,486,000(CAD) in Auckland.

Auckland spends approximately $273(CAD) per person on public transportation.


The total operating expenses for Boston's public transit, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in the fiscal year of 2016 were $1,568,855,291(USD). Approximately $1,948,753,599(CAD).("MBTA: FY2016 Operating Budget," 2015)

Since 2009 the MBTA has been under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. ("The History of the T," 2018)

The total population of the service area of the MBTA is 4,812,658 persons ("Ridership and Service Statistics Fourteenth Edition 2014," 2014). This puts the per person operational spending at approximately $405 (CAD).


The RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) was established in 1974 to oversee local transportation operators in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area. There are three RTA service boards - CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), Metra (the suburban rail system), and Pace (the suburban bus system).("CTA Overview," 2018)

CTA has an operating budget of $1,514,000,000 ($USD) for the fiscal year of 2018. (Peterson, 2017) This is approximately $1,880,615,100(CAD).

The service area of the CTA has a population of 3,500,000 people. This means that the per person public transit expenditure is approximately $537(CAD). ("CTA Facts at a Glance," 2017)


Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is a regional transit authority. It is funded with a one-cent local sales tax. The service area consists of 13 cities; Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Glenn Heights, Highland Park, Irving, Plano, Richardson, Rowlett, and University Park. In 2017 DART's operating budget was $494.4(USD) million.("Facts about Dallas Area Rapid Transit," 2018) Approximately $614,118,960(CAD).

According to the 2000 Census, the service area had a population of 2,149,381. ("Review of Dallas Area Rapid Transit," 2010) Dallas' public transit has an operating cost of approximately $286(CAD) per person.


Public transportation in Dublin is primarily through buses, with a few rail and tram lines. ("Dublin: Public Transportation," 2018)

Bus Átha Cliath-Dublin Bus, was founded in 1987, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state-owned Córas Iompar Eireann Group (Ireland's national public transport provider). Dublin Bus operates the Public Service Obligation network in the Greater Dublin Area, under contract of services with the National Transport Authority. ("Corporate Information," 2018)

Total operating costs for 2016 were €281,653,000. This is approximately $429,825,010(CAD). ("Bus Atha Cliath: Annual Report 2016," 2016)

The Greater Dublin Area has a population of 1,662,536 people.

("Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area 2010-2022," 2010)

Dividing the operating cost of $429,825,010 by the population of 1,662,536 gives an approximate value of $259 per person. The operating cost of public transport in Dublin is approximated $259(CAD) per person.


Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) formed in 2013. TfE is the parent company of Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams. TfE is an independent organization owned by the City of Edinburgh Council. TfE was created as the single economic entity allowing Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams to cooperate ("Strategy for Delivery 2017-2021," 2017).

Edinburgh has a population of 492,680. ("Population of Edinburgh," 2018)

The combined operating revenue for both Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams is £156,760,000(GDP) for 2016. ("Consolidated Financial Statements For the Year Ended 31 December 2016," 2017) Approximately $275,011,906(CAD). The per person spending on transportation in Edinburgh is approximately $558(CAD).


The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) provides transit services to, and collects sales taxes from the cities of Houston, Bellaire, Bunker Hill Village, El Lago, Hedwig Village, Hilshire Village, Humble, Hunters Creek Village, Katy, Missouri City, Piney Point Village, Southside Place, Spring Valley Village, Taylor Lake Village, and West University Place, in addition to significant portions of unincorporated Harris County. This service area has a population of 3.6 million people. The operating budget for the fiscal year of 2018 is $620,063,000(USD).("Metro Business Plan & Budget 2018," 2018) Approximately $770,211,255(CAD).

The per person operating budget for public transit in Houston is $214(CAD)

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), services an area of 9.6 million people, using both bus and rail ("About Metro," 2018).

The total operating costs for the 2017 fiscal year were $1,129,857,000(USD).("Proposed Budget Fiscal Year 2018," 2017) This is $1,388,763,731(CAD). This means that the per person operating costs for public transit in Los Angeles is approximately $145(CAD).


Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is the local government body that implements Greater Manchester Combined Authority(GMCA) policies. TfGM works with bus, tram and train operators, pays for bus services at time and in areas with no commercial bus service, and subsidizes affordable fares. The majority of TfGM’s revenue funding is provided by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority via a council tax levy.("About TfGM," 2018)

GMCA has a budget of £250.8 million for 2017/18 on transport activities, excluding capital. ("Investing in Greater Manchester Transport," 2017) Approximately $388,245,782(CAD.

The population for Greater Manchester is 2.7 million people. ("GMCA: Who We Are," 2018). Per person spending on operations in Manchester is approximately $144(CAD).

This figure is low because it does not include the private operating costs of the bus companies in Manchester and only represents government spending per person on public transit.


Melbourne's public transit is administered by the state of Victoria, specifically by Public Transport Victoria. "Public Transport Victoria (PTV) is a statutory authority that manages Victoria’s train, tram and bus services." ("About PTV," 2013)

Victoria has a population of 6,323,600. ("Australian Demographic Statistics," 2017)

The total payments for Public Transport Victoria in 2017 include;
Payments to service providers and transport agencies 2,886,788,000(AUD),
Fare receipts (remitted to transport operators) 642,314,000(AUD),
Payments to suppliers and employees 84,058,000(AUD),
Interest and other costs of finance paid 40,511,000(AUD).
("Annual Report 2016-17," 2017) This is a total of $3,653,671,000(AUD) which in $3,624,673,611(CAD).

The approximate per person spending on public transit in Victoria is $573(CAD). This number $573 will be used as a proxy for the amount spent per person on public transit in Melbourne. This is a high figure because the state of Victoria is responsible for transit in both rural and urban settings.


The operating expenditures for FY 2017/8 for Miami-Dade's public transport is $618,223,000(USD). This is approximately $767,925,699(CAD). ("FY 2017 - 18 Proposed Budget and Multi-Year Capital Plan," 2017)

The population for Miami-Dade is 2,693,117.("Miami ‐ Dade County Profiles American Community Survey," 2016) This translates to a public transit operating budget of approximately $285(CAD) per person.

San Francisco

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) was created in 1999 as a separate agency of the City and County of San Francisco. The Municipal Railway, Sustainable Streets (previously named as Parking and Traffic), Parking Authority, and Taxi Service make up the SFMTA. ("SFMTA FY2015 and FY2016 Adopted Operating Budget," 2015)

SFMTA had a $1.02 Billion Annual operating budget for 2016.("SFMTA Budget FY2017/8," 2016) That is approximately $1,266,993,000(CAD).

The population of San Francisco is 852,469. ("2015 SFMTA Factsheet," 2016) The per person cost of public transportation in San Francisco is approximately $1,486.


Singapore's public transit is controlled by the government agency Land Transport Authority (LTA). The LTA owns all infrastructure, rolling stock, and buses. The LTA leases out the operations to private companies. The two main companies are SMRT Trains Ltd (SMRT) and SBS Transit; several other companies exist but are not as large as either SMRT or SBS. ("Singapore Land Transport Authority: Train Operators," 2018)

SBS's operating costs were $1,057,000,000(SGD) for the fiscal year of 2016. ("SBS Transit: Annual Report 2016," 2016) SMRT's operating costs for 2016 are $1,235,500,000(SGD). ("SMRT: Annual Report 2016," 2016) The combined operating costs for SBS and SMRT are $2,292,500,000(SGD) for fiscal year 2016. This is approximately $2,163,225,925(CDN).

Singapore's population is approximately 5,607,283.("Yearbook of Statistics Singapore," 2017) The per person spending on public transit operations in Singapore is approximately $385(CAD). This number may be an under-estimate, as only the top two transit companies were included, and the operating costs of several smaller transit companies were not included.


Transit for Sydney is governed by the state of New South Wales (NSW). Transport for NSW is the lead transport organization and is "responsible for strategy, planning, policy, regulation, funding allocation and other non-service delivery functions for all modes of transport in NSW including road, rail, ferry, light rail, point to point, regional air, cycling and walking". ("Our organisation," 2018)

The 2017/18 expense budget is $2,907,300,000(AUD) for "all train, bus, ferry and light rail services and operations throughout Sydney, regional and rural NSW." ("Budget Estimates 2017-18," 2017) This operating budget is approximately $2,863,399,770 in Canadian dollars.

New South Wales has a population of 7,861,100.("Australian Demographic Statistics," 2017) This means that the per person operating cost of public transit for NSW is $364(CAD). This estimate will be used as a proxy for the operating cost of transit in Sydney, per person.

This figure of per person spending is high because it represents spending by NSW in both rural and urban settings.


The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is responsible for the consolidation, co-ordination and service planning of local passenger transportation within Toronto. ("Toronto Transit Commission," 2018)

The gross operating costs for the TTC was $1,804,282,300 for the 2017 fiscal year. ("Toronto 2018 Budget," 2018)

Toronto has a population of 2.79 million people. ("Toronto Facts," 2017)

The approximately per capita operating cost of the TTC is $647.


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) was created by an interstate compact in 1967. In 1969, Metro began building a rail system, and in 1979 Metrorail began operating. Metrobus acquired four regional bus systems in 1973. Today Metrorail and Metrobus serve a population of approximately 4 million. ("History: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority," 2018)

$1,837,243,000(USD) is the proposed operating budget for the fiscal year of 2019.("FY2019 Proposed Budget," 2018) This is approximately $2,282,131,392(CAD). This makes the per person operating spending on public transit in Washington approximately $571(CAD).

Transit Operating Expenditure By City

City Population Serviced Operating Budget $CAD Per Person $CAD
Atlanta 1,911,320 555,027,673 290
Auckland 1,420,000 387,486,000 273
Boston 4,812,658 1,948,753,599 405
Chicago 3,500,000 1,880,615,100 537
Dallas 2,149,381 614,118,960 286
Dublin 1,662,536 429,825,010 259
Edinburgh 492,680 275,011,906 558
Houston 3,600,000 770,211,255 214
Los Angeles 9,600,000 1,388,763,731 145
Manchester 2,700,000 388,245,782 144
Melbourne 6,323,600 3,624,673,611 573
Miami-Dade 2,693,117 767,925,699 285
San Francisco 852,469 1,266,993,000 1486
Singapore 5,607,283 2,163,225,925 385
Sydney 7,861,100 2,863,399,770 364
Toronto 2,790,000 1,804,282,300 647
Washington 4,000,000 2,282,131,392 571

Ranking of Transit Operating Expenditure

Rank City Population Serviced Operating Budget $CAD Per Person $CAD
1 San Francisco 852,469 1,266,993,000 1486
2 Toronto 2,790,000 1,804,282,300 647
3 Melbourne 6,323,600 3,624,673,611 573
4 Washington 4,000,000 2,282,131,392 571
5 Edinburgh 492,680 275,011,906 558
6 Chicago 3,500,000 1,880,615,100 537
7 Boston 4,812,658 1,948,753,599 405
8 Singapore 5,607,283 2,163,225,925 385
9 Sydney 7,861,100 2,863,399,770 364
10 Atlanta 1,911,320 555,027,673 290
11 Dallas 2,149,381 614,118,960 286
12 Miami-Dade 2,693,117 767,925,699 285
13 Auckland 1,420,000 387,486,000 273
14 Dublin 1,662,536 429,825,010 259
15 Houston 3,600,000 770,211,255 214
16 Los Angeles 9,600,000 1,388,763,731 145
17 Manchester 2,700,000 388,245,782 144

The medium city on a per person basis for operating expenditure on tranist, from the 17 cities ranked, was Sydney at $364. Manchester and Los Angeles have the lowest per person spending, at $144 and $145 respectively. San Francisco has the highest per person spending, from the 17 cities examined, at $1486. This figure is almost twice the amount as the next highest city Toronoto, at $647, per person spending on transit operating expenditure.


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