Short answer: 60% more riders due to service expansions, half the per-trip cost of the City’s weekday buses, and 93% satisfaction among riders

|

West Hollywood launched its free PickUp entertainment shuttle (or “trolley”) in 2013. The City has maintained and expanded the service since then.

Palm Springs followed West Hollywood with a similar service, but it didn’t perform well enough by their standards. They recently canceled the service due to its cost (around $900,000) and declining ridership (19% over two years). They then accepted an offer to bring back the service for two years at a lower cost.

The events in Palm Springs made us wonder how the PickUp has performed by West Hollywood’s standards.


Performance measures

A recent city report identified four performance measures for the PickUp:

  • Ridership (total and growth rate)
  • Cost (total and per passenger trip)
  • Rider satisfaction
  • Business support


Ridership: Total

The PickUp provided over 90,000 rides (also known as trips) in fiscal year 2018. The fiscal year ran from July 2017 through June 2018. As far as we know, the City hasn’t set a specific target for total trips. The current number is in the same range as the City’s longstanding daytime CityLine service, which has longer operating hours and a bigger budget.

Note: Round trips count as two trips. Source: City of West Hollywood, staff reports to the City Council.

The PickUp provided an average of roughly 575 passenger trips per day on the days it operated in FY2018. Of course, that doesn’t mean 575 individuals were served, since some portion of the trips were return trips.


Ridership: Growth rate

The number of PickUp passenger trips grew about 60% between FY2014 and FY2018. The City doesn’t have a specific target, but that’s clearly a rapid growth rate.

59% growth in ridership over four years

Over those four years, the City extended the route to La Brea and added service days for Sunday “Funday” and nightlife holidays. The PickUp’s ridership growth was probably driven by those service expansions rather than more intensive use of the original service.

We can see that in two sets of numbers. First, we can adjust ridership for the increase in service days. The chart below shows the average number of passenger trips per service day. The number declined 6%, from 608 in FY2014 to 574 in FY2018.

Sources: City of West Hollywood; our analysis.

However, most of the decline happened in FY2017 when year-round Sunday service was implemented. Sundays typically have lower ridership than Friday or Saturday nights. So we already would have expected a dip in FY2017 when more Sundays were added to the schedule.

The second set of numbers focuses on the original Friday/Saturday service. We estimate that average Friday/Saturday ridership fell 6% between FY2014 and FY2018. It fell an estimated 12% since FY2016, the year the route was extended to La Brea. This suggests to us that the PickUp’s growth in total ridership is due to expanded service rather than more intensive use of the original service.

Note: We added up the by-hour-and-direction numbers. We don’t have the numbers for FY2015. Sources: City of West Hollywood; our analysis.


Cost: Total

The PickUp cost close to $600,000 in FY2018, or about $50,000 a month. That includes operations (over 90%) and marketing, but not the time of City staff members. There’s no objective standard for how much money is too much. It’s a judgment call by the City Council. In Palm Springs, the majority of the Council refused to spend $900,000 a year but agreed to provide $350,000 a year.


Cost: Per passenger trip

Each passenger trip on the PickUp cost West Hollywood about $6.50 in FY2018. The reported cost per passenger trip increased more than 60% from FY2014 to FY2018. Some or all of the increase may be explained by service expansions.

Note: We don’t have the number for FY2015. Source: City of West Hollywood.

As far as we know, the City hasn’t set a target cost per passenger trip for the PickUp. The current number is well below CityLine’s $12 per trip (2016).

We have limited and conflicting evidence about how the PickUp’s cost per trip compares to similar services in other cities. A City consultant concluded that the PickUp’s number ($4 at the time) “compares favorably with other small public transit operators…throughout California.” However, a recent Palm Springs staff report estimated the cost per trip for 10 trolley services and only one was above $5. Palm Springs came in around $4.50. West Hollywood wasn’t listed. We haven’t verified their numbers and we wonder if all costs are included.

Note: We haven’t verified these numbers and we don’t know which costs are included. Source: City of Palm Springs, staff report to city council, February 21, 2018.


Rider satisfaction

According to a City survey of riders, 93% were either satisfied or very satisfied with the PickUp. As far as we know, the City hasn’t set a specific target for this metric, but 93% certainly seems like a good number.

Source: City of West Hollywood.


Business support

According to the City report, local businesses continue support the PickUp. We won’t try to quantify this measure.


More numbers

The following numbers aren’t performance-related, but we think they’re interesting. First, on Friday and Saturday nights, more riders go eastbound (56%) than westbound (44%). In other words, some riders take the PickUp home but get to the bars and restaurants another way. On Sunday, westbound and eastbound trips are balanced.

Sources: City of West Hollywood; our analysis.

On Friday and Saturday nights, ridership peaks between 1:00 AM and 1:59 AM (technically the next day). Westbound ridership peaks between 10:00 PM and 10:59 PM.

Source: City of West Hollywood.

On Sunday, ridership is fairly constant from 3:00 PM until after 8:00 PM.

Source: Same as above.

Ridership numbers by weekend are shown below. Pride weekend stands out.

Source: Same as above.


http://wehobythenumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/201809-pickup-passenger-trips.jpghttp://wehobythenumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/201809-pickup-passenger-trips-300x300.jpgDavid WarrenPerformance (effectiveness)Performance (efficiency)Transportationtransit
Short answer: 60% more riders due to service expansions, half the per-trip cost of the City's weekday buses, and 93% satisfaction among riders| West Hollywood launched its free PickUp entertainment shuttle (or 'trolley') in 2013. The City has maintained and expanded the service since then. Palm Springs followed West Hollywood...