Spreading Commuter Work Hours Could Reduce Transit Costs

RCED-83-17: Published: Mar 17, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1983.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Oliver W. Krueger
(202) 275-4914
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO examined six subway, streetcar, and bus routes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to see whether peak transit demand could be relieved by spreading commuter work-hours. GAO undertook this study because transit authorities are experiencing a financial drain during peak period service and there have been initiatives to change employee work-hours.

GAO found that, if the present rush hour were spread evenly over a period longer than the approximately 30-minute peak period that now exists, fewer transit vehicles would be needed on these routes. Vehicles could make more trips during the extended period and still carry the same number of passengers. On the six routes examined, GAO estimated that potential long-term savings of $4 million to $44 million could result from rehabilitating vehicles or purchasing fewer vehicles and annual labor costs could be reduced up to $400,000. Outside of the peak period, sometimes more than half of the equipment is idle or underutilized. GAO believes that the potential for savings identified on the six transit routes studied also exists on other routes and that the potential federal savings due to reduced vehicle requirements could be significant. A GAO questionnaire sent to large employers in the cities showed that over half of their employees already had some kind of variable work schedule and the potential for spreading variable work schedules exists. Nearly half of the employers with fixed work-hours said that they could shift starting times easily or with little impact on operations. Employees who received the GAO questionnaire also expressed a willingness to change starting and finishing times away from peak periods. Finally, GAO noted that the Urban Mass Transportation Administration's (UMTA) own efforts to encourage the spreading of employee work-hours have been modest.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Transportation believes that its section 8 planning program adequately fosters consideration of staggered or variable work hours. It believes that requiring transit systems to address this issue in its planning process would be inconsistent with the policy of giving greater flexibility to state and local areas to plan and develop their own transportation programs. No action is planned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of UMTA to require areas that can benefit by spreading work hours to address variable work-hours programs in their transportation improvement plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is planned. Transportation believes that its research and development program adequately addresses this issue.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of UMTA to determine which urban areas have a peaking problem that can be alleviated by additional spreading of employee work-hours.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is planned. Transportation believes that its research, demonstration, and planning programs already address this issue adequately.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of UMTA to establish guidance for local transit authorities, planning organizations, employers, and others to use in establishing and operating variable work-hours programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is planned. Transportation believes this would be inconsistent with its policy of providing greater flexibility to state and local jursidictions to plan and develop transportation programs best suited to their needs. It said that the programmed reduction of fFederal operating assistance gives transit operators an incentive to maximize captial and operating resources.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of UMTA to give preference in receiving discretionary funds for purchases of vehicles to urban areas that have established variable work-hours programs in which the transit authority is an active participant and to those urban areas that tried to establish a program but were unable to do so. Transportation authorities that do not participate in variable work-hours programs should be required to demonstrate acceptable reasons for not participating before they receive grants to purchase vehicles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 14, 2016

Sep 2, 2016

Aug 8, 2016

Jul 28, 2016

Jul 13, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Jun 24, 2016

Jun 21, 2016

May 26, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here