09 November 2006

Who gets hurt more - A's or BART?

One couple of housekeeping note first: The long dormant "Scoreboard" feature on the sidebar has been redone with a different question, "Does the outlet/media figure support the A's-Pacific Commons ballpark plan?" The question and the associated reactions may change as details are revealed. I've linked the columns by Gwen Knapp, Ray Ratto, Carl Steward, Mark Purdy, and Dave Newhouse so far.

With all of the talk about not having BART to service the Pacific Commons site, I decided to look into this further. We all know that no BART will equate to some indeterminate loss of A's fans, but their substitutes may end up being South Bay fans. That's not something I can quantify at this point, but it's a reasonable assumption.

What about the effect on BART? Unlike the A's, there's no easy substitution for BART if A's fans don't ride it. Some fans may take BART & MUNI to Giants games, but it's most likely that BART will suffer a ridership loss. The question is: How big?

Let's start with actual BART ridership. According to the 2005 Annual Report, BART's fiscal year ridership was usually under 100 million one-way trips or "exits" as they call them. The average ticket price was around $2.50.

Using the 15-25% BART riders-as-attendees figure cited previously, I produced the table below. It uses a sliding scale in which with larger crowds, a higher percentage of fans use BART. The total attendees using BART was 528,750, which may be overestimating things a bit (it works out to 25% of all A's fans) but for now we'll go with it for the sake of argument. The following table shows how much A's fan trips to the Coliseum factor into total BART ridership.

1% may not sound like much, but it's actually disproportionately high compared to the actual effect the A's have on the local economy, which is more in the neighborhood of less than 0.1% of the Bay Area's
Gross Regional Product. Credit goes to A's fans who utilize BART so well. 1 million rides means that A's-related BART usage is actually heavier than all of the annual activity on some low usage stations such as Castro Valley or San Bruno.

Let's use the worst case scenario for BART, in which no Warm Springs extension is built. Fans who no longer use BART for A's games simply wouldn't use BART at all for baseball, not even for Giants games. That includes a shuttle scenario to Pacific Commons, which I personally don't think will work when coming from the existing Fremont BART station because of its cost and limited use. If we assign a $3 value for each one-way trip, the lost revenue would come to over $3 million per year. For a public transit agency that has trouble making ends meet, $3 million in lost revenue is nothing to sneeze at. The only thing that helps BART is that they're pretty heavily subsidized, so the hurt won't be too bad. Still, it could mean job cuts, higher fares, or other ugly solutions to this market change.

Contrast this with the A's situation. In the model below, those same BART riding fans would be split into two groups: those who would drive to Fremont, and those who would stay home. The split is an even 50-50. I haven't done any surveys or seen any numbers to back this assertion, but it's a reasonable starting point. The "$ per fan" figure comes from two sources: an average ticket price of $25 per game, and $10 of concessions. If that 50% that would still attend drives instead, you get roughly 1000 additional cars per game, whose parking revenue would offset the loss somewhat.

Obviously, the money the A's would lose on paper dwarfs what BART would lose. However, there's a big difference between the two in that the A's have other sources of revenue (besides the parking) to offset this loss. The team's also expected to perform well at the gate for at least the first two years (numerous sellouts) so the attendance/concessions revenue would be maxed out anyway. That two year stint (perhaps longer) may end up being the waiting period required before BART finally comes to Warm Springs.

As for BART, they'll take a decent hit. It's not even close to enough to justify the cost of building WSX by itself, but it could contribute to revised ridership numbers that could boost the cases for both the WSX and San Jose extensions (the current numbers are admittedly dubious). Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who has championed the A's-to-Fremont cause, is also a MTC commissioner who controls much of the regional transit money. He has the power to push funding in the right direction.

Tomorrow I'll present a scenario in which BART would be used to the ballpark. Implemented correctly, there's an opportunity to keep many of those lost BART riders and keep the costs low.