“We’re advancing right now a proposal that says the maximum subsidy that we’re going to pay is $3,” he says. “Today, we subsidize trips to these rural areas at a significantly higher level. It’s going to mean for customers that rather than paying a buck or a buck-75, you may be paying $10, you may be paying $14.
“It’s significantly more, but still, if you look at the value of that service that we’re providing, compared to if you had to own your own car or if you decide to get a taxi cab, it’s significantly less.”
Step one was getting over the financial hurdle and step two is focusing on ridership and revenue increases and positioning themselves and designing their service to really maximize the services they’ve got.
Tucker says it’s shocking with all of the work that transit does, working so hard, but we as an industry keep coming up with ideas that reflect the thought process that the world is about us when the world is really about the community that we serve and how we can incorporate so that transit is seen as a resource to provide the mobility options and to support economic development.
“We spend so much money on marketing that is inside curveball marketing, only to us; we’re the only ones that get it,” Tucker says. “Ridership growth and development isn’t hand-to-hand combat, it’s relationships.
“You have to put boots on the ground and you have to start with where are my best opportunities?”
And when it comes to building relationships, the NCTD also has to work at relationships with the different transportation providers they cross service areas with. “It’s always funny because depending on who you talk to, it’s always the other guy,” Tucker says laughing.
“I think as we continue to talk and learn more about each other’s perspectives and how we operate, it opens up more opportunities for collaboration.”
One of the key issues when he came to the NCTD he says, was how well they collaborated and worked with the cities in their service area. “I find a little bit disheartening when you hear the whole ‘them and us’ type thing. ‘Us’ is ‘them’ and ‘them’ is ‘us’ to the degree that when we’re doing well, then you’re doing well and vice versa.
“It’s something that we’ve tried to work hard on, and we’ve made some significant progress with our cities to foster a notion of greater collaboration. This was something that was started even before I got here.”
When talking to Tucker, he is confident in the decisions that have been made at the NCTD because of the background analysis that was done prior to making any decisions and because the agency is moving forward, as opposed to digging further in debt.
It was good to run into him a few months after the initial interview to hear firsthand about honors they’ve received validating what they’ve done.
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) awarded the NCTD the Grand Golden Watchdog Award, the highest award presented during the ceremony, for the agency’s commitment to sound fiscal decision making.
NCTD chair Chris Orlando said, “By transitioning bus operations to First Transit and paratransit service to American Logistics Company, we are on track to save San Diego taxpayers in excess of $50 million over the next seven years.” He added, “Today, the district’s budget is balanced. We’ve added service, reduced fares and increased ridership.”