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Thursday, November 29, 2007

CTA - Chicago Transit by Aaron?

I was in a particularly chatty mood last night while on my way home. Perhaps it was the thrill of being anywhere other than work. Yes, that's probably it. Anyway, I got off the train to transfer to my bus route home (#44) and only saw a bus at the #8 loading station. A few seconds went by, and I noticed the lights on the bus there flashing "Wallace/Racine", which is what a #44 bus would say. So just as I peek my head out to see if this is truly a #44, it pulls out. Of course.

And yes, it was a #44 bus. Which meant waiting for the next one with the five other people who just got fooled the same way. We all started chatting about how annoying it is when the bus gets ready to leave, pulls into the different area to pick someone else up, and fools everyone else who wants to rush and get on before it leaves but can't find it because it's in the wrong spot.

Another one pulled up about two minutes later, and of course then sat there at the station for ten minutes or so. Luckily, an odd train of thought entered my head when I was talking to one of my regular Bus Ladies (I don't know their names, they're just ladies who often ride the same buses as me) and said, "Well, either way, I'm sure going to miss it come January."

You see, due to idiocy at practically every level of government going up from the city level that's supposed to fund it's damned public transportation, in January we have yet another huge Doomsday planned. They'll be cutting service for over sixty different bus lines. Our #44 is slated for death. And that's when the idea struck me:

How profitable would it be to buy an old CTA bus and run it along one of the deceased routes?

I haven't had time to sit down and do any math yet, so figures will all be estimated and probably way off. But the office is quiet, I'm not yet on the clock, and I'm interested in figuring this out.

Let's say that a reasonable estimated figure to purchase an old bus is $25,000. I'm guessing that new ones are upwards of $70,000 - but these are old, probably outdated models that clunk and have over 150,000 miles or so on them. And yes, I'd pick one that at least runs.

So I pick one of the routes that got shut down and was populated enough to guarantee at least 3/4 capacity at all times (especially with all the people waiting since I run maybe once an hour or so with one damned bus all by myself for the entire route). I can only charge cash, since CTA cards would do me no good, but I'd keep things at the $2/ride mark - even if Doomsday would increase cash fares to like $3. The discount is because it would encourage riders and apologize for not being able to give transfers to the real CTA.

So let's say the average bus can hold, also on average, 40 people (when not crammed in like sardines).

So waiting at the start point, I get between 50-75% capacity before pulling out. That's about 25 people, which is $50. Let's also give a lowball estimate of how many stops are on the route - I'll go with about 40, since I'd pick a small route to start - and assume that a minimum of 2 people on average get on at each stop. I'm guessing most stops would be much more than 2, but with empty stops in-between let's go with 2 for now as an average. That's $4 per stop, which is $80 for the route by the end. Everyone's cleared out, raise back to 50-75% again, and repeat.

To go through all 40 stops would be about 35 minutes, plus another 10 minutes to wait and fill up before the reverse side. Altogether each run in one direction nets $130 for 45 minutes, or about $175/hr. Run the bus for an 8-hour day and that's $1,400 a day. I don't know how much gasoline would cost for a bus, but with a higher quality of gas or the larger tank capacity, let's assume it's about $200/day. That's still $1,200 profit every day.

At $1,200 profit a day, it would take 3 weeks to have made back the seed money.

Give it another 3 weeks and that's enough profit to purchase a second bus and hire another driver, which would probably result in only 2 weeks combined (considering a salary is now being paid) to make the profits to purchase another bus. And so on.

In theory, with estimated and probably-wrong numbers, I'm turning a profit in less than a month just by purchasing an old bus and doing what the CTA is supposed to do - transport the citizens of Chicago with authority.

Go ahead and tell me which of my numbers are wrong - it won't make much difference to me. The whole thing is just a mildly-irrational idea anyway.

After all, it's not like I know how to drive - let alone drive a bus. I just thought that the point needed to be made.

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