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The farebox recovery ratio of a passenger transportation system is the proportion of the amount of revenue generated through fares by its paying customers as a fraction of the cost of its total operating expenses. Most systems aren't self-supporting, so advertising revenue and government subsidies are usually required to cover costs. The Hong Kong MTR Corporation is one of the few self-supporting transit systems in the world.

Need for Government Subsidy[]

There are several practical reasons for government subsidies of public transit. By subsidizing mass transit, it encourages ridership and subsequently lowers traffic congestion. Another benefit is lowering pollution from single occupant vehicles that are no longer on the roads. The third benefit is reducing infrastructure costs needed to build and maintain more street, highway, and freeway lanes associated with increased traffic congestion. These factors considered together also contribute to a better quality of life as defined by global quality of living measurements.[1]

Farebox ratios around the world[]

The following table lists farebox ratios for some public transportation systems around the world.

Ratio of fares to operating costs for public transport systems (%)
System Ratio Year
Brussels 28% 1991[2]
Copenhagen 52% 1991[2]
London Underground 84% 1991[2]
Milan 28% 1991[2]
Munich 42% 1991[2]
RATP (Paris) 43% 1991[2]
Stockholm 30% 1991[2]
Vienna 50% 1991[2]
Zurich 66% 1991[2]
Osaka (Hankyu Railway) 123% 1991[2]
Osaka (OMTB) 137% 1991[2]
Teito RTA (now Tokyo Metro) 170% 1991[2]
North America
Atlanta (MARTA) 39.2% 2002[3]
Bay Area (BART) 56% 2005[4]
Chicago (CTA) 44.3% 2002[3]
Cleveland (GCRTA) 21.5% 2002[3]
Los Angeles (LACMTA) 30.6% 2004[5]
Maryland (MTA) 26.3% 2002[3]
Massachusetts Bay (MBTA) 43.7% 2002[3]
Miami-Dade Transit 16.1% 2002[3]
New York City subway 67.3% 2002[3]
New York/New Jersey (PATH) 41.0% 2002[3]
Philadelphia (SEPTA) 58.6% 2002[3]
Philadelphia/New Jersey (PATCO) 61.4% 2002[3]
Staten Island Railway 15.2% 2002[3]
Toronto Subway and RT 68% 1991[2]
Washington, DC (WMATA) 61.6% 2002[3]