Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District

February 9, 2006
(For Board: February 24, 2006)


Honorable Board of Directors
Golden Gate Bridge, Highway
and Transportation District

Honorable Members:

A meeting of the Transportation Committee/Committee of the Whole was held in the Board Room, Administration Building, Toll Plaza, San Francisco, California, on Thursday, February 9, 2006, at 10:00 a.m., Acting Chair Shahum presiding.

Committee Members Present (7): Acting Chair Shahum; Directors Cochran, Kerns, Moylan, Murray and Newhouse Segal; President Middlebrook (Ex Officio)
Committee Members Absent (2): Chair Brown; Director Pahre
Other Directors Present (4): Directors Boro, Eddie, Hernández and Reilly

Committee of the Whole Members Present (11): Directors Cochran, Eddie, Hernández, Kerns, Murray, Newhouse Segal, Reilly and Shahum; Second Vice President Boro; First Vice President Moylan; President Middlebrook
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (8): Directors Ammiano, Brown, Dufty, Martini, McGoldrick, Pahre, Sandoval and Stroeh

Staff Present: General Manager Celia G. Kupersmith; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; Secretary of the District Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney Madeline Chun; Deputy General Manager/Bus Division Susan C. Chiaroni; Deputy General Manager/Ferry Division James P. Swindler; Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Teri W. Mantony; Planning Director Alan Zahradnik; Principal Planner Ron Downing; Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amorette Ko; Assistant Clerk of the Board Karen B. Engbretson

Visitors Present: None

1. Report of the District Advisory Committees
  a. Advisory Committee on Accessibility (ACA)
A Notice of Meeting Cancellation for the January 19, 2006, meeting of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility was furnished to the Transportation Committee.  Copies are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.
Bus Passengers Advisory Committee
There was no meeting of the Bus Passengers Advisory Committee in January 2006; therefore, no meeting materials were furnished to the Transportation Committee.
  c. Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee

The agenda for the January 4, 2006, meeting and the minutes of the December 7, 2005, meeting of the Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee were furnished to the Transportation Committee.  Copies are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

Action by the Board - None Required

Overview and Status Report of the Translink® Automatic Fare Collection for Golden Gate Transit Bus and Ferry

General Manager Celia Kupersmith and Director of Planning Alan Zahradnik provided an overview and status report regarding Translink, the regional automatic fare collection program developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).  Mr. Zahradnik provided a PowerPoint presentation to the Committee, which included a general overview and current status of the Translink program.   Mr. Zahradnik proceeded with the presentation, with the following main topics of discussion:

  • Translink Project Goals
    • MTC
    • District
  • Translink Description
    • Project Management
    • Project Funding
    • Technical Information
    • Adding Value to Translink Cards
    • Communications and Central Processing
    • How Translink will Work on Golden Gate Transit (GGT)
  • Translink Project Timeline
    • Progress To-Date and Future Milestones
Mr. Zahradnik stated that the primary Translink project goal for MTC is to improve regional transit fare coordination by providing a “universal” fare card accepted by public transit operators in the Bay Area. He also stated that the District’s primary goal is to improve regional fare collection and customer convenience. Once the program is fully implemented, other goals would be to expand Translink card use to reduce cash and ticket fare payment on buses and ferries, reduce fare collection time on vehicles and improve data collection to achieve District cost savings.

Mr. Zahradnik outlined the Translink Project Management, initially overseen by MTC and now managed by a formal consortium of transit agencies known as the Translink Management Group. He stated that General Manager Celia Kupersmith and Auditor-Controller Joseph Wire represent the District on the Translink Management Group and on the Translink Operating Group. In addition, the District is represented on various technical committees with the following staff: Senior Planner Franklin Wong (Design), Budget and Program Analysis Manager Jennifer Mennucci (Finance), Marketing and Communications Director Kellee Hopper (Marketing) and Planning Director Alan Zahradnik (Scheduling). Mr. Zahradnik described the project funding, noting that for the first three years, MTC will fund the program start-up and provide oversight of the system vendor, ERG Group (ERG). He stated that ERG is under contract to provide design-build-operate-maintain services for the next seven years for the Translink program throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He noted that the total project cost is approximately $100 million, and will be funded by federal, state and regional grant funds.

Mr. Zahradnik described the technical aspects of Translink, which is a “state of the art” Automated Fare Collection System. The Translink system uses a smart card, which could be described as an electronic purse to which passengers can add value by various means. He displayed photographs of sample Card Interface Devices, which will be installed on buses and at ferry terminals as part of a network of Translink equipment and support facilities. He also described how the Translink card would be used to pay fares, and how the fare data would be collected and sent to the Translink Service Bureau (TSB) central processor for daily reconciliation of accounts. He noted that the TSB would also provide general customer service for Translink users, but would not be a walk-in facility, as is the case for the FasTrak Customer Service Center. Mr. Zahradnik further stated that Translink customers can obtain, register and personalize cards, as well as load value onto cards with the help of an attendant at Ticket Office Terminals and Translink Retail Units. In addition, automated Add Value Machines (AVMs) will be located at District bus stations, ferry terminals and at the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza, where riders can add value to cards and buy fare products using cash or credit/debit cards.

Mr. Zahradnik also described the communications and central processing systems for Translink. He stated that the Card Interface Devices will read passengers’ card information, process the information using specific fare rules and deduct the appropriate fare. This information is then transmitted to the computers in the Translink Data System, which in turn sends the information to ERG’s central processor for daily reconciliation of card loads, fare payments, banking, data storage and reporting. He noted that the central processor will maintain a “hot list” of stolen or counterfeit Translink cards, in order to prevent fraudulent use of Translink.

Mr. Zahradnik provided a summary how Translink will work on GGT buses and ferries, highlighting the following:

  • Translink will be the mechanism to get a discounted fare, using fares set at current discount ticket prices. It is anticipated discount tickets will no longer be sold once Translink is fully operational.
  • Bus fare payment procedures will require a passenger to “Tag on” to determine origin fare zone, and then “Tag off” to determine destination fare zone and calculate the zone to zone fare.
  • Ferry fare payment procedures will be a single tag process. Upon entry into the paid waiting areas at the Larkspur and San Francisco ferry terminals, a passenger is required to “Tag on.” For passengers boarding at Sausalito, since there is no paid waiting area at that location, a passenger is required to “Tag off” upon exit at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.
  • Transfer rules will remain in effect, with free transfers between buses and ferries for one’s continuing travel in the same direction.

Mr. Zahradnik also described the Translink project timeline and milestones, as follows:

  • Phase 1 – initial operational testing of Translink on portions of GGT and other selected Bay Area transit operators was successfully concluded in 2002;
  • Phase 2 – Translink final design began in November 2003, including software and equipment specifications; fare procedures and business rules; operation, maintenance and training manuals; customer service and card distribution plans; and, data storage, access and report documents;
  • Phase 2.2 – implementation on GGT and AC Transit – began in summer 2005 with equipment procurement and will continue through 2006 with lab testing, equipment installation, field testing, training, passenger use testing, performance monitoring, system acceptance and full public rollout;
  • Phase 2.3 – implementation on Caltrain, MUNI and BART;
  • Phase 2.4 – implementation on SamTrans and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority; and,
  • Phase 2.5 – implementation on smaller Bay Area transit operators.

Mr. Zahradnik noted that an important aspect of Phase 2.2 of the Translink implementation will be a “soft launch,” modeled after the launch of the FasTrak electronic toll collection system on the Golden Gate Bridge. He described this soft launch as a controlled start-up of the Translink system, using “beta test group” of commuters. Then, over a period of six months, District staff will work with GGT passengers to build up a comfort level with Translink as more passengers learn how to use Translink. He further noted that equipment installation is currently in progress, with over 40% of GGT’s bus fleet outfitted already and the rest of the fleet to be completed in March 2006. He stated that training will begin in March for GGT employees, including 280 Bus Operators, Bus Supervisors, Terminal Assistants, Ticket Agents and other staff. In summary, Mr. Zahradnik stated that MTC’s vision for Translink is to break down the barriers to riding transit in the Bay Area region. He stated that such barriers have included: (1) lack of connectivity between Bay Area transit providers; (2) lack of availability of transit information; and, (3) lack of a universal fare payment system. He noted that the first two barriers have been solved by the launch of, the Bay Area Internet and telephone transit information service, and that the third barrier will be solved by Translink. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

  Discussion ensued, including the following:
  • Director Murray made the following comments and inquiries:
    • She inquired as to what would happen if a Translink card user did not have enough of a balance on the card in order to pay a fare. In response, Mr. Zahradnik explained that Translink accounts will accommodate a built-in negative balance up to $5.00, with the expectation that a Translink user with a negative balance will replenish the negative balance the next time he or she adds value to the card.
    • She emphasized the importance of undertaking outreach to all GGT passengers during the implementation process. In response, Celia Kupersmith explained that the beta test group of Translink users was developed from a list of passengers who originally volunteered to test the Translink system during the Phase 1 demonstration. She stated that staff will undertake a significant marketing effort to reach out to passengers with different types of travel patterns, as part of the full public rollout of Translink.
    • She inquired as to how long it would take for Translink fare revenue to be transmitted to the District, given the use of credit card transactions. In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that the system will have daily reconciliation of all fare revenue, which will be transmitted the same day as the transaction.
    • She inquired as to what type of audit systems would be in place with the Translink data transmission system. In response, Mr. Wire described the variety of audit functions that would be set up by the Translink consortium, including daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly auditing of transactions.
    • She inquired as to the likelihood of fraudulent or counterfeit Translink cards being used. In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that “smart card” technology was chosen for Translink specifically because such cards are the most difficult to counterfeit. He further stated that back office fraud will be minimized by internal system controls.
    • She inquired as to how disputes would be handled regarding Translink charges, when there is a discrepancy between what the customer says and what has been deducted from the card. In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that the Translink business rules provide for three levels of dispute resolution: (1) Bus Supervisors out in the field will have hand-held card reading devices that can “interrogate” a Translink card to determine the card’s last five transactions; (2) if the dispute cannot be resolved in the field, transactions can be accessed through the Translink Service Bureau; and, (3) finally, the dispute can be sent to the transit operator for resolution.
    • She inquired if Translink will provide an opportunity for more automated systems for counting cash, since Translink will reduce the amount of cash and tickets received in revenue. In response, Mr. Wire stated that automated counting systems have been discussed by the Board on a policy level in the past, and that staff is currently developing strategies for such systems.
    • She suggested that the AVMs have multilingual capability in order to encourage transit use by foreign visitors to the Bay Area, as well as by residents who speak languages other than English. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the AVMs have been set up with multilingual capability.
    • She suggested that staff post a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Translink to the District’s web site.
  • Director Reilly made the following comments and inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether there would be an automatic value-load feature built into the Translink cards.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik answered in the affirmative, noting that this feature will be promoted to customers to allow them to set up accounts to automatically replenish their Translink cards when the value drops below a certain level.
    • She inquired as to the financial implications of the “float” of revenue from a large number of Translink cards with pre-loaded value that is only deducted from the cards when passengers use transit.  In response, Mr. Wire explained how the consortium of Bay Area transit agencies involved in Translink have negotiated the equitable use of “float” interest proceeds, which will be used to fund the Translink program according to the Translink business rules.  He further stated that any such proceeds that the District might receive would not significantly impact the District’s budget.
  • President Middlebrook made the following comments and inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether GGT would have to hire additional staff when Translink is fully implemented and whether there would be any impacts to the District’s budget.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that Translink operations have been handled with existing staff, and that Translink operating costs will shift from MTC to the District after the first three years.  Ms. Kupersmith further explained that after full implementation of Translink, the District anticipates some cost savings as the use of paper tickets is phased out, and anticipates increased ridership in off-peak time periods.  She remarked that Translink is one of the most complex projects in the District’s history, and that this is the first time an automatic fare collection project of such magnitude has been implemented in the world. 
    • She encouraged staff to further reduce the percentage of the discount offered with ferry Frequent Rider Ticket books so that it is closer to the lower percentage of discount offered with bus Ride Value Discount Ticket books.
  • Director Eddie inquired as to whether Translink customers’ privacy would be protected when they open accounts.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that systems are in place to protect customers’ privacy.  Ms. Kupersmith further clarified that customers will have the choice of setting up their Translink accounts either with a credit card, or with cash if they prefer to have an anonymous account.
  • Director Boro made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority (WTA) is part of the Translink consortium.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that WTA is not involved in the Translink system at this time since WTA is not yet a transit operator.
    • He inquired as to whether the District would have direct access to the Translink contractor’s technical staff during the soft launch in order to address any software issues that may arise.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that Senior Planner Franklin Wong has been working closely with ERG system engineers in the central processing center in Concord, CA, to address any technical issues.  Ms. Kupersmith further stated that the District will benefit by being the first Bay Area transit agency to adopt the use of Translink.
  • Director Newhouse Segal made the following inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether an aggressive marketing campaign will be undertaken for the full rollout of Translink.  In response, Ms. Kupersmith responded in the affirmative, noting that MTC will be spearheading a comprehensive region-wide marketing campaign.  She further noted that the District will benefit by the fact that Marketing and Communications Director Kellee Hopper is the chair of the Translink Marketing Committee.
    • She inquired as to whether MTC would cover extra funding would be required to pay for training of District personnel on the Translink system.  In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the District had contemplated a 12- to 13-week training schedule of Bus Operators, without the use of overtime.  In order to fast-track the training period, the District has requested that MTC provide up to $75,000 in extra funding to pay for the overtime necessary to have a 7- to 8-week training period instead.  She noted that all other costs are the District’s to bear.
    • She inquired as to whether any dispute resolution in the field would slow down bus service.  In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that while there may be some slight delays in service during the initial weeks of the full rollout of Translink, it is anticipated that service will actually speed up over time as more passengers adopt the use of Translink.  She noted that several staff members will be stationed in the field during the launch of Translink to minimize any delays.
  • Director Hernández inquired as to whether the District will rely on in-house staff or outside consultants to manage the Translink system when the District assumes funding of its system from MTC after the initial three years.  In response, Mr. Zahradnik stated that the Translink system has been designed for ease of maintenance.  He noted that Translink equipment, such as the AVMs, will have separate components that can easily be replaced in case of breakdown.  Ms. Kupersmith stated that Translink maintenance will be more cost-effective by having only one contractor, ERG, compared with the multiple contractors responsible for the FasTrak system.

Action by the Board - None Required

3. General Update on Bus and Ferry Service Ridership Trends
General Manager Celia Kupersmith advised that this item would be continued to the March 9, 2006 meeting of the Transportation Committee.
Monthly Report on Activities Related to Marin Local Service Contract with Marin County Transit District

The monthly report on activities related to the 18-month Marin Local Service contract with the Marin County Transit District (MCTD) was furnished to the Transportation Committee. The report included the following elements:

  1. A spreadsheet from the Planning Department outlining GGT bus service performance of both District regional routes and MCTD local routes, providing statistics regarding riders per hour, revenue per hour, cost per hour, fare recovery and deficit per passenger for the two types of bus service, for the month of December 2005; and,
  2. A spreadsheet from the Auditor-Controller outlining the history of payments made to date by MCTD to the District for intra-county bus transit services in Marin County.

Due to the high volume of agendas and minutes from Marin County agencies related to this item, hard copies of those items were not provided to the Committee. Instead, electronic versions of the following items were posted on the District’s web site:

  1. Agenda of the January 10, 2006, meeting of MCTD;
  2. Minutes of November 22, 2005 and January 10, 2006, meetings of MCTD;
  3. Agenda of the January 26, 2006, meeting of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM); and,
  4. Agenda and minutes of the January 11, 2006, meeting of the TAM Executive Committee.

Copies of all of the above-listed items are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

Action by the Board - None Required

5. Public Comment
  There was no public comment.
6. Adjournment
  All business having been concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Leah C. Shahum, Acting Chair

Transportation Committee