REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS

 

PUBLIC HEARING

PROPOSAL TO INCREASE REGIONAL

BUS, FERRY AND PARATRANSIT FARES

APRIL 21, 2005

 

 

The Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (District) held a public hearing in the Board Room, Administration Building, Toll Plaza, San Francisco, California, on Thursday, April 21, 2005, at 9:30 a.m., for the purpose of receiving public comment on proposal to increase regional bus, ferry and paratransit fares.   This public hearing closed at 9:47 a.m., then reconvened at 10:00 a.m., for the purpose of receiving additional comment from members of the public who had arrived after the public hearing had closed.

 

Directors Present (10): Directors Eddie, Hernández, Murray, Reilly, Shahum, Smith and Stroeh; Second Vice President Boro; First Vice President Harrison; President Middlebrook

 

Directors Absent (9): Directors Ammiano, Brown, Cochran, Dufty, Kerns, Martini, McGoldrick, Pahre and Sandoval

 

Staff Present: General Manager Celia G. Kupersmith; District Engineer Denis J. Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; District Secretary Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney David J. Miller; 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 R. Zahradnik; Public Affairs Director Mary C. Currie; Principal Planner Maurice Palumbo; Customer Relations Supervisor Helen Haas; Assistant Clerk of the Board Karen B. Engbretson

 

Visitors Present:  Noble “Rocky” Birdsey, Marin Center for Independent Living; Teresa Viberg, Marin County Resident; Douglas Mundo, Canal Welcome Center; June Farmer, Marin County Resident

  • Purpose of Public Hearing

The public hearing was conducted by President Middlebrook and she announced that the purpose of the public hearing is to receive public comment on proposal to increase regional bus, ferry and paratransit fares.

 

2.            Public Outreach

 

District Secretary Janet Tarantino reported that in compliance with District policy, the following forms of public outreach were undertaken by the District:

  • The Notice was mailed to organizations and individuals on the District’ s mailing list; 
  • Copies of the Notice were posted in various locations on District properties;
  • In compliance with Resolution No. 2005-025, adopted March 25, 2005, legal notices of this public hearing were published in the Marin Independent Journal during the period of March 29, 2005 to April 5, 2005;
  • A press release on the public hearing was issued several times and posted to the District’s web site, resulting in publication of print articles in local newspapers, including the Marin Independent Journal and the Commuter Times;
  • Display ads were placed in the San Francisco Chronicle (North Bay Edition), the Marin Independent Journal, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, the Commuter Times, the Novato Advance, La Voz Bilingual Newspaper and the Pacific Sun during the period of April 5, 2005 to April 15, 2005;
  • The notice and staff reports were posted on the District’s web site and on www.511.org;
  • E-mail updates were sent to subscribers on March 29, 2005 and April 8, 2005;
  • Posters in English and Spanish were placed on Golden Gate Transit buses and ferries, and at bus stops and ferry terminals;
  • Seat drop notices were placed on ferries on April 7, 2005 and on buses on April 10, 2005; and,
  • The District’s Bus and Ferry Passenger Advisory Committees were provided notice of the public hearing on March 25, 2005.

 

The Attorney for the District confirmed that the above-described public outreach met the legal requirements for calling a public hearing.

 

3.            Staff Presentation

 

General Manager Celia Kupersmith called upon Planning Director Alan Zahradnik to provide the staff presentation.     

 

Mr. Zahradnik summarized the public hearing staff report (a copy of which is available in the Office of the District Secretary), stating that the Board of Directors (Board) by Resolution No. 2005-025 at its meeting of March 25, 2005, authorized setting a public hearing to receive public comment on a proposal to increase regional bus, ferry and paratransit fares.   Staff’s proposed 5% fare increase for regional Golden Gate Transit bus, Golden Gate Ferry and inter-county paratransit services is one of the strategies developed to increase revenues in response to the District’s financial emergency, since bridge and transit user fees represent the majority of District revenues.  The staff report listed the following circumstances regarding the proposed fare increase: (1) the District’s projected budget shortfall of $8 million in Fiscal Year 2006 and $108 million over five years; (2) annual cost inflation, resulting in higher transit costs; (3) low fare recovery due to decreased transit ridership from a variety of factors; and, (4) development of a Comprehensive Transit Fare Program, which will restructure the existing complex fare structure.   Since it is not possible to implement these comprehensive changes to the fare structure prior to July 2005, staff is recommending that regional bus, ferry, and complementary inter-county paratransit fares be increased by 5%, effective July 1, 2005, in order to allow for structural changes to be made in the future.  The report further noted that the proposed fare increase is estimated to generate approximately $600,000 in new revenue for the District.   Mr. Zahradnik noted that if the fare increase is implemented, fares would increase an average of 5 to 35 cents per ride.  He further noted that the proposed fare increase excludes fares for local bus routes operated by the Marin County Transit District (MCTD).

 

4.            Public Comments Received

 

President Middlebrook then opened the hearing to receive public comment, noting that all comments will be entered into the record.   She stated that cards are available for those who desire to speak on the subject and that each person will be given three minutes to express their concerns.   

 

a.            Written Communications

 

Ms. Tarantino reported that 58 communications (53 in opposition; and 5 in support) had been received from the public prior to the public hearing.  There were 55 electronic communications, two of which were from organizations, the Transportation Defense Fund (TRANSDEF) and the District’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility; and three non-electronic communications, one of which was from an organization, the District ’s Bus Passengers Advisory Committee.

 

               b.            Oral Communications

 

Noble “Rocky ” Birdsey, Systems Change Advocate with the Marin Center for Independent Living, stated that while he understands the need for the District to continue to raise transit fares, he requested that consideration be given to improving the discount fare program for seniors and low-income transit-dependent individuals.   He further expressed his concerns that over the course of the past five years, the State of California has rescinded hundreds of millions of dollars of state transportation funding, which adversely impacts the ability of transit agencies to provide fixed route and paratransit service throughout the state.   He urged the District to advocate for preserving state transportation funding. 

 

 

Teresa Viberg stated that increasing Golden Gate Transit fares will adversely impact transit-dependent individuals, such as herself.   She further stated that it currently costs her $6.00 to $8.00 per day in fares to ride Golden Gate Transit buses, and that she has also been adversely impacted by reduced bus service.

 

Douglas Mundo, representing the Canal Welcome Center, spoke on behalf of the Latino immigrant Marin County residents who depend on public transit to get to and from work.  He noted that these low-income, transit-dependent bus passengers would be adversely affected by the proposed fare increase.

 

June Farmer, Marin County resident and former San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) Bus Driver, suggested that:   1)  the local service transfer policy be improved to allow bus passengers greater flexibility to take multiple bus rides with a single transfer; and, 2)  Golden Gate Transit implement a monthly bus pass similar to Muni’s Fast Pass.  She stated that if certain improvements are made to the Golden Gate Transit system, passengers might not mind paying higher fares.    In response, Celia Kupersmith clarified for the record that the fare increase that is the subject of this public hearing does not increase the local MCTD fare of $2.00, which is a decision to be made by MCTD.  She noted that MCTD is currently in the process of developing its Short-Range Transit Plan, and will postpone any local fare increase until after the Short-Range Transit Plan is completed.   She further noted that many of the issues expressed by Ms. Farmer are local service issues under the control of MCTD, and that staff would convey those concerns to MCTD.

 

5.            Comments by Board Members

 

  • Director Murray made the following inquiries and comments: 
      • She inquired as to whether the District would incur additional costs related to the fare increase, such as the expense of reprinting Golden Gate Transit Ride Value discount tickets.   In response, Ms. Kupersmith replied that the fare increase would coincide with a periodic reprinting of transit tickets, already budgeted in the current fiscal year.  She noted that the District would incur minor expenses related to new signage reflecting the new fares.   Ms. Kupersmith further noted that the estimated revenue of $600,000 from the fare increase would be additional net revenue, taking into account expenses for signage and tickets.
      • She inquired regarding increased fuel costs, and whether or not the District has educated the public on how increasing fuel costs impact the District’ s budget.  In response, Joseph Wire stated that the District’s fuel costs have increased by one-third, up to $1 million over the past year. 
      • She suggested that the District investigate the feasibility of using alternative, hybrid-engine buses to reduce the budgetary impact of increasing fuel costs.
      • She inquired as to when Translink is expected to be fully implemented, and Ms. Kupersmith stated that implementation is anticipated in December 2005
  • Director Shahum requested an update on other strategies to increase revenues, as outlined in the Strategic Plan for Achieving Long-Term Financial Stability.  In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the Board will consider other elements of the Strategic Plan for Achieving Long-Term Financial Stability, including a possible toll increase, in the fall of 2005.

 

6.            Closing Remarks

President Middlebrook stated that the Board will consider all public comments prior to any decision on the proposed regional transit fare increase.  Further, she stated that staff will present its recommendation to the Finance-Auditing Committee at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 12, 2005.  It is anticipated that the Board will take action the following day at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 13, 2005, which would allow sufficient lead-time for the implementation of the fare increase on July 1, 2005.   Both these meetings will be held in the Board Room, Administration Building, Toll Plaza, San Francisco, California.

 

7.            Conclusion

 

               All business having been concluded, the public hearing was closed at 9:47 a.m.  The public hearing was then reconvened at 10:00 a.m., for the purpose of receiving additional comment from members of the public who had arrived after the public hearing had closed.  Following this additional public comment, the public hearing was closed again at 10:10 a.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,               

 

 

 

Janet S. Tarantino

                                                                                                                         Secretary of the District

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