April 13, 2006
(For Board: April 28, 2006)

 

REPORT OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE/
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

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, April 13, 2006, at 10:00 a.m., Chair Brown presiding.

Committee Members Present (9): Chair Brown; Vice Chair Shahum; Directors Cochran, Kerns, Moylan, Murray, Newhouse Segal and Pahre; President Middlebrook (Ex Officio)
Committee Members Absent (0): None
Other Directors Present (3): Directors Boro, Eddie and Reilly

Committee of the Whole Members Present (12): Directors Brown, Cochran, Eddie, Kerns, Murray, Newhouse Segal, Pahre, Reilly and Shahum; Second Vice President Boro; First Vice President Moylan; President Middlebrook
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (7): Directors Ammiano, Dufty, Hernández, Martini, McGoldrick, Sandoval and Stroeh

Staff Present: Acting General Manager and District Engineer Denis J. Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; Secretary of the District Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney David J. Miller; Deputy General Manager/Bridge Division Kary H. Witt; 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; Public Affairs Director Mary C. Currie; Principal Planner Ron Downing; Budget and Program Analysis Manager Jennifer Mennucci; Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amorette Ko; Assistant Clerk of the Board Karen B. Engbretson

Visitors Present: Dorothy Newhouse, mother of Director Newhouse Segal

     
1. Report of the District Advisory Committees
     
  a. Advisory Committee on Accessibility
     
   
The agendas for the March 16, 2006, meeting and the minutes of the February 16, 2006, meeting of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility were furnished to the Transportation Committee.  Copies are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.
     
  b. Bus Passengers Advisory Committee
     
   
There was no meeting of the Bus Passengers Advisory Committee in March 2006; therefore, no meeting materials were furnished to the Transportation Committee.
     
  c. Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee
     
   

The agenda for the March 1, 2006, meeting and the minutes of the February 1, 2006, 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

     
2. Discussion of Regional Transit Service Performance
     
 

Principal Planner Ron Downing provided PowerPoint presentation on Golden Gate Transit (GGT) regional bus and ferry transit service performance, with the following main topics of discussion:

  • Commute Bus Trends
  • Commute Bus Performance
  • Basic Bus Service Ridership and Performance
  • Sonoma-Marin Travel
  • Ferry Ridership Trends
  • Challenges and Opportunities
     
 

As an introduction, Mr. Downing provided an overview of GGT regional transit service, noting the following salient points:

  • Transit ridership trends vary by type of service (commute bus vs. basic bus vs. ferry) and by geographic area;
  • Annual fare increases have resulted in a 1% to 2% annual loss in ridership;
  • The 2003 GGT Regional Service Reductions resulted in a 17% loss in annual regional bus ridership;
  • Regional bus ridership has been declining over time and there are approximately 44% fewer regional bus riders in 2002 than in 1980;
  • There has been a decrease in the number of Marin County daily work trips by all modes being made to San Francisco;
  • There has been an increase in work trips to San Francisco from Sonoma County areas served by GGT;
  • Fewer areas in Sonoma County have direct access to GGT service;
  • Reverse commute opportunities by bus are limited due to geographic dispersal of employment centers; and,
  • Ferry service has shown ongoing increases in peak ridership and peak departures, and parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal is at maximum capacity.
     
  [Note: With the arrival of Director Shahum, the Committee became a Committee of the Whole.]
     
 

Mr. Downing outlined the data sources he used to compile the GGT bus ridership and performance statistics, noting that he used October as a representative month for data collection, since during that month of the year, school is in session and there are no major work holidays.  He also stated that he used 1990 and 2000 “Journey to Work” census data, the latest data available, which shows the number of San Francisco work trips from specific commute markets.  He noted that in some geographic areas, there is a disparity between census data showing a decrease in work trips and more recent GGT data showing an increase in bus passengers.  He attributed this disparity to localized growth of new housing developments built since the 2000 census, as well as one-time employment shifts.

Mr. Downing described the types of GGT regional bus services, explaining the aspects of commute routes, basic routes and Sonoma-Marin routes.  He described the San Francisco commute pattern shift, noting that the strongest commute markets have traditionally been in areas of the North Bay closer to San Francisco.  He noted that Marin-to-San Francisco work trips by all modes declined between 1990 and 2000, while Sonoma-to-San Francisco work trips by all modes increased during the same period.  He further noted that commute bus ridership varies by community within both Marin and Sonoma counties, with direct express service from Park and Ride lots increasing in some areas and residential commute service declining in some areas.

In his presentation, Mr. Downing displayed GGT service maps and bus service statistics for various geographic areas, including Southern Marin, Central Marin, North Central Marin, Northern Marin (Novato) and Sonoma County.  He noted that Southern Marin has traditionally had a high orientation to San Francisco, with commute bus Route 4 from Mill Valley experiencing the strongest bus performance in the GGT system.  He also noted that Route 4’s frequent service and access to Manzanita Park and Ride lot contribute to the success and growth potential of this route.  He contrasted Mill Valley’s high ridership with that of the Tiburon peninsula, from which ridership has been declining significantly due to its aging population of retirees who no longer commute into San Francisco.  He stated that the majority of current Tiburon commuters prefer to commute by Blue & Gold ferry rather than by GGT bus, due to the much shorter travel time on the ferry.

Mr. Downing described the changes in the San Rafael commute market, particularly on Routes 27 and 44.  He noted that the number of bus commuters has increased by about 35 passengers per day (a 17.1% increase) due in part to the relocation of LucasFilm, Ltd., from its Marin County offices to the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the San Francisco Presidio, to which approximately 1,200 employees are commuting from Marin County.  He noted that LucasFilm employees tend to start work later in the morning and leave work later in the afternoon than traditional peak commute times, and that GGT has added extra southbound runs on Routes 27 and 44 in the 8:50 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. commute period to accommodate these commuters.

Mr. Downing also described the changes in the Novato commute market, noting the increasing ridership and the relatively high percentage of commuters traveling to San Francisco.  He also noted that certain factors contribute to a strong commute market in Novato, such as: 1) new residential developments at Hamilton and Pointe Marin with more San Francisco-bound commuters moving to Novato; 2) numerous Park and Ride opportunities in the area; and, 3) frequent service on Novato commute bus Routes 54, 56 and 58.

Mr. Downing also described the San Francisco commute market from Sonoma County, which has generally experienced an increase in work trips as new housing developments are built, particularly in southern Sonoma County.  He noted that while commute trips are rebounding from the central and western areas of Petaluma, there appears to be a decrease in commute trips from east Petaluma on Route 76.  He stated that since October 2004, express bus ridership from the northern Sonoma County communities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Cotati has increased while regular commute bus ridership has decreased.

Mr. Downing then summarized commute bus performance, depicting charts listing the top-performing and least-performing bus routes in the GGT regional commute bus system.  The chart showed that Route 4 carries the highest number of passengers each day, with 1,317 daily passengers and 67% of trips carrying greater than 37 passengers.  In contrast, Route 8 has the lowest number of passengers, with 91 daily passengers and an average of 18 passengers per trip.  He displayed a chart showing that commute bus services are very efficient, with the majority of commute bus routes carrying greater than 20 passengers per trip, with the exception of Tiburon commute bus Route 8.  He also displayed two charts that listed the top-performing and least-performing commute bus routes based on farebox recovery, and based on deficit per passenger. 

Mr. Downing also briefly described regional basic bus ridership and performance, noting that basic bus Routes 10, 70 and 80 are “lifeline” routes that provide basic mobility all day, seven days a week.  He also noted that some reverse commuters utilize Route 10 to travel to and from San Francisco’s Richmond District to Sausalito.  He described Sonoma-Marin bus travel, noting that the Sonoma-to-Marin travel market has increased from 6,400 to 13,900 daily work trips, while Marin-to-Sonoma remains much lower at only 3,000 daily work trips.  He stated that Sonoma/Marin commute bus Route 75 receives outside subsidies from Marin County, Regional Measure 2 and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Regional Express Bus Program that offset a low (16.4%) farebox recovery rate.

Mr. Downing further described ferry ridership trends over the past two years, noting that Sausalito peak ferry ridership increased 29% to 790 daily peak riders, while Larkspur peak ferry ridership increased nearly 6% to 3,675 daily peak riders.  He noted that the Larkspur Ferry Terminal parking lot has reached capacity in the morning peak commute period.

In conclusion, Mr. Downing summarized the challenges and opportunities for regional GGT service, as follows:

  • Continue to monitor ridership trends and refine data;
  • Identify ways to gain a greater share of the travel market;
  • Identify low-cost opportunities to improve service;
  • Potentially move service from less productive areas to more productive areas;
  • Increase Park and Ride opportunities for bus and ferry;
  • Obtain better information on riders and non-riders in the different markets in the GGT service area;
  • Survey passengers to determine places of residence, mode choices, origins/destinations and times of trips; and,
  • Determine awareness of GGT service among non-riders and likelihood of their using GGT service.
 

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 inquiries, comments and suggestions:
    • She inquired as to how many individual commute bus trips on Route 38 from Terra Linda are near the threshold of 20 or fewer passengers per trip.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that we would compile that information and provide the data to Director Murray after the meeting.
    • She inquired as to the demographics of geographic areas with lower-performing routes, and whether or not the District could improve the performance of those routes.  In response, Mr. Downing described the demographics of Tiburon, which is served by lower-performing commute bus Route 8, and which has a growing population of older retirees.  He noted that there is little opportunity for growth of Route 8, since very few younger commuters are moving to Tiburon.
    • She inquired as to whether the District could realize any cost savings by utilizing smaller buses on some of the lower-performing bus routes, such as Route 76 from Petaluma.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that using smaller buses for these longer routes would not be an option, since the 30-foot buses in the District’s fleet only have regular transit seats, which are not comfortable for long commutes.
    • She stated that there appears to be a bus service gap for certain schools and employment centers in Marin County, noting that St. Vincent’s School for Boys in northern San Rafael is implementing its own bus service from Petaluma to the school.  In response, Mr. Downing noted that some employment centers and schools are too far from U.S. Highway 101 corridor to justify GGT bus service.
    • She suggested that the County of Marin and the District should collaborate on marketing and outreach for the Sonoma-to-Marin bus Route 75, in order to increase patronage.
    • She inquired as to whether northbound Marin-to-Sonoma commute patronage would soon match the patronage for the southbound Sonoma-to-Marin commute.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that there has been a slight increase in northbound Route 70/80 patronage, which has necessitated the addition of a backup bus in the morning peak commute period from Novato to Petaluma.  He noted, however, that since Routes 70 and 80 do not travel close enough to the major employment centers in Sonoma County, it would not be a substantial growth opportunity.
    • She requested that further research be undertaken to provide insight into the causes for the decrease in commute bus patronage.
    • She stated that there is potential growth opportunity with bus routes to the East Bay, such as Routes 40/42.  In response, Mr. Downing commented that other potential North Bay communities, such as Solano County, have considered implementing a bus route from Fairfield to San Rafael, but that such plans have been postponed due to lack of funding
     
 
  • Director Kerns made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired regarding the efficiency of commute bus Route 76 from Petaluma.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that only 2 of 14 trips per day are below the threshold of 20 passengers per trip, and that there is no need to make adjustments to service on that route at this time.
    • He inquired as the availability of overflow parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, since the parking lot is now at capacity.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that overflow parking is available within walking distance of the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.  He added that a report on the status of Larkspur Ferry patronage and parking issues will be presented to the Committee in June 2006.
     
 
  • Chair Brown made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He remarked that the chart on page 24 showing the performance summary of commute trips showed very positive news that commute bus services are running quite efficiently.
    • He noted that lower-performing bus routes with low farebox recovery rates, such as Route 8 with a recovery rate of 15%, translates to a transit subsidy of 85% and an approximate cost of $200,000 to operate the route.
    • He requested that if targeted marketing is performed on specific routes or specific geographic areas, he would like such marketing efforts to produce results of increased bus patronage.  He noted that increased bus ridership will help decrease the District’s deficit.  In response, Teri Mantony stated that the District Division’s work plan in the proposed FY 06/07 Budget includes targeted marketing of transbay routes.  Denis Mulligan stated that staff will report back to the Committee on the results of the marketing effort.
     
 
  • Director Eddie inquired as to whether there were any Park and Ride lots available for the lower-performing Route 76, and whether it could be determined why the patronage is declining on that route.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that there are very few Park and Ride lots associated with Route 76, which is a traditional residential commute route in which people walk to bus stops from their homes.  Mr. Downing further replied that surveys would need to be undertaken to determine the causes of declining bus patronage in certain geographic areas.
     
 
  • Director Boro made the following inquiries and suggestions:
    • He inquired as to whether Route 76 could be rerouted to serve the Park and Ride lot at the Petaluma Fairgrounds.  In response, Mr. Downing explained that if Route 76 were to be rerouted to serve that Park and Ride lot, there would be a reduction in bus service to the residential neighborhoods currently served by Route 76.
    • He inquired as to whether Translink™ usage data could be used to identify travel patterns and travel habits of Translink™ users.  In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that privacy issues associated with the Translink™ program would prevent such uses of Translink™ data.
    • He suggested that Board members get copy of a study that surveyed ferry passenger preferences, commissioned by the San Francisco Bay Water Transit Authority.  He noted that the findings of the study showed that ferry passengers would not ride buses because they purposely choose to commute by ferry due to the passenger amenities associated with ferry travel.
     
 
  • Director Newhouse Segal inquired as to whether passenger surveys can be done in-house by District staff at a lower cost than having such surveys done by outside consultants.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that typically, in order to gather meaningful data, it would be necessary to hire outside consultants to perform such surveys, since District would only have the staff time available to do small scale, route-by-route surveys.  Director Newhouse Segal suggested the expense of undertaking surveys be balanced with the possible savings to be realized by eliminating underperforming bus routes.
     
 
  • Director Reilly inquired as to the contributing factors to the noticeable increase in ferry patronage.  In response, Mr. Downing explained that the following factors contribute to increased ferry patronage:  1) easy to understand origin/destination points (ferry terminal to ferry terminal); 2) the November 2003 bus service changes were confusing for some bus riders; 3) a large Park and Ride facility at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal; and, 4) word of mouth promotion of the ease of ferry travel among commuters.  Ms. Mantony added that District staff recently performed a survey of ferry passengers, and that the survey results would be presented to the Committee in June 2006.
     
 
  • Director Shahum made the following comments and inquiries:
    • She expressed her appreciation to Mr. Downing for his obvious enthusiasm for and knowledge of transit.
    • She inquired as to whether the recent increase in ferry patronage could be attributed to swapping of modes by former bus passengers.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that there does not appear to be a swapping of modes, but rather, the lower bus patronage can be attributed to more retirements of an aging North Bay population.  Mr. Mulligan added that Golden Gate Bridge crossings have also been declining; therefore, the increase in ferry patronage seems to be an anomaly.
    • She inquired as to how the actual declines in bus patronage due to the November 2003 service reductions were comparable to what had been projected prior to the reductions.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that the actual 17% decline in bus patronage due to the service reductions were significantly smaller than the 20% to 25% decline that had been projected.

    Action by the Board – None Required

     
3.
Monthly Report on Activities Related to Marin Local Service Contract with Marin County Transit District
     
 
The monthly report on activities related to the 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 February 2006; 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 April 4, 2006, meeting of MCTD;
  2. Agenda of the March 20, 2006, meeting of MCTD;
  3. Minutes of March 20, 2006, meeting of MCTD;
  4. Minutes of February 28, 2006, meeting of MCTD;
  5. Agenda of the March 30, 2006, meeting of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM);
  6. Minutes of the February 23, 2006, meeting of TAM; and,
  7. Agenda and minutes of the March 8, 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

     
4. Comments from Committee Members
     
 
Chair Brown introduced to the Committee of the Whole members present, Dorothy Newhouse, the mother of Director Newhouse Segal.
     
5. Public Comment
     
  There was no public comment.
     
6. Adjournment
     
  All business having been concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 11:05 a.m.
     

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Harold C. Brown, Jr., Chair
Transportation Committee