REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS

PUBLIC HEARING

RECEIVE PUBLIC COMMENT ON PROPOSALS TO:
CHANGE GOLDEN GATE FERRY “FREQUENT RIDER”
DISCOUNT FARES AND WEEKDAY SCHEDULES

OCTOBER 7, 2010

 

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, CA, on Thursday, October 7, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., for the purpose of receiving public comment on proposals regarding Golden Gate Ferry “Frequent Rider” discount fare and weekday schedule changes.

Directors Present (10): Directors Cochran, Grosboll, McGlashan, Moylan, Pahre, Sobel and Stroeh; First Vice President Reilly; Second Vice President Eddie, President Boro

Directors Absent (9): Directors Brown, Campos, Chu, Dufty, Elsbernd, Kerns, Newhouse Segal, Sanders and Snyder

Staff Present: General Manager Denis Mulligan; Acting District Engineer Ewa Bauer; Acting Auditor-Controller and Capital and Grant Programs Director Gayle Prior; Secretary of the District Janet Tarantino; Attorney Madeline Chun; Deputy General Manager/Bridge Division Kary H. Witt; Deputy General Manager/Ferry Transit Division James P. Swindler; Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Z. Wayne Johnson; Public Affairs Director Mary C. Currie; Planning Director Ron Downing; Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amorette Ko; Assistant Clerk of the Board Lona Franklin

Visitors Present: James Rosenfield, Owner/Marin Country Mart; Herb Weiner, Councilmember/Sausalito; Wayne Baker, San Rafael resident/member of Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee; Bob Mitchell, Marin County resident; David Schonbrunn, President/Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund; Dwight Steeves, San Rafael resident; Adam Politzer, City Manager/Sausalito

     
1.

Purpose of Public Hearing

The public hearing was conducted by President Boro, who announced that the purpose of the public hearing is to receive public comment on proposals to change Golden Gate Ferry (GGF) “Frequent Rider” discount fares and weekday schedules.

     
2.

Public Outreach

District Secretary Janet Tarantino reported that, in compliance with District policy, notices were mailed to organizations and individuals on the District’s mailing list and copies were posted in various locations on District properties. Also, in compliance with Resolution No. 2010-069, adopted on August 13, 2010, legal notices were published in the following publications: the Marin Independent Journal, the San Francisco Examiner and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Thursday, September 9, 2010, and again on September 16, 2010. Additional public outreach was undertaken, as follows:

  • A press release was posted to the web site on August 13, 2010, and issued to targeted media;
  • Display boards and comment forms were translated into Spanish for affected communities;
  • Display ads were placed in the various area newspapers San Francisco Chronicle (North Bay Zone), Marinscope Newspapers (Sausalito Marinscope, Ross Valley Reporter, Mill Valley Herald, Twin Cities Times, San Raphael News Pointer), Marin Independent Journal, La Voz, Commuter Times and the Bay Crossings between September 9, 2010 through September 16, 2010;
  • A formal public hearing notice and the associated staff report for the October 7 Public Hearing were posted on the District’s web site on October 4, 2010, and on www.511.org;
  • Posters were put up on all ferries and in terminals the week of September 1, 2010, and on all buses on September 14, 2010;
  • Sandwich boards were put up at terminals the week of September 7, 2010; and,
  • Information was tweeted via Twitter on August 11, September 24, and October 5, and placed on Facebook on September 24 and October 5;
  • Seat drops were distributed on all Larkspur and Sausalito Ferry morning commute trips on September 1 and 15, 2010;
  • The proposal was presented to the Ferry Passenger Advisory Committee in August, 2010;
  • Public Open Houses were held on September 21 and 22, 2010, at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal; and,
  • Additional outreach was done at the monthly Ferry Management session at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal on September 7, 2010.

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

     
3. Staff Presentation President Boro called upon Planning Director Ron Downing to present staff’s recommendation to change GGF “Frequent Rider” discount fares and weekday schedules. A copy of the staff report is available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.
  a. Ferry “Frequent Rider” Fare (ClipperSM) Changes

Mr. Downing summarized the staff report, stating that changes to GGF “Frequent Rider” discount fares was included as an initiative in the FY 09/10 Financial Plan for Achieving Long-Term Financial Stability (Plan), which was drafted by the Financial Planning Advisory Committee and approved by the Board of Directors on October 30, 2009. He stated that it is being proposed that the discount rate be reduced to 30% from the currently available 38% to 46%. With the current 38% “Frequent Rider” discount from the $8.25 adult cash fare, the one-way trip between Larkspur and San Francisco costs $5.15. At the proposed 30% discount rate, the fare would be $5.80. With the current 46% “Frequent Rider” discount from the $8.25 adult cash fare, the one-way trip between Sausalito and San Francisco is $4.40. At the proposed discount rate, the fare would be $5.80. The change can be expected to generate approximately $210,000.00 to $300,000.00 during the period from January 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011, if implementation takes place on January 1, 2011. Mr. Downing added that the estimate allows for loss of ridership.

     
  b. Ferry Schedule Changes

Mr. Downing summarized the staff report, stating that changes to GGF ferry schedules was included as an initiative in the Plan. He stated that staff intends to achieve greater efficiency through ferry schedule changes by reassigning staff and reducing fuel consumption. He added that fuel savings generated by the schedule changes are expected to be approximately 112,644 gallons per year. At the currently budgeted cost of $2.56 per gallon, the annual savings would be approximately $280,000.00, with annual savings varying depending on actual fuel costs. Proposed changes to the Larkspur/San Francisco schedule would include elimination of two northbound trips; elimination of one midday round trip during non-peak season; and, a change to a Spaulding vessel from a high-speed vessel for the first morning southbound trip. Proposed changes to the Sausalito/San Francisco schedule would include schedule adjustments of 30 to 55 minutes in both directions during the midday; and, addition of a morning trip, departing San Francisco at 6:30 a.m. and arriving in Sausalito at 7:00 a.m. During the morning and afternoon commute periods, the proposed changes would affect 21% of Larkspur passengers and no Sausalito passengers. Throughout the total day, 26% of Larkspur passengers and 22% of Sausalito passengers would see changes in current schedule times of 15 or more minutes. All but a very small number of passengers (less than 10) would have alternate service. Just over 25% of total Larkspur ferry patrons would experience schedule changes of 15 minutes or more, and 21% of peak Larkspur ferry patrons could be affected.

Mr. Downing further stated that, after the close of the public comment period (close of business on Thursday, October 7, 2010), staff will consider all comments received, and then prepare a recommendation to the Board on the proposal to change GGF “Frequent Rider” discount fares and weekday schedules.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Grosboll made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether staff had factored in a loss of ridership and, if so, how much reduction could be expected. Mr. Downing responded affirmatively, adding that the estimate is between 16,000 and 32,000 passengers per year.
    • He inquired as to whether some complaints concerned changes in scheduled departure times such that some people would no longer have the option to ride ferry boats. In response, Mr. Downing stated that some people have special situations that make schedule changes difficult for them. Other comments, principally from residents of communities farther to the north, indicated difficulty with early morning departure times.
  • Director Stroeh inquired as to the average number of riders who use the ferries annually. In response, Mr. Downing stated that there are approximately two million riders per year.
  • Director McGlashan inquired as to the projected cost to the District were fares decreased. In response, Mr. Downing stated that, once all public comments have been received, staff will make that projection. He added that the public comment period ends today at close of business.
     
4.

Public Comments

President Boro then opened the public hearing to receive public comment, noting that all comments will be entered into the record. He announced the following public comment procedures, noting that (1) there is a three-minute limit for each speaker; (2) the District Secretary will keep track of the time of each speaker; and, (3) while speaking into the microphone, the speaker should state his or her name, and if representing an organization, state the full name of the organization.

     
  a.
Oral Comments
     
   
  1. Bob Mitchell, Marin County resident, expressed opposition to the proposed reduction in the discount for ferry “Frequent Rider” fares. He stated that the District should support commuters, but that staff’s proposal to reduce discounts for frequent riders will be counter-productive because people will return to driving. He stated that he strongly encourages the District not to raise fares.
  2. David Schonbrunn, President, Transportation Solutions and Defense Education Fund, expressed his opposition to the proposed reduction in the discount for ferry “Frequent Rider” fares. He stated that any fare increase should be part of a more comprehensive plan to improve access to Larkspur. He added that the Transportation Solutions and Defense Education Fund advocates reinstituting a ferry feeder service. He also indicated his opinion that obtaining environmental clearance to build a parking structure at Larkspur would be difficult and that a charge for parking would discourage people from choosing to commute by ferry.
  3. Dwight Steeves, San Rafael resident, expressed opposition to the proposed reduction in the discount for ferry “Frequent Rider” fares. He suggested that adding the proposed reduced discount to the increased fare for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) would make a 50% overall fare increase for commuters who use both means. He suggested that, if fares are increased, the funds should be used to repair the Spaulding ferries. He stated that riders would not mind paying an increase if they could see its use. He suggested that, rather than reducing the “Frequent Rider” discount, the District should increase the cash fare. In conclusion, he stated that means to avoid paying the $75 million cost of reconstructing Doyle Drive should be investigated as a better way to raise revenue. He stated that repairing Doyle Drive would not encourage people to choose a non-automobile method of transportation.
  4. James Rosenfield, Owner, Marin Country Mart, expressed opposition to the proposed reduction in the ferry “Frequent Rider” discount. He stated that, as the owner of Marin Country Mart, which will replace the Larkspur Landing Shopping Center (Center), he hopes to attract more people to the area. He stated that higher fares would not be likely to lead to increased traffic in the area of the Center, which has been 70-80% empty, and not performing at its potential. He added that a charge for parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal LFT) would affect the Center, which will not charge its patrons for parking. He estimated that the LFT has approximately 1800 parking spaces, while only 1000 spaces will be available at the Center. Ferry riders may choose to park at the Center to avoid paying a parking fee. He indicated that, as neighbors, the Center and the LFT should work together.
  5. Herb Weiner, Councilmember, Sausalito, expressed opposition to the proposed reduction in the discount for ferry “Frequent Rider” fares. He stated that the City of Sausalito has worked hard for the past three years to accommodate bicycles, buses, automobiles and vans. He indicated that the proposed fare increase is too high, and will discourage people from riding the ferry. He stated that people come to Sausalito by bus, spend a recreational period in Sausalito, then return by ferry. He added that, over the past three years, ridership generally has decreased, but Sausalito ridership has increased during the same period. He stated that the City of Sausalito is investigating the possibility of adding a multi-purpose shuttle service with early morning trips to nearby hills and return trips later in the day. He stated that approximately 300,000 bicycles per year come through Sausalito, which benefits ferries, and requested that any increase in fares for ferries be lower than that proposed.
  6. Wayne Baker, San Rafael resident/member of Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee, expressed his opposition to the proposed reduction in the discount for ferry “Frequent Rider” fares, adding that he has talked to many ferry passengers, none of whom have expressed support for this proposal. He added that opposition to schedule changes is stronger than opposition to increased fares. He indicated that the ferries can support additional customers, who would be interested in high-speed service. He stated his observation that ridership is low on evening ferries. He noted that more attention could be paid to alternate revenue opportunities, such as attracting new riders through partnerships with restaurants and other businesses. He concluded by stating that even the most loyal of customers lose their price elasticity when faced with higher fares in addition to the prospect of having to pay for parking as well.
     
  b.
Written Comments: As of Wednesday, October 6, 2010, at 4:30 p.m., the District received the following written comments:
   
  1. Increase Golden Gate Ferry Frequent Rider Fare
    146 comments were received by the District, of those comments:
          95 comments expressed opposition for “frequent rider” fare increase;
          13 comments expressed support for “frequent rider” fare increase;
          27 comments expressed support for alternatives to the “frequent rider” fare increase; and,
          11 general comments.
  2. Alter Ferry Weekday Schedules
    201 comments were received by the District, of those comments:
          143 comments expressed opposition to the ferry schedule changes;
          37 comments expressed support for the ferry schedule changes; and,
          21 comments were not related to the ferry service changes.

The written correspondence is available for review in the Office of the District Secretary.

     
5.

Closing Remarks

Ms. Tarantino stated that the deadline for receiving written comments on these proposals is today, Thursday, October 7, 2010, at 4:30 p.m. Following the deadline for comments, staff will carefully consider the suggestions and comments that have been received, and will then develop a report that will include a summary of public comments and a staff recommendation for these proposals. The report will be presented to the Transportation Committee at its meeting of Thursday, November 18, 2010. It is anticipated that the Committee will forward its recommendation to the Board of Directors for consideration at its meeting of Friday, November 19, 2010. All meetings will be held in the Board Room, Administration Building, Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza, San Francisco, CA, beginning at 10:00 a.m. The staff report will be available for the public to view on Monday, November 15, 2010, by 4:30 p.m.

     
6.

Conclusion

All business having been concluded, the public hearing was closed at 10:10 a.m.

     

 

Respectfully submitted,

s/ Janet S. Tarantino
Secretary of the District

Attachments:

Exhibit 1: Staff Report entitled “Public Hearing to Receive Public Comment on Proposals to Change Golden Gate Ferry “Frequent Rider” Discount Fares and Weekday Schedules.” Public Hearing, October 7, 2010

Exhibit 2: Staff Report entitled “Authorize the Setting of a Public Hearing Relative to Proposed Changes to Golden Gate Ferry Frequent Rider Fares and Schedules.” Transportation Committee/Committee of the Whole Meeting, August 6, 2010

Exhibit 3: Staff Report entitled “Approve Changes to Golden Gate Ferry Fares for Passengers Using the ClipperSM Card Program and Changes to Weekday Schedules.” Transportation Committee/Committee of the Whole Meeting, November 18, 2010