January 7, 2010

 

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, January 7, 2010, at 10:00 a.m., Chair Brown presiding.

Committee Members Present (8): Chair Brown; Vice Chair Cochran; Directors Grosboll, Kerns, McGlashan, Pahre and Snyder; President Boro (Ex Officio)
Committee Members Absent (1): Director Sobel
Other Directors Present (3): Directors Eddie, Moylan and Stroeh

Committee of the Whole Members Present (11): Directors Brown, Cochran, Grosboll, Kerns, McGlashan, Moylan, Pahre, Snyder and Stroeh; Second Vice President Eddie; President Boro (Ex Officio)
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (8): Directors Campos, Chu, Dufty, Elsbernd, Newhouse Segal, Sanders and Sobel; First Vice President Reilly

Staff Present: General Manager Celia G. Kupersmith; District Engineer Denis J. Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; Secretary of the District Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney Madeline Chun; Deputy General Manager/Bridge Division Kary Witt; Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony; Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Z. Wayne Johnson; Director of Planning Alan R. Zahradnik; Senior Planner Barbara Vincent; Director of Bus Operations Richard Hibbs; Director of Bus Maintenance (Retired) Gene Walker; Assistant Clerk of the Board Lona Franklin

Visitors Present: None

     
1. Report of District Advisory Committees
     
  a. Advisory Committee on Accessibility
  b. Bus Passengers Advisory Committee
  c. Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee
     
 

There were no meetings of the above-referenced District Advisory Committees during the month of December 2009.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
2.

Approve Full Transition to TransLink® as the Sole Method of Receiving Golden Gate Transit Inter-County Frequent Rider Discounts on Regional Bus Service

In a memorandum to Committee, Senior Planner Barbara Vincent, Marketing and Communications Director Kellee Hopper, Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Z. Wayne Johnson and General Manager Celia Kupersmith provided a staff recommendation to approve the elimination of magnetic-stripe fare “Value Cards” in the denominations of $25.00, $50.00 and $75.00, effective August 1, 2010; and, to approve full transition to TransLink® as the sole method of receiving frequent rider discounts on regional Golden Gate Transit (GGT) bus service.

The report noted that staff continues to see strong reliability and confidence in the TransLink® system. It also provided background information, stating that revenue-ready status for bus and ferry was reached in November 2006, and that this market share has grown steadily. In December 2008, discount tickets were eliminated on Golden Gate ferries, and now seventy-five per cent of ferry commuters use TransLink®.

The report went on to state that Value Cards introduced for GGT bus service in March 2009 were not accepted by passengers as readily as was TransLink®. In addition, under an agreement between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the TransLink® Consortium, the District must transition by July 1, 2010. A Transition Plan is being recommended by staff whereby the sale of Value Cards in the above denominations are scheduled to end on June 30, 2010.

The staff report further stated that estimated savings of approximately $10,000.00 annually, resulting from discontinuance of Value Cards would likely be offset by TransLink® fees associated with transaction costs. A copy of the staff report is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s website.

At the meeting, Senior Planner Barbara Vincent stated that the TransLink® contract was assigned to Cubic Corporation in June 2009. She stated that the District has successfully transitioned to TransLink®, with the exception of the use of Value Cards. These cards are planned to be eliminated for regional ridership only.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Snyder inquired as to the District’s confidence in TransLink®, stating he had heard that other public transportation systems had experienced some problems with the cards. In response, Ms. Vincent stated that other systems are going through a “shake-out” period. Ms. Kupersmith stated that, within a year, these problems are likely to have been addressed and, like the District, the other systems will be ready to fully transition.
  • Director Grosboll inquired as to the reason for waiting until August 1, 2010 to eliminate the stated Value Card denominations, and why the increase in TransLink® was so great. Ms. Kupersmith stated that the District encouraged the use of TransLink®. As far as waiting until August 1, historically this timeframe has been recommended for changes in fares.
  • Director Pahre inquired as to whether a name change for TransLink® will cause confusion. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that TransLink® is owned by MTC and that “Clipper Card” has been chosen as the new name. She stated that research showed few people connected the name “TransLink®” with a linking of different transit systems, but that the name “Clipper” was positively received. Furthermore, some negative connotation has been connected with the term “TransLink®.”

Staff recommended and the Committee concurred by motion made and seconded by Directors GROSBOLL/COCHRAN to forward the following recommendation to the Board of Directors for its consideration:

RECOMMENDATION

The Transportation Committee recommends that the Board of Directors approve the elimination of magnetic-stripe fare “Value Cards” in the denominations of $25.00, $50.00, and $75.00, effective August 1, 2010; and, approve full transition to TransLink® as the sole method of receiving inter-county frequent rider discounts on regional Golden Gate Transit Bus service.

Action by the Board at its meeting of January 8, 2010 – Resolution
NON-CONSENT CALENDAR

     
3.

Status Report on New Golden Gate Transit Fareboxes

In a memorandum to Committee, Director of Bus Operations Richard Hibbs, Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony and General Manager Celia Kupersmith provided a status report on the new GGT fareboxes. Further, the staff report noted that the procurement process was lengthy, but the new validating fare collection system was installed and implemented in March 2009. The previous farebox replacement took place in 1984,with data collection and accountability becoming less reliable over time. With the new validating system, detailed data can be collected and analyzed not only from the point when the passenger pays a fare, but also through the process of sending cash directly to the bank rather than to the District’s Vault and counting room. No fiscal impact is associated with this status report. A copy of the staff report is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s website.

Mr. Hibbs gave a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation provided an overview of the project, showing the initial project cost for new fareboxes, new vaults and new infrastructure would be approximately $3.2 million. In addition, the project would provide enhanced security and expanded data collection capabilities. The presentation showed several technological improvements, such as rejection of bad coins and validation of paper bills. In addition, the new system would have increased capability to interpret data collected by the fareboxes. Training was done in order to gain the maximum benefit from the new fareboxes. Today the fleet retrofit is complete, TransLink® use is increasing, complaints have dropped dramatically and the District is making use of the more complete data that has been collected. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available from the Office of the District Secretary or from the District’s website.

During the meeting, Mr. Hibbs stated that the objective of this project is to replace the old, obsolete system. Technology has improved and enhanced security has made fareboxes more tamper-resistant, while providing transportation systems with additional options. He reported that the new farebox system validates $1.00, $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00 bills, and will reject bad coins. It both issues and validates transfers, which reduces waste. Magnetic fare media is substituted for paper, and the new fareboxes will integrate the electronic components aboard buses.

He stated that the Planning Department is receiving ridership data, and there is better management of bus operator performance. Maintenance tracking is improved, and customer service, marketing and special events data can be tracked. In addition, he stated that stakeholders’ needs, including employees, drivers, mechanics, unions, and all who worked together on installation, as well as customers, were considered. These groups were involved because of outreach. Question and answer sessions took place and educational materials provided by the Marketing Department were made available in both English and Spanish. The media gave good pre- and post-Roll-Out coverage. Marin County Transit was also included in the outreach process.

Mr. Hibbs further reported that training, with proper prior planning, was required. The Operations and Maintenance Departments prepared a mock-up of a vehicle that would hold the farebox, to assure ergonomics were correct. Two hundred four fareboxes were installed in a single weekend with service being maintained during installation. Each farebox was powered up and checked for accuracy, with excellent results. On the first day of operation, everything worked well.

Paying a fare by cash is now more convenient for customers, and a change card can be given. Fewer conflicts arise between driver and passenger because the driver is not the decision-maker. Strip tickets and other media were replaced by the magnetic stripe value cards. More than just a new farebox, this is a new technology system. The learning curve was steeper than expected, but unexpected situations were addressed as they came up. For example, a fleet retrofit was done and in July, a TransLink® problem was identified and solved. Use of TransLink® has increased and complaints have fallen dramatically. Using the data, the District will be better able to plan for customer and service needs.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Pahre commented that she was very pleased with the new system and with the fact that it could provide many new benefits to the District and its customers.
  • Director Grosboll inquired as to the reduction in complaints since installation was completed; and, requested additional information as to how moisture may affect the system and how mechanical difficulties can be handled by the driver. In response, Mr. Hibbs stated that from the Roll-Out to the end of December 2009, less than 1% of total trip complaints were related to TransLink®. He stated that a more durable media is being sought for use during inclement weather. If a ticket gets wet and does not work, a driver will be able to validate it. If necessary, a call to the Dispatch center will provide instructions on how to proceed. Frequent passengers would be allowed to ride and the card can be replaced. If the driver is unsuccessful, a supervisor can be summoned.
  • Director Cochran inquired as to mutilated cards and whether or not the fareboxes can jam. He further inquired about disputes that might arise for a new or infrequent passenger. In response, Mr. Hibbs stated that, in certain cases, a dispatcher would have authority to clear a passenger to ride. He stated that fareboxes are modular inside, and the top will open with a key. If a ticket is jammed, it can be simply extracted.
  • Director Snyder made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He inquired as to the impact of disputes or mechanical problems on the bus schedule. In response, Mr. Hibbs stated that scheduling will be under control. He stated that the steep learning curve is known, and that the customer will be given the benefit of the doubt. Special procedures have been developed to meet such problems as passengers whose tickets habitually jam or who have other, similar issues.
    • He inquired as to whether the moisture sensitivity of the cards had been identified as a problem because of its existence in other parts of the United States. In response, Mr. Hibbs stated that the problem of inclement weather was not explored in relation to experiences elsewhere. He stated that the choice of media stock will be important in keeping weather difficulties to a minimum. In further response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the choice of media stock will be important in minimizing weather and damage problems. In addition to anticipating solutions to possible problems, passengers will be educated to protect the cards from weather and other conditions that may damage them. She stated that the District is the Bay Area leader in farebox replacements and will work cooperatively with others such that they will benefit from the District’s experience.
    • He inquired as to the reason why GGT does not offer monthly passes. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that any regional transit trip should be paid for by the customer, because the subsidy is coming from the car drivers who are paying tolls. The District has a complex transit fare structure because of the zone system, where people pay more to travel farther. A monthly pass gives a very substantial discount in that these are for a period of time for unlimited ridership, and transfer among customers is possible. There are pluses and minuses on monthly passes. She stated that ridership could increase even without an increase in revenue, and that other transportation agencies have chosen to employ monthly passes for this reason.
  • Director Kerns inquired as to the kind of paper that cards are made from and whether plastic cards could be substituted instead. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the stock is plastic coated, unlike a credit card, but more like a business card covered with vinyl. In further response, Mr. Hibbs added that he had tested the cards, tried to destroy them, and then tested them again. During the tests, the cards did not malfunction.
  • Director Brown inquired as to whether samples of the cards could be distributed to the Board. In response, Mr. Hibbs provided the sample card to Board members.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
4.

Status Report on Clean Air Initiatives in the Golden Gate Transit Bus Division

In a memorandum to Committee, Superintendent of Vehicle Maintenance Steve Miller, Director of Bus Maintenance Gene Walker, Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony and General Manager Celia Kupersmith provided a status report on clean air initiatives in the GGT bus fleet. The staff report noted this item was informational only. Further, the staff report noted that no fiscal impact was associated with this report.

The staff report briefly summarized the history of the District’s compliance with California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandates promulgated in 2000 and effective in 2001. The report presented an overview of the District’s clean diesel path, stating that the District was in full compliance by 2005. A copy of the staff report is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s website.

Director of Bus Maintenance Gene Walker gave a PowerPoint presentation. He stated that, some years ago, CARB required that public transit agencies reduce emissions and provided data regarding emissions. The “Fleet Rule for Public Transit Agencies” went into effect in 2001. Changes were made in the months and years that followed and are still being made today. District staffs were pioneers in developing a partnership with CARB, and identified funding and technology. This partnership has lasted for about 20 years.

A regional transit approach has been taken. “Fuel neutrality” means that the fuel that goes in is not the important part; more important is what comes out in the exhaust. In January 2001, the Board chose diesel as its best path to follow. Environmental decision-making has made up a significant part of all District decisions in this regard. Data collected by the District has been shared with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s). For example, oil changes are now performed after each 6,000 miles, rather than after each 3,000 miles; and for transmissions, the gap is even greater. Emissions have been greatly reduced, specifically, particulate matter emissions (PM) are down by 80% and nitrogen (NOx) emissions are down by 25%. The District’s success was recognized by Earth Day in the form of an award.

Remanufactured engines were purchased to enable certification every 50,000 miles. These were below standards for quality and reliability, resulting in a recommendation for installation of a different engine. The new engine provides a 50% reduction in emissions. As a result, the District was able to obtain five-year engine warranties from the manufacturer at no additional cost. These engines entered service as the first clean-engine in the world. An MTC grant of $100,000.00 per coach greatly extended the life of coaches.

Compliance with CARB regulations originated from Best Practices and good relationships with OEMs, as well as evaluation of new equipment and technology. The lifetime of the District’s fleet has been extended and costs remain within budget.

In summary, Mr. Walker stated that District efforts continue to reduce emissions even further. The District partners with many other agencies, and is involved in development of regulations, resulting in reduced emissions and improved fuel economy. These benefits are nationwide because the District has been instrumental in their development. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s website.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director McGlashan inquired as to whether there are legal requirements for emission levels. In response, Mr. Walker stated that the 2010 CARB regulations established the same emissions levels for all types of engines. Federal regulations for 2010 mirror the CARB regulations.
  • Director Grosboll made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to what the District’s next goals should be. In response, Mr. Walker stated that the District is presently retrofitting older vehicles. In addition, the generator at the Bus Maintenance shop should be inspected, and vehicle replacement schedules should be reviewed and updated. He suggested the Board should optimize its selection of new equipment by quality of service, as well as price, in order to get the “best bang for the buck.” He stated that the District works together with other organizations to develop better ideas, and that the District shares it findings with others through national organizations and other venues.
    • He inquired as to how the District compares with other Bay Area agencies. In response, Mr. Walker stated that the District is definitely in the top tier, perhaps listed within the top five, due to its decision to repower rather than rebuild engines.
    • He inquired as to whether an update could be provided by year-end regarding District options and costs, as well as the relative desirability of various courses of action. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the Board would be provided such an update. She added that over the next few years, the District will be involved in moving forward on furthering zero-emissions bus technology. That goal must remain an important one. The District has done well in developing a long-term solution with minimal investment. The question of diesel arose in connection with the contract for hybrid buses, to be used by Marin Transit and owned by the District, providing the District with an opportunity to collect information about use of hybrid technology for the future. In addition, some of the District’s support equipment and systems are running on 100% bio-fuel. For example, the scooters used to maintain the Bridge run on bio-fuel.
  • Director Snyder inquired as to whether the District’s current diesel formulation includes a bio-fuel mixture, and whether there might be a benefit. In response, Mr. Walker stated that the District does not include a bio-fuel in its diesel, but there could be benefits. However, the District uses a robust after-treatment, stating that filters can clog from the use of bio-fuel, or the nitrogen reduction may be compromised. Many manufacturers do not allow use of bio-fuel in maintaining their warranties. Also, bio-fuel is costly. For example, a bio-fuel that is mixed underground would require purchase of equipment to mix the fuel. In addition, the facility and the process would require maintenance. There are other methods available for users of bio-fuel, all of which have major costs associated with them. The District’s methods amount to approximately one-third that cost.
  • Chair Brown made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He inquired as to District and CARB staff who interact with this Board. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that District staff do interact with CARB, but that the District has neither its own representative on their Board, nor does it have a CARB staff member who is specifically assigned to the District.
    • He commented that the Marin County business community is very interested in the issues surrounding environmental justice and requested that a representative of the District make personal contact with CARB staff, as well as Marin County staff, to discuss this subject in further detail.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
5.

Monthly Report on Bridge Traffic and Transit Ridership Trends

The monthly report on Bridge Traffic and Transit Ridership Trends was furnished to the Transportation Committee. The report shows the annual trend lines for the 12-month period ending November 2009, and includes the following charts:

  a.
Southbound Golden Gate Bridge Traffic Trend for the period from June 2004 to November 2009, showing the annual percentage change in traffic for the 12 months ending November 2009;
  b.
Golden Gate Ferry Ridership Trend for the period from June 2004 through November 2009 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending November 2009; and,
  c.
GGT Bus Ridership Trend as a 12 month running total from June 2004 through November 2009 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending November 2009.
     
 

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

     
6.

Monthly Report on Activities Related to Marin Local Service Contract with the Marin County Transit District

The monthly report on activities related to the Marin local service contract with the Marin County Transit District (Marin Transit) was furnished to the Transportation Committee. The report included the following elements:

  a.
Revised spreadsheets from the Planning Department outlining GGT bus service performance of both District regional routes and Marin Transit local routes, for November, 2009; and,
  b.
A spreadsheet from the Auditor-Controller outlining the history of payments made from July, 2009 to December, 2009 by Marin Transit 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:
  a.
Marin Transit Agenda for December 21, 2009, Board Meeting;
  b.
Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) Board Meeting Agenda for December 17, 2009;
  c.
TAM Executive Committee Cancellation Notice for December 14, 2009, Meeting; and
     
 

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

     
7.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

     
8.

Adjournment

All business having been concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 11:08 a.m.

     

 

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Harold C. Brown, Chair
Transportation Committee