August 6, 2010

 

REPORT OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

 

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

Honorable Members:

A meeting of the Transportation Committee was held in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, County of Sonoma, Santa Rosa, California, on Friday, August 6, 2010, at 10:00 a.m., Vice Chair Cochran presiding.

Committee Members Present (6): Vice Chair Cochran; Directors Kerns, McGlashan, Pahre and Sobel; President Boro (Ex Officio)

Committee Members Absent (3): Chair Brown; Directors Grosboll and Snyder

Other Directors Present (2): Directors Eddie and Sanders

Staff Present: General Manager Celia G. Kupersmith; Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire; District Engineer Denis J. Mulligan; Secretary of the District Janet S. Tarantino; Attorney David J. Miller; Deputy General Manager/ Bridge Division Kary H. Witt; Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri W. Mantony; Deputy General Manager/Ferry Transit Division James P. Swindler; Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Z. Wayne Johnson; Planning Director Ron Downing; Public Relations Director Mary Currie; Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amorette Ko; Assistant Clerk of the Board Lona Franklin

Visitors Present: Marina Secchitano, Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific; Lisa L. Gygax, Sonoma County resident

     
1. Report of the District Advisory Committees
     
  a.

Advisory Committee on Accessibility (ACA)

The agenda for the July 22, 2010, meeting, and the minutes of the May 27, 2010, 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 (BPAC)

There was no meeting of the Bus Passengers Advisory Committee in July 2010.

     
  c.

Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee (FPAC)

There was no meeting of the Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee in July 2010.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
2. Authorize the Setting of a Public Hearing Relative to Proposed Changes to Golden Gate Ferry Frequent Rider Fares and Schedules
     
  a.

Staff Report

In a memorandum to Committee, Director of Planning Ron Downing, Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Z. Wayne Johnson, Deputy General Manager/Ferry Transit Division James P. Swindler, Auditor-Controller Joseph M. Wire and General Manager Celia Kupersmith reported on staff’s recommendation to authorize the setting of a public hearing for the purpose of receiving public comment on proposed changes to Golden Gate Ferry frequent rider fares and schedules.

The report stated that, on October 30, 2009, the Board of Directors adopted the FY 09/10 Financial Plan for Achieving Long-Term Financial Stability (Plan), which laid out 33 specific initiatives to help restore the District’s financial stability. Initiative 13 of the Plan proposed reducing the ferry fare discount for frequent riders, available through Clipper®, to 30% off the basic adult cash fare. Initiative 9 of the Plan proposed reducing ferry trips with low ridership. In addition, the staff report stated that further savings would accrue by retiming some existing trips to improve operational efficiency.

The staff report provided a brief background on frequent rider discounts, noting that the current rate is 38% on the Larkspur ferry and 46% on the Sausalito ferry. The proposed change would establish the new discount rate at 30% for both ferry services. The report stated that this proposal applies only to full-fare adult riders using Clipper® cards, which has been the sole means of obtaining a discount since January 31, 2009. The report compared the ferry frequent rider discount to the current bus frequent rider discount of 20%.

The report stated that, following analysis of the anticipated impacts from a change in the ferry discount rate, staff determined that some riders might stop using ferry service if the discount rate is reduced but most are likely to continue riding. Only 31% of passengers on the Sausalito service are frequent riders. The balance of riders pay cash and would be unaffected by a change in the discount rate. For Larkspur service, frequent riders make up 58% of riders. In addition, a survey of regional bus and ferry passengers, conducted in 2008, concluded that the cost of fares is of minimum concern to frequent ferry riders.

The staff report also detailed ferry schedule changes that are proposed in order to generate cost savings. The proposed, revised weekday schedules are intended to better accommodate commuters’ work start times, maximize crew availability and provide ongoing cost savings associated with reduced fuel consumption. It is estimated that the proposed changes could reduce fuel costs by approximately $140,000.00 to $280,000.00 annually. The report stated that the adjustment of schedule times may potentially affect more than 25% of all weekday ferry riders and that, therefore, staff recommends that the proposed schedule changes be incorporated into the outreach and public hearing process being recommended for the proposed reduction in discounts.

The staff report stated that 41 weekday crossings are currently scheduled between Larkspur and San Francisco, with 18 weekday crossings between Sausalito and San Francisco. For Larkspur ferry service, schedule adjustments would occur in both directions during the morning commute period. The first northbound trip to Larkspur and one evening round-trip would be eliminated. One round-trip during the midday would be eliminated during the non-peak season, from October 1 through March 31. In addition, the first morning southbound trip to San Francisco would be operated using a Spaulding vessel, eliminating a non-revenue deadhead trip currently made by the Sausalito ferry between Larkspur and Sausalito.

The staff report stated that the proposed changes to the Sausalito ferry service include schedule adjustments of 30 to 55 minutes. These would occur in both directions during the midday, with one adjustment resulting in a 55-minute change. A new morning trip, which would depart San Francisco at 6:30 a.m., would arrive 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 day, 26% of Larkspur passengers and 22% of Sausalito passengers would see changes in current schedule times of 15 minutes or more. Alternate service would be available to most passengers. Because over 25% of Larkspur ferry patrons would experience schedule changes of 15 minutes or more, and 21% of peak Larkspur ferry patrons could be affected, staff recommends that a public outreach program be done, followed by a public hearing.

Minimal expense is associated with undertaking the proposed public comment process, which is already included in the FY 10/11 Budget. Between $210,000.00 and $300,000.00 in new fare revenue could be generated during the second half of FY 10/11, after accounting for expenses associated with public information materials, if the changes are implemented on January 1, 2011, or $420,000.00 to $600,000.00 over a full year. If the ferry schedule adjustments are also implemented on January 1, 2011, an estimated $140,000.00 in operating cost savings between January 1 and June 30, 2011, or approximately $280,000.00 over a full year, depending on future per-gallon fuel costs, could be realized.

Copies of the staff report are available from the Office of the District Secretary, and on the District’s web site.

     
 

b.

Presentation

At the meeting, Ms. Kupersmith stated that staff’s proposal requests approval of the public hearing and public information process, in anticipation of changes to fare discounts and schedules for the Larkspur and Sausalito ferries.

Director of Planning Ron Downing stated that a public hearing is proposed for October 7, 2010, which will cover discounts available to ferry riders using the Clipper™ card. He noted that other Bay Area carriers offer discounts ranging between 21% and 31%. If changes are approved as proposed, the District’s discounts will be closer in amount to those offered by other carriers.

[Director McGlashan arrived at this time.]

Mr. Downing summarized the staff report, stating that the Rules of the Board require that staff set a public hearing, as being proposed. He stated that staff has identified changes that can produce cost savings, for example, optimizing schedules, changing speed and eliminating ferry trips with very low ridership. He stated that most ferry trips would not change, but that some trips will see schedule changes of 15 to 30 minutes or less. He noted that changes to midday trips would not affect most commuters. He stated that public outreach would take place in August and September, prior to the public hearing date proposed for October 7, 2010. With the Board’s approval of the setting of a public hearing, a recommendation for any proposed changes could be presented to the Transportation Committee currently scheduled on November 5, 2010, and then before the Board for approval on November 19, 2010, with new fares and schedules to be effective on January 1, 2011. He stated that both proposals are consistent with initiatives of the Plan.

     
  c.

Discussion by the Board

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Sobel made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He inquired as to the number of ferries that run during the midday period. In response, Mr. Downing stated that 22 crossings from Sausalito and Larkspur take place during the midday period.
    • He inquired as to the elimination of some service and adjustment of schedules. In response, Mr. Downing stated that some very early ferry trips run with no or very low ridership and that these trips are proposed to change or be eliminated.
    • He commented that he had taken the ferry during the midday period and had noted the low number of passengers. In response, Mr. Downing stated that some trips would be consolidated with others. He stated that fewer riders commute during the midday, such that the majority of those who do ride are using the ferry for leisure.
  • Director Pahre inquired as to the impact on employee staffing. In response, Mr. Downing stated there would be no impact on employee staffing from implementation of the reduced fare discounts or service changes, because staff will be employed more effectively.
  • President Boro made the following comments and inquiries:
    • He inquired as to the number of ferry trips allowed from Larkspur by the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that was certified. In response, Mr. Downing stated that, under the requirements of the EIR, no more than 42 trips per day from Larkspur are allowed, and that currently, 39 trips per day take place.
    • He commented that soon a high-speed ferry fleet will be used from Larkspur, and inquired as to when the high-speed ferries will be in place. In response, Mr. Swindler stated that all ferries should be in place by the summer of 2011. The M.V. Golden Gate is due to arrive in November 2010. Once it has arrived, the M.V. Napa will receive maintenance, and will return during the summer of 2011. He added that the M.V. Del Norte was repowered and has been returned to service.
    • He commented that presentations to the public should emphasize the low number of passengers on the trips proposed for change.
    • He inquired as to whether the changes proposed will result in the level of savings anticipated by Initiative 9 of the Plan. In response, Mr. Wire stated that, although further savings are needed to reach that goal, the proposed changes to service levels will bring the District very close to its goal. He added that the reduction in the discount percentage is the first part of what can be a dual approach, with a second change in discounts available to be implemented later. He stated that additional service changes are also available and that staff is researching those at this time.
  • Director Sanders made the following comments and inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether discounts are provided for students or families, and if other discounts have been considered. She commented that reducing the discount for Clipper® card users to 20% would reduce the District’s costs further. In response, Mr. Downing stated that reducing the discount to 20% immediately was considered, but that the impact on passengers would be greater. He added that further reduction of the discount rate is available to take effect at a future time and will be presented to the Board for its approval should this be prudent. Ms. Kupersmith added that approval of the Plan included reducing discounts incrementally. She noted that a ferry passenger will experience a $.65 increase in the ferry fare and that will be in addition to the already approved 5% annual increase (the last increase in a five-year program). She stated that a senior fare, a child fare and a very low, discounted fare at midday for seniors and groups are currently available and will not be eliminated. She reminded Transportation Committee members that the ferry is a costly service to operate.
     
  d.

Public Comment

Marina Secchitano, Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific stated that, in terms of the proposal at hand, union members are uncertain whether ferries can be maintained. She stated that ferries should not be seen as transportation for the rich, but should be affordable for all who wish to use them. She requested that the Board keep in mind that a lower discount translates into a higher fare for the passenger.

Discussion ensued, including the following comment:

  • President Boro commented that Ms. Secchitano is correct that the ferry service should be available to all people who wish to use this service, regardless of income. He stated that passengers all have a common interest in getting to their destinations safely, swiftly and at minimum cost.

 

     
 

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

RECOMMENDATION

The Transportation Committee recommends that the Board of Directors authorize the setting of a public hearing on Thursday, October 7, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., in the Board Room, Administration Building, at the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza Building, San Francisco, CA, for the purpose of receiving public comment on:

  a.
A proposed reduction in the discount rate for the Golden Gate Ferry “Frequent Rider” Program available through the use of Clipper® cards to a standard discount of 30% from the basic adult cash fare; and,
  b. Proposed Golden Gate Ferry schedule changes that will improve operational efficiency and generate cost savings;
 

with the understanding that changes to Ferry Transit fares and schedules will both be implemented on January 1, 2011.

Action by the Board at its meeting of August 13, 2010 – Resolution

NON-CONSENT CALENDAR

AYES (8): Vice Chair Cochran; Directors Eddie, Kerns, McGlashan, Pahre, Sanders and Sobel; President Boro (Ex Officio)
NOES (0): None
ABSENT (3): Chair Brown; Directors Grosboll and Snyder

     
3.

Monthly Report on Bridge Traffic, Transit Ridership Trends and Transit Service Performance

The monthly report on Bridge Traffic and Transit Ridership Trends and Transit Service Performance was furnished to the Transportation Committee. The report shows monthly trends updated to reflect June 2010, and includes the following charts:

  a.
Golden Gate Bridge – southbound 12-month running traffic totals as recorded in the toll lanes, southbound monthly averages of 5-9 a.m. weekday commute period traffic, and southbound monthly averages of 4-6 p.m. weekday commute period traffic;
  b.
Golden Gate Ferry – 12-month running totals of boarding passengers as recorded in the daily vessel logs; and,
  c.
Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Bus – 12-month running totals of boarding passengers as recorded in on-board fare collection equipment.
     
 

The monthly report also included the Transit Service Performance Statistics Report for June 2010, showing that, during the month of June 2010, ferry productivity as measured by passengers per trip and load factor, along with bus productivity as measured by farebox recovery, all increased. 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.

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 (Marin Transit) was furnished to the Transportation Committee. The report included the following elements:

  a. A spreadsheet from the Planning Department outlining GGT bus service performance of both District regional routes and Marin Transit local routes, for the month of June 2010; and,
  b.
A spreadsheet from the Auditor-Controller outlining the history of payments made from June 1, 2010 to July 30, 2010 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 Board Agenda for July 19, 2010;
  b. Marin Transit Board Minutes for June 21, 2010;
  c. Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) Board Agenda for July 22, 2010;
  d. TAM Board Minutes from June 24, 2010;
  e. TAM Board Agenda for July 12, 2010; and,
  f. TAM Executive Committee Minutes from June 21, 2010.
     
 

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

Lisa L. Gygax, Sonoma County resident, commented on all-electronic tolling, stating that human toll takers should not be eliminated by replacing them with all-electronic tolling collection machines. She stated she had worked with technology in the U. S. Army for an extended period and had discovered that machines are not as nearly perfect as salespeople say they are. In addition, the funds to purchase electronics do not stay within the United States but instead go abroad. She stated that machines are very costly to maintain, and are designed to be replaced. Furthermore, all electronic machines can be hacked and it is an easy process to hack them. She stated that banks and data centers have been hacked, as well as many electronic machines in many other fields. She requested the Board also recall that the cost of powering technological machines is high, so that employees to maintain and service the electronic systems will simply replace the human toll takers. She requested that the Board not eliminate all toll takers.

     
6.

Adjournment

All business having been concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.

     
     
     

 

Respectfully submitted,

s/ Gerald D. Cochran, Vice Chair
Transportation Committee