December 15, 2011

 

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, CA, on Thursday, December 15, 2011, at 10:10 a.m., Chair Grosboll presiding.

Committee Members Present (7): Chair Grosboll; Vice Chair Sobel; Directors Arnold, Cochran, Pahre and Rabbitt; President Reilly (Ex Officio)
Committee Members Absent (1): Director Snyder
Other Directors Present (6): Directors Boro, Chu, Eddie, Moylan, Renée and Stroeh

Committee of the Whole Members Present (13): Directors Arnold, Boro, Chu, Cochran, Moylan, Pahre, Rabbitt, Renée, Sobel and Stroeh; Second Vice President Grosboll; First Vice President Eddie; President Reilly (Ex Officio)
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (5): Directors Campos, Elsbernd, Mar, Snyder and Theriault

[Note: On this date, there was one vacancy on the Board of Directors.]

Staff Present: General Manager Denis Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joe Wire; District Engineer Ewa Bauer; Secretary of the District Janet Tarantino; Attorney David Miller; Deputy General Manager/Bridge Division Kary Witt; Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony; Deputy General Manager/Ferry Transit Division James Swindler; Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Kellee Hopper; Director of Planning Ron Downing; Public Affairs Director Mary Currie; Senior Board Analyst Elizabeth Eells

Visitors Present: Stephanie Lovette, Acting Economic Development and Redevelopment Director, City of San Rafael; Mike Iswalt, Arup Consulting

     
1. Report of District Advisory Committees
     
  a.
Advisory Committee on Accessibility

The Meeting Agenda for November 17, 2011, and the Minutes of September 15, 2011, were furnished to the Transportation Committee. Copies are available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.
     
  b.

Bus Passengers Advisory Committee

The Meeting Agenda for November 9, 2011, and the Minutes of September 21, 2011, were furnished to the Transportation Committee. Copies are available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

     
  c.

Ferry Passengers Advisory Committee

The Meeting Agenda for November 14, 2011, and the Minutes of June 13, 2011, were furnished to the Transportation Committee. Copies are available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

Action by the Board – None Required

     
2.

Status Report on the Discontinuation of Golden Gate Transit Bus Route No. 72F

In a memorandum to Committee, Director of Planning Ron Downing, Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Kellee Hopper, Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony and General Manager Denis Mulligan provided a status report on the discontinuation of Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Bus Route 72F.

The staff report stated that GGT Route 72F, which started as a demonstration project in September 2009, has experienced loss of ridership and is now scheduled for discontinuance, effective March 12, 2012. The four trips that make up Route 72F represent less than 25 percent of Route 72 service. Therefore, consistent with the Rules of the Board, no public hearing will be required in this instance.

The staff report also stated that Route 72F service, using a multi-faceted marketing program including Wi-Fi-equipped MCI 57-passenger buses for passenger comfort, free ride tickets, billboard advertising, and various media promotions, has experienced decreased ridership over the past year. The staff report stated that present conditions suggest there is little further ridership potential for Route 72F.

The staff report stated that, although no public hearing is required, the District held a public workshop at the Petaluma Fairgrounds. To meet the concerns of the nine persons who attended the workshop, staff identified a Route 74 trip that originates at GGT Division 3 in Santa Rosa and deadheads to the north end of Petaluma to begin its southbound trip. That deadhead trip could be routed through Cotati at little or no cost. A similar opportunity exists in the northbound direction in the evening. This option would allow Cotati riders to still have a one-seat ride to the San Francisco Financial District, albeit with a longer travel time. It would also allow the District to save one peak pullout in each direction by cancelling outright the Route 72F trips that presently serve Cotati. This Route 74 trip will be monitored to insure that it continues to carry riders from Cotati. The other two Route 72F trips (one in each direction) would be converted to Route 72 trips and bypass the Petaluma Fairgrounds to address growing ridership from Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.

A copy of the staff report is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

At the meeting, Mr. Downing briefly summarized the staff report, stating that, despite the intensive marketing efforts, Route 72F ridership from Petaluma declined with the introduction of MCI coaches on Routes 74 and 76. He indicated that two Route 72F trips would be retained as Route 72 trips, without a stop in Cotati. No decline in revenue is expected. He concluded by stating that the change will become effective March 12, 2012.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Renée commented that she had received several emails from individuals in Cotati, and that she appreciates the District’s ability to provide alternatives for those riders.
  • Director Sobel commented his agreement with Director Renée, indicating his feeling that it is difficult when service is reduced, but that people understand when the financial reality is explained.  He complimented staff for their expertise in presenting this service reduction.
  • Director Rabbitt made the following comments and inquiry:
    • He commented his agreement with Directors Renée and Sobel and thanked staff. 
    • He commented that his hope had been that the Park & Ride lot would be more of an incentive to commute via public transportation.  He suggested that the convenience of a Park & Ride lot could help increase ridership in densely populated areas. 
    • He inquired as to the time of day that the deadhead bus trips would travel through Cotati.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that it would be within five minutes of the current 72F trip that stops in Cotati at 6:14 a.m. on its southbound trip and at 6:42 p.m. on its northbound trip.
  • Director Pahre made the following comment and inquiry:
    • She commented that she agrees with the previous Board members, and complimented and thanked staff.
    • She inquired as to whether any hidden costs, such as additional liability insurance, would be associated with turning the deadhead trips into passenger-carrying trips.  In response, Mr. Downing stated that the cost would be minimal.  He added that no additional liability costs would result. 
  • Chair Grosboll inquired as to whether the change would impact District staff.  Mr. Downing responded in the negative.
     
3. Status Report on the San Rafael Station Area Plan

In a PowerPoint presentation (PowerPoint) to Committee, Director of Planning Ron Downing, Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Kellee Hopper, Deputy General Manager/Bus Transit Division Teri Mantony and General Manager Denis Mulligan summarized the San Rafael Station Area Plan (Area Plan).

The PowerPoint described the Area Plan; the District’s interest in the San Rafael Transit Center (SRTC); and, the phasing of the Area Plan findings based on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s (SMART) decision to pursue an Initial Operating Segment (IOS). The PowerPoint provided an aerial view of the area, and a list of Area Planning Grants. In addition, the stakeholders’ planning study costs were shown.

The PowerPoint termed the SRTC the “most important bus stop” in the Golden Gate Transit (GGT) system, and provided some supporting details in this regard, including photographs of pedestrian and bus congestion at the SRTC; parking conditions for automobiles and bicycles; and, congested streets. The PowerPoint also identified impacts to the SRTC by the proposed downtown San Rafael SMART station. Potential issues that could arise from the Area Plan were given, as well as some of the goals and issues of a long-term plan for the SRTC. An aerial schematic showed the SRTC, the SMART IOS and the downtown San Rafael SMART station. The anticipated opening day was indicated as approximately 2015 to 2016, with no physical impacts to the SRTC.

The PowerPoint indicated that operational challenges for GGT bus services and others may exist, but possible mitigations can be identified with further, more detailed study. Finally, the PowerPoint concluded with a list of next steps to be undertaken by the parties involved or affected by the Area Plan. A copy of the PowerPoint is available from the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

At the meeting, Mr. Downing presented the PowerPoint, stating that it describes the District’s interests. He indicated that, when the initial study began, significant impacts from train tracks through the SRTC were identified. Especially important to the District would be the loss of Platform D, because the turning radius of a bus would be impacted by the location of the SMART tracks. He described the downtown San Rafael area surrounding the SRTC, stating that numerous bus routes stop at the SRTC, and that a large number of people will be affected by conditions in this environment. Taxicabs use the SRTC as a pick-up location, and bicyclists often lock their bicycles at the SRTC and then ride public transportation to San Francisco. The number of parking spaces would be significantly reduced and fewer bicycle racks would be available. Taxicabs would no longer be able to stand alongside the right-of-way while awaiting passengers, as they do now. Also of concern to the District is the safety of passengers debarking from the train and crossing Third Street to continue their commute on buses.

He reported that the District plans to locate its new Customer Service Center (CSC) in San Rafael at the SRTC, to be closer to passengers. Any impacts to Platform D could compromise the viability of the CSC. He added that SMART has not fixed an implementation date for the current plan.

He stated that the City of San Rafael was the lead agency, with the District, SMART, Marin County Transit District and the Transportation Authority of Marin being stakeholders, and each participating in the Downtown Station Area Planning Study. The District’s share of the cost was $33,000.00, with the total cost being $485,000.00. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission was the primary funding agent.

He indicated that GGT carries the largest number of commuters, transporting approximately 9,000 persons each weekday. He noted that the SRTC is very busy, and that it is also a major taxicab hub. Mr. Downing briefly provided some details regarding the expected impacts from the SMART station. He noted that new development of high-density housing is often built near public transportation. He concluded by stating that technical challenges remain that must be met, and that mitigations are available. Before mitigations could be implemented, detailed engineering and study would be necessary.

Mr. Mulligan gave his compliments to the parties involved in the Area Plan, for the collaborative fashion in which all worked together.

Discussion ensued, including the following comments and inquiries:

  • Director Rabbitt made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether there are any associated plans for new development or renovation to nearby areas. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that long-term plans include new development or renovation. He noted that the District owns the Center.
    • He inquired as to whether a study has been or will be done to determine the amount of new development or renovation that can be anticipated in that area, such that District expenses resulting from changes to SRTC could be predicted. In response, Mr. Downing stated that a study has not yet been completed, but a discussion in this regard has taken place among the parties.
  • Director Arnold inquired as to whether the Whistlestop offices would find it necessary to move. In response, Mr. Mulligan indicated that SMART is in discussions with Whistlestop regarding possible impacts.
  • Director Boro made the following comments:
    • He complimented staff for an excellent presentation on this complex issue.
    • He commented that Slide #10 shows an office building at the SRTC which, by 2016, will house 2,000 employees and be the hub of the office complex in that area. He stated that a Citizen’s Advisory group is working both in downtown San Rafael and at Northgate. He stated that downtown property is already pre-zoned and that, when the housing market improves, zoning will already be in place.
    • He commented that he is pleased with the efforts of all parties, and indicated that he thanks the District, the City of San Rafael, SMART, the Transportation Authority of Marin and the Marin County Transit District for their efforts.
  • Director Sobel inquired as to improvements on Third Street, and whether people will be safe when crossing train tracks and Third Street to board buses. In response, Mike Iswalt, of Arup Consulting (Arup), stated that Arup is doing the transportation work for the Area Plan. Mitigation measures include physical design, with barriers and way-finding signs. Design can be very helpful in preventing jaywalking, as can enforcement. He stated that Arup had worked with SMART to produce a report on initial scheduling and coordination of the various transportation services.
  • Director Pahre made the following inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether a grade-separated overcrossing is possible, similar to those seen at airports and other transportation hubs. In response, Mr. Iswalt stated that the idea has been considered but has been ruled out in the near term. He added that, even with an easily available alternate method for passengers to cross Third Street, it is unlikely that all would use it. Mr. Mulligan added that “count-down timers” at crosswalks have been employed by some communities. SMART will consider this and other possible options more closely before the final design of the site.
    • She inquired as to whether getting people across the tracks would be easier were there no other uses at the SRTC. Mr. Iswalt responded in the positive. He added that the long-term vision is to create an integrated and coordinated transit block.
  • Director Eddie commented that congestion at the SRTC is indicative of the many people taking advantage of the available modes of travel. The design must take this into consideration. He stated that the area may appear chaotic, but the individual traveler should find it easy to understand.
  • Director Boro commented that, as stated by San Rafael City Manager Ken Nordhoff, way-finding at the SRTC should resemble way-finding at an airport, where passengers can easily determine how to get from one place to another. He also commented that the City Council of San Rafael is 100% committed to a downtown San Rafael SMART station.
  • Director Cochran inquired as to whether the unit proposed for the location of the CSC is currently rented as commercial space. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the space has been rented in the past. He added that the District wishes the CSC to be located near the majority of its customers.
  • Director Arnold inquired as to the zoning in the area surrounding the SRTC and how many homes could be built. In response, Acting San Rafael Economic Development and Redevelopment Director Stephanie Lovette stated that zoning for more than 2000 units is in place. This Area Plan has few land use changes, except on some parcels, one of which is the SRTC parcel. She stated that the most complex problems in downtown San Rafael are the small lot sizes and the lack of sufficient parking spaces.
     
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 the annual trend lines for the 12-month period ending October 2011, and includes the following charts:

  a. Southbound Golden Gate Bridge Traffic Trend for the period from June 2004 to October 2011, showing the annual percentage change in traffic for the 12 months ending October 2011;
  b. Golden Gate Ferry Ridership Trend for the period from June 2004 through October 2011 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending October 2011; and,
  c. Golden Gate Transit Bus Ridership Trend as a 12-month running total from June 2004 through October 2011 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending October 2011.
     
 

The monthly report also included the Transit Service Performance Statistics Report for October 2011. The report shows Golden Gate Transit Bus (GGT Bus) and Golden Gate Transit Ferry (GGT Ferry) operations in October relative to performance targets set forth in the District’s Short-Range Transit Plan. GGT Bus productivity as measured by passengers per bus service hour, percent of scheduled service cancelled, and schedule adherence (on-time) remained at September 2011 levels. GGT Ferry productivity when compared with September 2011 declined by 11 passengers per ferry trip while load factor declined by 0.8 percent. 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.

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

  a. Revised spreadsheet from the Planning Department outlining GGT Bus service performance of both District regional routes and Marin Transit local routes, for October 2011; and,
  b. A spreadsheet from the Auditor-Controller outlining the history of payments made from July 1, 2011 to November 16, 2011, by Marin Transit to the District, for intra-county bus transit services in Marin County.
 

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.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

     
7.

Adjournment

All business having been concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.

     

 

Respectfully submitted,

s/ Dick Grosboll, Chair
Transportation Committee