February 9, 2012

 

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, February 9, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., Chair Grosboll presiding.

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

Committee of the Whole Members Present (14): Directors Arnold, Cochran, Elsbernd, Fredericks, Moylan, Pahre, Renée, Sears, Snyder, Sobel and Stroeh; Second Vice President Grosboll; First Vice President Eddie; President Reilly (Ex Officio)
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (5): Directors Campos, Chu, Mar, Rabbitt and Theriault

Staff Present: General Manager Denis Mulligan; Auditor-Controller Joe Wire; District Engineer Ewa Bauer; Secretary of the District Janet Tarantino; Attorney Madeline Chun; Deputy General Manager/Bridge Division Kary Witt; 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; Assistant Clerk of the Board Lona Franklin

Visitors Present: None


     
1. Report of District Advisory Committees
     
  a.
Advisory Committee on Accessibility
The Meeting Agenda for January 19, 2012, and the Minutes of November 17, 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 January 25, 2012, the Meeting Summary of November 9, 2011, and the Revised Meeting Summary 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 Summary of January 9, 2012, and the Meeting Notes of November 14, 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 Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Regional Transit Sustainability Project

In a PowerPoint presentation (PowerPoint) to Committee, Deputy General Manager/Administration and Development Kellee Hopper and General Manager Denis Mulligan provided a report on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) Regional Transit Sustainability Project (TSP).

The PowerPoint provided an introduction that briefly described the goal of the TSP and the agencies analyzed by the MTC. Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (District) staff actively contributed to the TSP through data collection and by guiding and reacting to policy proposals submitted by the MTC staff and its consultants. The PowerPoint also detailed the program goal to improve overall service performance through increased ridership and efficient resource use.

The PowerPoint listed improvement of operating efficiency and control of cost growth as key program principles. Reducing costs per service hour by 10% over the upcoming five-year period can be achieved by improving operating performance and by reducing fringe benefits, overhead and operating costs. Evaluation of changes to the business model for service delivery can also be instrumental in helping to achieve cost reduction.

An investment and incentive approach is planned for achieving improved service performance with control of cost growth a key program principle. The PowerPoint displayed bar graphs showing the aggregate percentage change in operating cost, service, and passenger increases from 1997 to 2008, for seven large Bay Area transportation agencies (“Big 7”), for light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail and all bus. The PowerPoint also displayed the cost per vehicle service hour for 2009. A pie chart depicted system-wide operating costs by percentage for fringe benefits, operator wages, other wages and “other” costs. A table provided information on the percentage of total regional administration expenditures for several categories of service.

Another table provided information on each “Big 7” agency, with its highest annual cost per hour from 2008 to 2011 shown, and 10% reduction targets calculated for both 2011 and 2017. The purpose of the analysis, the approach and the components to be evaluated are detailed, as are initial institutional recommendations. The PowerPoint concludes with next steps, which are, in February 2012, establishment of a steering committee; in March 2012, release of draft TSP recommendations for public comment; and, in April 2012, adoption of the TSP recommendations.

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

At the meeting, Ms. Hopper briefly summarized the PowerPoint, stating that the MTC had compared transportation agencies both domestically and globally. She indicated that one of the targets to be achieved is to keep operating costs equal to inputs. She stated that, for the “Big 7,” costs continue to outpace increases in ridership.

Mr. Mulligan added that Golden Gate Transit (GGT) has the highest cost per vehicle service hour among the “Big 7.” GGT provides long distance suburban peak period service. A coach from Santa Rosa to San Francisco will burn approximately eleven gallons of fuel and cover approximately sixty miles in an hour. By comparison, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) coach will burn approximately one to two gallons of fuel and travel between five and seven miles in an hour, on average.

Discussion ensued, including the following inquiries and comment:

  • Director Elsbernd made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether this report has been issued before, and whether GGT has previously had the highest cost per service hour. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the District reports its costs to the MTC each month. The information has been previously available but was not published in its present format. The regional stakeholders now wish to focus on why some transit systems are more expensive than others. The District has shown high costs previously due to the regional nature of its routes. Stakeholders in the TSP are interested in beginning to benchmark activities to determine the reasons for cost variations among them.
    • He inquired as to where the District’s ferries fit in. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that ferries and buses are not comparable, because ferries can carry 450 passengers while buses can carry only 57 passengers. Ferry farebox recovery is over 40%, and the cost per passenger is lower.
  • President Reilly inquired as to the farebox recovery for buses. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that it is just under 20%.
  • Director Snyder commented that MTC publishes an annual report on which the District has been shown as having the highest cost per vehicle service hour for “as long as [he] can remember.”

Ms. Hopper continued, stating that it is important to note that some services are provided by contractors and they may have different cost models that could skew comparisons to agencies doing all work in-house. She also noted that operator wages, fringe benefits, and “other wages,” such as administrative support and maintenance, account for approximately 75% of operating costs. She observed that the District is in the “Lowest % of Big 7” on the local analysis of the percentage of total regional expenditure for administrative costs, in the categories “Financial Services” and “Safety and Risk Management.”

Ms. Hopper stated that the MTC did an institutional analysis to find out what an improved regional transit system would look like and how changes can be implemented on a priority basis, evaluating opportunities for consolidation, collaboration and change. She indicated that systems could be consolidated by geography, mode or service type, and could be considered by counties, for regional branding efforts, information sharing, and/or synchronization of transfers and/or fares for the region. She stated that the MTC has now released draft recommendations, and that the Joint Select/Project Steering Committee will meet on February 22, 2012, to discuss those recommendations.

She indicated that one recommendation is for joint procurement of services and equipment in order to gain economies of scale. Mr. Mulligan added that joint procurement is currently voluntary, but that the MTC is considering whether it should be mandatory. He stated that some agencies do not take advantage of joint procurement; however, the District has been very active in using this method for a number of years.

Additional recommendations include integration of scheduling software for better, timelier service to dispatchers and customers. Another recommendation, for a single Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) manager, would help to reduce costs. Finally, coordinated fares will be considered.

Ms. Hopper reported that the MTC wishes to seek public comment in March 2012, and expects to seek approval in April 2012.

Further discussion ensued, including the following inquiries and comment:

  • Director Stroeh inquired as to whether the smaller agencies that provide bus service in Marin and Sonoma Counties will be included. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the MTC is considering regional efficiencies and it is unclear what form that will take. He indicated that Marin Transit has been invited to participate in discussions.
  • Director Snyder made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether the MTC would recommend that all ferries operate under a single umbrella agency. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that such a recommendation was considered in the past. . For consolidation to be effective, studies would be needed prior to cost reduction efforts, to determine the differences between the various ferry operators and the requirements of each.
    • He inquired as to liability pay-outs. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that liability pay-outs are included in the cost per hour but are not a large part for the District.
  • Director Sobel made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to the amount of savings the District could realize were the MTC’s recommendations implemented. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the District could save approximately $10 million, which represents approximately 10% of its Bus Transit Division budget. Mr. Wire added that, if the recommendations are approved, it is possible that the District could realize a 10% reduction in costs but that a plan would be required that sets forth in detail the actions to be taken to achieve the target.
    • He inquired as to whether the 10% savings would be expected to include only operating costs, leaving out benefits, which takes the largest share at all agencies. In response, Mr. Wire stated that the District’s costs are approximately 70% to 75% labor driven, and that, in order to reduce costs, some reduction would necessarily have to take place in labor costs.
  • Director Renée commented that she is concerned about consolidation of ADA service. She stated that, in Petaluma, the City Council has striven to achieve high quality service for ADA riders, with case management and tracking of passengers. She indicated she is concerned that people will “get lost in the shuffle trying to achieve numbers.” She stated that ADA riders face difficult challenges and that a model that stresses quantity over quality may not preserve the ADA service Petaluma has realized. She indicated her hope that the District will advocate for quality.
  • Chair Grosboll made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to whether the District would attend the MTC’s meeting and make any comments. Mr. Mulligan responded affirmatively. He added that MTC will formally release the recommendations for public comment and, as part of that process, District staff will attend meetings, provide public comment and report back to this Board regarding the results.
    • He inquired as to whether the TSP will be discussed again at a future Board meeting. Mr. Mulligan responded affirmatively, adding that staff anticipates agendizing this item again in approximately one month.
    • He commented that most District evaluation of ferries and buses over the past several years has been centered on costs.
  • Director Pahre commented that, regarding farebox recovery rates, should the District choose to adopt the MTC recommendations regarding cost reduction, changes to labor contracts and wages would be required. She stated that staff should inform the Board of the farebox recovery rates of other Bay Area transit agencies.
  • First Vice President Eddie commented that the four-hour period during the day when GGT does not operate contributes to low farebox recovery figures.

Action by the Board at its Meeting of February 10, 2012
None Required


     
3. Historic Overview of the Ferry Feeder Bus Network

At the Transportation Committee meeting of January 12, 2012, discussion took place regarding the setting of a public hearing relative to a proposal to institute a pilot program to charge a monthly premium parking fee at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal (LFT). The Committee continued the matter to a future Transportation Committee meeting and directed staff to provide an historic overview of the ferry feeder bus network.

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 provided an historic overview of the matter.

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

     
  a.

Remarks by General Manager

Mr. Mulligan introduced this item, stating that the Board had expressed interest in learning more about whether a ferry feeder bus system could provide a reasonable alternative to charging for parking, could be an adjunct to paid parking or could encourage more people to choose a ferry ride over an automobile trip to San Francisco. He stated that the PowerPoint will discuss both the Larkspur and the Sausalito Ferry Terminals, and that it is hoped the information will be helpful to Board members in making a decision regarding parking fees at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal (LFT). He concluded by stating that the ferry feeder system used in the past was expensive and had low productivity.

     
  b.

PowerPoint Presentation

The PowerPoint provided start-up dates for the Sausalito ferry service and the ferry feeder bus service (December 1971); GGT Regional Bus System (January 1972); and, Larkspur ferry service and the ferry feeder bus service (1976 – 77). It also noted operating characteristics of feeder buses and cited other access modes.

The PowerPoint detailed trends from the late 1970s through the 1990s, and observed that over 27% of riders on feeder buses never used the ferries. Instead, the feeder buses were used by passengers as surrogates for Marin local service during peak hours. Parking congestion became problematic by the late 1990s, and affected feeder bus ridership negatively. When the first high-speed ferryboat was introduced, additional parking was added.

The PowerPoint stated that in the year 2000, Larkspur ferry ridership reached an average of 3,100 passengers per day, while feeder buses carried approximately 300 passengers per day, of whom approximately 25% were local Marin riders. The most productive feeder bus route carried less than ten passengers per trip. The PowerPoint noted that high-speed ferryboats were very popular and ferry ridership continued to increase as additional parking was added. Although the District promoted their use, feeder buses were plagued by traffic congestion and other problems. During the early 2000s, the slowing United States economy caused further decline in feeder bus ridership and the District discontinued all feeder bus service between March and September 2003.

The PowerPoint stated that Route 91, a shuttle demonstration project, was launched in June 2007, but discontinued in March 2008 due to lack of ridership. While there is expressed interest in reviving the ferry feeder bus service, the PowerPoint listed several problems, among which was the non-availability of grant funding for operations.

     
  c.

Presentation of PowerPoint

At the meeting, Mr. Downing presented the PowerPoint, stating that the first feeder bus service was to the Sausalito ferry, and that it preceded the provision of regional bus service. Parking at the LFT was free, and ferries provided a commute service directly to downtown San Francisco. During the 1990s, more people drove to the LFT, and feeder buses continued to show declining ridership. The feeder bus ride was free for ferry riders and a low fare for non-ferry riders, and people were riding the feeder buses for purposes other than to use the ferry. Even so, the route from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the LFT carried only seven to nine passengers per trip.

He stated that the network of feeder buses has always had challenges. Ridership was modest despite marketing efforts. A guaranteed boarding program was put into place, where people on buses were allowed to board ferries before the general public that arrived at the ferries by other methods. However, ferry riders who were required to wait to board behind feeder bus passengers were unsatisfied.

Other challenges faced feeder buses as well. Congestion on Highway 101 caused feeder buses to arrive at the ferry after its departure. An attempt to run the coaches between feeder service hours proved ineffective due to the delays it caused. Mr. Downing summarized the performance by stating that people appreciate getting to San Francisco by ferry in 35 minutes, but getting from their homes to the ferry is challenging.

He further reported that, in the early 2000s, the United States experienced a recession and ridership declined system-wide. During this period, feeder ridership declined to approximately three regional passengers per trip. In a line by line analysis of all buses in the GGT system, feeders scored poorly in rider productivity and were eliminated by November 2003. When the economy began to recover in 2006-2007, parking began to fill by early morning. The public had indicated a desire to use the ferries. In response, a mid-day feeder bus demonstration program was done between the C. Paul Bettini Center in San Rafael and the LFT. Despite promotion, ridership did not materialize and many trips operated empty. That service was discontinued in March 2008.

Mr. Downing reported that Larkspur ridership is currently approximately 5,000 per day, even though transit access to the LFT is limited. Passenger surveys indicate that people are interested in the ferry feeder concept, but that they do not wish to ride the feeder bus service personally. Instead, they want others to ride on this service.

He concluded by stating that operating a ferry feeder bus system today would cost approximately $3 million and would produce no revenue, being a free service. The District applied to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for grant funding to reinstitute feeder bus programs, but did not score well due to the requirement for low emission vehicles and high ridership.

Finally, Mr. Mulligan noted that the District’s feeder buses were competition for its own regular service. Other routes offer a single-seat ride from the origin to the destination. In short, the neighborhoods are better served by the direct buses.

     
  d. Discussion by Committee

Discussion ensued, including the following inquiries and comments:

  • Director Snyder made the following inquiries and comment:
    • He inquired as to whether a fare was charged on feeder buses. In response, Mr. Downing indicated the ride was free to ferry riders, and a low fare was charged for passengers not taking the ferry.
    • He commented that charging for every parking space is good policy, whether a feeder system is free or not.
    • He inquired as to whether staff has solicited or is aware of the public sentiment regarding parking for mid-day ferry service, when the parking area is already full. In response, Mr. Downing stated that empty spaces are generally available, so the District has not received as many comments as it did in the past. Mr. Mulligan added that, on non-baseball days, and after the District added more spaces, the number of public comments submitted about a lack of available parking decreased. He concluded by stating that the parking areas fill up when the weather is nice.
  • Chair Grosboll made the following inquiries:
    • He inquired as to when the percentage of ferry passengers taking feeder buses declined. In response, Mr. Downing stated the decline happened in approximately 1990. Mr. Mulligan added that, while the percentage declined, ridership numbers remained flat.
    • He inquired as to whether the District had always operated the feeder system with District coaches. Mr. Downing responded affirmatively.
    • He inquired as to whether research has been done to determine whether the ferry feeder bus system would work better with a parking charge in place for all parking spaces, as suggested by a speaker during public comment at a previous meeting. In response, Mr. Downing stated that research has been done. The results suggest that, were the proposed premium parking plan to be put into place, with premium parking spaces priced at $65.00 per month and 10% of parking spaces set aside for paid premium parking, the parking fees would generate approximately $125,000.00 annually. By contrast, the cost to run a feeder system in two corridors would be approximately $700,000.00. Alternatively, a $2.00 per day charge for parking for all parking spaces would generate about $800,000.00 per year.
    • He inquired as to whether the Board will be requested to act on the setting of a public hearing to gather public comment about the proposal to charge for parking at the LFT. Mr. Downing responded affirmatively.
    • He commented that, from an efficiency standpoint, he expects that the public will express interest in ferry feeder buses if there is a charge for parking and requested information regarding a public hearing. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that when the public hearing process on the Clipper® fare increase has concluded, staff will present its recommendation to set a public hearing on the matter of parking fees at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.
    • He inquired as to the number of parking spaces currently designated for carpools. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that thirty spaces are provided for carpools.
  • Director Arnold inquired as to the destinations of those riders not planning to take a ferry to San Francisco. In response, Mr. Downing stated passengers were bound for Terra Linda, central San Rafael, Northgate Mall and other places. The ferry feeder buses became surrogates for a local route network.
  • Director Pahre made the following inquiries and comment:
    • She inquired as to whether the decision to not charge for ferry feeder bus rides was a policy decision. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that, at that time, it was a policy decision.
    • She commented that the District should, in her opinion, charge for parking. She noted that, while ferry feeder buses provide a social good, they do not help with reducing the number of vehicles using Highway 101 and other streets or roads. She observed that, with farebox recovery at only approximately 20%, adding passengers would not improve farebox recovery, especially if the service were free. She concluded by stating that, under the given circumstances, she is in favor of charging a fee for all parking, with the revenues to be used for a specific purpose.
    • She inquired as to whether staff could provide the Board with information regarding the cost of parking in San Francisco. Mr. Downing responded affirmatively.
  • Director Renée made the following inquiries:
    • She inquired as to whether the District could improve its collaboration with Marin Transit for peak service hours, and also provide ferry feeder buses, if all parking spaces were paid parking. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that passengers on Marin Transit’s Route 29 are not bound for ferries, but have destinations elsewhere. Marin Transit currently has fiscal shortfalls. They do not coordinate their Route 29 service with ferry departure and arrival times because most passengers are bound for other destinations.
    • She inquired as to the loss of ridership for Marin Transit should the District begin a ferry feeder bus system or, alternatively, whether a ferry feeder bus system, coupled with an “all paid parking” system could enhance Marin Transit’s ridership. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that Marin Transit’s local service has already been reconfigured to match the public’s demand.
  • Director Stroeh commented that he is in favor of approving a public hearing to gather public comment, but that he is in agreement with Director Pahre regarding paid parking.
  • Director Moylan commented that, in his opinion, the District should charge for all parking spots.
  • Director Eddie commented that he would like staff to provide a comparison of the results expected were the District to charge for premium parking spaces or, alternatively, charge for all parking spaces. He requested that information be provided to show exactly which spaces would be designated “premium,” and stated that carpools should receive discounted parking. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the requested information will be provided to the Board. He concluded by stating that free carpool parking will also be researched and reported.
     
  e. Concluding Remarks by General Manager

Regarding a policy to charge a fee for parking at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, following the discussion by the Committee, the General Manager stated that staff would present an item at a future meeting of the Transportation recommending that a public hearing be set to discuss several parking fee alternatives.

Action by the Board at its Meeting of February 10, 2012
None Required

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

The monthly report on Golden Gate Bridge (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 December 2011, showing the annual percentage change in traffic for the 12 months ending December 2011;
     
  b.

Golden Gate Ferry Ridership Trend for the period from June 2004 through December 2011 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending December 2011; and,

     
  c. Golden Gate Transit Bus Ridership Trend as a 12-month running total from June 2004 through December 2011 showing the annual percentage change in ridership for the 12 months ending December 2011.
     
 

The monthly report also included the Transit Service Performance Statistics Report for December 2011. The report shows Golden Gate Transit Bus (GGT Bus) and Golden Gate Transit Ferry (GGT Ferry) operations in December relative to performance targets set forth in the District’s Short-Range Transit Plan. When compared with November, bus productivity as measured by percent of bus trips with overloads saw a slight improvement while the bus schedule adherence declined minutely. Ferry productivity when compared with November 2011 increased when measuring passengers per ferry trip and passengers per ferry service hour. Copies of all of the above-listed items are available in the Office of the District Secretary and on the District’s web site.

Discussion ensued, including the following inquiry:

  • Chair Grosboll inquired as to speed detection signs for bicycle traffic on the west sidewalk of the Bridge. In response, Mr. Mulligan stated that the District is very interested in bicycle safety and staff has worked with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (Coalition). The Coalition recommended speed detection signs for the west sidewalk, to inform bicyclists of how fast they are traveling. Neither motor vehicles nor pedestrians are detected by the equipment. The speed of bicycles traveling at greater than fifteen miles per hour is displayed on the sign. He concluded by stating that the data can be collected such that average speeds can be calculated and highest speed determined.

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 December 2011; and,
  b. A spreadsheet from the Auditor-Controller outlining the history of payments made from July 1, 2011 to January 17, 2012, by Marin Transit to the District, for intra-county bus transit services in Marin County.
 
    Copies 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 11:10 a.m.

     

 

Respectfully submitted,

s/ Dick Grosboll, Chair
Transportation Committee