CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

REGULAR BOARD MEETING MINUTES

February 26, 2001

4:00 p.m.

STATE COLLEGE BOROUGH COUNCIL CHAMBERS

 

 

BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: OTHERS PRESENT:
John Spychalski, Vice-Chairman

Richard Kipp, Treasurer

Joseph Davidson

Donald Sherman

Gary Powers

Hugh Mose, General Manager

Joseph Gilbert, Director of Transportation

Judith Minor, Director of Administration

L. Eric Bernier, Director of Service Development

Diane Heichel, Executive Assistant

Richard McCarl, State College Borough Liaison

 

 

I. CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:06 p.m.

II. PUBLIC HEARING TO RECEIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR BUS SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS

A. Public Comments on Service Issues

Chairman Spychalski opened the floor to allow the public an opportunity to provide input to the Authority on service issues.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Debbie Cleeton, representative of the North Atherton Place Merchants Association. Ms. Cleeton reported that during the Wal-Mart expansion, a construction fence will be installed around 3/4 of the parking lot blocking pedestrian traffic between the current bus stop and the 12 businesses on the far side of the parking lot. She requested that CATA reinstate the bus stop on Vairo Blvd. across from the Eat & Park Restaurant. This would give bus riders an easier access to the other end of the parking lot.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Jolly Harris, a Bellefonte resident and an employee of Centre County Government. Mr. Harris complimented CATA on the present service to Bellefonte, but requested several additional trips between the Nittany Mall and Bellefonte. To accommodate those who work in Bellefonte, traveling from State College, he asked that an additional morning trip be added from the Mall to Bellefonte, at 8:15 a.m. Monday through Friday. He also requested an additional trip on Saturday mornings from the Mall to Pleasant Gap, noting that the Drivers License Center is only open on Saturdays until noon. The present service does not get a rider there until 11:00 a.m., not leaving much time to conduct their business at the center.

Mr. Harris also asked that a 9:15 p.m. trip be added Monday through Saturday, stating that the Mall closes at 9:00 p.m. and the only way to get back to Bellefonte is to leave the Mall at 7:15 p.m. or wait until 10:15 p.m. He also asked that the Authority place a new bus stop on Blanchard Street near the stop sign at Burnside.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Mike Sletson, Addison Court resident. Mr. Sletson stated that he’s observed a problem at the Schlow Library, noting that there is not enough room for the buses to pull in completely out of the lane of traffic on Beaver Avenue. He suggested having the one parking meter immediately ahead of the bus stop removed in order to make enough room for the buses.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Hanna Futhey, Patton Township resident. Ms. Futhey complimented the CATA service, noting that she is disabled and depends on CATA. Ms. Futhey asked that a sign be posted in the buses to inform the public that riders with disabilities may show their Medicare card and pay only half-fare.

She also noted that until recently she was not aware that riders may get more than one transfer to continue their trip. She also stated that everyone likes the natural gas buses and emphasized the wonderful service and attitudes of the CATA drivers. She added that she has heard that CATA is considering using park & ride lots and thought this would be a very helpful service to reduce the traffic congestion into State College.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Aaron Thompson, Toftrees resident. Mr. Thompson noted that he has been discouraged by the number of empty buses he sees on the streets every day. He would like to see CATA initiate conversation with the University concerning ways to make riding buses more economical than driving a car, noting that he finds it more economical to drive his car, than to ride the bus.

Chairman Spychalski called on Mr. Bernier to review the four written comments submitted by those who could not attend the public hearing.

The written requests included the following:

Mr. Jay Sletson, representative of the South Central Centre County Transportation Study (SCCCTS), asked that CATA consider incorporation of Park and Ride sites and transit service to the many commuters along the Rt. 322 and Rt. 45 corridors headed into State College and Penn State. The SCCCTS is looking at the feasibility of using smaller vehicles ("jitneys") to transport commuters from outer areas like Millheim and Potters Mills or Lewistown to the shuttle sites in Old Fort and Oak Hall where they would then catch larger shuttles into State College and Penn State.

Ms. Erin M. Snyder, PSU Research Assistant, wrote in to request a route to the University Park Airport.

Mr. Dan Heim, PSU Meteorology Major, wrote in to suggest changing the V Route to enter the campus at the West Gate off of Atherton, turn left on Burrowes Road, stop at Rec Hall and Pattee Library, then resume its present routing. He feels this would better serve the students with classes on Burrowes Road and alleviate the long wait at the light at Atherton and Park Avenue.

Mr. Bernier also read one late arrival. Ms. Josephine Smith, a regular CATA patron, wrote in to request designation signs on the rear of the buses. She also noted that many times after 6:00 p.m., the bus is late at Stratford and Waupelani Drive.

Ms. Futhey again took the podium, complimenting CATA on the handicap accessible buses, but also noting that since not all the buses are accessible, special schedules should be provided for accessible buses.

Mr. Sletson again took the podium to compliment the drivers’ training program. He feels the drivers are all well trained and are very helpful and friendly.

Chairman Spychalski, speaking as a member of the public and a bus rider, noted that he would like to see some improvements made at the Keller Building bus stop.

Mr. Thompson added that one of the most frustrating things about the bus system is having the buses run late. This seems to be more of a problem after 5:00 p.m. when the traffic is especially heavy. He suggested changing the schedules after 5:00 p.m. in order to more realistically reflect the run times.

Chairman Spychalski stated that he would like to correct an ongoing misconception about empty buses. Empty buses may be observed throughout the day on different routes, depending on which direction they are traveling. However, chances are that same bus may have just dropped off a full bus load of people traveling in a particular direction, such as going to class or work, and the bus is now on its way back to pick up another load.

There being no further public comments, Chairman Spychalski closed the Public Hearing at 4:30 p.m..

In response to Mr. McCarl, Mr. Bernier agreed to respond in writing to everyone offering suggestions or comments. Mr. Mose briefly reviewed the procedure for developing service changes. Each suggestion will be considered, and although it may not be possible to implement everything suggested, as many as possible will be addressed.

III. PUBLIC COMMENT

Chairman Spychalski called for comments or input from the general public. No public comments were presented.

IV. OLD BUSINESS

A. Approval of Minutes of January 22, 2001 Board Meeting

Mr. Sherman moved that the Board approve the minutes of the January 22, 2001 Board meeting. Mr. Kipp seconded the motion. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

 

B. Receipt of the January 2001 Finance Reports

Mr. Sherman moved that the reports be received as distributed, Mr. Davidson seconded the motion.

Ms. Minor reported that she has discussed with the auditors the problem identified at the last meeting regarding the accounting for accident damage reimbursements, and this has been changed.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Gilbert noted that service vehicle maintenance expenses are high because of unexpected expenses, such as replacing a transmission. The service vehicles are aging and such repairs are needed from time to time.

Mr. Mose called the Board’s attention to several items. Operating Revenues are coming in higher than projected. On the expense side, in addition to Service Vehicle Maintenance, the Building and Equipment Maintenance is also higher than projected. Mr. Mose explained that a large part of this expense is related to the natural gas fueling. On the Transportation page, the one number that outdistances everything else is Drivers’ Labor. Both the Drivers’ Labor and Drivers Benefits are considerably over budget and that is a significant concern because this, together with a couple of other factors, will drive our expenditures to be over budget through the end of the year.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose and Mr. Bernier explained that the expense for Shelters and Signs is over by a factor of five in large part because PSU signed ownership of all the bus shelters on campus over to CATA. CATA then undertook the task of replacing all the glass panels in the shelters on campus and some of the other shelters as well.

In response to Mr. Davidson, Mr. Gilbert noted that presently the number of overtime hours is going down, but he does not have an average of weekly overtime hours. At this time there is still not a full complement of drivers on board. Mr. Gilbert explained that the budget does have some overtime hours built in, but without a full roster of drivers, it is difficult to estimate how many overtime hours are going to be needed throughout the year.

Mr. Mose added that even though the drivers are working at time-and-a-half, there are some savings related to benefits which would have been paid to additional drivers.

Mr. Mose also noted that there is an increase in the ridership on Centre Ride. The number of Park & Ride passes sold in January is almost equal to all of last year’s to-date. Family pass sales are also up. In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose noted that there has not been any unusual advertising or promotion of the Park and Ride program. The Borough program has not gone into effect as yet.

There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

C. FY 2001/2002 Budget - Preliminary Discussion

Mr. Mose referred to the memo enclosed with the agenda packet, adding that the Board will need to schedule a Budget Work Session sometime during the week of March 5. The projections for the current budget make it clear that this year the Authority’s expenditures may be 10% or more over budget, and even though the revenues are also over the projected budget, the Authority will use much more of its federal fund reserves than expected. Mr. Mose noted that the Board needs to look seriously at ways to economize to get the financial situation under control in order to have time to raise fares or find additional state or federal funding to keep the Authority solvent.

Mr. Mose stated that he feels a big part of the budget problem was that staff did not fully understand the cost implementation of the planned and unplanned service hours added on the street this past year. It will be prudent to look at where service can be scaled down at times when ridership is traditionally low.

Fuel costs for both diesel and CNG have also been much higher than anticipated. Health care insurance along with property damage and liability insurance have continued to increase as well.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose agreed that staff will have recommendations on service changes for the Board work session. Mr. Mose also noted that it may be possible to look at cutting some trips in Reduced Service to reduce the overage for this budget year. Because much of this service is built into drivers’ bids, however, it may be difficult to do much before August.

In response to Mr. McCarl, Mr. Mose noted that he has no expectation of an increase in local shares. It’s been three years since CATA increased fares, and he would like to wait perhaps another year before considering a fare increase.

The Board scheduled a Work Session to discuss the proposed FY 2001/2002 Budget for Monday, March 5, 6:00 p.m., at the CATA facility.

V. NEW BUSINESS

A. Resolution for revised FY 00/01 Act 26 and Act 3 grant application

Ms. Minor explained that PennDOT has notified CATA that its FY 00/01 PTAF funding estimate has been increased from $463,569 to $484,532, based on the Department’s mid-year projections of dedicated state tax revenues from those sources contained in the program’s authorizing legislation. Because of our ridership increases, the limit on the portion of total PTAF funding which may be applied toward asset maintenance and therefore counted as operating subsidy has also been raised, from $231,785 to $242,266.

Ms. Minor explained that the Authority must submit a revised FY 00/01 PTAF and Act 3 grant application to reflect the additional funding; the resolution included in the Board packets is required as part of the application. Although the local share requirement shown on the resolution is increased to match the higher grant amount, the local share approved with the budget exceeded the minimum required at that time and therefore already includes sufficient local match for the additional PTAF grant monies.

Mr. Davidson moved that the Board adopt the enclosed resolution authorizing the filing of the Authority’s amended FY 00/01 PTAF and Act 3 grant application. Mr. Kipp seconded the motion. In response to Mr. Powers, Ms. Minor explained that the source of PTAF money is dedicated sales taxes from a variety of things, and that the funds are allocated to all the state’s transit authorities. A piece of the PTAF may be used for operating assistance; the rest is restricted to capital expenses.

In response to Mr. Davidson, Ms. Minor noted that the increased funding is based on projections by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue of sales taxes on certain non-transit related items which include such things as magazines and tires.

There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

VI. OTHER BUSINESS

A. General Manager's Report

Mr. Mose noted that his bi-weekly report covered most of the things going on.

All of the ten new New Flyer buses have arrived and are being checked over and prepared for service. Mr. Mose noted that the new buses have signage in the back of the bus.

Mr. Mose noted that several months ago, the Board discussed getting more information on articulated buses. Staff has determined that it will be at least another two years before CNG powered articulated buses will be available on the market. Mr. Mose stated that he had conferred with PSU regarding the use of articulated buses.

In response to Mr. Davidson, Mr. Gilbert noted that he believes the repairs to the new bus which was damaged in transit were about $700.

Mr. Mose also reported that a group from Mifflin County is working on implementing a commuter van service between Lewistown and State College. Mr. Mose received a recent call from the group stating that they hope to begin some form of service in the very near future. Mr. Mose added that the staff will look at how these commuters will be able to transfer from this new service to the Centre Line buses.

In response to Mr. Powers, Mr. Mose noted that an articulated bus is a longer bus that bends in the middle. Mr. Gilbert described how the buses are designed. There was further discussion on the buses.

B. Service Development

Mr. Bernier noted that he had presented the marketing and public information plan for the free fare zone to Penn State. The marketing on the free fare zone will begin later in the week. Mr. Gilbert reported that he has met with his staff and driver representatives to work out the best way to make this new service work. Mr. Mose noted that it will not have any impact on drivers hours.

Mr. McCarl noted that CATA would have to request having the parking meters removed in front of Schlow Library, rather than the Borough. Mr. Mose stated that CATA would like to have the meters removed and make that area available to buses. However, the Borough is planning a pedestrian node at Allen St., which will make the meters even more of an issue, since the node will necessitate that the buses are moved forward. Therefore he will wait until that time to request that they be removed.

Mr. Spychalski reminded the Board to have their Statements of Financial Interests turned in to Diane by May 1.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose briefly reported on the site evaluation study for a new bus depot, stating that there is a very strong consensus in favor of leaving where it is. Mr. Tobin reported that students are in favor of keeping the bus depot close to town.

Mr. McCarl also noted that some planning projects with regard to West Campus are on hold until the bus depot site is selected. Chairman Spychalski noted that it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep it available to the LOOPs, yet in a location to avoid the football traffic.

VII. ADJOURNMENT

There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting at 5:21 p.m.