CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

REGULAR BOARD MEETING

MINUTES

 

February 25, 2002

4:00 p.m.

STATE COLLEGE BOROUGH COUNCIL CHAMBERS

 

BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:                        John Spychalski,  Chairman

                                                                                Donald Sherman, Vice_Chairman

                                                                                Richard Kipp, Treasurer

                                                                                Joseph Davidson

                                                                                Gary Powers

 

OTHERS PRESENT:                                            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, Borough Liaison

 

I.              CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m.

 

 

II.            PUBLIC HEARING TO RECEIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR BUS SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS

 

                A.            Public Comments on Service Issues

                                Mr. Mose made a brief presentation on the proposed service changes, noting that each February, the Authority holds a public hearing in order to give the general public the opportunity to provide input on the service. 

 

                                Unfortunately, this year, because of CATA’s financial situation, service will need to be cut. As a result, the focus of this year’s public hearing to accept citizen comments on CATA service will not necessarily focus on which unmet transit needs we should try to serve, but instead on how the Authority might reduce service with the least inconvenience to our current riders.

 

                                Mr. Mose explained that in assessing where bus service might be cut back, he expects to follow certain guidelines:

 


·         Maintain all core programs: Centre Line, LOOP/LINK, Centre Ride, RideShare, Park-and-Ride,  and all recurring Special Services.

 

·         Continue “policy” service at times and in places where we have historically operated service (prior to FY 00/01).

 

·         Eliminate “new” service that hasn’t produced much patronage, as well as low-ridership “marginal” services (weekend mornings, late evenings, etc.) throughout the system.

 

·         Integrate the LOOP/LINK and Centre Line as much as possible, with the goal of reducing the number of LOOP trips.

 

·         Better match capacity to demand in high-ridership corridors by running less frequent service supplemented by more “tripper” buses.


 


Mr. Mose reviewed the specific areas staff has been considering for service reductions.


 

           Discontinue mid-day trips on commuter routes. 

           Eliminate some mid-day trips on the X and K Routes.

           Change the times on the P Route by eliminating service to Innovation Park and Branch Road.

           Change the S Route serving Science Park Road to a commuter route operating during rush hours only.

           Eliminate early morning and late night service to marginal areas, such as the H Route.

           Reduce the frequency of service along the student housing corridors during low ridership times.

           Consider lower frequency of service on the LOOPs/LINKs during low ridership hours.

           Shorten tripper routes, to end on the perimeters of campus.

           Look at integrating Centre Line routes with the LOOPs and LINK where they parallel across campus.


 

 

Mr. Mose noted that with the recent publicity regarding possible reductions in service, he wanted to share the staff’s thought process when considering service changes.

 

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

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Mike Sletson, resident of Addison Court on East Beaver Avenue.   Mr. Sletson stated that he feels CATA is in a box.  There have to be choices made, but  the choices are not good.  He stated that he does not feel this is CATA’s fault, but simply that there needs to be more money allocated for mass transit.  If the government has money for highways and other things, then there should be enough  allocated for mass transit.  Mr. Sletson  suggested launching a campaign to lobby for more funding from State and Federal sources.

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Hanna Futhey, a resident from Patton Township.  Ms. Futhey stated that she is totally dependant on public transportation.  She feels that recent traffic growth in State College is almost comparable to Los Angeles.  If more people used the bus service, there would be less traffic on the roads.  In preparation for this meeting, she noted that she had questioned other bus riders on their needs and feelings about public transportation.   She also noted that many of the people who drive now, will eventually be unable to drive and will need public transportation.  The community needs to urge its citizens to use the bus service for at least a week to become acquainted with the service.  Ms. Futhey reviewed some of the different comments from other bus riders, as well as the bus drivers.  She also mentioned that she’s been told that in the near future, traffic will not be allowed on campus. 

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Majka Lodowski, a resident of Houserville.  She stated that she is a very happy patron of CATA.  She is concerned about the low ridership in the Houserville area.  She feels that there is a need for service from the Nittany Mall, through Houserville, to the University and Downtown between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m.  She works all night, and needs transportation to the University later in the evening.  For her to walk to the Sheetz, having to cross College Avenue is very dangerous.  She would like to see more evening service for the little communities between the Nittany Mall and Campus.  She added that she loves the service and would like to see more service, not less.  She asked that she be notified if the additional evening service would be possible or not.

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Scott Happon, a PSU student.   Mr. Happon stated that he is familiar with numerous other city transit systems and feels that CATA does a great job.  He also stated his concern about the Authority reducing service, when he has experienced full buses that have caused him to be late to class or work.  He added that shortening the tripper services by discharging riders on the edge of campus makes sense.

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Michelle Vernetskie, a resident of Centre County.  She stated that she is very pleased with the public transportation and feels the service needs to continue in all the areas being served at this time.   Reducing the LOOPs and  LINK service, rather than the Centre Line service, would better serve the community.  She also noted that some of the riders need to have the stops announced.  Riders can make the drivers aware of their need, but hearing impaired or riders unfamiliar with the area still need to have the stops announced.  If a driver does not announce the stops and a rider misses their stop, Ms. Vernetskie feels that the passenger should be taken back to the appropriate stop.

 

                She also stated that she felt that the cost of the ride is very reasonable, and even if the price is increased, it would still be reasonable.  However, she asked that pass prices remain the same even if the cash fare increases, to give the pass holders a discount.

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Mike Hall of Lemont.  Mr. Hall stated that he has a problem with the planned service reductions, not with the fare increase.  As a regular rider on the M and R Routes, as well as other routes, he has noticed that many of the buses are already overcrowded. One of his main concerns is for the safety of the riders.  Some of the buses are packed to the door, well in front of the yellow lines.  He feels this is very dangerous and should not be allowed.  Other than that particular problem, he feels that CATA provides a fairly good service, adding that most of the drivers are very decent.

 

                Chairman Spychalski again recognized Ms. Michell Vernetskie.  She feels it is not good to eliminate the Town and Campus LOOPs altogether, as has been the past practice during the summer months.  People who live downtown, do not or cannot drive, or perhaps are physically unable to get around downtown and around campus, must rely on the bus service.  With no or limited summer LOOP service, it places a hardship on the downtown residents and on the students attending the summer session.

 

                Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Fay Wohlwill.  She noted that she feels there should be more subsidy from Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. to fund the public transportation system.  She also feels it would not be good to reduce the B Route.  She stated that taxpayers have a right to want their taxes to support public transportation.

                       

                There being no further public comments, Chairman Spychalski closed the Public Hearing at  4:38 p.m.

 

 

III.           PUBLIC COMMENT

 

                Chairman Spychalski called for comments or input from the general public.   

 

                Ms. Vernetskie asked how the Downtown State College Partnership and CATA are related and how they could work together to provide a Summer LOOP service.  She stated that there are 12,000 students on campus attending the summer sessions, plus the permanent residents and employees in the downtown area, all having a need for a Summer LOOP.  Perhaps such a partnership would draw more funding for a Summer LOOP service.

 

                Ms. Futhey suggested notifying the residents of Foxdale Village of the reduction in the P Route so they might be able to coordinate their visits to the hospital.

 

                She also commended the people who answer the phones at CATA, stating that they are not only knowledgeable, but extremely pleasant.

 

IV.           OLD BUSINESS

 

                A.            Approval of Minutes of January 28, 2002 Board Meeting

Mr. Sherman moved that the Board approve the minutes of the January 28, 2002 Board meeting.  Mr. Kipp seconded the motion. 

 

                Mr. Davidson, referring to his comments on page 7, stated that it was not his intent for his statement to mean that CATA’s 5% share be divided among the municipalities, but rather that he is in favor of the expansion but wondered if the municipalities were not being taxed twice, subsidizing CATA and paying a local share to the MPO.

 

                Chairman Spychalski noted that on page 4, he would like clarification that the public transit  authorities mentioned provide service to universities, rather than being university transit systems. 

 

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

 

                B.            Receipt of the January 2002 Finance Reports

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

 

Ms. Minor reported that the financial update to be discussed in Executive Session will cover the finance report.

 

                Mr. Mose reviewed the Paratransit Ridership report, noting that it has dropped slightly, which may be the result of recent good weather.  Fixed route ridership overall is up 3.1% over last year; however, there was one more day of student ridership this month than there was last December, which means that in actuality ridership is down.

 

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

 

                C.    Financial Update

Mr. Mose reported that staff continues to closely monitor the Authority’s Operating Budget.  Ridership, and therefore passenger revenue, is running slightly lower than expected, while costs continue to track well with the projections that were provided to the Board last month.  Since virtually all of the line items that are significantly over budget involve matters subject to collective bargaining, Mr. Mose suggested that this discussion should be deferred until Executive Session.

 

                D.            Pass and Token Prices

Mr. Mose noted that after the January meeting, Frances Jackson, who sells most of our One-Passes, came forward with two minor revisions to the pass price schedule adopted by the Board.  As originally proposed, prices for two and three month passes were slightly higher than the corresponding cost for two or three individual one month passes.  Because so many patrons consider the entire pass price structure when making a purchase decision, staff has suggested that prices for two and three month passes be revised slightly - from $99 and $149 to $98 and $146, respectively.  While the revenue impact of this change will be minimal, due to the small number of two and three month passes that are sold, staff believes that the change will eliminate a large number of questions about the internal consistency of the pass price structure and will assure a smoother transition to the new structure.

 

                Mr. Sherman moved that the Board approve a revision in pass price increases for two and three month passes to $98 and $146 respectively.  Mr. Kipp seconded the motion.

 

                In response to Mr. Davidson, Ms. Minor noted that the new fare and pass prices would not take affect until August 1.  There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

 

                E.    Operations/Administration Area Expansion

                Mr. Mose reviewed the differences in the funding process for both Operating and Capital.  Although Operating funds have been reduced, Capital money has been made available to expand the facility in Cato Park. 

 

                Mr. Mose reviewed the bid process for the project.  On Friday, February 15, CATA staff, Gannett-Fleming (project architects) and Alexander Constructors (project construction managers) opened bids for the expansion of the Cato Park facility.  As required, six separate bid packages were advertised - General Construction, Site Construction, Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical and Fire Protection.  Twenty-two different bids were received from fourteen separate companies.

 

                Mr. Mose noted that over the past week the architects, in consultation with staff as the owner and Alexander Constructors as the construction manager, have evaluated all of the bids submitted.  Mr. Mose added that it is Gannett-Fleming’s recommendation that CATA award contracts to the following firms, all of which were the low bidders on their respective solicitations:

 

General Construction

J. C. Orr and Son, Inc.

$497,117

Site Construction

Ameron Construction

53,270

Mechanical Construction

MARC Service, Inc.

148,900

Plumbing Construction

D. C. Goodman and Sons, Inc.

48,697

Electrical Construction

Lion Country Electric

80,170

Fire Protection Construction

Joseph C. Hazel, Inc.

28,560

Total

 

$856,714

 

                Mr. Mose noted that the total Architect’s Estimate for the project was $899,935.

 

                Mr. Mose reviewed some of the issues with the bids and how they were resolved.  Given the opportunity to correct the errors, the bids were accepted.

 

                Mr. Powers moved that the Board authorize the General Manager to execute six construction contracts, as listed above, for the expansion of CATA’s Operations and Administration building.  Mr. Davidson seconded the motion. 

 

                In response to Mr. Davidson, Mr. Gilbert noted that none of this work, including the fire protection, is being done in the bus storage area.  Presently the entire building has a sprinkler system, so only the new construction would need installation of sprinklers.

 

                In response to Mr. McCarl, Mr. Gilbert reviewed the construction timetable, starting with the construction of a new parking lot, since part of the current parking lot will be within the new construction.  He also noted that staff hopes to begin construction of Phase I in March and have Phase II completed by Thanksgiving.

 

                In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Gilbert noted that he is only familiar with one of the construction companies.   In response to Chairman Spychalski, Mr. Mose noted that Gannett Fleming is familiar with all of the firms and all the proper investigations of the companies have been completed to their satisfaction.   

 

                Mr. Mose noted that each bidder must be determined as a responsive and  responsible bidder before a bid may be awarded.

 

                Mr. Sherman asked if  all the contractors are responsible to CATA.   Mr. Mose noted that CATA will hold the contracts and will be accountable.

 

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

 

V.            NEW BUSINESS

 

                A.    Natural Gas Supplier Contract

                Ms. Minor reported that she is still in the middle of discussions with the terms of the contracts being offered to assure the most reliable supply of natural gas.  She reviewed the process for natural gas acquisitions.  Continuing, Ms. Minor stated that she is presently looking to purchase gas for the period starting October 2002.  She is not prepared to make a recommendation at this time.  She needs to meet with the other firm and discuss the terms being offered. 

 

                Mr. Mose noted that he and Ms. Minor met with  Bob Crouse of PEPCO Energy last Friday afternoon to clarify the details of their proposal and assure that the terms provide for a firm and unlimited supply of gas, as required.  However, they came away from that meeting feeling a bit uneasy and decided to meet with the other company.  Therefore, he proposed to return with a recommendation at the March Board meeting.

 

                Chairman Spychalski noted that OPEC’s recent actions may have an effect on the price of gas, as well as natural gas.  Mr. Mose noted that the Board could authorize staff to finalize a contract if the prices begin to increase, rather than waiting for the March Board meeting.  Ms. Minor reviewed the process, noting that areas which need to be considered include not only prices, but also interruptions and penalties, adding that she’d like to get comparable prices from both companies before making a decision.

 

                Mr. Davidson moved that the Board authorize the General Manager to negotiate a contract in the best interest of the Authority.  Mr. Sherman seconded the motion.  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 reported on the following topics:

 

                Dance Marathon:   For the second year, the Authority provided 24-hour LOOP service during the recent 48 hours of the Dance Marathon at PSU.  The special service was sponsored by Kaufmann’s Department Store and Tommy Hilfiger.  The service was well patronized to the point that not all riders were able to be accommodated.

 

                Ms. Futhey asked if this type of service is advertised.  Mr. Bernier noted that this special service was advertised in the Daily Collegian, as well as through press releases to all the media.

 

                Again this month, the uncommonly nice weather has had a negative affect on ridership.  Presently, it’s running about 5% below the comparable period last year.

 

                The Authority recently went out to bid for the construction of the second CNG dispenser; however, no bids were received.  It seems that the insurance requirements were so stringent that no construction company was able to comply.  The bid package for this project will be reviewed and revised before going out for bid again.

 

                B.            Service Development Report

                Mr. Bernier noted that the Service Development Report included in the Board packets gives an overview of the key development and marketing activities at CATA.

 

                Mr. McCarl commented on the ridership during the Dance Marathon, adding that the State College Police mentioned that this was a quiet weekend in town.

 

                Mr. Bernier noted that this has been the fourth year for the 24-hour service for the Dance Marathon, rather than two years as previously stated. 

 

                Mr. Bernier also mentioned that later this week he will be meeting with representatives from Parkway Plaza regarding a service contract for their tenants.

 

                Chairman Spychalski thanked Mr. Bernier and his staff for the job well done in Marketing on such a restricted budget.

 

VII.  ADJOURNMENT

 

                There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting to Executive Session at 5:17 p.m. to discuss personnel issues.

                                               

                               

VIII. EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

                                The Executive Session was adjourned at 5:45 p.m.