CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
REGULAR BOARD MEETING

September 9, 2002
4:00 p.m.
STATE COLLEGE BOROUGH BUILDING
Conference Room 241, 243 South Allen Street



BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:
John Spychalski, Chairman
Donald Sherman, Vice-Chairman
Gary Powers

ABSENT:
Richard Kipp, Treasurer
Joseph Davidson

OTHERS PRESENT:
Hugh Mose, General Manager
Joseph Gilbert, Director of Transportation
Judith Minor, Director of Administration
Jacqueline Sheader, Marketing Coordinator
Diane Heichel, Executive Assistant
Richard McCarl, State College Borough Liaison

 

I. CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:08 p.m. and introduced Mr. Mike Noel. He noted that Mr. Noel is presently conducting the state-mandated Management Review of the Authority and is here to observe the Board in action.

II. PUBLIC COMMENTS - CITIZEN INPUT
Chairman Spychalski called for comments or input from the general public.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Emma Straub, resident of Addison Court. Ms. Straub stated that she is disabled and eligible for Centre Ride, but using Centre Line buses is much more economical for retired people on a low fixed income. She feels that as a taxpayer, she has a right to be heard and she is speaking for the multitude of elderly residents at Addison Court. She is here to ask about the convoluted schedule put together for the M bus. She stated that it is very difficult for her and others to walk up the hill from College Avenue to Beaver. Using the M Route bus to get back to Schlow Library takes another hour ride around campus a couple of times. She added that it's especially hard to get back to Schlow Library during the summer or between semesters, when there is very little service on Beaver Avenue without the Town LOOP. Another new routing change which is hard to understand is how the V bus turns into an N bus, since the timetable doesn't state when it will get back to College and Allen. It's all much too confusing to the general public to understand with all the buses turning from one route to another.

Mr. Mose responded, stating that he does understand that during the Summer there is very little service on Beaver Avenue. Mrs. Straub noted that there used to be service on Beaver Avenue all year around, and they could get to and from shopping areas and then back to Beaver Avenue.

Mr. Sherman noted that the Marketing Plan calls for CATA's Marketing Coordinator to visit senior housing complexes to discuss transit service and the needs of the residents. If the residents of Addison Court would like to participate in this program, CATA would make those arrangements.

Ms. Straub stated that this is all fine, but it's hard to get everyone together for one meeting. She just feels that everything this year ends up on campus and caters to the students, to the detriment of the residents who are here all year and pay the taxes to operate the service.

Chairman Spychalski thanked Ms. Straub for her statements and for her interest in the CATA system. He added that service changes cannot be made instantly, but her comments will be taken into consideration. Ms. Staub asked if it would be possible to have buses operate to Schlow Library year round. Mr. Mose and Mr. Spychalski explained that typically comments and service requests are collected all year. Staff then puts together proposed service changes and holds a public hearing in February to discuss these proposed changes and obtain any further input from the general public. The comments and suggestions are then taken into consideration as the new service is prepared for implementation in August.

Chairman Spychalski recognized Ms. Debbie Cleeton, a resident of State College. Ms. Cleeton noted that normally during the PSU Homecoming Parade everything is a big mess downtown and on campus. All the buses have to use detours and the bus riders are never quite sure where to catch their bus. Although notices are normally put in the buses just before Homecoming Friday, it would be helpful to have them posted earlier to give passengers advance notice as to their best options to catch the buses during the detours. Since the parade route and time is already set, it should be easy to get the notices up relatively soon.

Chairman Spychalski thanked Ms. Cleeton for her suggestion.

III. OLD BUSINESS

A. Approval of Minutes of July 22, 2002 Board Meeting
Mr. Sherman moved that the Board approve the minutes of the July 22, 2002 Board meeting. Mr. Powers seconded the motion. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

B. Receipt of the June & July 2002 Finance Reports
Mr. Powers moved that the Board receive the June & July 2002 Finance Reports. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion.

Ms. Minor reported that the final audit reports are not yet ready, but the June Finance Reports reflect the figures which will be in the final Audit.

Ms. Minor noted that while the Authority has overspent the budgeted amount for Federal Operating funds, we have spent less than we estimated we would when the Budget was prepared in February. The carryover of Federal dollars comes to about $250,000, rather than the estimated $90,000. Ms. Minor reviewed some of the reasons for the higher carryover, but added that some of this is funds received early, rather than extra money.

Ms. Minor noted that the new format on the July Finance Report is a result of it being printed directly out of the accounting system. She then reviewed the July report. Because the first payday in July was for the pay period ending June 30, it had to be entered in the journal for June. This made expenses unusually low in July.

In response to Chairman Spychalski, Ms. Minor reviewed the increase in insurance costs, noting the variables which have caused the increase include across the board increases in insurance costs, claims history, expanded bus fleet, etc.

In response to Mr. McCarl, Ms. Minor explained that municipal local shares are paid quarterly, but is reflected on the finance reports as a percentage of the total year. Ms. Minor reviewed how the subsidies are allocated and reported, adding that the local and state funds are used first, so federal dollars are typically not used until January or February.

Mr. Mose brought the Board's attention to pass sales. Although the pass sales report looks like more passes are being sold, the August report will reflect that fewer passes are actually being sold this year than at this time last year. Mr. Mose also reviewed the ridership report for June, noting that Centre Line ridership has decreased, but ridership on campus has increased. Mr. Mose also pointed out that Centre Ride ridership has increase 20% over last year.

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

Ms. Minor added that the Centre Ride program becomes even more expensive as the ridership increases.

C. Operations/Administration Area Expansion Update
Mr. Gilbert reported that staff has moved into the new section of the building; some people are in their permanent offices, while others have found temporary locations. The contractors have completed the demolition of the old office area, and the remodeling work is presently a couple of days ahead of schedule.

In response to Mr. Mose, Mr. Gilbert reported that if everything stays on schedule, staff should be able to move back into the new offices by the beginning of November.

D. Service Planning Update
Mr. Mose, reviewing the memo enclosed in the Board packets, stated that on July 1 and again on August 26, the Authority implemented service changes on most of the routes: Major changes were made on the M (Nittany Mall), the P (Scenery Park / Penn Stater), and the interlined N/R/V (Martin / Waupelani / Vairo). Other service changes implemented include the RE (Waupelani Express), the N/V Express (Vairo / Martin) and the modified U (University Terrace) routes, as well as added trips on the LINK (Jordan Center / West Campus). However, Mr. Mose explained that things out on the street are not working as well as staff would have liked.

Mr. Mose explained that although there has always been difficulty with transit operations at the start of the fall semester at Penn State, this year the challenges seem to be more pronounced than ever. Mr. Mose continued to outline the three main issues:

Schedule Adherence. The drivers are having a lot of trouble keeping the buses running on time. There are a number of reasons - we've tightened up running times where we thought we could, and in some cases we may have been too aggressive; the traffic on campus and in downtown is heavier than ever this fall, and the buses simply cannot move; and ridership is very heavy on many trips, which means it takes more time to board and deboard all the passengers.

Overcrowding. A second problem is passenger-carrying capacity. Ten percent of the service was cut and some of those cuts were in the corridors where the ridership is heaviest. We tried to make our cuts selectively, and run enough "trippers" to handle the loads, but there are just more people out there trying to ride than we expected. For instance, in the evening we have only one bus per hour to Vairo Boulevard - and some nights that's not enough for all the riders.

Customer Service. The third problem is the route and schedule changes made to allow the H, M, P and U Routes to supplement the LOOP on campus. The Centre Line routes don't function as well as they used to when their sole purpose was to get people into and out of the campus and downtown. The main concern is that the M (Nittany Mall) Route no longer departs from College and Allen, and because the route is interlined with the LINK, riders can't ride around the end of the route, either. Therefore, it's difficult for riders to get back to Schlow library on the inbound trip.

Mr. Mose continued saying that to keep the systems functioning, Operations is running "fill-in" buses during the morning rush hour, pretty much all afternoon, and occasionally in the evening and on Saturdays. However, there are several down-sides to this approach. First, a Supervisor's time must be committed to the active monitoring of the service on the street and the deployment of the extra buses. Second, because buses are continually being moved around, occasionally passengers can't make the right connections. Third, because more bus hours are being run than planned, it may cause budget problems as the year goes on.

Mr. Mose explained that staff has looked carefully at how the various routes are performing and whether there might be a better "fix" to the problems than running "fill-in" buses. There are several alternatives: increase headways, shorten some of the routes, or add buses. However, because the implementation of each of these potential solutions would involve significant dislocations for riders (or employees), at this point staff feels the best course of action is to continue running fill-in buses as needed.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose noted that at the beginning of the term it is typical for new riders to use the buses as a novelty just because it's free. One other thing that causes delays is that traffic on campus at the beginning of the semester is heavier, and therefore the buses cannot get across campus as quickly as they should. As a result the buses seem to be fuller, as they are moving slower.

In response to Mr. Powers, Mr. Mose noted that there is nothing in CATA's contracts with the apartment complexes which specifies the level of service provided. On the other hand, CATA does feel obligated to try and provide a sufficient amount of service to the complexes under contract.

In response to Mr. McCarl, Mr. Mose noted that the LINK provides service to the new housing units on West Campus. He then reviewed the routing for the LINK.


IV. NEW BUSINESS

A. Resolution Authorizing Filing of FY 2002/03 Federal Formula Assistance Grant
Ms. Minor reviewed the resolution included in the Board packets for filing for federal operating and/or capital funds. Once transit appropriations for the new fiscal year have been passed by Congress, staff will prepare the annual grant application for formula funding (capital and operating assistance) under Section 5307 (formerly Section 9) of the Federal Transit Act. Although funding estimates are still uncertain, staff expects to program the entire allocation for operating assistance, as shown in the FY 2002/03 budget document. Adoption of the required resolution at this time will allow staff to prepare and submit the grant as soon as funding levels have been announced.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Ms. Minor noted that the Authority meets all the specified requirements outlined in the resolution.

Mr. Sherman moved that the Board adopt the enclosed resolution authorizing the filing of CATA's FY 2002/03 federal formula assistance grant. Mr. Powers seconded the motion. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

B. Marketing Plan
Mr. Mose introduced Ms. Jacqueline Sheader, CATA's Marketing Coordinator, adding that due to the unexpected absence of Ms. Sheader at the July 22 meeting, this item was deferred.

Ms. Sheader reviewed the DRAFT Marketing Plan included in the Board packets, outlining how she intends to invest her personal time and energy, as well as the funds budgeted for Advertising and Marketing Support, to achieve the Board's goals for the current fiscal year.

Ms. Sheader pointed out that some of the specific areas will be working with seniors, providing buses for shopping, and making presentations at the retirement complexes; developing high school student summer passes; promoting pass sales with incentives; offering gift certificates for passes and tokens; promoting park and ride programs; and establishing an email database of our current riders to provide up-to-date information, along with important service announcements.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Ms. Sheader stated that the budget has been reduced this year and is much more labor-intensive, rather than focused on paid advertising.

In response to Mr. McCarl, Ms. Sheader noted that paid advertising has been reduced significantly, so the emphasis will be on current riders, rather than everyone in the area. She also pointed out that the special services are normally advertised by the sponsors.

The Board commended Ms. Sheader on the presentation of the Marketing Plan. No formal Board action was taken.

C. Replica Trolleys
Mr. Mose explained that several weeks ago he met with Gary Schultz, Tom Gibson and Teresa Davis from Penn State, Peter Marshall from the Borough of State College, and Teresa Sparacino from the Downtown Improvement District (DID) to discuss the establishment of a replica trolley service in the downtown State College area. The other parties at the meeting were interested in developing such a service and wanted to know if, or how, CATA might be a partner in such an enterprise.

Mr. Mose noted that over the course of the discussion he tried to make the following points:

CATA has access to federal transit funding that could probably be used to purchase one or more replica trolleys.

If CATA were to acquire a replica trolley, it would need to be owned by CATA and operated and maintained by CATA employees.

Because CATA does not have the financial resources to operate such a service, funding would need to come entirely, or nearly so, from others.

Any trolley service needs to be viewed in the context of the overall public transportation fabric of the community.

If CATA agrees to pursue this program in downtown State College, the expectation would be that the partners would support other transit initiatives to benefit the larger community.

Mr. Mose pointed out that this type of service would address the problem which Ms. Straub previously pointed out. People would have a vehicle to get from College Avenue to Beaver with no problem.

Mr. Mose stated that he promised this group that by the middle of September he would provide them an outline of how such a service might be operated, what kind of capital investment would be required, and how much it would cost to run the service, etc.

Before he makes a commitment of any kind, Mr. Mose said that he wanted to provide the Board the opportunity to weigh in with any thoughts they have concerning a possible partnership with the Borough, the DID and/or the University on a downtown State College trolley route.

In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Mose noted that the University may not have as much an interest in this project as the others. The Borough may have an interest, but in all likelihood it will need to be a joint effort with all the interested parties for it to happen.

In response to Mr. McCarl, Chairman Spychalski reviewed the history of transportation needs met by the University. Since the Authority cannot afford to fund this project without taking service away from the general public, CATA cannot participate without the partnership with the other entities.

Mr. Mose expressed his concerns with the University trying to operate this type of service off campus. Chairman Spychalski reviewed other issues, such as space on the street for trolley stops, life-cycle costing and a host of issues regarding operating costs and such things as how soon the novelty wears off the general public.

V. OTHER BUSINESS

A. General Manager's Report
Mr. Mose reported on the following items:

The new Community CATAlog which will be on the buses in the next day or two, will include our article regarding CATA's service and financial situation.

Mr. Bernier will be meeting with representatives from Hills Plaza regarding the football shuttle parking. The passengers for the football shuttle are taking up all the parking in the plaza and not allowing enough space for store patrons. There was discussion about alternative parking for next year.

Ride for Five - PSU has implemented a program for full-time employees to purchase a bus pass through payroll deduction of $5 a month. Employees are required to give up their parking permit to participate. Presently, the sales are much higher than anticipated. Mr. Mose noted that this was the University's response to CATA's request to have "unlimited access" for their employees.

An accident last week in the bus storage area caused significant damage to two buses. The cost for repairs is estimated at about $5,000 per bus. In response to Mr. Sherman, Mr. Gilbert noted that this was the first accident for this driver in a number of years.

Mr. Mose noted that the Federal Transit Administration Triennial Review is scheduled to be done this month.

At the suggestion of one of our drivers, Richard Lyon, Diane arranged to donate CATA's old lockers to the Bellefonte Family YMCA. Since they are presently remodeling their men's locker room, this gift was very much appreciated.

VI. ADJOURNMENT
There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting to Executive Session at 5:32 p.m. to discuss personnel issues.

VII. EXECUTIVE SESSION
The Executive Session was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.