CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION
REGULAR BOARD MEETING MINUTES
February 24, 2003
STATE COLLEGE BOROUGH COUNCIL CHAMBERS
BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:
John Spychalski, Chairman
Donald Sherman, Vice-Chairman
Richard Kipp, Treasurer
Hugh Mose, General Manager
Joseph Gilbert, Director of Transportation
Judith Minor, Director of Administration
L. Eric Bernier, Director of Service Development
Jacqueline Sheader, Marketing Coordinator
Diane Heichel, Executive Assistant
Richard McCarl, Borough Liaison
I. CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:03 p.m. Mr. Mose introduced Mr. Tim Geibel, the new Transit Planner for the Centre Region Planning Agency (CRPA). Mr. Geibel will be spending his time divided between the CRPA and CATA. Mr. Mose added that Mr. Geibel is presently completing his Masters degree in Organizational Leadership at Geneva College in Beaver Falls.
II. PUBLIC HEARING TO RECEIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR BUS
A. Public Comments on Service Issues
Chairman Spychalski introduced Mr. Bernier , Director of Service Development. Mr. Bernier made a brief presentation on the proposed service changes, stating that in order to offer the public the opportunity to request service or comment on the existing service, each February the Authority holds a public hearing in conjunction with the regular Board of Directors meeting.
Mr. Bernier stated that staff has taken a very preliminary look at the service changes which may be needed in the fall. At this time it looks like there will be no service cuts in the fall, but there will be no additional service added either. Staff is looking at trimming or recouping hours from lesser used routes, to add those hours of service to routes that desperately need it. The information provided in the Board packets covers some of the suggested changes. Mr. Bernier reviewed the service changes as outlined in the memo.
Mr. Bernier stated that staff will prepare a complete outline of the proposed service changes to present to the Board at the April meeting, when approval will be sought to implement such changes in August.
Mr. Bernier also noted that included in the Board packets are written service suggestions from people who could not attend the meeting.
Chairman Spychalski opened the floor to allow the public an opportunity to provide input to the Authority on service issues. Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Jeff Esposito, a PSU Student. Mr. Esposito is stated that he is presently investigating the overcrowding on the LOOP and LINK service and wanted to know what CATA proposes to do about this problem. In response, Mr. Mose stated that CATA has a contract with PSU to provide the fare free service on campus. Although CATA will be renegotiating the amount of service with PSU, at this time it seems that neither CATA or the University is likely to have the funds to support the amount of service needed on campus to meet the overwhelming demand during class changes. Mr. Mose also added that more and more riders are beginning to take advantage of the Centre Line buses which are fare free on campus, the H, M, P, and U Routes.
Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Jolly Harris, from the Centre County MHMR Office. Mr. Harris suggested that the Authority redesign the M and U Routes to provide a downtown LOOP. He thought that perhaps the M and U could circulate around downtown, rather than going back and forth across campus.
Chairman Spychalski recognized Michele Bernetskie, who asked what the ridership is like on the late-night LOOP. Mr. Mose responding saying that the LINK carries between 2,500 - 3,500 riders a day, the LOOPs carry as many as 25,000. Ms. Bernetskie thought perhaps more hours could be pulled from the LINK, and added to the LOOP to help with the overcrowding. She also wondered if the free-fare Centre Line buses are helping with the overcrowding on the LOOPs. Mr. Mose noted that staff has been considering some reconfiguring of the LINK to add service elsewhere. He also noted that the free-fare routes have helped with the overcrowded LOOPS, but in doing so, the have become filled, and this has taken some of the service away from the regular off-campus riders.
In response to Ms. Bernetskie's questions regarding the costs of the P Route and the fare free service, Mr. Mose stated that he'd be happy address her questions more specifically if she'd like to contact him at this office.
Ms. Bernetskie also asked about the Transit Signal Priority program and how it would affect bus stops near traffic lights. Mr. Mose stated that there would be a presentation on the Transit Signal Priority program later in the meeting.
Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Mike Gerber. Mr. Gerber asked about a proposal that the LOOP and LINK service may changed to offer the fare free service only during certain hours, with a fare being charged during the busier times of the day.
Mr. Gerber also asked about the possibility of having a GPS program to track the buses. Mr. Mose stated that he feels this is something for future consideration, but it is not in the plans at this time. However, CATA is starting to work on a transit technology investment plan, which could make this program a reality in the future.
Chairman Spychalski recognized Mr. Joe Banks, State College resident. Mr. Banks stated that he feels CATA could provide better service by using small buses, and reducing the use of the large buses. He stated that he feels that smaller buses used in the downtown area would cause less traffic congestion and be faster and more flexible.
Mr. Bernier pointed out that some of the considerations being discussed address the suggestion made by Mr. Harris on the M and the U Routes.
Mr. McCarl asked about the overcrowding and if there has been any move by CATA or the University to spread the stops further apart on the LOOPs or LINK to stop people from using the buses for only one or two blocks. Mr. Mose noted that this is a continued dialog with the University. He added that some of this has been done, but moving stops would also inconvenience many other riders.
There being no further public comments, Chairman Spychalski closed the Public Hearing at 4:30 p.m.
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 27, 2003 Board Meeting
Mr. Sherman moved that the Board approve the minutes of the January 27, 2003 Board meeting. Mr. Powers seconded the motion. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.
B. Finance Reports
Ms. Minor reviewed some of the specific line items, but noted that everything looks pretty much as expected. In response to Mr. Powers, Ms. Minor stated that the cost of CNG fuel looks terrible, jumping 15% today. She added that she has been watching the prices constantly, noting that the extreme cold has an effect on the price of fuel and she's hoping that as the weather gets warmer, the prices will come down. However, supplies also affect the fuel prices.
Mr. Sherman moved that the Board receive the January 2003 Finance Reports. Mr. Davidson seconded the motion. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.
C. FY 2003/04 Budget Update
Mr. Mose noted that over the past several weeks he has been working on a list of possible priorities and projects for the coming year. Meanwhile, under Judi's direction the staff has been putting together projections for actual expenditures through the end of FY 2002/03 and preliminary estimates for the FY 2003/04 Budget. At the same time Eric has been leading the service planning process, including the collection of input from the community such as this afternoon's public hearing.
These three activities will come together in a set of documents that the staff will provide for consideration at the Budget Work Session which has tentatively been set for the second week in March. At that time it is hoped that the Board will provide direction to the staff so that they can develop a DRAFT FY 2003/04 Budget that outlines what CATA plans to accomplish over the coming year, projects the costs associated with doing so, and identifies the resources that will be required.
Chairman Spychalski asked that Ms. Heichel contact the Board via email to set up a Work Session for the week of March 10.
D. Transit Signal
Priority Evaluation Demonstration Project
Mr. Mose, referring to the information provided in the Board packets, introduced Mr. Tom Zilla from the Centre Regional Planning Agency (CRPA) and Mr. Brian St. John, the project Manager from McCormick Taylor and Associates (MTA). Mr. Mose then reminded the Board that the Authority has been engaged in a project with PENNDOT and CRPA to evaluate the potential for a Transit Signal Priority (TSP) system in the North Atherton Street corridor.
Mr. Mose noted that the board packets contained a set of materials provided by MTA. The computer modeling shows that the buses could be given additional "green time" with no appreciable negative effects. However, it remains to be seen whether our local elected officials will agree to allow transit buses to have priority over the general traffic, and to what extent the new administration at PENNDOT will fund the installation.
Mr. St. John stated that MTA started this study a little over a year ago to look at the feasibility of a Transit Signal Priority system along the North Atherton Street corridor.
Mr. St. John gave a very thorough presentation with animated software showing the actual travel time of a bus on North Atherton Street. Two different TSP cases showed the impact of extending the green 15% of the cycle length and granting an early green of 80% of the actual max, or extending the green 20% of the cycle length and granting an early green of 80% of the actual max. Mr. St. John also pointed out that the buses are not the only ones benefitting from these extended greens, but the other traffic will benefit as well. However, he added that the choice of CATA bus routing has an impact on the effectiveness of TSP along the North Atherton Street corridor.
Mr. St. John then reviewed the final graphs and tables which summarized the data collected and the impact the system would have on each intersection. He stated that implementation costs would be approximately $10,000-$15,000 per intersection and $1,000 per bus for the TSP equipment. The overall cost for the installation of the equipment would be approximately $213,000.
In response to Chairman Spychalski, Mr. St. John noted that he still needs to get further information on the projected maintenance costs, but feels they would be modest. On the other hand, the cost savings to CATA based on operational costs and time savings is projected at about $40,000 a year. Emergency provider benefits are not included into these projections.
In response to Mr. Banks, Mr. St. John stated that he has not seen any statistics which would suggest an increased number of accidents resulting from a TSP system. Mr. St. John added that he has studies from other transit authorities which have already been using such systems showing the benefits.
Chairman Spychalski suggested that Mr. St. John find a way to expand on the enumerations of additional benefits that are not included in this presentation, particularly those benefits that would be of particular interest to the elected officials in various municipalities impacted by this project. Chairman Spychalski also suggested that it be made clear that this is something that is already proven to be an efficient use of road capacity from the standpoint of the number of persons moved per unit of time, not just efficiency in terms of the movement of vehicles. Chairman Spychalski stated that the Authority should try to communicate that message in an appropriate way.
In response to Annie Harris, Mr. St. John noted that the system will never interfere with the time needed for a pedestrian crossing.
In response to other questions, Mr. St. John stated that conflicting buses would be handled on a first come first serve basis, and since this is an optical system, cell phones would have no interference.
In response to Ms. Minor, Mr. St. John noted that individual savings would not be seen in cash, but a time savings per trip per person using that particular corridor.
In response to Mr. Davidson, Mr. St. John noted that for this study he did not consider abnormal weekend traffic, such as during a PSU Home Football Game.
Mr. McCarl commented that this system still needs to be sold to the municipalities and their elected officials. He feels that the cost-to-benefit ratio of moving a person from downtown to the North Atherton Street area 30 seconds quicker is just not a good selling point.
In response to Mr. McCarl, Mr. Mose noted that at the beginning of this project, PENNDOT knew that the cost savings seen in a larger municipality would not be seen in State College. However, the use of such technology for emergency vehicles and for transit buses could prove to be beneficial. Mr. Mose also pointed out that the only way this project will proceed is for PENNDOT to invest the initial cost.
Mr. McCarl stated that after hearing this presentation, he is now more comfortable with the concept of the program than he has been.
In response to Mr. Davidson, Mr. St. John noted that the present signal preemption system for emergency vehicles stops at Park Avenue. This new system would extend the preemption program further out North Atherton Street.
Mr. Zilla noted that any new development which would be responsible for installing traffic lights, would also be responsible for the cost of installation of the TPS system as well.
Mr. Zilla also stated that this same presentation will be made to the COG Committees in March, then in April, the presentation will be made to the individual municipalities. Then CRPA will come back to the CATA Board for further approval.
As this agenda items was for information and discussion, no formal Board action was taken.
E. Smart Commute
Mr. Mose introduced Ms. Jackie Sheader, CATA's Marketing Coordinator. Mr. Mose stated that Ms. Sheader has been working with Ed Carlin, the Fannie Mae representative for Central Pennsylvania, to develop the Smart Commute program, which is designed to encourage people to purchase homes in areas served by public transportation.
Ms. Sheader reported that she and Mr. Carlin are working on promotional materials and activities, including a "kick-off" event. The Smart Commute brochure which was distributed to the Board outlines the program. Ms. Sheader went on to make a brief presentation on the program, including an outline of her plans for a Press Conference which is scheduled to take place immediately before the Budget Work Session in March.
In response to Mr. Davidson, Ms. Sheader noted that presently only Citizens Bank and Omega Bank have been interested in participating in this program.
As this agenda item was for information and discussion, no formal Board action was taken.
V. NEW BUSINESS
A. FY 2003-04 CRMPO Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP)
Mr. Mose again introduced Mr. Tom Zilla, CRPA, adding that the UPWP, a 17-page document detailing all of the work tasks of the Centre Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (CRMPO), is included in the Board packets. Because technically CATA serves as one of the implementing agencies (along with the Centre Regional Planning Commission) the CATA Board should take action to recommend to the CRMPO that the UPWP be adopted.
Mr. Mose noted that the cover memo from Tom Zilla states that the UPWP would be considered for adoption at the CRMPO Coordinating Committee meeting on January 20. Because the Coordinating Committee did indeed take that action, it's too late for the CATA Board to recommend its adoption. However, the CATA Board could (and should) endorse that action.
Tom Zilla briefly outlined the Long Range Transportation Plan, noting that the County is undergoing a county-wide Long Range Transportation Plan. Mr. Zilla also reviewed the Public Transportation projects. Mr. Zilla also reviewed the FY 2003/04 UPWP budget, pointing out that this budget focuses FTA funding on Transit-related tasks.
Mr. Sherman moved that the CATA Board endorse the UPWP as adopted by the CRMPO Coordinating Committee. Mr. Kipp seconded the motion. Mr. Sherman mentioned that he was present at the presentation to the CRMPO and it was very well received.
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 expressed his appreciation to all the CATA employees who worked last Monday and Tuesday during the extreme winter weather conditions. It was a very challenging time under extreme circumstances. Everyone worked very hard to maintain the integrity of the Authority's bus service.
Mr. Sherman moved for adjournment. There being no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting at 5:58 p.m.