CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
BOARD WORK SESSION
December 15, 2008
CATA BOARD ROOM
2081 W. Whitehall Road, State College, PA 16801
Revised January 23, 2009
BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: John Spychalski, Chairman
Joe Davidson, Vice-Chairman
Richard Kipp, Treasurer
STAFF PRESENT: Hugh Mose, General Manager
Judith Minor, Director of Administration
Sherry Snyder, Assistant Director of Transportation
Eric Bernier, Service Development Manager
Jackie Sheader, Marketing Manager
Greg Kausch, Transportation Planner
Mark Kutzer, Maintenance Manager
Deanne Brunner, Receptionist
Julie Hartley, Human Resource Manager
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:12 PM.
There were no public comments.
Hugh Mose began the meeting by referring the Board to a memo that he had prepared which gave a Mid-year Recap of the goals set by the Board for the current fiscal year. He mentioned that, despite having no labor contract for six months, CATA had still been able to operate all of its services very successfully and was on track to reasonably meet all of the goals, and he expressed appreciation to the staff for all of their efforts.
Hugh noted that this year CATA had undergone both a random drug and alcohol program audit and the usual annual financial audit, and both were completed successfully. He also discussed succession planning, and mentioned several staffing changes in the past year. Hugh mentioned that in his opinion the CATA staff had done a particularly good job regarding Outreach/External Environment matters.
Hugh stated that in the financial area CATA is in a strong position. He noted that CATA had secured at grant for natural gas powered hybrid propulsion systems, and that another technology earmark had been requested this year, although Congress still has not enacted the FY 2008/09 appropriations bill. Hugh added that CATA was able to take advantage of Act 44 funding to set up a $500,000 operating reserve as directed by the Board last year.
Hugh went over CATA’s Capital Program, specifically the APTS project, and acknowledged that it has been a long time in coming for several reasons, the biggest of which is that it is so complex. Hugh noted that the CATA/CCOT evaluation is another project that has proceeded more slowly than expected.
Hugh noted that it has been a challenging year regarding employee relations, due to the protracted labor negotiations. Hugh added that things are gradually returning to normal, and cited, as an example, the AFSCME Local’s recent distribution of Wal-Mart gift cards and their inclusion of management staff along with Union members.
Judi Minor distributed spreadsheets showing projected operating and capital funding over the next five years, and discussed the assumptions used in preparing each. She noted that the operating projections for each year showed a transfer to capital programs in amounts which would result in a $500,000 operating reserve, per Board policy. A brief discussion ensued on the capital projects listed for the next five years and possible sources of funds for those activities for which no funding is currently available.
Hugh Mose provided an update on the status of state operating and capital funding under Act 44, noting that estimated grant amounts were likely to be close to actual funding for the next year or two, but that changes to the original funding mechanism or the state’s economy in general could have a negative impact beyond that. Ms. Minor noted that reserved federal funding would be used to offset at least a part of such shortfalls, with funds tentatively programmed for capital activities transferred back to operating subsidy if necessary as long as they had not been expended.
Chairman Spychalski pointed out that compared to most other transit systems, CATA is in excellent shape financially.
Judi Minor gave an update on capital planning, and noted that grants have been approved for all of the vehicle replacements, facility improvements and support programs planned for this year. In regard to the architectural work for the expansion of the Cato Park facility, Joe Davidson asked if it would be feasible to bring in outside help to develop the RFP, so that the project could proceed more quickly.
Hugh Mose confirmed that the funding is in place for the replacement of the first ten buses of the Orion sub-fleet. Chairman Spychalski questioned if the plan is to program funds for the rehabilitation of the remaining 35-foot New Flyer buses, specifically numbers 75, 76, and 77, and Mark Kutzer confirmed that it is. Hugh noted that the Fleet Restoration Plan approved by the Board calls for some of the 1998 New Flyers to be replaced rather than rebuilt.
FARES AND LOCAL SHARES
Hugh Mose commented that it has been eight years since the last increase in fares, and costs continue to go up, so FY 2009/10 might be the year to enact a fare increase. He also stated that after six years of 5.0% increases in local shares last year CATA had not requested any increase, so it was an open question concerning what to do for the coming year.
Hugh stated that with CATA’s funding situation being generally sound, and the overall economy deteriorating so rapidly, the staff’s recommendation is to hold off another year before considering an increase in fares, token prices and pass rates. He also stated that due to the financial situations being reported by some of CATA’s municipal funding partners, as well as the fact that CATA is still above the minimum required local share level, the staff is not recommending requesting an increase in local shares. After brief discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to support the staff recommendation.
Hugh went on to note that each year the apartment complex rates have been negotiated upward, and there have also been consistent annual increases from Penn State. Eric Bernier described how the process works, and noted that over the years the total dollar volume of the apartment contracts has grown dramatically. He also noted that no additional Penn State funds would be available to expand LINK service to the new Dickinson law school building.
Board members and staff took a meal break from 5:24 p.m. to 5:40 p.m.
Eric Bernier noted that staff was using the same two-part approach to prioritizing service changes as we used last year. In reviewing the approach, he explained that first staff updated the list of “Staff Criteria”; the non-financial limitations or factors that need to consider when planning service changes for next year. Eric briefly reviewed each of the eight criteria detailed in the enclosed memo.
Eric then reviewed the second part, the updated list of potential service changes and improvements which is based on staff observations along with input received from the community over the recent years. He noted that each of those potential service changes is then listed and evaluated in the context of the staff criteria shown in the enclosed matrix. He further explained that since the list of changes is much larger than we can address in one year, the primary purpose of this exercise is to use the staff criteria to prioritize that list so that we stage the changes consistent with available funding over the next couple years.
Eric explained that, staff anticipates being able to spend about $200,000-$250,000 on new service next year. Pending discussion tonight, Eric expects to further develop the service changes that score the highest in this exercise so that costs for each can be determined prior to the January Board meeting.
Gary Powers asked if any of the considered changes were requested more often than others or if any had risen to the top based on input from the public or staff. Eric explained that three of the changes had separated themselves from the rest based on a combination of operational need and institutional opportunity; shorter weekday headways on the N, R and V Routes; new service to Halfmoon Township; and all day service to Geisinger Gray’s Woods.
Richard Kipp left meeting at 6:00 p.m.
Greg Kausch gave an update on several long-range planning projects. He pointed out that the assessment of the services provided by CATA and the Centre County Office of Transportation is behind schedule. Greg also discussed regional commuter bus service, noting that an application had just been submitted for funding under a new “smart transportation” initiative. He went on to discuss the Park and Ride program, the APTS initiative, Transit Signal Priority, the Long Range Transportation Plan, and a possible update of the CATA Strategic Plan.
MAJOR PROJECTS FOR FY 2009/10
Sherry Snyder and Mark Kutzer gave an update on several major projects for the coming year. Sherry noted that since the November Board meeting no further progress had been made in the LYNX bus acquisition. Mark added that both of the new CNG compressors are installed and running, but that there are still some electrical problems to be dealt with.
Sherry commented that additional APTS training for staff and drivers will be provided over the holiday break. She also noted that she has begun working on the RFP for CATA’s paratransit service. Sherry added that as a result of new standards being put in place by the Insurance Pool, CATA’s CDL holders will need to undergo bi-annual physicals.
Mark went over the training plans he has in mind for the Maintenance staff. He and Sherry discussed the difficulty we have had in filling the third shift mechanic position and the efforts they are undertaking to develop some of our more junior people. Gary Powers suggested contacting the voc-tech school in Lewistown.
Hugh Mose and Jackie Sheader went over the issue of exterior advertising, recapping the discussions that had occurred during last year’s Budget development. The Board briefly discussed the matter and reaffirmed their position that at the present time CATA should not display paid advertising on the exteriors of the buses.
With no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting at 7:30 PM.
The Board reconvened for an Executive Session to discuss personal issues.