CENTRE AREA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

BOARD BUDGET WORK SESSION

MINUTES

pdf format 

March 18, 2010

4:00 p.m.

CATA BOARD ROOM

2081 W. Whitehall Road, State College, PA  16801

 

            BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:       John Spychalski, Chairman

                                                                        Joe Davidson, Vice-Chairman

                                                                        Richard Kipp, Treasurer

                                                                        Gary Powers

                                                                        Kathryn Bittner

 

            STAFF:                                               Hugh Mose, General Manager

                                                                        Louwana Oliva, Assistant General Manager

                                                                        Judith Minor, Director of Administration

                                                                        Sherry Snyder, Director of Operations

                                                                        Mark Kutzer, Director of Maintenance

                                                                        Eric Bernier, Service Development Manager

                                                                        Jackie Sheader, Marketing Manager

                                                                        Julie Hartley, Human Resource Manager

                                                                        Greg Kausch, Transportation Planner

                                                                        Marsha Kyper, Assistant to the General Manager

 

            Call to Order

 

            Chairman Spychalski called the meeting to order at 4:10 p.m.

 

            Public Comment

 

Richard Kipp commented that the bus serving the B Route on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 16 & 17) experienced trouble getting up University Drive.   

 

            Introduction

 

Hugh Mose provided a brief introduction of the materials provided in the Board packets including Judi Minor’s material – a Preliminary Draft Budget, complete with a table explaining each line item with a significant change from the FY 2009/2010 Budget or the projected actual for the current year, and which incorporates the Budget topics covered during the December Planning Work Session as well as Eric Bernier’s listing of the service changes that are under consideration for this fall.  Hugh then listed the policy issues that would be presented for the Board’s consideration including an increase in fares and local shares, staffing changes, and a revised compensation plan. 

 

            Discussion items:

            1.  Revenue and Subsidies

 

Fares

 

Hugh reported that CATA has not increased fares for eight year, since 2002, and that there seemed to be a consensus at the December Planning Work Session that it was time.   Hugh noted that since no decision had been made, the Preliminary Draft Budget has been developed assuming that fares, token prices and monthly pass rates remain at their current levels, and that there will be a small amount of revenue growth based on a continuation of the ridership increases CATA has been experiencing for the past several years. 

 

 

 

Hugh made the following recommendations to the Board for fare increases.

CATABUS

 

Fare Category

Current Rate

Proposed Rate

Increase

Full cash fare and single token

$1.25

$1.50

20%

Half fare (persons w/ disabilities)

$0.60

$0.75

25%

Roll of tokens (20 tokens/roll)

$24.00

$28.00

17%

One month OnePass

$49.00

$55.00

12%

Semester OnePass

$195.00

$215.00

10%

Annual Pass                 (corrected)

$499.00

$539.00

8%

Ride-for-Five pass

$40.00

$42.00

5%

 

 

CATARIDE

 

Fare Category

Current Rate

Proposed Rate

Increase

Seniors (Shared Ride)

$1.50

$2.00

33%

Persons w/ Disabilities (ADA)

$2.50

$3.00

20%

General Public

$10.00

$13.30

33%

 

 

It was the consensus of the Board to accept the staff’s recommendation for a cash fare increase from $1.25 to $1.50 and that the other fare category increases could be determined accordingly. As a result of the Board consensus to raise fares, Hugh noted that the Operating Revenue line items in the Draft Budget will be increased accordingly, with the estimated net effect of these fare increases, recognizing that there is likely to be some loss of ridership, to possibly be approximately $200,000.   Hugh acknowledged that this estimate may be optimistic for the first year following the fare increase, since cash and ONEPASS revenue increased only minimally in FY 2002/2003, following the last fare increase; it was not until the following year when additional revenues exceeded $100,000.  Hugh further commented that CATA is now running a lot more service, with considerably more riders and revenue from cash fares and passes, so percent increases of a similar magnitude should yield higher revenues this time around.

 

            Local Shares

 

Hugh reported that at the Board’s Planning Work Session,  discussion was held as to whether to  ask CATA’s municipal funding partners for an increase, or whether to simply request the same total amount ($419,795) for a fourth consecutive year.  Hugh stated that because the Board has decided to raise fares, the staff recommends that local shares be increased by 5 % as well.  Hugh further stated that the vagaries of the Miller Formula will cause the municipalities’ and the University’s individual shares to change relative to one another, so it would not be an across-the-board 5% increase.  

 

The Board consensus was that the local municipalities should be asked for a 5% increase in local shares.

 

Apartment Contracts

 

Hugh Mose stated that when CENTRE LINE fares were raised in FY 2002/2003, CATA established a revenue target of $0.75 per trip on its apartment complex program and that by negotiating yearly increases with the individual complexes it has able to achieve that goal.  However, sustained ridership growth has kept the average fare for apartment riders at less than $0.80 per trip.  While this only comprises about two-thirds of the base fare, these riders are carried very cost-effectively, so the subsidies required on the routes with apartment complexes are the lowest in the system.  Hugh further stated that for the coming year, staff will continue to negotiate higher rates, especially with the complexes with the lowest per-trip yields.  Hugh pointed out that consequently, this Preliminary Draft Budget includes a 7.8% increase in Purchase of Service revenues.  Hugh concluded by stating that if fares are raised, the staff may have additional leverage in dealing with the apartment owners and managers, but it is unlikely that the Purchase of Service revenue line item can be increased by more than another 1 or 2%.

 

The Board concurred that staff should negotiate higher rates with apartment complexes.

 

             Penn State

 

Hugh Mose reported that several weeks ago the staff met with its counterparts at Penn State to discuss the parameters of campus service for the coming academic year.  At that time Teresa Davis indicated that if CATA could provide a suitable justification, she would recommend a 5% increase to the University administration.  Hence, this Budget includes that increase in the hourly rate that Penn State pays for LOOP and LINK service, as well as the support they provide to the CATACOMMUTE program. 

 

Hugh Mose further reported that the University currently pays CATA $52.20 per revenue hour for LOOP and LINK service; with a 5% increase, that rate will rise to $54.81, which will not quite cover CATA’s direct costs and doesn’t begin to support its overheads.  Hugh noted that the inclusion of the campus service qualifies CATA for almost $800,000 annually under the federal Small Transit Intensive Cities program, and the high campus ridership is responsible for as much as $500,000 in additional state capital funds.  Hugh concluded by stating that Penn State also heavily subsidizes the popular Ride-for-Five passes as well as the park-and-ride program that CATA operates for downtown State College employees.

 

The Board consensus was that justification be provided to Penn State to accompany a request for a 5% increase in the hourly rate Penn State pays for LOOP and LINK service.

 

State Assistance

 

Hugh Mose stated that Act 44 has provided a significant increase in CATA’s state operating assistance including a 55% “catch-up” increase of nearly $1.0 million in additional funding in FY 2007/2008 and another 20% increase in the following year.  However, the decline in state sales tax revenues, the largest source of state transit funding, has caused PennDOT to defer any further increases in operating assistance.  Consequently, the Draft Budget includes $3,378,286 in state Act 44 assistance, the same amount received for the past two years, per the notification on funding levels from PennDOT.

 

FTA Section 5307 Formula Assistance

 

Hugh Mose reported that for years CATA has used federal formula assistance to “balance” its annual Operating Budget, first drawing down whatever unspent funds were carried forward from the prior year.  Thanks to a variety of positive developments (SAFETEA-LU increasing CATA’s federal support, Governor Rendell flexing highway funds, the passage of Act 44, etc.) the year-end carry-forwards have grown year by year.  Hugh further stated that it is estimated that CATA will carry forward $265,000 of unspent FTA Section 5307 funds into the coming fiscal year.  Adding to that the $2.2 million in new federal formula funds that CATA will receive in the current fiscal year, a total of roughly $2.4 million in federal formula funds should be available at the beginning of FY 2010/2011.  Hugh pointed out however, that the Preliminary Draft Budget shows that $2.6 million will be required to “balance” the budget, meaning that after several years of building up a considerable “reserve” it will become necessary to begin drawing on it, and next spring, to tap into CATA’s FY 2010/2011 federal allocation.

 

Hugh Mose further clarified that while using federal funds in the year they are allocated is in itself not a problem, the drawing down of  reserves” is not sustainable.  The budget for FY 2010/2011, and perhaps one additional year, can be balanced, but if by that time state sales tax proceeds haven’t started growing again so that significant increases in Act 44 operating assistance can resume, CATA will again have to raise fares and almost certainly cut service. 

 

            FTA Section 5309 Discretionary Capital

 

Hugh Mose stated that each year CATA applies for federal “earmark” funding for a selected capital project and over the years has been uncommonly successful at securing earmarks, having received funds for new buses, the CNG fueling facility, an office at Schlow Library, the technology initiative, and other projects. In the current fiscal year CATA’s request for funding to replace the final four of its 1996 Orion buses was partially granted.  In next year’s federal Transportation Appropriations process a request for $680,000 has been submitted for the next phase of CATA’s technology program.  An earmark in the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU that would fund the expansion of the bus maintenance, servicing and storage areas has also been submitted. Hugh concluded by stating that the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU is however, on indefinite hold and that the House Republican Caucus has taken a position of not supporting earmark requests this year. As a result, Hugh stated that he is not optimistic about receiving an earmark this fiscal year.

 

Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC)

 

Hugh Mose reported that in addition to the FTA Section 5309 formula funds, SAFETEA-LU also contains three other federal programs that the State College urbanized area is eligible for – JARC (for non-traditional employee transportation), New Freedom (for enhanced services for persons with disabilities) and Section 5310 (for seniors).  The funds from these programs are allocated by PennDOT, which uses a competitive process for their distribution.  In the current year CATA received $192,000 for the purchase of new vanpool vans.  Greg Kausch commented briefly on the plans for regional commuter bus service in the Route 322 corridor.  Hugh pointed out that because there is no guarantee that JARC funding will actually be received, none of this money is included in the Preliminary Draft Budget.

 

Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ)

 

Hugh Mose reported that for the past several years CATA has been receiving a share of the CMAQ funds available to Centre County.  In the past these funds have been used for bus service in the North Atherton corridor and administrative costs associated with CATA’s vanpool program.  Additional funds have been transferred to CATA for eligible capital projects when circumstances warrant.  Hugh stated that for example, last fall CATA received $400,000, which is being used to help fund the refurbishment of its 1998 New Flyer buses.  Looking ahead, staff expects to continue working with the CCMPO and PennDOT to shift CMAQ funds between highway and transit projects to ensure their optimal use in the State College community.  Hugh pointed out that because it is not possible to know what funds might ultimately be available, no CMAQ dollars are included in the Budget at this time.

 

 

2. Line Item Budget

 

Judi Minor provided a summary of her five-page Preliminary Draft Budget, and the accompanying memo that explained those line items which differ significantly from either the current budget or the estimated amount for the current year. 

 

Kathryn Bittner inquired whether we were over budget in FY 2009/2010 for Driver Wages and Benefits due to overtime on the trippers.   Hugh Mose and Sherry Snyder responded that the overage was due to additional service which was added after the Budget was completed and that with no additional service proposed for FY 2010/2011, and four (4) new Drivers on board, there should be fewer overtime hours.

 

The Board concurred that staff should proceed with preparation of the Draft Budget based on the information presented.

 

3. Service Planning

 

Hugh Mose commented that at the Planning Work Session in December, and again on several occasions since then, Eric Bernier has discussed the staff’s preliminary ideas for service improvements for this coming August.  With CATA’s Act 44 allocation exactly the same as last year and our federal assistance growing only marginally, any additional funding will have to come from higher fares and purchase of service revenues, and that won’t be enough to keep up with the increased cost of running the buses.  As a result, again this year we have taken a very conservative approach in service planning.

 

Eric Bernier provided an overview of the memo he prepared which summarizes the service changes that are being evaluated for implementation in August.  Hugh Mose commented that the plan is to make adjustments to routes and schedules, but not increase the number of revenue service hours.  Hugh further commented that by more tightly managing the “tripper” buses operated on routes that serve high concentrations of student housing, it is hoped that the number of driver pay hours might be decreased and that with no expansion of service is planned, there is no plan to increase the size of our Bus Driver complement beyond the number needed to minimize overtime. 

 

The Board consensus was that the Service Planning Committee should proceed with the changes outlined in Eric Bernier’s memo and once the staff has had the chance to work out more of the details, return for the Board’s final approval of the FY 2010/2011 Service Plan at the April Board meeting.

 

 

4. Staffing

 

Hugh Mose stated that over the past several years as CATA’s financial situation has improved staffing has been increased with the filling of the vacant Maintenance Manager position, and the addition of a sixth Operations Supervisor, part-time Receptionist, Transportation Analyst and Assistant General Manager. 

 

Louwana Oliva provided a summary of her cover memo describing the need for a Facilities Maintenance Manager and a Lead Supervisor and provided  the rationale for each position.  Mark Kutzer described the current maintenance staff schedule.  Joe Davidson inquired whether the new position in Maintenance would be a represented position.  Hugh Mose responded that it would be a non-represented management position and then stated his strong support for the additional positions and encouragement of the Board to agree to include them in the coming year’s Budget. 

 

Joe Davidson inquired about office space and whether the Budget could handle the additional position.

Louwana Oliva responded that she was working on office space and Hugh Mose responded that one position is already represented in the Budget and the new position would add $68,000.

 

The Board concurred that the additional positions should be filled and that the costs associated with the additional positions should be added to the Draft Budget. 

 

 

Significant Non-capital Projects

 

Hugh Mose provided a verbal overview of each major non-capital project that will be supported by the FY 2010/2011 Capital Budget.

 

Technology Deployment

 

Hugh Mose stated that it has taken time to get the Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) system fully functional, but now that it’s working, the data is being used to help manage the service, and the public has quickly come to rely on the real-time information.  Hugh further stated that the onus is on CATA to keep the APTS system functioning, to get every Driver and every Supervisor to consistently use it and to continue building on it, with such devices as the iPhone app and our various website

enhancements.

 

The Board consensus was that CATA staff should continue to develop the APTS system and that this project should be included in the non-capital projects supported by the FY 2010/2011 Budget.

 

            Coordination with the Centre County Office of Transportation (CCOT)

 

Hugh Mose reported that is is expected that the outcome of a consultant study being undertaken by the Centre Regional Planning Agency (CRPA), in which the paratransit programs operated by CATA and the CCOT have been evaluated, will result in a recommendation that the two agencies move toward consolidation by setting up a formal Coordination Committee.  Hugh further commented that, this being the case, CATA staff would begin working with its counterparts at the CCOT to address some of the policy and service structure inconsistencies between the two Shared Ride programs.

 

The Board consensus was that staff should begin to work with CCOT to form a county paratransit Coordination Committee.

 

 

            Regional Commuter Bus Service

 

Hugh Mose reported that over the past year CATA and CRPA staff have been trying to lay the groundwork for regional commuter service from Penns Valley, the Moshannon Valley (in conjunction with the Area Transportation Authority [ATA]), Altoona (with Fullington Trailways) and possibly other areas.  Hugh further stated that as a result, CATA is working with ATA on a joint service and marketing plan as well as grant application, which, if awarded, would cause CATA to be responsible for certain trips between Philipsburg and State College.

 

Hugh Mose asked Greg Kausch when the service is proposed to start and to explain how the JARC funding works.  Greg responded that he believes a start up in the fall of 2011 is realistic, and that PennDOT will will require 15% local support as well as a commitment to fund the project beyond the JARC Grant demonstration period.   Kathryn Bittner inquired whether CATA is committed to the service once a grant is accepted.  Hugh  and Greg responded that CATA would be committed.

 

Hugh Mose commented that ATA believes it can run a break-even operation out of farebox revenue.  Hugh further stated that he believes CATA should be assertive in working with ATA to ensure that we have a voice in the development of the service in our service area, and that the interests of Centre County citizens in the Route 322 corridor are not overlooked, but that we should not be seen as being obstructionists.  There was no clear consensus from the Board on CATA’s role in developing the funding necessary for the service that would originate in Philipsburg.

 

Workforce Development and Succession Planning

 

Hugh Mose commented that over the coming year – and on into the future – the professional development of CATA’s employees will become a major focus of the organization.  The long-term absence of two of CATA’s key executives last year was a wake-up call that there is a significant knowledge gap between the more senior managers and their subordinates.  In addition, the approaching retirement of two of CATA’s top people demands that succession planning be addressed with renewed urgency.  As CATA’s Human Resources Manager, Julie Hartley will take responsibility for the training and development of staff at all levels of the organization.

 

The Board expressed its support for further professional development of CATA employees and succession planning.

 

Strategic Plan Update

 

Hugh Mose stated that in 1998 CATA developed a Strategic Plan, which was updated a half-dozen years later in conjunction with the County’s Long-Range Transportation Plan.  While much of the existing Plan is still current, recent developments, such as Penn State’s discussion of Universal Access, emerging interest in rapid transit in the North Atherton corridor, issues relating to the integration of CATARIDE and CCOT Service and continued requests for fixed route bus service outside of the Centre Region suggest that resources be invested in an update.  Hugh requested the Board’s concurrence on allowing the staff to search for funding over the coming year for consultant assistance on an updated Strategic Plan with two parts; one to focus on CATA’s mission and another to guide the use of financial resources.

 

Richard Kipp inquired whether having a Strategic Plan was a requirement, or even really useful to CATA.  Hugh Mose responded that the state does not require CATA to have such a plan, and that overall a Strategic Plan is valuable in providing guidance to the agency.   Various Board members shared their thoughts and concerns, with the general tenor that a “grand plan” is not something that the Board would support.  Chairman Spychalski concluded the discussion by speaking in favor of a project-specific approach.

 

Park-and-Ride Lots

 

Greg Kausch, CRPA Transportation Planner, reported that he continues to work on the development of a formal park-and-ride lot at Old Fort in Potter Township.  This project has endured many setbacks over the ten years that it has been in process, but at long last it looks like construction may soon be underway.  Meanwhile, the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) has received some special PennDOT funding to evaluate park-and-ride lot locations in the Moshannon Valley.  Hugh Mose concluded by stating that  both of these projects represent key staging points for future regional commuter bus service into State College.

 

The Board concurred that CATA should continue to be involved in the development of park-and-ride lots.

 

Kathryn Bittner departed the meeting at this point.

 

 

 

Capital Projects

 

Hugh Mose reported that although CATA’s budget development process is very thorough, it really doesn’t provide an opportunity for the Board to review the projects that comprise the Capital Budget.  By their very nature, major capital projects are typically multi-year undertakings, and as such there are a number of projects in varying stages of completion that will be shown in the Capital portion of the FY 2010/2011 Budget document.  Hugh provided  the following brief recaps of each:

 

Bus Refurbishment

 

Hugh Mose reported that consistent with CATA’s bus fleet restoration plan, in 2007 and 2008 CATA completed the refurbishment of its 1997 New Flyer buses.  The restoration plan called for only half of the 1998 New Flyer sub-fleet to be rebuilt, but with the $1.67 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding allocated to CATA, all ten buses are being rehabilitated  The first bus is nearly finished; the remaining nine will be completed over the coming year.

 

CNG Tanks

 

Hugh Mose stated that unlike the buses themselves, which can be run indefinitely as long as their various subsystems are adequately maintained, the CNG tanks on the roofs have a certified life, at which point they must be replaced.  CATA’s Orion and New Flyer buses have 15-year tanks, the oldest of which will reach the end of their certified life in December, 2010.  As a result, this summer CATA is undertaking the replacement of the tanks in the 1996 Orion buses.  With eight tanks on each of sixteen buses, this will be a major undertaking.  After the 1996 buses are completed, the two 1996 New Flyers and the nineteen 1997 New Flyers will be next up.

 

 

Advanced Public Transportation Systems – Phase II

 

Hugh Mose reported that over the past four years CATA has developed an automatic vehicle location (AVL) “backbone” that gives Dispatchers – and the general public – real-time bus location information.  The Phase I installation is complete, although staff continues to work with Avail Technologies to get the remaining “bugs” worked out.  Earlier this year staff began the implementation of Phase II, which includes automatic stop annunciators and automatic passenger counters.  These systems should be installed and fully functional by the end of the calendar year.

 

 

Replacement Buses

 

Hugh Mose stated that in 2006 the Board approved a bus fleet restoration plan that programs the replacement and refurbishment of our CNG buses.  Procurement of the first wave of replacement buses was expected to begin in 2008, but due to unforeseen circumstances the solicitation has been postponed until later this spring.  At that time staff will solicit proposals for ten 40-foot buses.  CATA has secured a special Clean Fuels grant that will enable the purchase of two buses with CNG-electric hybrid propulsion systems, if any manufacturer is ready to bring this type of vehicle to market.

 

Vanpool Vans

 

Hugh Mose reported that thanks to the popularity of the CATACOMMUTE vanpool program, in very short order the program has grown from the initial six groups to the current sixteen.  In 2008 CATA received a Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) grant that enabled the purchase of eleven new vans.  Last year CATA was awarded a second JARC for six additional units; the procurement is currently under way.  These new vehicles will allow CATA to gradually replace the oldest vans currently in service, have an adequate number of spare units, and add new vanpool groups as the demand arises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transit Signal Priority (TSP)

 

Hugh Mose stated that PennDOT and the three affected municipalities have begun a traffic signal upgrade project along North Atherton Street, in the same area where CATA had explored the possibility of TSP six or seven years ago.  The new equipment to be installed at the intersections will be designed to support TSP, and the project partners and their consultants have encouraged CATA to implement TSP at the time the new signals are installed.  As a result, in FY 2010/2011 CATA plans to outfit all of its buses with infrared emitters.

 

Maintenance Facility Expansion

 

Hugh Mose stated that by the end of the current fiscal year staff expects to begin work on the expansion of the bus maintenance, servicing and storage areas of the Cato Park facility.  Starting with a request for proposals for Architectural and Engineering services to develop plans to increase increase storage capacity by at least 30 buses, expand the bus maintenance area and enable it to better accommodate articulated buses, increase the capacity of the bus servicing lane, and greatly enlarge the parts room.  State formula capital funds in the amount of $400,000 have been programmed for the architectural work and an earmark of $4.0 million has been requested from the SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization to fund the actual construction.

 

Shelters and Other Stop Improvements

 

Eric Bernier reported that each year CATA budgets money for bus stop enhancements around the community; this year funds have been programmed for concrete pads, benches and shelters, as well as the installation of real-time bus arrival information at two additional major bus stops.   Plans including the relocation of the very busy bus stop in front of the University Club and the addition of a shelter and other amenities.  We will also explore the commissioning of an “artwork” clock as a signature landmark at our downtown pass sales offices in the Schlow Centre Region Library.

 

Cato Park Office Remodeling

 

Hugh Mose reported that in the seven years since the remodel of the Operations, Administration and Executive areas of the CATA facility, there has been continued growth in the number of staff positions, and the Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) technology has caused a major shift in how our Dispatchers do their job.  As a result this year the services of an architect will be retained to help with several internal remodeling projects, with the expectation that the actual construction will be done in FY 2010/2011.

 

            Cato Park Facility Landscaping

 

Hugh Mose reported that when the  Cato Park facility was expanded in 2003, the project budget did not allow for any landscaping improvements.  Marsha Kyper has begun to work with a Landscape Architect to develop a plan for upgrading the plantings and the hardscape.  The “earth-moving” and concrete work are expected to be completed this summer and the plantings to be installed in the fall.

 

Enterprise Resource Planning Software

 

Hugh Mose reported that CATA’s 14-year old vehicle maintenance and inventory computer system has become obsolete, and the growth in the Bus Driver workforce now demands automation of the run-cutting and scheduling process and the timekeeping system.  In addition, a Human Resources module for personnel recordkeeping, which is currently done manually, is also needed.  Consequently, over the coming year CATA staff will be working with the staff of the Regional Technology Consortium on the development of a suite of integrated software applications in Operations, Maintenance and Human Resources. 

 

Adjournament.

With no further discussion, Chairman Spychalski adjourned the meeting at 8:00 p.m.

 

Executive Session.

The Board reconvened for an Executive Session to discuss personnel and labor relations issues including the final items on the agenda Compensation Plan Update, Pay Plan Market Adjustment and Regional Commuter Bus Service Operation.