Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

September 7, 2005
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street

Mayor Morrison called the Study Session to order at 1:05 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Amarotico, Hartzell, Jackson, Silbiger and Chapman were present. Councilor Hardesty was absent.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi, City Attorney Mike Franell and Management Analyst Ann Seltzer were also present.

Management Analyst Ann Seltzer introduced Peter Jacobsen, Craig Anderson and Paige West of Rogue Valley Transit District (RVTD). Ms. Seltzer explained that the City's agreement with RVTD has expired and Council needs to provide direction to Staff so that they can prepare an updated agreement. She explained that in the past, the City has paid $240,000 to RVTD to provide the second bus route in Ashland, which is Loop #5, and the free fare within Ashland for all riders on routes #5 and #10. In the past, Southern Oregon University (SOU) has supplemented the free fare buy-down by providing $21,670 to RVTD, however SOU has indicated that they may no longer be able to provide these funds. Ms. Seltzer explained that RVTD has indicated that the costs of these services are in excess of $340,000 per year. She stated that in anticipation of the rising operating costs, the City has budgeted $290,000 for FY06 for RVTD, and stated that Staff's recommendation is to enter into an agreement with RVTD not to exceed the budgeted amount of $290,000.

RVTD General Manager Peter Jacobson addressed the Council and voiced RVTD's appreciation of their relationship with Ashland and the City Council. Mr. Jacobson noted that RVTD receives steady income, but stated that its funding barely matches their costs.

RVTD Senior Planner/Support Services Manager Craig Anderson noted that he had submitted a Memo to the Council, which is contained in their packet materials. He explained that Route 5, which is the Ashland Loop, had 96,001 riders for fiscal year 2004-2005, at an operating cost of $116,578. Route 10, which serves from Medford to Ashland, had 525,357 riders, of which approximately 1/3 of the riders were from Ashland, at a cost of $511,674. Mr. Anderson explained that Table 1 contained in his Memo provides data that gives the City a general idea of what their operating costs are.

Paige West with RVTD explained that the ridership in Ashland increased 49% after the free fare program was implemented in 2002, and stated that Ashland's ridership is above average compared to the other cities in the district. RVTD's marketing activities, including the bus sign, their participation and marketing of the service at various events, and the interactive bus program were noted.

Mr. Jacobson stated that RVTD is proud of this program and hopes that the City will see the value in continuing the free fare service in Ashland.

The possibility of instituting a $.25 was mentioned by Council. Ms. West stated that most likely the numbers of citizens who choose to ride the bus because they want to, not because they have to, would decrease if a fee was instituted. Mr. Jacobson commented on the psychological barrier.

Councilor Hartzell left the meeting at 1:25 p.m.

Comment was made that SOU students are a large percentage of the users of the bus system. Ms. West added that almost 1/3 of all of the trips for Ashland are directly related to the university.

Steve Ryan, representing the Associated Students of SOU, addressed the Council. Mr. Ryan explained that last June, the Student Fee Committee voted against funding the $21,670 previously paid by SOU, but would continue to issue the passes, which are purchased at full price from RVTD and distributed directly to the SOU student body. He stated that by giving the students, staff and faculty individual ridership, they could more accurately track where the student fee dollars are going. Mr. Ryan noted the reduction in university's budget to all programs funded by the student incidental fees.

Ms. West clarified that since the bus program was established in 2001, SOU has purchased passes at full cost from RVTD and provided them to their students for free, as well as provided RVTD with a small contribution of $21,670 to the free fare program.

Ms. Seltzer clarified that SOU has a separate agreement with RVTD and noted that the passes they provide enable students who live outside of the city limits to use the bus to get to Ashland for free. She added that the money paid by SOU for the free passes does not supplement SOU-wide free fare use within Ashland.

Ms. West stated that if SOU decides to not provide the funding that they have in previous years, RVTD will need to recoup costs somehow.

Interim Public Works Director Joe Strahl spoke regarding the source of the City's funding. He explained that the bus subsidy program is taken from funds dedicated to transportation needs, and reduces the overall amount available for street repair needs. He noted the various sources of funding received by the City, and stated that the only funds eligible for use for the bus program come from the Street Fund.

It was noted that SOU would make their final determination as to whether they are going to contribute their portion in October.

Comment was made that the City was already prepared to contribute $50,000 more this year than they did last, and should not volunteer to pay SOU's portion. Statement was made that a lot of the university is utilizing this service and they should continue to contribute to the program.

Ms. Seltzer noted that the expired agreement with RVTD had some issues with it. She stated that RVTD did not meet its part of the agreement to post signs, and noted that the City assumed some of the marketing costs for the production of a brochure. She added that that the City could incorporate more items into the new agreement with RVTD, such as a requirement that they track student ridership in Ashland.

Staff was requested to draft an agreement with RVTD that would not exceed the $290,000 budgeted amount, and would include enhanced requirements, including keeping track of SOU ridership. It was noted that the agreement would come back to the City Council for final approval.

Ms. Seltzer noted the time and days the Council Chambers is available for Study Sessions. Mr. Grimaldi noted that the current meeting time is difficult for those who work a normal work schedule and stated that Councilor Hartzell has been affected by the current schedule.

Council briefly discussed their preferences for Study Session times. Opposition was voiced to holding the Study Sessions on Fridays or before the regular Council meetings. Comment was made that two Study Session per month would be beneficial.

Council reached consensus to schedule the Council Study Session meetings on the first Monday of the month and on the second Thursday of the month from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT:  Meeting adjourned at 2:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

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