Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

October 20, 1999
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street

Council Chairperson Don Laws called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Fine and Hanson were present. Mayor Shaw arrived late. Staff present: Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles, Public Works Director Paula Brown, and Director of Community Development John McLaughlin.

Council discussion regarding events surrounding 125 year celebration. Suggestion that historical documents be gathered through the use of a community service volunteer and/or in conjunction with a high school senior project. Councilor Wheeldon noted a 100-year fashion show that will be taking place as a fund raiser for the sister city of Guanajuato.

City Recorder Barbara Christensen suggested using historical documents kept in city archives for display during this time. It was determined that those interested would continue to work together to bring something forward for this celebration.

Community Development Director John McLaughlin introduced Jarret Walker from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Services.

Walker gave an overview of the "Transit Options for a Livable Ashland" report, noting that he had been asked to do a limited focus report on transit problems. Explained that the report addresses what the different transit options would cost, and what the relationship would be with the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD).

It was noted that RVTD is doing their very best they can, given the failure of their recent levies.

Noted the 1996 Comprehensive Plan goal: "To create a public transportation system that is linked to pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle modes. and that is as easy and efficient to use as driving a motor vehicle."

Walker stated that he has never seen such an ambitious transit statement, and suggested that it might be too much in trying to compete with the automobile. Suggested that work be done to make transit more convenient. Explained that the city's goals are more ambitious than any community in the valley, and more ambitious than RVTD. With th is in mind, the following suggestions were made: 1) Retracting the goal to the same level of ambition as RVTD; 2) Lobbying other entities within the valley to bring up their expectations; 3) Assuming primary responsibility for supporting the level of transit service that the city' s goal requires, rather than expecting RVTD to do so.

Walker suggested that there would be negative impacts in withdrawing from RVTD. Stated that what Ashland might consider would be to look at coverage, given low ridership levels, and productivity. Emphasized that at this time there is no consensus as to the purpose of transit, and that the determination of whether to focus on coverage or productivity would have a bearing on the approach selected.

Walker pointed out that the most difficult problem with productivity of service is the location of the hospital. Emphasized that the hospital is almost completely inaccessible to transit vehicles.

Noted the North Mountain corridor, which creates the need for new local service. Suggested that it would be difficult to convince RVTD to add an additional route.

Explained that service design options include: 1) A minimal option to restore Route 5 service as it previously existed, but adding no new service or possibly adding some sort of route to address the North Mountain corridor; 2) A major growth option to double service along the central Siskiyou Boulevard corridor between the downtown and the university. Noted that the second option might include adding evening service and full coverage.

Discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, noting that most proposed routes will not require additional ADA para-transit service because either RVTD already provides it, or the routes can deviate to meet ADA requirements.

Walker pointed out a "peer review" analysis that was done to compare other similarly sized cities to Ashland. Commented that on the desirability for users to use buses based on the look of the bus. Walker also noted that there are daily changes which may eliminate a lot of concerns riders presently have with the buses.

Walker explained the problems that would be associated with the shared use of buses with the School District, noting that the main concerns had to do with peak service hours.

Noted that all costs presented in the analysis are above and beyond the current costs for Route 10. Presented tables outlining the costs for local service options and costs for weekday and weekend services. Explained that the costs are based on the RVTD average cost for fixed route service as well as a review of costs for comparable services.

Walker also included tables which summarized the costs, hours, and estimated ridership of the proposed options. Emphasized that the ridership estimates are based on nominal fares.

Noted that the minimal service package has an annual operating cost of $428,500 excluding any ADA-related costs. Stated that this would equate to about $4 per rider based on the ridership estimates.

Emphasized that ridership estimates are very conservative, and stated that whatever service level is decided upon should be considered a piece of the city' s infrastructure, and one that could bring about change relative to the transit system.

Walker also explained what "dial-up" rides are and how this program would work.

Walker discussed how to provide transit services, noting the options as: 1) contracting with a service provider to provide turnkey services; 2) contracting with a service provider who will operate and maintain buses as well as hiring drivers, with the city to administer, plan for, and market the program; 3) managing and operating the transit service as a city department. Emphasized that the city may want to consider the cost of the alternatives as well as the quality of service. Also cited availability of service, ease of administration, city government constraints and opportunities, and city identity as factors for the council's consideration.

Discussion of how to fund a transit system. Walker explained that Ashland's position is unique, as it is part of a regional transportation district in which property owners already pay $0.17 per $1,000 of assessed value. Emphasized that this equates to roughly $200,000 per year, and that the city pays an additional $100,000 per year for additional service frequency. Noted that additionally, the city has provided about $50,000 per year for elderly and disabled transportation.

Walker suggested that Ashland might well be able to budget between $100,000 and $150,000, or more, for improved transit service without seeking additional revenue sources. Noted that the report lists several option that should be explored for funding, including: increasing the transient room tax from 8% to 10%; developing a parking fee for on-street and off-street parking; soliciting financial commitments from the University and Shakespeare Festival; and passing a local option levy of $0.10 to raise an additional $125,000.

Laws stated that he has no problem finding additional funds for transit needs. Stated that he would like further study if additional funds are identified.

Hauck noted that this presents the opportunity to ask the citizens what they want.

Wheeldon stated that she feels that options should be explored.

It was agreed that the city council teambuilding workshop would be scheduled for November 8th, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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