JOINT STUDY SESSION
May 24, 2011
CALL TO ORDER
Transportation Commission Chair Steve Ryan called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Planning Commissioners Present:
Transportation Commissioners Present:
Russ Silbiger, Council Liaison
David Chapman, Council Liaison
John Rinaldi, Jr.
Mike Faught, Public Works Director
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1. April 26, 2011 Joint Study Session Minutes.
Commissioners Marsh/Blake m/s to approve the April 26, 2011 Joint Study Session Minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Public Works Director Mike Faught stated tonightís meeting will focus on transit and noted representatives from Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) are here to speak with the group. He stated the consultants from Kittleson & Assoc. will present background information and potential strategies, and then he would like to have a conversation about future transit services, what kinds of subsidies they might recommend to the City Council, and what role SOU might play.
Susan Wright and Erin Ferguson with Kittleson & Assoc. addressed the group and explained they are at the point in the process to revisit specific issues the group wanted to further discuss, and tonight they would like to have a more in depth talk about improving the fixed route service in Ashland. Ms. Wright stated they would be discussing what the existing ridership and investment in transit looks like for the City; how residential density is a driver for service frequency; who the target audience is for increasing ridership; and what kinds of service changes should be considered to reach that target audience.
Ms. Wright noted the existing conditions memo that was prepared early in the process as well as the transit white papers. She provided a brief overview of the current transit service in Ashland and explained there are currently two bus routes. Route 10 circulates in Ashland and travels to Medford, and Route 15 circulates only in Ashland. They are both on 30 minute headways and where they overlap there are 15 minute headways. Ms. Wright provided some ridership statistics as the routes and fares have changed over time, and clarified the City currently subsidizes transit to provide 15 minute headways in town, and pays to reduce the Ashland fares by $1.00. She noted the City also provides fare vouchers to low income residents through the low income energy assistance program.
Ms. Wright stated the three groups indentified by the commissions on who they should be targeting are: employees working non-traditional hours, students (including those who may be taking evening classes or have weekend transportation needs), and tourists. She noted following the last joint study session, Kittleson prepared a supplemental white paper which outlines key questions that have come up, including:
1) What is the transit level of service in Ashland?
2) How does the projected future housing density for Ashland compare to the transit frequency thresholds in the High Density Housing white paper?
3) Are there areas in town that are in need of transit service that arenít currently receiving it?
4) Where do SOU students live and how might that influence transit service changes?
5) How do costs for cities that provide their own transit service compare to those that contract service out?
6) What kinds of case studies are there on districts that provide free service, or smaller cities that provide their own transit service?
7) What types of options should we be focusing on going forward?
Ms. Wright reviewed the information included in the Supplemental Transit Information and Considerations white paper and provided data on the key questions identified above.
The RVTD Board Members were invited to come forward and the group held a general discussion about transit service in Ashland and what they would like to see moving forward. Below is an outline of some of the questions and comments that were made:
∑ The analysis of bus service lists two economic parameters; how do these reflect on the efficiency of the operator?
∑ Why were low income families not selected as targeted riders?
∑ What do Ashlandís contracted services with RVTD include?
∑ How is Ashland paying for this service, and are their alternatives that might be better suited to provide service in Ashland?
∑ Could the amount Ashland is paying to subsidize transit service be used for a bus pass program instead?
∑ Comment was made that instead of a citywide free fare program, the City should target the populations they really want to assist.
∑ Request was made for additional information on para-transit costs.
∑ Comment was made that the reported densities seem low, and it was questioned how these figures were calculated.
∑ Does RVTD have smaller vehicles that could be used to provide transit service on the narrow and hillside streets in Ashland?
∑ Comment was made that if they increase the bus coverage area, they will also need to increase para-transit service which can be costly.
∑ What would it take for RVTD to extend service hours?
∑ What if the City purchased bus passes and handed them out across the City where they wanted to see increased ridership?
∑ What are RVTDís actual costs for providing transit service in Ashland?
∑ Comment was made that in order to do an express bus, they need to know how many passengers are coming directly from Medford to Ashland, and vice versa.
∑ Comment was made that we canít build our way out of congestion, and we have to change the way we are doing things and move towards a multimodal approach.
∑ How do we target people who are on the fringe of being dependent, and what can we do to target people who we think will really use the bus?
∑ Comment was made that students donít have a lot of time to invest in transit, and this may be a major reason students donít take advantage of the bus service.
∑ Comment was made that many SOU students have jobs and the current transit service hours do not accommodate their needs.
∑ Regarding hours of service, comment was made that students donít operate on the same timeframe as regular working people; evenings and weekends are important.
∑ Comment was made that increasing the SOU parking fees is not the answer and it would likely result in more students parking on residential side streets.
∑ RVTD was asked if they would consider increasing services at employment density corridors.
∑ Comment was made that taking an hour to get from Ashland to Medford is unacceptable and they should concentrate on an express bus to one stop in Medford and then expand out in the future as needed.
Mr. Faught explained the City only has four months to put together its next contact with RVTD and asked if the group was comfortable basing the transit program on density. Comment was made that it is important to not just look at residential density, but also employment density and SOU. Commissioner Marsh commented that they have not begun to sort out this issue and feels there are a number of items that still need to be discussed. Mr. Faught noted the timing constraints and stated he needs to provide a recommendation to the City Council by September. Suggestion was made for a small subgroup of the two commissions be formed to sort out some of these other issues and general support was voiced for this concept. Mr. Faught stated he would work with the two commission chairs to select three people to serve on the subgroup.
Meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor