Bus fares, bus wraps and empty buses. What’s on the council’s mind? This is typed live and unedited, its all I had time for with a 5.5 hour meeting.
1. An increase in adult cash fares from $2.00 to $2.25 and corresponding increases for all other fare categories. This increase is projected, for purposes of this budget, to occur on January 1, 2013 and to generate $686,600 in additional revenue in 2013.
2. Service improvements/expansions, starting September 2013, for Route 18, Owl Creek, and Route 2 from the West Transfer Point to the Capitol Square. The estimated cost in 2013 for these additional services is $258,000, partially offset with an estimated $40,000 in passenger fare revenues, or a net levy impact of $218,000. The estimated net cost when fully implemented in 2014 is $435,000.
3. A decrease of $583,000 from 2012 in budgeted diesel fuel expense due to a favorable price obtained in a new fixed rate purchase agreement covering all of 2013.
4. Full funding for a 1.0 FTE Transit Advertising Sales Associate position (which was authorized by a 2012 budget amendment) as Metro will now handle internally all aspects of the advertising on buses program, which is currently outsourced through the end of 2012. No change in net revenue from advertising is budgeted for 2013 since there will be a ramping up period for program implementation as Metro’s Marketing dpartment gains experience. Substantial increases in advertising revenues are anticipated for future years.
5. An increase of $25,000 from 2012 to provide additional police security at Metro transfer points.
Subeck asks about cost to expand low-income bus program, if we doubled it. Kamp says that there are 3600 passes per year, and we sell it at half so 3600 x’s half a bus pass. The other staff points out that it was more than half. Subeck asks about the demand, he says be the end of the first wwek all of the bases are gone each month, the demand is there.
Bidar-Sielaff asks about the rate increases, how did you come up with that number? How were the percentages across the rates determined. Kamp passes out the rates. He says this was to meet the 5% cut. They looked at the current cash fare. They looked at a variety and starting at 2.25 and adjusting the percentages, they wouldn’t do $2.21 cents. They look at even multiples. They have heard most about the senior 31 day pass, a few years ago we did not have that and it was thought that there was a need, it was not a requirement. They estimated the shift and it has been more than the number of individuals riding before and it had a bigger impact than they thought it would. Some of the other categories go up more or less.
Solomon asks if they can estimate what happened to ridership after the last increase? He says revenue went up. He asks for riedership and revenue. Kamp says in 2008, it went up 6%, in 2009 it went up 1.2% with a fare increase. 2010 was the first full year of increase and it was 3/10s of 1% and 2011 was a 9.5% increase and in the budget they are projecting an increase of 0.9% increase.
Solomon wants to know the numbers for just adult cash fares.
Rhodes-Conway would like to see 2005 and forward the breakout by type of fare to see the trends in passes and fare types. She is interested in ridership more than revenue but you can give us both. She would also like to see gas prices for that period of time if it exists. Kamp says generally speaking the 10 ride ticket and passes have seen increases because of the discount. There are more unlimited ride bus passes as well.
Mayor asks what it costs for the average passenger. Kamp says it is about $3. So the subisdy is about $1. Yes. Mayor asks the experience for those that have gone to BRT when ridership changes. Mayor says something I missed. Kamp says that BRT will require investments, but it will be a factor to look at as we get closer to that.
Solomon also asks for them to look at research or analysis on the impacts of 2 bus fare increases in a short period of time. They haven’t looked at that.
Solomon asks if there are other revenue possibilities. Kamp says they looked at that in the Long Range Plan. They want 1% of total budget from advertising. That is why they brought the advertising in house, they think that will help. They have taken other programs to the TPC like audio announcements and advertising on bus sites. He says the best bang for the buck is, assuming you can’t have a RTA, then it is advertising.
Solomon says that number 1 seems to pay for number 2. Kamp says the fare increase was the response to the cuts, the supplemental request was for service expansion and they are separate. They haven’t talked to TPC, but will tomorrow. Overcrowding, scheduling issues and social equity issues are what drove their decisions.
Ellingson asks why they need a senior bus pass. Kamp says that during off peak periods that cash fares for seniors and people with disabilities be half the price of others. He says it was easier to do it all day long, instead of dealing with peak and non-peak times. But that requirement is only for cash fares.
Cnare asked a question about the service changes and the timing. Kamp says he showed the 2013 costs and the annualized costs.
Cnare asks about the additional police at transfer points. He says cameras are important, but the police are even better. Council approved $100K, that was cut to $50K and then they concentrated at South Transfer Point, they looked at the calls and adjusted it according to that. The South is doing better, West is going up, so they are concentrating on that. They have spot coverage at East and North. They will continue to review that in the future.
Rhodes-Conway asks about BRT, assuming Metro runs it, how would implementing that on a route would change the current bus service. What impact would it have on service and costs. Kamp says they are still looking at these details. For example, it there were 15 minutes up and down E Wash then there might be other routes cut. Bur ridership might go down temporarily, and then it will go up. Some of the savings would then go to feeder services.
Rhodes-Conway says she would take a bus to E. Wash and BRT and then take E Wash from there. He says that there would still have to be local service along the baseline BRT.
Rhodes=Conway says that the northdside could then get more service, theoretically. Yes.
Palm asks if the ridership is out there? Kamp says Owl Creek would have about 10,000 rides, that is 10 rides per hour, the system has 30 – 35 rides per hour. He says they proposed it because of the Neighborhood Resource TEam and LaFollette students. This would start low and they hope it would build over time and then they would have more mid-day service. Now it is just peak hours and some weekend.
Palm asks about working with municipalities to expand service. Any changes? Kamp says it is unlikely in the next year but working with Town of Blooming Grove and Village of Shorewood Hills that has a special deal for paratransit. They are there and listening to others – Shorewood has extensive services. Other municipalities want a deal like that where they only pay half or a portion. He says if they got closer to an RTA he heard from Sun Prairie and DeForest and they might hear again if they get close to a RTA again.
Palm asks why the unlimited ride price is so low. Kamp says that if you look at all the rates, it is about $1.50 -$1.60 average.
Palm asks about the increase. Kamp says that the unlimited ride partners have a challenge, many of the students are transferring and they pay $2.30 each time. They think that has been a challenge and they felt $1.25 was in the ballpark because of the transfer rate. They are trying to keep it easy and convenient for riders and administratively.
Palm says the senior pass was created before the low-income pass, can you just incorporate the low income pass to include the seniors and they could just access that program. Kamp says they haven’t given it a lot of thought, that might work with the TPC. He says that the adult 32 day pass used to be what they used. He says they could look at it together. Palm says they expressed concern about increasing the low-income program. Kamp says that they will look at if they could look at impact on combining senior and low-imcome bus pass program.
Verveer asks about advertising and the new program. Can you update us on where we are on advertising procedurally, he thought that they were not going to discuss the advertising policy in that context and would continue existing policy, has TPC discussed this at all? Content and number of wraps. Kamp says in July the TPC got the handouts he is distributing, they are in the final stages of finalizing the hiring, Adams contract ends December 31st, they are looking for contractors to do graphics and installation. He asked staff about what would happen if they changed the wrap policy. The current policy is 20 wraps. If no full wraps and if no ads covering windows. He shows them the projections. He says 2/3 of the revenue was from ads covering the window or touching the windows. He says that the 20 wraps are authorized, but usually have only 4 or 6 bus wraps, sometimes they get 10 or 12 and it is rare they go above that and it is only 1/4 of the revenue. To the content, it is only conversations with attorney’s office and those who have asked about the Pabst ad. He wants the in house sales people to work with the vendors and try to reflect the community values better. They had ads for Pabst in other years without complaints and they think they can do that. They have not done anything formal, just discussions.
Verveer asks if there was a vote or just information. Kamp says it was just information.
Verveer asks about the King Kongs, he thinks they are less offensive and he wants to see the numbers. Kamp says they have them. Mayor asks them to explain King Kong, The King Kong covers top to bottom but doesn’t cover all the windows and doesn’t go front to back. Verveer says they are unlimited and if we continued them and just didn’t do half and full – he wants to know what the numbers look like.
Verveer asks about other transit systems and if there are examples of transit systems that have stricter policies on content. Kamp says the restrictions on content is widely discussed in the newsletters. If you allow advertising you have to be careful what you restrict, it is the content not the size that is the issue. Kamp says that the marketing people have talked to many other cities and will ask them.
Verveer says he is not worried about content, but more the rider experience. He is worried about not allowing half wraps, would advertisers choose King Kongs in greater numbers and not affect the budget. He says this is $450,000 in revenues, but they won’t recognize more revenue until future years, have you thought about how to expand the revenue potential. He says they could encourage greater marketing and more wraps. Kamp says that if you look at the chart he gave out, if there were no full bus wraps, they would still project more money in year three than we get now. That is their best guess. The first year they take a hit because of the loss of the full wraps.
Kamp and Verveer are making sure they understand each other.
Clear wants to see sales numbers for the various fares. Kamp says there is a document for tomorrow’s TPC meeting that they are now handing out now.
Clear asks about elasticity and what they are predicting. Kamp says the standard in the industry is that for every 1% increase in fares there is a 3% decrease in riders, but it does not take into account the deep discounts we have for multi-ride passes. He says that model doesn’t work for us. He says the spreadsheet shows a drop in adult and youth and a smaller for seniors but an increase in other categories because of the shift. He says that less than 1/3 of the riders pay cash. He says it is moving down.
Clear asks if ridership will stay steady for a year or so and then increase. Kamp says yes.
Mayor asks if before PBR has a full bus wrap, they had another one that was more provocative, we asked them not to run it, if they insisted would we have to take it. Kamp says that if they insisted and we took it we would be ok, if we rejected it we would be at risk of losing a lawsuit. Mayor asks if that applies because we are a public body, or does that apply to all advertising companies. Kamp says it is because we are publicly funded, which is different than a private company. Mayor says we asked them not to run it, then did they come back with what we got. Kamp says that they came back with the ones running now and we could not change their mind. We think that if they were talking to the vendor directly they would have had more influence.
Clear asks if they annualize the increases from the last fare increases, if you account for inflation, we get behind adn then have to have a higher increase, he asks if we are due? Or are we making up for loses in state aid. Kamp says there are a lot of variable, there is no yes or no answers. Tax levy, state aid and federal funding and our peers are all in the answer.
Resnick asks about the UW and the increase in the multi-ride prices. Kamp says those contracts have a base that are for 3 years and then there are possible extensions. Other contracts are one year. The one year contracts will go up January 1 and the others will go up at the time of extension. Resnick asks when the contracts are up. Kamp says they will get that information.
Weier says the question she gets most is about the empty buses at night. Have you looked at smaller buses, vans, taxis or on-demand service. Is there any way to resolve. Kamp says that they are doing a bus size study right now, they were asked to do that in the Long Range Study. They are also looking at articulated buses on campus. They hope to have more info in the future.
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