The bus system.
Ann Gullickson says their two major projects are transit coaches, 20 buses are being manufactured in Dec and Jan and will be here in January and the new fare boxes won’t be here til end of 2014. Two smaller projects are and then they have a contingencies of $50,000 because they are in a 100 year old building and they need it for unexpected repairs. They are on a 5 year cycle for transfer points, they do one each year and take a year off. They will paint a transfer point that hasn’t been painted in 5 years.
Mike Verveer asks about the federal funding, they are used to the 80/20 split with the majority funding by the federal government. The Mayor jumps in and says that traditionally they have had 80/20 funding which has been available for the purchase of buses and construction of new bus facilities and other things like bus rapid transit (BRT). There are three possibilities in our future with probably some variations on those, one is 80/20 funding, one is 20/80 funding, the third is 0/100 funding. The variations will be if we decide on traditional buses, factility issues or BRT. There will be several points in the budget where we had to make a decision about potential changes in federal policy and sequestration. His recommendation is that they go forward as if the funding goes forward at existing levels. He says that for several reasons, we would look at maximum dollars to benefit programming, but to make any kind of change is to be unrealistic in two respects, we can’t do 20/80 funding or 0/100 it simply doesn’t work. And then, if we were to attempt that, it would send the wrong message to Washington, that we can accommodate the neanderthals in their version of America. You will see in the budget, recommendations based on 80/20 funding.
Mike Verveer says that is helpful, he asks if Metro has been impacted by sequestration like we have seen with HUD funded programs? David Schmeidicke says that sequestration did not affect transit programs. The issue the mayor is referring to the federal highway fund and its funding level and the future of how that will be funded. That has been an on-going discussion in Congress. They only did a 2 year authorization instead of 5 years and the future is a big question mark. That is where the 2015 issue is.
Lisa Subeck asks if the split is different, do we roll back on our purchases? Mayor says that the limited resources we have are resources we have over the next couple years, the question is should we spread those out over 5 years, or continue as if we are getting 80/20 funding. If you are convinced that the funding mechanism is going to change and we want to invest in Madison Metro over the years, then we would reduce the amount and spread it over a few years. If we do that, Metro is destined to fail. The system is seeing demands for growth and he doesn’t want to encourage them, they are already behaving badly. If we were going to get 20/80 we would buy 1/5th of the buses we need at best, if we thing that is going to happen.
Lisa Subeck asks about the mix of 18 diesel and 2 hybrid buses. Gullickson says that a year ago the council put extra money in to buy additional hybrid buses. It is about $200K more per bus, so they are reaping that benefit and this is the first production order since that money was put in.
Larry Palm says that it costs $200K and there is about $100K in savings. Gullickson says if you spread that out over their lifetime and look at what we spend in fuel she says she would like to say it breaks even, but the price of gas is not that high, so it costs about $5,000 more a year for that capital purpose, we are doing it to help the environment and support sustainability.
Larry Palm says there are definitely more benefits than financial, but for people who think why don’t we do all hybrids, it doesn’t always eqyual those costs. He asks what we do with the old buses, if we can’t replace buses as frequently, maybe we should hold on to some buses if we don’t use them as much or if we do BRT, then maybe future buses could go towards that style and then we would have existing buses in cold storage. What am I not seeing with that, I’m sure there is a reason you will tell that is not the right answer. Gullickson says that when they get 15 new buses in traditionally we auction off and sell 15 buses, in the last few years the city has been investing in expanding so we might get 15 buses in and only sell 12. We grow our fleet by three buses and they get a little older. They just took 4 more buses out of the garage in September. When they get the 20 buses they will not sell 20, they are going to keep 6 or 8 of them so they are ready for expansion if they need it. Palm says we can do whatever we want with the buses. Gullickson says under the federal plan, if a bus is 12 years old, we get full funding to replace that vehicle. So you need to keep a bus in service for 12 years, we are selling buses that are 14 -15 years old because we have so much service, we send 70 – 80 buses out to handle the am peak and they go out again at 2:30 in the afternoon so the last several years they see less milage, so we keep them until they are 14 – 15 years old.
Palm asks how they decide to get rid of a certain number of buses, why not keep anything that is mechanically sound. Gullickson says that they don’t want to keep buses around that they don’t have a need for. There is an expense to keeping them and they are bursting at the seems and they have expansion needs, where would they store 6 more buses, they are trying to develop short term and long term plans.
The guy with his back to the camera says that there is another reason, he says the feds limit how many spare buses that we can retain so they do a calculation based on the peak requirement and only allow us to keep a 20% spare ratio.
Palm says its not based on what you are buying, but what you have now on your route system. If we expand our peak route system then that expands how many buses we can keep? Yes.
David Ahrens asks about the building improvement line. For 2016, 2017, 2018 which is $35M is that the Nakoosa Trail expansion. Gullickson says that it is a placeholder acknowledging that they have a need for expansion. She says there is a master plan being done for Nakoosa Trail, and it is not certain they will be part of that, if they are not, they will still have needs and they will need to find another location. It is a placeholder number. Schmeidicke says the placeholder has been in the CIP for several years and what is the need and how it will be funded are open questions at the moment.
Ahrens asks about expansions of the E Wash site? Gullickson says there are no plans to expand now. There is some funding in the budget to do building repairs, but its not for remodeling. Ahrens says it is for the E. Wash facility. She isn’t sure, since it is in the out years. The mayor says that is one of the options, there is a whole permutation and number of combinations, some are dependent on an analysis of Madison Metro and some are based on what happens on E. Washington. Gentleman says that they originally had 10M in 2019 for that purpose, for upgrades to E. Wash, the budget issues took it out, but not corrected in the narrative.
Anita Weier asks about which transfer point they will paint? Gullickson isn’t sure, she will check and let them know.
Denise DeMarb asks about the biodigester and if it can fuel buses. Mayor says theoretically yes, but do you want to run a bus on that kind of fuel? He says there is a reason why diesel is the preference in the industry and then there are the hybrid buses. He thinks we ought to have a discussion about this, not now. The third option in our lifetime, would be hydrogen. DeMarb says it could be a possibility, she wants to take everyone’s garbage. Soglin says it is a possibility. His guess is if they would to take in all the garbage in the metro area and use it to fuel the city fleet, we would run out before we got to the buses.
DeMarb asks about the life of a bus, she says 15 or 12, she says there are several committees talking about transportation and she serves on the bus size committee, she says we are buying 20 buses and that we are not getting information from that committee. She understands there is no info yet, but what about the years in the future, what if we decide we want bigger or smaller buses, how would they impact the decisions made in this budget since they do last a long time. Gullickson says that it may be that in the out years the mix of buses are different. Instead of 15 more 40 ft size diesels. It takes years to come to these determinations but after the committee we may make different decisions.
DeMarb asks how many buses we got delivered this year? Gullickson says they didn’t get any in 2013, they are getting 20 in 2014, there was a contract for 80 buses in a 6 year period and the first 20 are being delivered in January and it will be 15 a year for 4 more years and there is a 6th year so that if they don’t have more funding they can carry the purchase over in other years.
DeMarb says that there are already 20 buses being delivered, she assumes it takes time to make a bus. Gullickson says yes.
DeMarb asks about the facilities, she says she is disappointed about not going further than paint. She says that she is intimately familiar with the east side transfer point and it needs more than paint. Coffee and a newspaper would be an improvement, but if they could add some vitality to those transfer points it would improve ridership, people would want to gather instead of hope to get out of there as soon as possible. What are your thoughts on that, a study on what to do with the transfer points. Mayor jumps in, says folks in the plan department are looking at it, they are looking at them to find out how they can be more dynamic with all the people in that space, could it supplement some vital retail. It is one of the things that they are looking at in placemaking. DeMarb says she is glad to know someone is looking at it.
^^^^^^ And it has been met with resistance the many times it has been brought up in the past!!!!
DeMarb says $5M for the far box system seems like a lot of money when there are so many other things that we need to fund. She understands there is an 80/20 split and we only pay 20% of the costs. She is curious if there was a ROI on this, how long will it take to pay itself back. Gullickson says the current fare boxes are about 20 years old. DeMarb says “but the work”. Gullickson says the number on reason they have bus repairs by a factor of 20 is the fareboxes, every single day multiple buses have failures with their fareboxes. They don’t take smart cards, you can get into your building flashing a key, there are technologies out there that will make it easier for our customers. Less than 20% of the revenue coming in is cash, most of the ridership is coming from major institutional partners that are funding their employees and students and they are all using smart cards and there are ways that we could facilitate that. Fare boxes are more about collecting data than money. We have information and data down to the bus stop level, all that data comes through the fare box so the technology that is associated with it is so diferent, she has been in the industry for 30+ years and it used to be a box you dropped money in. This is a lot of money, but this is what it costs. There is healthy competition among the vendors and we don’t know if it will cost $5M but this is what it costs and it includes back end equipment, vaults int he building and other things, but unfortunately, that is what it costs.
DeMarb asks if when this happens will all the buses be retrofitted at the same time. She says that is a question the vendors have to tell us, they are out for bid now. They have to give us implementation plans. What will happen with our customers be going through when we transfer to this plan. We have had demonstrations and the vendors had different plans, some say a weekend, some say it will take a longer time frame. Mayor says it will be like selection a vendor and watching the “go live’ as you would with any system.
Chris Schmidt says the fareboxes are old and breaking down and we were supposed to do this 10 years ago. The 20 buses next year, we were supposed to get 15 a year but due to cash flow and because we could handle it we did a budget amendment to get 20 in 2014, and then go back to the 15, we basically skipped 2013.
Maurice Cheeks asks to clarify 20 buses and 80 buses, is there a contract for 20 and then you said 80. Gullickson says that we awarded a contract for up to 80 buses in a 6 year time frame from Gillig manufacturing, but each of those years we have to make a commitment year by year.
Cheeks says that the bus sizes we could do something different. Gullickson says that we might not buy all 80 buses because we decide we want something else, they are not committed to 80 buses. But they won’t have to go through the purchase process until they get all 80, unless they don’t.
Scott Resnick asks about the hybrid buses. What would be the cost, will here be hybrid buses in 2014 and 2015, is there any more room to get more. Gullickson says the funding here only reflects those two, they have options in the contract and at any point they can get more if there is funding available.
Resnick asks if there are any savings by having multiple one type of bus, if there is only 1 hybrid and a battery goes out then you are out of luck, is there any benefits to a mixed fleet service where you have more hybrids mixed in. Gullickson says they have 19, or 10% of their fleet. They have mechanics that are trained to maintain them, they have a spare parts inventory, so it is not a problem, if they went to a different manufacturer they might have to have someone support that kind of vehicle. Now there is not any back end investments.
Sue Ellingson asks if in the end it only costs $5,000 to have a hybrid bus? Gullickson says $5,000 a year. Someone explains to her $5,000 a year for 15 years.
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