Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda


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Meeting Date: 03/23/2016  

SUBJECT MATTER:
Receive, consider and act upon a proposed fare increase for The Woodlands Express Park and Ride service;
FISCAL IMPACT:
To be determined by Board action.
BACKGROUND:
At its January 2016 Board meeting pursuant to its Public Participation Policy, the Board proposed a fare increase of $1.00 additional per round trip (from $12.00 to $13.00).

Regulatory Compliance
Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 5307(c)(1)(I), FTA Circular 9030.1E, and The Woodlands Township Board of Directors’ adopted public participation policy, a 30-day comment period was opened in order to solicit input and feedback from the public.

A notice of the proposed fare increase was placed in local newspapers on February 5, 2016 announcing the opening of the 30-day comment period. Additionally, Community Relations distributed a press release and notices were placed in the terminals. The comment period closed on March 8, 2016.

The last fare increase for The Woodlands Express took place in 2013 in order to cover increasing operations costs and the cost of changing operators. The fare was increased from $10.00/round-trip to $12.00/round-trip. The fare remains at $12.00 today.

The following factors have resulted in the Township's consideration of an increase in park and ride fares at this time:
  • New Bus Operator – First Class Tours: After Coach USA declared bankruptcy and Horizon was determined to be underperforming, First Class tours was contracted to be the commuter bus operator for The Woodlands Express in September 2013. Operations costs increased as a result.
  • Bus purchase: the Township applied for and received a grant to purchase twenty five new coaches.  The ownership of the coaches by the Township will stabilize future operating costs and provide funding through reduced operating costs to repay the Township's for its 20% local share of cost of the new buses.  This new investment will provide for rate stabilization over time and also provide high quality equipment for park and ride users.  80% of the new bus cost is funded through federal grant funds.
  • Decrease in Ridership - The Woodlands Express experienced a 7% decrease in ridership from 2014 to 2015.
  • New Commuter Bus Operator Contract: The Board of Directors voted to approve a new contract with First Class Tours to continue the operation of The Woodlands Express. The new contract, which includes costs for both full-turnkey service (contractor-owned coaches) and partial-turnkey service (Township-owned coaches), provides for an annual 2%  increase in operation costs (excluding fuel).
  • Funding System through Grant Funds and user fares - The Board has directed that the cost of the park and ride operation will be funded through non property tax sources.  The implementation of the fee increase will allow operating costs to the park and ride system to continue to be funded through grants and user fees.
Forecasts
The proposed fare increase with revenue forecasts have been developed and are attached hereto as reference.
  
Comments Received
Twenty-one comments were received in total. One was received after the comment period closed but has been added to the public record. The comments received represent approximately 1% of total daily one-way riders.

(Email and home addresses were redacted in the attached version of the comments to protect the commentators common law privacy.  The complete set of comments with addresses and email addresses is available for Director’s inspection from Chris LaRue).

Pursuant to the Township's Public Participation Policy any fare increase would take effect May 2, 2016, so as to allow for a 30 day implementation period.
RECOMMENDATION:
Staff is proposing the implementation of this $1.00 round trip fare increase effective, May 2, 2016.
Attachments
Fare Increase Comments
Public Notice
Public Notice - Reminder
5-Year Financial Analysis


    

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