A copy of the Star Metro Transportation Development Plan is included in the June 8, 2016 City Commission Agenda. A description of the plan is found in the agenda.
“The City of Tallahassee is required by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to adopt and submit a Transit Development Plan (TDP) Major Update every five years establishing the planning, operational, and facility priorities for the transit system over a ten-year horizon. The last TDP Major Update was adopted on May 11, 2011. This document serves as the overall guiding plan for the transit agency and a requirement in order to receive FDOT Operating Assistance and other grants. The Major Update provides an assessment of the City, the transit system, and the community priorities. It also establishes the transit service goals for the next five years. The TDP must be approved by the City Commission and submitted to FDOT by September 1, 2016.”
The report is not easily understood by the non-trained lay people but there are some choice informational nuggets found in the report and in past financial reports issued by the city. The following includes information taken from past and current budgets and from the TDP document found in the agenda for the June 9, 2016 city commission meeting including but not limited to the following:
- Total 2015-2016 budget is $17,240,305. Revenues produced from charges for services are $5,657,470, which includes college contracts, all passes and cards. And bus advertising. Regular cash fare customers provide only $858,617 in revenue in current year. The FSU contract is $2,500,000, FAMU contract is $525,000 (which Budget Hawk sources report that FAMU is cancelling for next year. The rest totaling $11,582,935 comes from city, state, and federal sources, the main two sources being $7.8 million from the general fund and $2.3 million from the local gasoline tax. SM received approximately 69% of revenue from government source unrelated to the delivery of services.
- One of the most puzzling comparisons of bus systems Is to compare Gainesville, FL RTS bus system with Tallahassee’s Star Metro. They are approximately the same size. RTS has a contract with Uof F to provide about 200,000 service hours to Uof F. This produces about $14,000,000 in revenue for RTS. SM has a contract with FSU to provide 36,000 service hours for $2,500,000. RTS has a contract with the local community college in Gainesville for $1,000,000. SM has a contract with FAMU for $525,000 that is expiring soon and the contract with TCC was cancelled last year. Alachua pays RTS $1,000,000 to provide limited county service. Leon County pays nothing for limited county service. Uof F has exclusive use of 18 buses. FSU has exclusive use of 17 buses with all related expenses paid by the bus transit entities.
- Market survey in the TDP reveals challenges of providing public transportation in a less than densely populated city. “The highest need for transit occurs in areas closest to the city’s core and the areas immediately adjacent to Tallahassee’s two main universities. The southwestern portion of the service area shows higher transit need than areas to the north and east. However, some portions of Tallahassee’s urbanized area do not support even moderate levels of fixed-route transit service. Many outlying locations, including sections in the southwestern portion of the urbanized area, are rural in character and lack sufficient population and employment density to support transit service.” Despite this fact, Star Metro proposes service and in some cases delivers service to Southwood, the airport, Quincy, Perry, and Thomasville, Ga.
- Personnel accounts for a large percentage of total costs for SM totaling $10,154,882. Salaries are $5,937,553 while benefits constitute another 71% or $4,217,339.
- Recently three clerical assistant positions were transferred to the Utility Services Division. Fiscal impact to SM noted as -$149,555. Nineteen positions were transferred to the Garage Unit Cost Center for administrative purposes. The cost center remains in the 580 SM fund
- “Effectiveness Measures from TDP. While passenger trips per capita have increased slightly, passenger trips per revenue mile and revenue hour have decreased over the five-year time period. In terms of quality of service, average speed has decreased, and the proportion of vehicle system failures has increased since FY 2009.”
- “Efficiency Measures Table 14 shows trends in efficiency measures for Star Metro service from FY 2009 to FY 2013 in terms of cost efficiency, fare, and vehicle utilization. Operating expenses have increased by more than 30% since FY 2009, and in turn, Star Metro services have become increasingly less cost efficient over the five-year timeframe.”
- “Farebox Recovery Florida’s HB 985 requires transit agencies in the state to monitor farebox recovery ratios in relation to productivity and performance. Ten-year trends in farebox recovery for StarMetro are shown in Table 20. Farebox recovery reached a ten-year high in 2010 (36.5%). Since that time, total operating expenses have increased and passenger fare revenues have not kept pace, resulting in a farebox recovery ratio of 29.9% in 2013. StarMetro should continue to monitor fares and farebox recovery to assist in decreasing the per-passenger subsidy required to operate transit services in the region. Table 20: StarMetro Farebox Recovery”
- In computing the per service hour expense rate, replacement of vehicles is not considered.
- “Transit Operations and Maintenance Facility It is essential to note that StarMetro is currently capped in terms of space at the current maintenance and operations facility. StarMetro currently operates 54 buses in peak hour service, and any recommendations identified in this TDP that require additional peak buses will require an expansion to the operations and maintenance facility or integrating campus routes with StarMetro routes.”
Statements from bus stakeholders:
“StarMetro should focus on reviewing the existing service and potential for improvements to the current network and service availability, including: later evening service, a simpler route structure, more frequency, more reliable schedules, ADA improvements, and more passenger amenities at high-ridership stops. StarMetro should begin to indentify additional funding options to assist in Page A-3 improving quality of service with enhancements to both the service availability and passenger amenities. Once the service is running effectively, then improvements (like technology) should be considered.”
“Focus on the existing ridership base by fine-tuning the existing system. Begin to consider regional transit and attracting new riders after the local system is operating effectively. Improving the current system will not only enhance the service quality for existing riders but will also attract new riders”
“StarMetro should work with the City to establish a mobility fee to fund transit operations and infrastructure improvements. Since Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has largely been reduced or eliminated, a sustainable funding source has yet to be identified. There is current interest among the major players to support and establish a mobility fee”
“Customer service should be improved. Limiting driver breaks mid-route would benefit the service. Improved passenger information would also greatly benefit the system.”
“StarMetro could do more to capture choice riders. High-speed corridors and increased frequency will assist with this goal. Additionally, reliability is key, and value in terms of travel time should be a priority. The agency is overall on the right track, but there is room for improvement.”