THE FOLLOWING IS TAKING FROM THE MINUTES OF THE FINANCE-AUDITNG COMMITTEE HELD JUNE 27, 2002

A meeting of the Finance-Auditing Committee was held in the Board Room, Administration Building, Toll Plaza, San Francisco, California, on Thursday, June 27, 2002, at 10:30 a.m., Chair Stroeh presiding.
Committee Members Present (8): Chair Stroeh; Vice Chair Boro; Directors Blue, Eddie, Fraser, McDonnell and Pahre; President Brown (Ex-Officio)
Committee Members Absent (0): None
Committee of the Whole Members Present (14): Directors Blue, Boro, Eddie, Fraser, Hall, Harrison, Kress, McDonnell, Pahre, Shahum and Stroeh; Second Vice President Middlebrook; First Vice President Smith; President Brown
Committee of the Whole Members Absent (5): Directors Ammiano, Kerns, Leno, Martini and Yee

THIS IS THE SECTION THAT INCLUDES THE MINUTES OF THE JUNE 27 FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING DISCUSSION ON THE TOLL INCREASE

  1. Approve Adoption of Golden Gate Bridge Toll Option G, $5Cash/$4FasTrak and Related Actions

In a memorandum to the Finance-Auditing Committee, Auditor-Controller Joseph Wire and General Manager Celia Kupersmith provided a report presenting staff's recommended option for a toll increase. The report described toll increase analysis process that began in November 2001, continued through spring of 2002 with extensive public outreach and study of the twelve original toll increase options, culminating in the presentation of the recommended Toll Option G, $5Cash/$4FasTrak. The report also described the background of the District's current financial crisis and the recent steps involved in the toll increase analysis process. The report stated that throughout the analysis process, there were numerous opportunities for public review and input on the topic of a potential toll increase, including six informational open houses, ten publicly noticed District Committee and Board meetings, extensive print and broadcast media coverage, a special section on the District's web site, informational mailings, display ads and legal notices. The report summarized the 5,007 public comments received as of June 19, 2002. The majority of comments received were in opposition to a potential bicycle and pedestrian toll, rather than a auto toll increase. The report further provided several staff responses to specific questions and comments regarding the potential toll increase. A copy of the report is available in the Office of the District Secretary.

At the meeting, Celia Kupersmith introduced the staff recommendation for Toll Option G and noted a clarification to the staff report. Ms. Kupersmith clarified that the recommended $4.00 toll for Fastrak users applies solely to such users in two-axle vehicles and that the toll for cash toll payers for a two-axle vehicle shall be $5.00, with the understanding all vehicles with three or more axles will be charged an additional $2.50 per axle. Ms. Kupersmith reported on the public hearing held on June 13, 2002, at which there were 105 attendees and 36 speakers. She also summarized the public comments received as of June 19, which included the following:

  • 17% in favor of some form of toll increase;
  • 27% opposed to any toll increase;
  • 9% offering opinions on topics not specifically related to a toll increase option; and,
  • 53% related solely to the concept of a bicycle and pedestrian toll on the Golden Gate Bridge, of which 3% supported and 50% opposed such a toll.

She stated that staff has given serious consideration to all comments received, and referred to Attachment B of the staff report, in which staff provided formal responses to many of the concerns expressed in the public comments.

Discussion ensued, including the following:

  • Director Blue declared that he would be voting "No" on any toll increase, due to the fact that his concerns regarding a two-year hiring freeze and a two-year freeze on salaries were not addressed in the staff recommendation.

  • Director Smith suggested that the staff recommendation be amended to not include a toll increase for eligible disabled persons from $1.50 to $2.00. He stated that due to the small amount of revenue that such an increase would provide, and considering the hardship that such an increase would cause for the disabled persons eligible for such a discount, he recommended no change in the toll rate for disabled persons.

  • Director McDonnell expressed his opposition to the amendment regarding the toll for disabled persons, requesting that such a special toll rate be discontinued entirely. Ms. Kupersmith noted that the special toll rate only applies to disabled persons who can clearly demonstrate that they are unable to use either the District's wheelchair-accessible transbay bus routes or paratransit services.

  • Director Hall inquired as to why the toll for bicyclists and pedestrians was not being considered concurrent with the automobile toll increase. He stated that it is important to ensure equity for all users of the Bridge, and that the entire burden for increasing revenue should not be placed on motorists. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the Board approved a process in February 2002 that called for consideration of a sidewalk access fee in late summer 2002. In response to an inquiry by Director Hall regarding the estimated potential revenue from a bicycle/pedestrian toll, Ms. Kupersmith stated that preliminary estimates based on a toll of $1.00 indicate an annual revenue of $1 million, after initial expenditures on a collection infrastructure. She further stated that consideration of a bicycle/pedestrian toll is included in the Strategic Plan for Achieving Long-Term Financial Stability, and that a proposal for such a toll would be presented to the Committee in August 2002.

  • Director Middlebrook inquired as to why Toll Option G, Alternate 2: $5 Cash/$4 FasTrak with incremental increases over three years to a $5 FasTrak toll, included in the short list adopted May 24, 2002, was not considered as the recommended option. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that the recommended Toll Option G: $5 Cash/$4 FasTrak maintains a discount for FasTrak users, due to the overwhelming support for such a discount contained in the public comments.

  • President Brown stated that the potential $1 million revenue to be generated from a bicycle/pedestrian toll is relatively small compared to the $20-30 million in new revenue anticipated from an automobile toll increase.

  • Director Pahre suggested that the staff recommendation be amended to include a provision for an incremental toll increase program, in which the toll structure is subject to review every two to three years. Attorney Miller noted that the statutory duty of the District as set forth in its enabling legislation states that it is the responsibility of the General Manager to annually report on the appropriate amount of toll necessary to fund the District's operations.

  • Director Shahum concurred with the concept of a toll increase review process on a regular basis.

  • Director Kress expressed his opposition to any proposal that would limit the amount of the toll increase, noting that the toll increase should be even higher than that proposed by staff.

  • Director Harrison inquired as to the status of staff compiling statistics on the number of bicycle and pedestrian users of the Bridge. In response, Kary Witt stated that staff would undertake surveys of bicyclists and pedestrians on both a typical weekday and a typical weekend and report back to the Committee in August 2002.

  • Director McDonnell inquired as to whether staff's recommended toll option would provide a reasonable chance of balancing the budget during the next five years. In response, Ms. Kupersmith stated that staff has presented a toll increase option that would make significant strides towards a balanced budget, such budget being contingent upon Board approval of staff's recommendations for additional cost reduction and revenue enhancement measures.

  • Director Shahum inquired regarding the reference in paragraph 5.c. of the draft Ordinance relative to "bridge sidewalk access tolls." In response, Ms. Kupersmith noted that that item was one of several examples listed of possible revenue enhancement measures, and that none of the listed measures should be considered approved or binding.
    Public Comment

David Pilpel expressed his support for the recommended Toll Option G, noting that nothing in the proposed Ordinance precludes the Board from adjusting the cash or FasTrak toll rate in future years.

Following discussion by Committee, the following amendment to the staff recommendation was made and seconded by Directors SMITH/FRASER,

"Retain the $1.50 toll for a two-axle vehicle in which an eligible persons with disabilities, with valid District identification card, is either the operator or passenger."

Carried

AYES (9):   Directors Boro, Eddie, Fraser, Pahre, Shahum and Stroeh; Second Vice President Middlebrook; First Vice President Smith; President Brown
NOES (5):   Directors Blue, Hall, Harrison, Kress and McDonnell

Staff recommended and the Committee concurred by motion made and seconded by Directors FRASER/EDDIE , including the aforementioned clarification and amendment, to forward the following recommendation to the Board of Directors for its consideration:

RECOMMENDATION

The Finance-Auditing Committee recommends that the Board of Directors approve implementation of Golden Gate Bridge Toll Option G: $5 Cash/$4 FasTrak as summarized below and detailed in the attached ordinance, effective September 1, 2002.

TOLL OPTION G

Basic Auto Rate (2-axle)                              Cash
                                                           FasTrak
$5.00
$4.00
Axle Rate (per axle if more than 2)               Cash $2.50
Rate for Persons with Disabilities
with valid District identification card
$1.50
Motorcycles and Carpools (3 people or more) Free during
carpool hours*

*Carpool hours, weekdays (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays) are:
      FasTrak5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
      FasTrak4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Action by the Board Ð Ordinance
NON-CONSENT CALENDAR

AYES (11):   Directors Boro, Eddie, Fraser, Harrison, McDonnell, Pahre, Shahum and Stroeh; Second Vice President Middlebrook; First Vice President Smith; President Brown
NOES (3):   Directors Blue, Hall and Kress