There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Paying to park at RT's 5 & Dime store

Two separate money-making ideas will be on the agenda of the Sacramento Regional Transit board of directors meeting Monday evening -- charging to use RT's park-and-ride lots and charging for copies of documents.

The parking fee is a rerun of the idea shot down late last year when the board was deciding how it would fill the hole in the budget left by the state's thievery. Whether or not it will receive a better reception now is anyone's guess, but the state's theft of still more money RT had been banking on surely increases the need to do something.

Tonight's discussion on the parking fee is an informational item focused on two areas:

1. If RT charged a fee to utilize the park and ride lots will it discourage riders? If so at what fee level do we minimize ridership loss?

2. If RT implements a fee program what methods of payment are more desirable?

The tentative schedule has the board approving parking fees at the March 9 meeting. Procurement of the vending machines would happen the next day and the park-and-ride fees would take effect Sept. 1. No public hearings are required. The board just needs to give its OK.

RT paid Transit Marketing, LLC to conduct a pair of focus group polls.
"The two focus groups were presented with multiple fee options for parking at light rail park and ride lots. These included various daily rates; a single price or different prices at various stations; discount rates for longer terms; including the fee in each ticket; and other methods of charging," according to the Issue Paper accompanying agenda item No. 15. "Both of the focus groups concluded that charging a fee of $1 per day would not discourage riders from utilizing the park and ride lots."
Staff estimate that a $1 daily fee would generate an additional $1 million annually. Startup costs are estimated at $210,000.

The focus group report makes interesting, if not surprising, reading.

The document copying fee on the agenda isn't intended to generate extra money. It is just supposed to cover the costs RT previously absorbed. According to the Issue Paper for agenda item No. 16, the district would charge 25 cents a page for agendas and agenda packages, issue papers, ordinances, resolutions, contracts, standard operating procedures and other district records.

Those charges add up. A copy of Monday's 29-page general manager's report would $7.25. The 19-page focus group poll for the parking fees would be $4.75. Another issue paper here, an ordinance there, and pretty soon you're talking serious money.

Staff propose a $25 limit for annual reports such as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and annual budget documents.

RT would also recover the actual cost of duplicating audio and video tapes, postage and online sales processing fees, returned check charges and fees to certify documents.

The issue paper suggests that charging fees will not hinder public access.
"Public access to Regional Transit's Board or Committee agendas will not be impaired as the result of the proposed charges where in addition to reviewing these documents at the District's offices, the documents will be made available for review on-line at Regional Transit's public website in a PDF format for the period of one year from the date they are published. Likewise, the audio and video recordings of Board and most Committee meetings will also become available at no charge on-line for a period of 1 year from the date of the event."
While it is nice that the audio and video recordings will be online, the close reading of that paragraph suggests that only the agendas will be online, not the agenda packages or the issue papers or the ordinances or the resolutions or the contracts or the standard operating procedures or other district records. If so, that needs to change.

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