Thursday, February 24, 2011

TDCHR February 24, 2011

The Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), held this afternoon what President Phillip Shucet pledged would be "as light rail-less meeting as we can."

A tentative new contract with the union that represents bus operators and mechanics was reached on February 8, and ratified by the union on February 20. While President Shucet has the legal authority to accept and execute the contract without TDCHR approval, he brought it to them before doing so. The new contract runs through June 30, 2014. Among its elements:

1. Scope - train operators and Suffolk bus operators will be brought into the union.

2. Pay - a 1% raise with ratification, 2% 11/1/11 and 11/1/12, and 3% 11/1/13.

3. Pension - the multiplier will increase one-tenth of one percent on 1/1/13 and 1/1/14. That will largely be offset cost-wise by a merging of the Peninsula and Southside pension funds. The separate funds are a remaining legacy of TRT and Pentran, but the merging will still require some rule differences.

4. Health care - essentially the same plan. However, the union will no longer have a veto over changes in providers, but will have representatives on any committee looking at such changes.

At the end of the meeting, the TDCHR unanimously endorsed the contract.

An overview of the efficiencies study was given. A potential $3.5-4.5 million in savings has been identified. In doing so, Staff recommends that the $1.50 farebox fare be maintained until 2014. On the one hand, the top 60% of routes need only 37% of the subsidy payments. On the other hand, the bottom 25% of routes have only a 10% farebox recovery. Staff will bring proposed service changes to the March 24 TDCHR meeting (in Norfolk) that will advocate service reductions or eliminations among the worst-performing routes so that the funds can be used to increase service on the top routes. At the core of the proposals will be a greater offering of 15 minute headways at rush hour. Not only additional hours on the routes offering it now (Routes 1, 15, and 20), but offering it on other routes. The rationale is to provide a core of high-service routes that would entice others to use the bus to commute. In answering Commissioners questions, Staff pointed out the movement of funds couldn't cross city lines. Approval of any such changes is slated for the April TDCHR meeting (in Hampton), with implementation in late 2011.

HRT is $1.428 million under Budget for FY 2011.

Ridership in January was up 4.05% from January, 2010.

The TDCHR ratified a By-Laws change to establish an in-house Counsel and an internal auditor.

Two other areas came up in discussion. First, the idea of HRT having an operating reserve. However, Shucet pointed out such would require a chance in the cost allocation agreement between the seven cities. Second, with all these policy changes, the TDCHR needs to hold a Retreat.

Luis Ramos was recognized for his service as TDCHR Secretary from 2004-2011. He was given a mounted certificate, and the HRT President's Coin.

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