Unitrans Short-Range Transit Plan Options Report

 

FY 2002-2006

 

 

ASUCD/City of Davis: Unitrans

 

April, 2002

 

Introduction

The Short-Range Transit Plan (SRTP) provides a 5-year outlook for transit operations, service planning, budgets, and capital programs.  An SRTP for all Yolo County transit operators was completed in 1997, and SACOG plans to update that document in 2002-03.  Given the many changes that have occurred since 1997 which impact Unitrans, this “Options Report” is being prepared specifically for Unitrans at this time.  This report is intended to provide current statistics, projections, and future options regarding transit service in Davis for the next five years.  It will serve as an interim basis for the planning of transit services, as well as provide detailed data for future planning efforts, including the Yolo County SRTP and the UC Davis Long Range Development Plan. 

 

Background

Unitrans is the public transit system that serves the City of Davis and UC Davis.  Appendix 1 provides a map of Unitrans service.  It is a unit of the Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD), reflecting its origin as a student-operated bus system in 1968.  Student fee revenue remains the primary source of funding for operating the service, and the vast majority of employees are still full-time UCD undergraduate students.  The ASUCD Senate oversees Unitrans and adopts an annual budget for its operation.  Unitrans is also a function of the City of Davis, which has funded the service since 1972 when it was made available to the general public.  The City provides local Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds and federal transit funding for small urban areas (Section 5307) to support capital and operating costs.  The City Council oversees Unitrans in its adoption of an annual operating agreement and the submittal and approval of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants for capital and operating funds. 

 

Both governing bodies have adopted a cooperative agreement that specifies roles and responsibilities.  This agreement is included in Appendix 2. 

 

Existing Conditions

Overall, Unitrans operates a fleet of 44 buses on 14 routes in Davis, serving 2.5 million annual passengers, with an annual operating budget of $2.5 million.  Details in each of these areas are provided in four tables.

 


Table 1 shows the composition of the Unitrans bus fleet as of December 2001.  There are currently 44 buses in the fleet, including 6 doubledeck buses, 35 standard buses (35’ to 40’ in length), 2 small buses (30’), and 1 shuttle bus.  The purchase of 25 new CNG buses (15 in 1996 and 10 in 2001) has greatly reduced the emissions of the fleet, with over 80% of the annual bus miles now operated on alternative fuels.  The new buses have also significantly reduced the average age of the standard bus fleet, which is now under 9 years.  Unitrans continues to have to operate some equipment that is quite old, but attempts to minimize the mileage traveled by the oldest buses.  When the average age calculation is weighted by mileage, the age is 8.6 years for the whole fleet and 6.1 years for the single-deck fleet. 

 

Table 2 provides statistics about the bus service that Unitrans operates.  Service is provided throughout the City of Davis, on 14 distinct routes (lettered lines).  Some lines have multiple terminals (e.g., G-Memorial Union and G-Silo) and their service statistics are reported separately in Table 2.  Regular weekday service operates when UC Davis classes are in session (just under 150 days per year) and consists of 484 scheduled trips and an average of 48 “trippers” (extra buses to accommodate heavy passenger loads), for 532 total daily trips.  During the remainder of the year (just over 100 days), a reduced schedule is operated, consisting of 186 trips.  Certain routes (S and T) are geared to the Davis city school schedule, and these operate 182 days each year.  On an annual basis, Unitrans operated just over 95,000 bus trips in FY 2001, covering almost 625,000 miles in service with just under 60,000 vehicle hours. 

 

Table 3 provides passenger statistics from FY2001.  Unitrans provided service to almost 2.5 million passengers during the year.  On an average weekday, ridership was just under 15,000 passengers.  Each bus carried an average of 29 passengers per trip, with most lines averaging between 20 and 40 passengers per trip.  The daily total dropped to just over 2,000 riders per weekday during times when “Break Service” was operated.  During these periods, buses carried an average of 11 riders per trip.  Overall, the G, W, and D lines are the most popular services, carrying over 55% of all riders.  Note that during Break Service, the P/Q line is the 2nd heaviest route, indicating the high percentage of non-UCD trips served by this route. 

 

Table 3 also includes a variety of productivity statistics such as passengers per vehicle hour.  Several routes (W, C, G, B, D, E) achieved very high productivity levels of 50 to 80 passengers per hour.  These statistics may also indicate overcrowded buses.  A section of Table 3 shows the percentage of trips operating with various levels of passenger loads.  Over 5% of Unitrans daily trips (about 30 per day) carried a maximum load of 60 or more passengers for either the inbound or outbound direction.  While this is a relatively small percentage of bus trips, it translates to almost 2,000 passengers per day who ride on buses with 60+ passengers on board, representing over 11% of all riders on a typical day. 

 

Table 4 shows a summary of the Unitrans annual budget for three years, FY00 through FY02, including operating and capital.  Approximately 90% of the annual operating cost is funded by the undergraduate fee and the federal/local funds that are designated for transit service in the City of Davis.  Almost 70% of the cost of operating service is labor.  Unitrans currently employs approximately 175 student employees (including 150 drivers), as well as 13 full-time staff.  While labor is the largest component of operating cost, fuel cost can also be significant, as evidenced by the spike in fuel cost when natural gas prices more than doubled during FY00-01, increasing this category from 10% to 15% of the overall budget.

 

The capital budget in recent years has benefited from additional federal funds for bus replacement and the expansion of the bus maintenance facility.  These have been funded through special Congressional “earmarks” written into the annual transportation appropriation bill and the use of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds.  Special air quality funding through the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District and SACOG’s SECAT program have also provided important local funding for bus replacement in order to purchase new CNG buses. 

 

Service Standards and System Performance

The 1997 Yolo County SRTP included a series of goals, objectives, and standards for evaluating Unitrans service.  The plan identified four goals and accompanying objectives and measures:

            Effectiveness in meeting needs, as measured by

                        Convenience (service availability)

                        Reliability (on-time performance)

                        Safety (accident prevention)

                        Attractiveness (ridership growth)

            Efficiency in use of funds, as measured by

                        Cost Efficiency (operating cost per vehicle hour)

                        Productivity (ridership per vehicle hour)

                        Maintenance (performance of preventive maintenance)

                        Cost Recovery (farebox revenue)

Integration and coordination to improve regional mobility, including

                        Shared Passenger Facilities

                        Fare Integration

                        Integration of ADA and General Public Paratransit Services

                        Inclusion of transit plans with City, Campus, and regional plans

            Accessibility to all potential riders, as measured by

                        Access for Disabled Riders (wheelchair lifts in operation)

                        Capacity (trips operating at or above capacity)

Gaps in Service (geographic areas or time spans where service is needed)

 

These goals remain important, and Unitrans continues to collect data to monitor performance in these areas.  In general, Unitrans is meeting the performance standards established by the previous SRTP in providing effective, efficient, integrated, and accessible service.  While Unitrans unit costs in FY01 did increase at a rate exceeding inflation, this is an isolated instance resulting from the combination of an increase in the minimum wage and a large spike in fuel prices.  One issue of ongoing concern is passenger overcrowding on buses, as a growing percentage of riders are subjected to crowded buses.  Appendix 3 provides last year’s data with respect to each standard. 

 

The updating of the Yolo County SRTP in 2003 will provide an opportunity to re-visit the goals and the measures, and to consider their current relevance.  Unitrans is now taking more detailed passenger counts and using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to evaluate service coverage in various categories.  One area where a standard has not been established (and data is lacking) is in customer satisfaction, especially regarding service quality.  In an effort to monitor this more systematically, Unitrans will be conducting regular passenger attitudinal surveys starting in 2002. 

 

Context for Plan Update

As noted in the introduction, there are several changes that have occurred subsequent to the completion of the 1997 SRTP that impact Unitrans directly.  These include

            Passage of 1999 Fee Referendum

(increased fees, increased service)

            Creation of a joint ASUCD/City Advisory Committee in 1999

                        (formally recognizing the inter-relationship of the funding bodies)

            Completion of Davis General Plan update; passage of Measure J

                        (limited growth in City, reliance on alternative modes)

            Creation of City Unitrans Advisory Committee

                        (community concerns about where and what type of service is operated)

            Increase in UC Davis enrollment projections (2002-2006)

                        (increases in core of undergrads, as well as grad students and staff)

            New UC Davis Long-Range Development Plan underway

                        (potential for new areas where transit service will be needed)

            Elimination of parking for Freshmen, starting with 2002-03 school year

                        (added pressure to provide mobility, including non-campus destinations)

 

For the most part, these changes will place demands on Unitrans to expand its service in order to meet increased needs in the community.  At the same time, the ability of Unitrans to respond to these needs could be constrained by limits on the resources available to expand transit services, as well as the potential for negative reaction in some neighborhoods if many more large buses were to go into operation.

 

Options for Future Service Development

There are a number of future options available to Unitrans to serve future needs.  This options report will look at three fundamental options: Status Quo, Significant Growth, and Neighborhood Shuttles.  While these options are not mutually exclusive, the intent of analyzing them as options is to illustrate possible futures for Unitrans service over the next 5-10 years. 

 

1.  Status Quo.  The basic option for future Unitrans development over the next five years is to maintain the status quo.  While this may sound unimaginative, it will be a challenge for Unitrans to maintain the convenience and coverage that currently exists in Davis, as the population grows and destinations become more dispersed, without adding to the current sources of revenue. 

 

The status quo option would attempt to expand service approximately proportional to the growth in student population, consistent with small increases in Unitrans’ revenue sources.  As services reach capacity, more trips will be need to be added.  Initially, “tripper” buses would be added at peak times, without changing the schedule.  As the demand grows further, scheduled service would be increased, either as improved frequency (e.g., from 30” to 15”) or as a new line.  This pattern has occurred throughout Unitrans history and most recently been observed on the W line in South Davis, where population increases have been most dramatic in recent years.  The 1999 fee referendum allowed for an increase in service from 30” to 15”, and that was done in the 1999-00 schedule.  As demand continued to grow, trippers were added at peak times and then all day in 2001.  In January 2002, a new terminal was added in order to provide 30” service to the MU in addition to 15” service to the Silo Terminal.  Overall, as student population grows, there will be an ongoing need to upgrade 30” service to 15” and to consider improving 15” service to 10”. 

 

As part of the Status Quo option, Unitrans would also try to include minor service expansions to create new lines for areas or markets that are currently under-served.  Currently, in the City of Davis, the largest population that does not have close service is the Wildhorse development.  Ideally, a new or extended line would provide direct service to this area along Moore Boulevard.  Closer to the UCD campus, there is a need for improved connections to the Amtrak Depot as the Capitol Corridor becomes more of a commute option for regional trips.  On the campus itself, the Health Sciences District at the west end of the campus and the Performing Arts / Conference Center District south of Old Davis Road are areas that are not close to current bus service.

 

Unfortunately, the Status Quo option is likely to fall short of the resources necessary to both add frequency to respond to overcrowding and to add coverage to serve more areas of the City and the Campus.  Even with a 3-5% increase in service each year based on increased fees and public funding, service will just barely keep pace with student population growth without any significant expansion in either of these areas. 

 

In order to provide even a minor expansion in service, significant future bus purchases would be required to replace and expand the Unitrans bus fleet, and the number of student employees would need to keep pace with service growth.  Each of these basic demands presents challenges.  There is no dedicated funding source for bus purchases, and Unitrans must rely either on the annual FTA “formula” allocation (which also must be used for operating assistance and all other capital needs) or some uncertain special source of new funding.  Unitrans also faces a challenge in being able to recruit, train, and retain an increasing number of additional bus drivers, especially in a competitive labor market. 

 

2.  Significant Growth (Traditional Services).  As an alternative to the status quo, there could be a significant expansion of Unitrans service to the community.  This option would both relieve overcrowding on current buses by adding frequency, as well as provide new services to under-served areas of the City and Campus.  In addition to the needs already identified, the updated campus LRDP could call for added student and staff housing in an area that would be suitable for frequent transit service.  Similarly, if the LRDP were to result in a shift in the campus access policy to make parking less easily available to staff and students, more demands could be placed on the transit system to provide convenient and comfortable alternatives (with high levels of service throughout the year, not just when classes are in session).  At the ultimate, this option could lead to a Bus Rapid Transit-style system operating on the heaviest travel corridors, with high-capacity buses, signal priority, and off-vehicle fare collection. 

 

While this option is feasible, it is clear that it would require some new source of funding to meet the associated increase in capital and operating costs.  This increase would be well beyond the level required to fund services under the Status Quo option.

 

3.  Growth in Neighborhood-Oriented Services.  An alternative vision for Unitrans is that it provide more neighborhood-oriented services with small shuttle buses rather than full-sized transit buses.  While there will always be a need to have large buses for the routes and time periods with 50-80 riders per bus, the large buses may not be appropriate for routes and time periods where there are 10-20 riders per bus.  Smaller buses, running more frequently, could provide similar capacity for riders while offering a more convenient schedule.  As a result this type of service would be more attractive to choice riders, including residents who are not students, such as the growing senior population.  In addition to standard fixed route service using small buses, this option could also include expansion of the Uni-Ride service, which offers a flexible, demand-responsive service between any two bus stops. 

 

Ideally, the mix of large-bus and small-bus services would complement each other, and allow Unitrans to offer more cost-effective service at times of lower demand, such as Saturdays and during breaks.  It may also allow the introduction of service at times when it is not currently offered, such as Sundays and in the evenings during summer and breaks. 

 

The challenge in this option is to find the right mix in the scale of service, where efficient service continues to be provided to large volumes of people, and small buses are introduced where appropriate.  This approach has implications on capital and operating costs.  Unless small buses can actually replace large buses at all times, capital costs are likely to increase, as Unitrans would need to have two fleets of buses available to meet the varying service demands.  The operation of more frequent smaller buses would also result in an increase in labor cost, as more driver hours would be required.  However, the added attractiveness of this type of service may make it appealing enough to warrant the additional funding that would be necessary to carry it out. 

 

Capital Equipment and Facilities Plan

The five-year capital plan includes projects in five areas: bus fleet replacement and expansion, maintenance facility, terminal facilities, ITS/customer information, and ongoing replacement of assets. 

 

Bus Replacement.  The fundamental building block of the future capital and facilities plan is the purchase of new buses to replace and expand the fleet.  Replacement of buses is critical to reduce fleet emissions, improve vehicle availability, and to provide passenger amenities.  Expansion of the fleet is necessary to provide additional service to meet future demands. 

 

Typically, transit buses are replaced after 12 years of service.  As noted previously, Unitrans continues to operate several buses that are well past their expected life.  In particular, the doubledeck fleet consists of buses that are, on average, 50 years old.  These antique London buses are the symbol of Unitrans and there has been a sense from the community to retain them in regular service.  In order to extend the life of these buses, two are being converted to CNG engines.  However, the lack of ADA access and other amenities such as air conditioning make it difficult to know whether to assume continued operation of antique doubledeck buses well into the future.  For the purposes of this options report, these buses are not shown to be replaced, but it should be noted that there are new low-floor doubledeck buses now in operation in North America is Victoria, B.C.  At some point it may be beneficial to consider the introduction of a modern doubledeck bus into the Unitrans fleet. 

 

For the remainder of the old diesel bus fleet, there is no issue about retaining them for service.  Unitrans’ goal is to replace them as quickly as possible, as funding becomes available.  Funding has been secured to replace 4 buses in 2003 with low-floor CNG buses.  That will leave 6 standard and 2 small diesel buses to be replaced by new buses in future-year purchases. 

 

Service expansion at the “Status Quo” level calls for an increase in service proportional to student enrollment growth, which is projected at about 4% per year.  In addition to buses needed for service, some number of spare buses are required for training purposes and to provide backups for breakdowns or preventive maintenance work. 

 

Table 5 attempts to put together realistic assumptions about service growth and funding to project a fleet expansion and replacement schedule.  This plan is extended out for 10 years to give a sense of context for the five years beyond this SRTP.  It shows that a minimum of 6 full-size buses and 2 shuttle buses would need to be acquired in this period (in addition to the 4 buses on order).  In the following five years, another 16 buses would be required, in addition to 3 more shuttle buses. 

 

As part of the fleet replacement program, air quality requirements and new engine technologies will also come into play.  Unitrans has chosen the alternative fuel path for new bus purchases.  In the last order of CNG buses, one bus was designated for a technology validation project with the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) to test a combination of hydrogen-CNG fuel to achieve even greater emissions reductions.  Similar technologies may be used for further engine conversions or new bus purchases.  In the next 5-10 years, fuel cell buses may be commercially available.  The fuel cell technology offers the promise of a non-polluting and quieter bus, and this may speed the turnover of the CNG fleet as it reaches the end of its 12-year life. 

 

In addition to the replacement of fixed route transit buses, Unitrans will continue to work with Davis Community Transit to assure that funding is provided for bus replacement and expansion needs for the City’s complementary paratransit service. 

 

Maintenance Facility.  The largest single project on the horizon for Unitrans is the expansion of the maintenance facility on Garrod Drive.  The current facility was completed in 1986 to house a fleet of 28 buses, prior to the major increase in ridership during the 1990’s.  The lack of parking and repair space has made it very difficult for Unitrans to maintain reliable service, especially with an increasingly complex mix of vehicle types and safety and environmental regulations.  An expanded maintenance facility has been the highest priority for Unitrans for the past five years. 

 

The facility expansion project has completed all environmental and design reviews and is now in the construction drawings phase.  Plans call for an increase in bus repair bays and parking stalls to allow for up to 54 buses.  This will accommodate projected fleet growth to 2012 (at the status quo level).  Funding for the $5 million project has been secured through federal grants and Unitrans reserve funds.  The project is scheduled to go out to bid in May 2002, with the project completed by September 2003.  In addition to the core facility expansion, a future priority could include infrastructure for emerging engine technologies.  As part of the Hydrogen/CNG hybrid bus, Unitrans and ITS-Davis are installing temporary infrastructure for hydrogen fueling.  As cleaner and quieter technologies become feasible, new permanent infrastructure may be required. 

 

Terminal Facilities.  Another important area in the future capital plan is to expand terminal facilities for transit services.  Unitrans currently has three terminals, the Memorial Union, the Silo, and Shields Library.  The MU terminal is a well-defined terminal with layover facilities and integration with other transit services.  However, there is no space available for expansion in the area.  The Hutchison Corridor (which includes both the Silo and Shields Terminals) is centrally located in the campus, but does not have a well-defined terminal area for buses.  As an outcome of a terminal study completed in 1995, a new terminal facility along Hutchison Drive in the vicinity of the Silo is being pursued.  This facility would provide improved passenger amenities and an off-street loading area for buses, as well as parking spaces for tripper buses to lay over when not in service.  Unitrans is working with A&E and TAPS to include design of this new terminal space in conjunction with the proposed West Entry Parking Structure at Bioletti Way.  Funding is programmed for the new terminal facility, but the timing of its availability may require that the project be developed in phases.  Ideally, the full terminal will open in 2004 along with the parking structure.  However, if phasing is necessary, the off-street layover area will be built initially and the full passenger terminal will be added at a later date (based on the master planning effort currently underway).

 

The terminal study also looked at the need for a downtown Davis terminal facility at 1st and A Streets.  While such a terminal could have significant benefits for improved service, it does not appear to be feasible in the next five years. 

 

ITS / Customer Information.  Unitrans has been working with the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) on an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) transit project.  This project would provide vehicle location and signal priority capabilities for buses.  In this way, bus on-time performance could be more accurately tracked and improved to provide more reliable service.  This system would also provide real-time schedule information for customers, making the system easier and more convenient to use.  YCTD and Unitrans have secured federal STP funding for the first phase of an ITS project, and this should be implemented within the time frame of this SRTP.

 

Replacement of Assets. The future capital program will require the ongoing replacement of miscellaneous assets.  That includes support trucks, vans, and cars, as well as shop and office equipment.  Funding for these needs is provided through the annual FTA formula allocation of transit capital funding for small urban areas. 

 

A projected Program of Projects is included as Table 6.  This shows the capital projects that are required under the Status Quo alternative over the next five years, and the approximate capital cost.  This program would be increased for either the Significant Growth or the Neighborhood Service options, as both of these would require an increase in the fleet size beyond the status quo projections. 

 

Financial Projections

The capital and operating costs for the Status Quo option are shown on Table 7.  In general, the operating costs and revenues are in balance.  However, these projections show that in FY 2004-05, the net reserves go negative, meaning that Unitrans would not be able to fully fund the local match required for federal funds and would not have an adequate reserve for unexpected cost increases.  This means that an alternative source of local capital funding would need to be obtained in order to complete the funding for the six new buses programmed for the five-year time period.  This could take the form of an increase in the ASUCD student fee in the 2004-05 timeframe, an increase in campus funding of Unitrans, or some combination of these and new sources of revenue. 

 

Significant Growth Options: Capital Program and Financial Projections

The SRTP has introduced two growth options for Unitrans which would provide new services above the “Status Quo” level.  One approach would emphasize traditional high-capacity bus service operating at higher frequencies, and the other would emphasize smaller shuttles serving multiple destinations throughout the City.  While these options would result in a fairly wide difference in the style of the added service, the implications on Unitrans’ five-year capital program and financial projections would be quite similar.  Both will require significantly higher levels of vehicle acquisition and operating costs than provided for under the “Status Quo” option. 

 

These options have been developed at a very conceptual level in order to provide an order of magnitude estimate of the additional capital and operating costs.  The traditional service option includes several components for illustration.  The frequency of current 15” routes (G, W, D) would be improved to 10” and the three most productive 30” routes (B, C, E) would be improved to 15”.  Additional service would be provided for Davis secondary schools (S and T lines), and summer and night service would be improved to 30” frequency on all lines.  In addition to these changes, there is the possibility of a major increase in service as a result of the new LRDP that would begin to be implemented in the later years of the 5-year SRTP horizon.  The new neighborhood concept, if approved and built as a transit-oriented development, would begin to ramp up Unitrans service requirements very quickly, beginning in about 2006.  In terms of number of buses, we estimate that these new services would require 9-15 more buses than called for under the “Status Quo” scenario. 

 

For the Neighborhood-Oriented option, the additional services would primarily be in the form of shuttles that would provide intra-neighborhood and crosstown services.  In this concept, each Davis neighborhood would have a local shuttle oriented to shopping centers and other local destinations.  There would also be shuttles to serve major City destinations such as the Senior Center, Library, and Post Office, as well as other locations not served by the local shuttle.  A very frequent shuttle would also be provided for the downtown area to serve peripheral parking and the UCD campus.  This option would also include new shuttle services at times when Unitrans does not currently operate, including night service during summer and UCD breaks and Sunday service during daytime hours.  Coincidentally, the number of buses needed for the added neighborhood-oriented services is also in the range of 9 to 15.

 

Capital Cost.  Either of the “significant growth” options would result in higher capital costs than the “status quo” option.  The incremental increase in capital costs over the “status quo” option would consist of the additional vehicles that would be required to provide the service increases included in these options, as well as the facility expansion associated with the larger fleet. 

 

As noted above, the number of vehicles that would be added under either scenario would be similar, in the range of 9 to 15.  The capital cost associated with these new vehicles would be dependent on the type of vehicle purchased.  The unit cost for a full-sized CNG transit bus is currently $333,000.  A 16-passenger CNG shuttle bus is approximately $125,000.  This provides a fairly good range for the added capital cost for buses, of $1.1 million (for 9 CNG shuttles) to $5 million (for 15 CNG 40’ buses).  One option that has been suggested for the shuttle service is for quieter electric or hybrid shuttles.  These shuttles would be more costly than the CNG shuttle option, falling in the middle of the wider range of vehicle costs (approximately $2 to $3.4 million).  Another possibility for the higher growth option would be the purchase of a smaller number of modern doubledeck buses to provide higher capacity service with fewer vehicles. 

 

The Unitrans Maintenance Facility is currently being expanded to accommodate past growth in service and future growth at the “status quo” level through 2012.  However, if growth were to occur at one of these higher levels and 9-15 buses were added within the next five years, the facility would need to be further expanded before 2007.  This would be necessary with either of the expanded fleets, whether full-sized buses or shuttle buses.  The expanded maintenance building would be adequate in this time frame, but additional bus parking areas would be necessary.  The site is currently “land-locked” by sites designated for other camps uses, so it would be necessary to change those designations or build a satellite facility for vehicle storage nearby.  The cost for such an expansion is estimated at approximately $2 million.  

 

In total, the overall 5-year capital cost increment for the significant growth alternatives is roughly $3 million to $7 million above the “status quo” capital program outlined above. 

 

Operating Cost.  The operating cost for the added service can be estimated based on the number of hours of service that would be provided.  Both options would provide similar levels of added service, and because labor cost is the largest component of operating cost, they would have approximately the same added annual cost.  The option that emphasizes neighborhood-oriented services would have lower fuel costs, but that would be offset by higher supervisory costs to provide dispatching of the more flexible demand-responsive services and higher maintenance cost associated with a special vehicle. 

 

As a rough estimate of the order-of-magnitude costs, a $40 cost per vehicle hour is used to project annual operating costs.  This puts the range of operating costs in the $1.1 million to $1.8 million range (based on the addition of 9 to 15 buses in service). 

 

Overall.  Table 8 provides a summary of the capital and operating cost projections for the “Significant Growth” options.  Noting that the combined capital and operating cost of the “Status Quo” option slightly exceeds available revenue, any incremental increase in service above that level requires entirely new revenues.  In order to pursue the Significant Growth options, Unitrans would require a more substantial  increase in the student fee, campus contribution, City of Davis TDA funds, and federal funding.   While there are many benefits from the additional services provided by either of these options to more fully address overcrowding or to introduce a new style of small shuttle operation, the added cost is quite formidable.  Based on the order-of-magnitude cost estimates, these options would require a doubling of the current student fee and/or tripling the current TDA funds used for transit in Davis.  It may be possible to program  less dramatic increases in either or both of these service concepts over the next five years, but it is unlikely that there would be support for the revenue increases required to reach the service levels laid out in the full implementation of either option.  The exact timing and size of any smaller increase in service would be based on the magnitude of an increase in potential revenue. 

 

As the general options for Unitrans over the next five years are discussed, new and more specific ideas will be generated.  As the specifics for these options are developed, their financial and operational needs can be more fully analyzed and their impacts evaluated.  It will be important to understand the community’s vision for Unitrans over the next five years, in terms of the magnitude and type of growth that is most beneficial for the future.