September 2011 Board Meeting

As I talked about in the intro of the post on last month’s board meeting, the board meeting is a chance to catch up on the latest info about BFT, and anything else interesting that might be going on. Last night, September 8th, was the latest edition of the board meeting, and it was definitely interesting.

After the convening and roll call of board members was taken care of, the next item in the agenda, like in every other board meeting, was the opportunity for citizen’s/visitors attending to address or mention anything that was not on the meeting’s agenda. And with that, I decided to raise my hand and address the board, which was the first time I’d ever done so. So you understand why, a back story might help explain this a bit better. On Sunday (during Labor Day weekend), I was continuing work on my little schedule and system map project for a BFT revamp that I’d mentioned here. In the midst of searching the website for a copy of the BFT logo without the “Transit” striking through it, I came across a part of the website that I’d never seen before. (For security reasons, that’s as in depth as I’m going to explain it.) With my very, very minimal knowledge of website design, I knew what I was looking at. And in this area of the website, I found something that I should not have been able to find: a list of all the Vanpool riders that had used BFT’s newly launched online payment system. Uh… not good. Now, the good thing was that they were not displaying the credit card numbers, but all the other personal info was still in plain sight. On Twitter, @TransitGuru helped me track down the logo I was looking for, but also said he was able to find the same thing I’d found, and it didn’t take him long either. Since it was Labor Day weekend, BFT was shut down on Monday, so I had to wait until Tuesday to talk to someone about it. Eventually, I got through to the right person, and though it was a bit of a shock, I could tell that they appreciated me bringing it to their attention. At the board meeting, I mainly just wanted to express that I was glad BFT officials handled the whole situation the way they did. The board even thanked me for my part in the whole situation, which was pretty cool.

With all that out of the way, why don’t I talk about the official business that went down…

The first three resolutions were for some Dial-A-Ride employees that are retiring, and BFT recognizing them for their long years of dedicated service. Dial-A-Ride operators Joyce Kauer and Darwin Griswold and Dial-A-Ride supervisor Robert “Bob” Harris were all given their recognition’s and plaques were presented, though only Joyce was present to accept her plaque.

There were also some recognitions for some BFT operators who recently competed in some “roadeo’s.” Dan Schmidt (who is a LEGEND in the world of bus roadeos) was recognized for his 1st place finishes in the 40′ division at BFT’s local roadeo in July and the WSTA roadeo held in August. One of the board members recalled that Dan had stated he was retiring a couple of years ago. He replied that his trainee advanced faster than he’d anticipated (I think a reference to Gabe Beliz), and so he had to come out of retirement. Another board member asked him how many first places this would now make for his award collection, and Dan said “20 locals, 12 states, and 5 internationals.” Gabe Beliz was also recognized for his 2nd place finish in the 40′ division at BFT’s local roadeo in July, 12th in the 40′ division at the APTA International Roadeo in May, and 1st in the 30′ division at the WSTA roadeo in August. When Dan retires for good, I think we’ll have to be keeping an eye out for Gabe. Finally, in the paratransit division, Paul Henry was recognized for his 1st place finish at the BFT local roadeo in July and 2nd place at the WSTA roadeo in August. At the end of these operator recognitions, one of the board members made the comment that it was great to these results, and it shows just how excellent a job BFT’s drivers really do.

With that done, there were a couple PowerPoint presentations to do. The first was done by Michaela Dimas on BFT’s launch of Google Transit (something that I “broke” the news on back in July). The board was rather impressed, and it was clear that everyone involved is excited about it, as it is a huge step foward for BFT. Speaking of steps foward, the second presentation by Dan Sandmeier was on the launch of online payments for Vanpool and bus pass/ticket purchasing. In the presentation, he mentioned that there were a few minor hiccups, referencing what I’d found, but things are moving forward and it has been well received. The cool thing is that BFT is the first in the state to have online Vanpool payments available, which is a nice little source of pride for them.

Later on at the meeting, the board had to vote on approving entering an agreement with WSDOT in order to accept some grant funds. The first grant, GCA 6806, gives BFT $55,233 for ordering some mobile data terminals, which will be installed in DAR vehicles. The second grant, GCA 6807, gives BFT money for multiple things. The first is $100,000 for the continuation of the highly-acclaimed Travel Training program. Secondly, for the continuation of Night Service, BFT will receive $427,648 (2011-2012) and $1,285 (2012-2013). Lastly, BFT will receive $1,655,954 for a demand response grant.

To close out the meeting, the staff reports were presented. As is normal, there was no legal report or need for an executive session. On the budget/sales tax report, it was interesting to note that sales tax revenue has increased 21.6% compared with last year. The main reason for this ties back to the shutdown of the nuclear reactor at Hanford by Energy Northwest, and it was cautioned to remember this was the longest shutdown on record, making it a one-time deal. Also noted was that there won’t be another shutdown for 18 months. For sales tax revenue, BFT is up 15.5% compared to 2008 levels, putting BFT in a good spot. Sadly, other agencies in the state are facing problems with their sales taxes going in the opposite direction, particularly King County Metro, Spokane Transit, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit. They also briefly mentioned the ongoing discussions with the issue of the contract extension that was requested by G2 Construction. It’s still being dealt with for now is the basic gist of it.

After the meeting, I hung outside waiting for my Night Service ride, while everyone filed out. I even got to chat with a few people. Dan Schmidt came up to me, curious as to what I was up to that led to me finding the Vanpool info on the website. I also took the chance to congratulate him again on his latest roadeo award. As he was driving out of the parking lot, he asked me if I needed a ride home (which was wicked awesome of him), but I let him know I was just waiting for Night Service, thanking him anyways. I also chatted a bit with Dan Sandmeier,  who I had previously spoken to when I first alerted BFT to the website issue. We got on the subject of smartphone apps, and so now I’ve got the idea of trying to make a BFT app stuck in my head again. (Anyone wanna help?) Lastly, I chatted with Kathy McMullen a bit. I’m probably going to see about scheduling a meeting with her next week, because there’s a couple of things I would like to chat with her about. (Shouldn’t be too hard to figure that one out…) If anything comes of it, I’ll post an update here.

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