Capital Metro’s Board is preparing to consider adoption of the recommendations of the year-long planning process known as ServicePlan2020. In short, ServicePlan2020 is a ‘big picture’ look at our entire bus system, involving input from several important sources: technical analysis, customer input, and staff and consultant analysis. The purpose of the effort is to figure out how best to structure the system to serve the changing needs of the community over the next five to ten years.
Big deal, you might say, Capital Metro changes its bus routes a few times a year, so how is this any different? The difference is in the scope. Whereas our three-times per year service adjustments are typically focused on individual routes, sections of routes, or areas of the city, Service Plan 2020 goes well beyond that. It looks at the existing network of routes and beyond while recognizing that indeed it is a system, one in which all of the parts should work well together.
Equally important, the effort attempts to approach this assessment from a customer perspective. It is informed by direct customer input through dozens of meetings and hundreds of surveys. It also takes into account the ‘markets’ that exist in the Austin area, using an approach called market segmentation. So just as beverage makers have long recognized that some folks like Coke and its many flavors while others prefer Pepsi (and its many flavors), market segmentation was used here, via phone surveys, to assess what types of transit people in Austin like. A range of market segments were identified, each with a unique set of preferences. For example, one market segment may value a sense of security at the bus stop very highly, while another may put a higher priority on the travel time on the bus. The team working on the project used these inputs to help shape the service recommendations.
Sounds great, right? Capital Metro should be able to design services that meet the needs of a broad range of the community, attract more riders and align the routes so they serve all areas of the city. If there were enough resources, then sure, that’s exactly what we’d do. As has been made all too clear of late, however, that is regrettably not the case. Capital Metro’s sales tax revenues (which constitute more than 70% of our annual budget) have declined by more than $50M since the economy went into a tailspin. Therein lies the rub.
So, there’s a plan but no money to implement it? Not exactly. The plan has been broken up into two main pieces: first are a set of near-term route changes that can be accomplished without additional revenue, and second are a group of longer-term improvements and additions that do require more funding to make happen.
The final report and recommendations of ServicePlan2020 are available online. Chapter 5 details the individual route changes that have been recommended, and Chapter 7 is the tentative timeline for implementation. The board will consider adoption of the plan Feb. 22.
I’ll post more information about the various components of ServicePlan2020 on the blog between now and then.