Sunset Review staff report on Capital Metro

This morning the Sunset Advisory Commission released its staff report of Capital Metro. It’s not exactly flattering, but it does present an opportunity to make positive change and improve the operation of the agency. Many of the issues identified in the review are ones that Capital Metro has already begun addressing. Here is the statement Capital Metro has issued regarding the report. Our Board Chairman Mike Martinez and Interim President and CEO Doug Allen will talk to the media at a roundtable this afternoon.

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Capital Metro Receives Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report

(Austin, Texas – April 23, 2010)  Today the Sunset Advisory Commission released its staff report of Capital Metro.

“Sunset’s review has been an illuminating process, and I’m committed to working with the community, the Board and staff to implement the recommendations and transform Capital Metro into a respected, effective and efficient transportation provider,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, chair of Capital Metro’s Board of Directors.

Focus Areas

The report identified four key focus areas:  Finance, Labor, Rail and Board Governance.  Many recommendations are consistent with the major goals for the year identified when the new Board of Directors started in January 2010.

Capital Metro staff and Board members already have taken steps to make improvements in these areas over the past few months.  For example:

•           Rail:  Comprehensive safety plan including bridges; hiring a rail director; improved contract management processes

•           Finance: New procedures to budget and manage reserves effectively; implementation of capital project planning improvements as identified by Capital Metro’s internal audit

•           Labor: Board established a Labor Committee to direct staff to begin exploring StarTran structure options

•           Board Governance: Board established several new committees and called for a more robust public input process

•           Quarter Cent Program: Capital Metro and City of Austin approved amendments to the Interlocal agreement

Staff and Board members will work closely to evaluate the Sunset recommendations, chart a course of action and keep the community informed.

“This report has made many good recommendations on how to strengthen and improve Capital Metro,” said interim President/CEO Doug Allen.  “We will use the Sunset review as an opportunity to continue positive change in our agency.”

Sunset Review Process – Next Steps

Management Response:  Capital Metro will formally respond to the Sunset report in writing by May 6.

Public Hearing: The Sunset Advisory Commission will schedule a hearing for either May 25 or May 26 where Sunset staff will present their findings and recommendations.  The Commission will hear public testimony from anyone wishing to speak.  Capital Metro also will have an opportunity to address the Commission.

Sunset Commission Decision:  In early July, the Commission will meet to discuss the staff report and may adopt any statutory recommendations (Sunset bills).

82nd Legislature: Any Sunset bills related to Capital Metro will be introduced and considered during the legislative session (January – May 2011).

Sunset Review Process – History

Senate Bill 1263, passed in 2009, required the Sunset Advisory Commission to “evaluate the governance, management, and operations of Capital Metro to determine what improvements are needed to ensure that Capital Metro operates efficiently and effectively.” However, unlike state agencies, Capital Metro is not subject to abolishment as a result of this review. Information about the Sunset process is available at www.sunset.state.tx.us.

10 thoughts on “Sunset Review staff report on Capital Metro

  1. Erik

    Speaking of accountability, how was Capital Metro able to push through this $100+ million rail on the premise that it would primarily connect Leander residents with Downtown?

    Newsflash: the existing #986 Express bus only takes 46 minutes vs 1 hour by train at double the cost! You guys are completely out of touch with reality. Solutions to a transit problem are to be a forward improvement, not a reversal. Clearly your intent from the start was to focus on Leander, because why else would you limit/cripple the northbound morning trips so much?

    Fire someone and hire me.

  2. Parker Beaty

    capital metro spent all this money on the rail which i had to quit riding because none of the buses are connecting with them right especially at kramer station why not of fixed the north lamar transit center it is so outdated very little security and not the best lighting at night i really hope the rail can make up this money because the cars seem very empty other then that re group and get the cash in order and hope not to see reduction in bus service

  3. Parker Beaty

    one more question i was watching a story on kxan and kxan stated they filed a open record request for capital metros spending i find it odd that capital metro denied the open records request and made the network go to the ag just to have capital metro release a diffrent version of what was spent i think capital metro i think is lying to us what are ya’ll hiding and whats wrong with the bridges in concern to the sunset reviews findings

    1. Erik

      It’s clear that an organization which pays almost 300k/year for its CEO position doesn’t have an interest in operational/fiscal accountability. FYI: The salary of the US Secretary of Transportation is 199k/year. Yeah, exactly.

  4. Scott

    “Not exactly flattering…”
    That is good! Capt Metro needs any kick in the pants it gets! What? Did you expect the Sunset review to praise the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Monopoly?

    “Many of the issues identified in the review are ones that Capital Metro has already begun addressing…”
    There have been major issues with Capt Metro thru-out its 25 year history in Austin, you are just now addressing them?

  5. chrysrobyn

    I’m hoping that part of “open communication” is branching away from the current preaching to the choir by polling current riders and holding “come-to-me”s where only current riders know about.

    I’d like to see CapMetro coming to major employers with fewer PowerPoint presentations — but rather with clipboards and open ears. Maybe going to HOA or MUD meetings and asking where their citizens needed to go?

    If someone of significance took a look at the demographics of the neighborhood that 243 serves, then drove west on Wells Branch Parkway, east on Merriltown, west on Shoreline taking note of all the sub-$600/month apartments, and then looked at the ridership, it would be very obvious that there’s a major problem. 243 is ALMOST useful. Tell Google Maps you want to drive from anywhere in Wells Branch to IBM, ACC or The Domain. Take note of the travel time. Then click the “mass transit” button. Scoff aloud.

  6. Scott

    Good point Erik with the 300K vs 199K salary comparison.

    I have always said that Capt Metro is one of the biggest employers of overpaid people in the Austin area. Way too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, for sure.

  7. Jerry

    CapMetro has been woefully lacking in its ability to secure federal funding beyond its regular transit allocation. This is the first year in a long time that it got a little extra and the primary reason for that is due to funding from the Recovery Act. Sunset needs to insist that CapMetro work on maximizing federal funding opportunities if CapMetro is to expand both rail and bus systems. Agencies hate filling out those grant applications, but the financial return can be immense. We all pay federal taxes and should get more of those funds before we start raising local taxes and ridership fees. DART in Dallas has expanded primarily because of federal funds and tax payers in the Dallas area have benefited greatly.

  8. Jerry, Cap Metro didn’t get any federal funds for the Red Line because they knew from the 2000 plan efforts that what is now the Red Line’s ridership projections wouldn’t impress the Feds.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid:76008

    “(Conversely, the original Red Line, which had far lower ridership and — even though it was on existing rail right of way — only marginally lower projected costs, was headed, Cap Met insiders say, for a “not recommended” kiss-of-death rating, which is why the transit authority switched tracks at the 11th hour.)”

  9. Pingback: Cap Metro’s debut at the Sunset Commission « TexasVox: The Voice of Public Citizen in Texas

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