Capital Metro’s FY2011 budget includes increased service, new P&R in Manor, and IVR replacement

Capital Metro’s proposed FY2011 budget is now available for public comment. The public hearing on the budget is Sept. 20, at noon, here at Capital Metro headquarters. The board will consider adoption of the budget on Sept. 24.

I’m jazzed about Capital Metro’s improved budgeting process, and this resulting budget. It reflects many of your priorities as shared with us through the budget survey this summer. It also reflects Capital Metro’s increased commitment to accountability, financial sustainability and transparency as we continue to implement recommendations from the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission (look for a community progress report on that in September).

New this year is a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (see appendix A) and a new policy to ensure our cash reserves are healthy and protected.

Here are some of the key components of this year’s operating and capital budget:

  • Adds $1.3 million to our cash reserves.
  • Increases bus and rail service. Improvements include more frequency on crosstown routes/better service in SE Austin, per ServicePlan2020, and possible midday and Fri. evening MetroRail service.
  • Increases fares and other revenue. The proposed budget includes a fare increase that would increase pass rates, MetroAccess fares and RideShare. Free fares would also be eliminated as recommended by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Before any fares increase, Capital Metro will seek public input and host a public hearing concerning fares.
  • Continues improvements to bus stop accessibility. The budget allocates $2 million for bus stop accessibility. It also allocates $50,000 to install new and replacement bus stop benches and shelters.
  • Begins implementation of MetroRapid, using $10 million of federal funding and $2.5 million local funding.
  • Replaces the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) automated phone system. This should please many customers who have complained about the current automated system on the Go Line.
  • Constructs a 75-space Park & Ride in Manor.

NOTE: There are two known errors in the document that will be corrected.
1. Capital Metro proposes allocating $2 million (not $1 million as it’s incorrectly stated in the document currently posted) to improve bus stop accessibility in FY2011.
2. The IVR phone system will be replaced in FY2011 (not FY2012 as stated in the document).

11 thoughts on “Capital Metro’s FY2011 budget includes increased service, new P&R in Manor, and IVR replacement

  1. Don Dickson

    Please don’t be wimps – like you were last time – when the fare increases come up for public comment. Wringing your hands over a quarter just perpetuates the public perception that mass transit is a welfare program for poor people. I know that quarter is meaningful to a lot of the folks I ride with. But I also know that the future of this transit system depends in large part on attracting the kinds of riders for whom that quarter, or two dollars a month, or five or ten dollars a month, is of absolutely no consequence.

    I don’t know what y’all spent on the IVR, but you should demand your money back. The few times I ever used it, I’d say “English” into my phone, and I’d get back “I’m sorry, I did not understand your response.” Between Dadnab, Google Transit, computers and smartphones, I’m pleased to say I haven’t needed that stupid IVR in a very long time. And don’t spend a ton of money on it, because pretty soon nobody else is going to need it either.

    1. JMVC

      Thanks as always for your comments, Don. Regarding the “wimps” comment, I hope it is not directed at Capital Metro staff. Believe me, as a cap Metro staffer, it is not an enjoyable thing to make such a reccomendation, and try to justify it to our community – which Capital Metro staff has done a few times now with this particular issue. Remember, agency staff make recommendations like these all the time, but it is the Board of Directors that approves or rejects such recommendations. Serving on an elected Board myself, I have seen both sides of this. Staff often have to make tough reccomendations, but it is the Board that has to make the ultimate decision, and those decisions are not fun. I know from personal experience, rarely is any particular Board member a wimp, rather it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile all the competing needs and interests related to such a difficult issue as this. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who has to serve in such a position. It aint easy.

  2. BJ

    I moved here from Dallas, where I rode public transportation to and from work for years. I specifically moved to an apartment close to the rail line in Austin so I could continue to ride public transportation. Needless to say, because of the pricing and routing, I cannot. I could conceivably catch a train at the Lakeline Park and Ride and get to work on time. However, I would not be able to get home on the train when I finished my work day unless I wanted to wait for over an hour for a train. I could take a bus back to the Park and Ride but the monthly pass would not cover the expense.

    My question is: “Why aren’t the monthly Capital Area transit passes good for both the bus AND the train?”

    I believe ridership would definitely increase if this was implemented. As it stands now, my expense would almost double the current cost of driving to work downtown if I became a public transport rider on your system. Couple that with the inconvenience of the current wait time and schedules, it is a no brainer that I would opt to drive.

    This is not rocket science, nor does it take a high cost study to figure out. In order for ridership to increase, the offer has to include a cost incentive along with convenience. Your current plan offers neither. Save the money on the study. Implement a monthly or yearly pass at a discounted rate that can be used for both trains and buses. Negotiate more frequent and timely train schedules that coincide with downtown business office hours. Do both of these things and you will see ridership increase.

      1. BJ

        I was on the Cap Metro website for hours and could not find that information – and that was exactly what I was looking for. The website assumes the user knows what a MetroPlus pass encompasses (although, it is not explained – OR, if it is, it certainly isn’t easy to find because I never found it). I found the website confusing – not user friendly.

        Perhaps, when a user wants to map a travel route, the results should be able to include both rail and bus if the rider chooses.

        I’m sure I am not the only person who could not find this information on the website – nor on the kiosk stand at the Lakeline station (where buying a one day pass was again, confusing and time consuming).

        It’s my contention that if Capital Metro wants to increase ridership – the process must be streamlined for the rider. Information should be clear, concise and readily available. I don’t know what was paid for the kiosk machines or who designed them, but I can see how they alone would drive a potential rider right back to their car. And the same goes for the website.

        Please don’t spend anymore money on commercials. I don’t think people are afraid to ride the train. Spend the money on fixing the website and streamlining ticket purchases. Offer large downtown companies the ability to sell their employees monthly passes. Perhaps offer an economic incentive to the companies. Start a campaign to ‘Clear the Roads’. Plant a tree in honor of each company that reaches a certain ridership goal. Be creative. Make riding the train a fun and good thing but most of all, give the potential rider the necessary information for making a decision to ride or not to ride.

    1. Scott Wood

      Go to capmetro.org. Click on “Fares” in the left side of the screen. Click on “Fares” again in the list that comes up.

      This shows a listing of all the various fares, passes, and discounts. Scroll down to “Passes”.

      It says, “MetroRail Service – Featuring the MetroPlus Pass (good on all Rail and Bus Services.)”.

      Or if you click the rail icon at the top of the home page, and happen to be able to run Flash animations (please don’t use these things for navigation!), and click on “Tickets and Passes”, it says:

      Two-Hour Tickets can only be purchased at the stations from ticket vending machines (TVMs). The tickets are good for the train and any connecting buses you might take.

      Passengers planning to connect to local routes are encouraged to purchase a Capital MetroPlus Pass, which are valid on all rail and bus services.

      1. Misty

        Thanks for the quick navigation guide, Scott. We tried to post info about the MetroPluss passes in several sections of the website.

        In regards to the ticket vending machines, we have not heard from too many people that they are hard to use. Before rail opened we created a “How to Use the TVM” video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz2J1lNiG_o.

        Just to let you know, we will be working on a complete overhaul of the website over the next year. We try to improve it as much as we can with the current infrastructure. ^MW

  3. Don Dickson

    JMVC, I suppose it was the board and not the staff that wimped out on the fare increase a while back. But I stand by the comment. If the fare increase proposal had not been scaled back Capital Metro would STILL have been among the lowest transit fares in the nation. And wimping out over twenty-five cents sends entirely the wrong message to the Lexus and SUV drivers that we really, really, really need to attract.

    1. Erica

      Paul, the IVR (integrated voice response) system is the automated phone system you get when you call the Go Line, and not only is it past its prime, but consistently riders have complained about it. We will replace it with a new automated system. I believe the technology department will seek some input as to the types of features/capabilities that are important to riders.

  4. Brad

    How hard would it be to set up a system where a rider could load a pre-paid “Cap Metro Card” and have the fares deducted by swiping it when they get on the bus or train? It seems like it would make the system more user friendly and could be small revenue stream by making money off the float.

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