Lies, conspiracy theories, and other weirdness

Last night was totally bizarre. A perennial critic of Capital Metro basically called me, and all Capital Metro employees, liars, on live television news. Wow. Really?

Our feathers were ruffled after viewing the story, because we didn’t hear any facts to back the critic’s claims, and frankly, the reporter missed some opportunities to question those claims.

But. I was thinking about it today, and it’s sad that Capital Metro’s reputation is so tarnished that some people believe our entire operation must be a conspiracy, and just by virtue of being an employee of Capital Metro we must all be liars. That’s an unfortunate relic of Capital Metro’s past, and as an organization we have to take some responsibility for our less-than-glowing reputation. And truthfully, in the past Capital Metro has not been a shining example of transparency and openness.

But there are some really good things happening around here, and I hope over time we can earn the public’s trust again. We have a laser-sharp board dedicated to change and a new CEO committed to “raising the bar.” We’re developing straightforward policies and standards to guide how the agency will conduct business, from implementing transit service to governing our cash reserves. We’re knee-deep in implementing recommendations from the Texas Sunset Commission that will make Capital Metro pretty rock solid financially and operationally. Just yesterday we were honored by the State Comptroller for being the first transit authority in the state to provide our whole checkbook and charge card transactions online. (Check it out here.)

It doesn’t happen overnight. But my personal goal everyday is to work ethically and honestly and provide good customer service to our riders and the community. And there’s hundreds others around this joint who are striving for the same. I hope you’ll give us a chance to be your ride.

11 thoughts on “Lies, conspiracy theories, and other weirdness

  1. gigi

    Reguarding MA drivers. Here is a big surprise, Productivity is down. Due to the we are managed. Supervisors need training on how to supervise. Such as the way in which drivers are spoken to. How about lets have supervisors roll up there sleves, and help us. Instead they stand there like watch dogs, with there arms crossed looking for a simple mistake, so the driver can be written up. How about this. When supervisors watch dialysis locations, help the driver load passengers, maybe watch our vehical so we may use the bathroom and get a drink of water. Seems how we do not get breaks. Heres another good one, introduce yourself to the passengers. Hum it probally would help if the title was changed from supervisor to TEAM LEADER. Stop expecting the drivers too do taske, supervisors are not willing too do. Hum just a few basics, cost no money. Productivity. Moral.

  2. I won’t go so far as to call you guys liars on this one, although you have lied plenty of times in the past. But the claim that these buses have to be combined because of low ridership is incredibly disingenuous – because the buses are better utilized than is the train, and somehow this urgent need to collapse poorly utilized services is not resulting in fewer train runs.

    This is especially obvious because the buses you’re eliminating/combining are at the times of day when they have the greatest objective advantage over the Red Line + shuttlebus alternative; and at the time of day when the Red Line trains are the most empty.

  3. And, by the way, attacking the credibility of the citizen in question and the media is out of the old playbook. The new playbook you’re supposed to be reading out of would have recommended addressing the claims that due to the extra commute time required on either the new bus or the Red Line+shuttle, some previous express bus passengers would go back to driving (it strains reason to think that anybody living in Leander or Cedar Park doesn’t have a car parked in their driveway to go back to).

  4. ky

    I agree with Mike that attacking the citizen/critic is not at all appropriate, frankly it is really just too bad that you do not like what the public says. At Metro marketing PR people you can make your counter statements, but counter attacking the person is really out of line.

    We also need the perspective here, that nothing that has changed recently at Metro has been taken by the internal choices of Metro on its’ own. So anything that is now happening that is good is because of external forces, not because of the great people that were already there.

    The list;

    1) The Board was replaced – By actions of Senator Watson
    2) The Sunset Report – was performed because of Senator Watson
    3) The incredibly awful management of Fred Gilliam, was ended because of Senator Watson and the new Board. And lets not forget that as recently as last summer Metro was defending Gilliam as a terrific guy, and sent him packing with an enormous golden parachute.

    Also, lets recall that as recently as the last few months Metro has fought both the Statesman and KXAN information request, taking it as far as the Attorney General. Metro has persistently fought disclosures of any and all kinds.

    Finally even with the recent posting of financial info not one person can really answer the question — What does the Red Line actually cost to build, and to operate? $100 million, you must be kidding.

  5. DaRider

    Cap Metro’s Erica, staff and Board speak right out of the Obama Playbook, which is guided by Saul Alinsky’s 70’s era book Rules For Radicals. Point the finger at someone else, lie as needed to distract us from the truth, and attack a taxpayer who funds their toy train from nowhere that’s going down in flames as predicted. Gigi hits the nail right on the head – there’s a revolution needed in management and Watson better get on the task and dig CMTA out of its fractured rail folly or she will be a one termer like Obama.

  6. Paul

    I missed this news story, can anyone direct me to a link, please? I would like to hear from a Metro employee/blogger what the ‘conspiracy of the entire operation’ is all about, what this “conspiracy” entails.

    I’ve been riding Metro for the last five years, and for the last two years, it’s felt a little like the scene at the end of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT where Judge Doom wants to force everyone to use the new freeway and says, “I bought the Red Car Line so I could DISMANTLE IT.”

    By feels like, I mean inconsistent arrival/departure times, unfollowed-up on complaints, extraordinarily rude drivers, disregard for customer service, and a growing sense of apathy and “It’s-not-my-job-ness”.

    There are some wonderful people out on the front lines, but they are far and few between these days.

  7. Bob

    Your progress towards accountability is good, consider posting not only financial information but regular ridership counts (the main business driver) so that they can be monitored by your customers. I am concerned that Capital Metro is still much in the reactive mode rather in the proactive mode meaning it is doing things because someone is telling the organization to do it. Go further and move your benchmarks further than what you are told. In this case, stop holding back information and your creditability will continue to increase.

    Accountability is good particularly when you know that your customers can count too.

    The reason that I raise ridership creditability is that the Leander paper said that the Leander Express route averaged 15 riders. Where did this number come from? Seems very low to me since when I ride that bus the coaches were at least 75% full. Also, I have never seen anyone count riders on the Red Line since June. By the way my estimate is that it is over 75 percent capacity during rush hour. Good job, but go further than you are told.

  8. fuzzbucket

    I bet you all think that you work hard, have good ethics, play by the rules. But let’s say your boss was not a great manager and things screwed up. Is it your fault? Maybe. You could have alerted officials higher up. You could have quit your job. You could have fought to have things changed, or you may have been just as in the dark about what was wrong as everyone else. So guilt by association hangs you out to dry. Even when the bad boss is gone, everyone keeps kicking your butt and calling you names. You’re good at what you do, you like your job. But no matter what you do, there is always someone out there calling you a liar, a cheat, and threatening your job.

    That is what I see my husband go through every day. Working for Cap Metro makes you a pariah. Everyone feels like it is OK to take a punch or a jab at your work. The posts above are full of this entitlement to kick some a$$.

    You have no idea. I think the PR people are being kind.

  9. Dan

    Capital Metro doesn’t need lies, conspiracy theories, or other weirdness to push riders away.

    I am a graduate student at the University of Texas who has lived in Austin for about four years now. For about two years, I lived not too far north of campus and depended on my bike or the #7 bus to get to and from main campus. All in all, it was pretty good. The bus was inexpensive (free for students!), mostly on time, and ran frequently enough to allow for some flexibility in my schedule. My classmates would poke fun at me for riding my “toy bike” or the “loser cruiser,” but I defended them both and was proud to save a little cash by not driving everywhere. Sure, there were the times when the bus was 10 minutes late. Or the bus was early and the driver would pull away from 45th Street several minutes early despite the fact that 45th Street is a time point on the #7 route (Oh, I’m supposed to get there 5-10 minutes early? See the previous point, especially in July and August). Or the driver wouldn’t see me standing at 48th Street and pass right by. Or Capital Metro would insist on running the smaller-than-full-size busses through campus during the 5:00 hour and I’d have to wait for the next one…or the next one…in the rain… (I called CapMetro several times to complain about this to no avail). Or the driver would staunchly uphold some ridiculous policy that requires that if he pulls away from a stop and then waits at a red light less than a bus length away from the stop that he won’t let stragglers on (why not wait at the stop until the light turns green?). Or the #481 night owl service would be so crowded at 2:10 am on the weekend that I’d have to wait in the dark and cold for another 30 minutes. Still, despite these frustrations, all in all a service I was grateful to have.

    Then I began working at the Pickle Research Campus periodically. My research group splits its time between main campus and PRC. No problem, I thought…I’ll just ride the PRC shuttle when I need to go to Pickle. This worked for a couple years, but I’ve had it–today was the last straw. I got to the stop at 26th and Speedway at 5:30, appropriately 5-10 minutes before the scheduled 5:36 departure northbound to PRC. Me, and nine other souls, waited…and waited…and waited. Finally the bus showed up at 6:35, and the driver had the nerve to get off the bus to take a break! Ten people wasted an entire hour of their day waiting for that bus! Capital Metro took an hour away from each of those riders’ days. That level of service is atrocious, and this is not an isolated incident. I have waited for the PRC bus many times, in both directions, with the wait frequently being longer than 15 minutes past the scheduled time, if the bus comes at all (at least twice the 4:30 departure from main campus never happened)! I do not understand why a shuttle bus, which runs from one point to another with no intermediate stops, could so regularly be so late!

    The 20 or so students in my research group represent the easiest riders Capital Metro could attract, and not a single one uses the service. The PRC route runs directly between our origin and our destination. The service is free to us as students (minus the student fee that we must pay). We could use that 30 minutes each way to read or relax. And still, nobody uses it because the dependability is abysmal. We would all rather pay to drive our car, pay to park it, and deal with the aggravation of driving because we run the risk of losing hours of our day waiting for a bus! It’s appalling to imagine this scenario playing out over the entire Capital Metro system. How many hours of productivity have been lost? How much time could people have spent at home with their loved ones? How many times has someone been late to a meeting or a class? It’s a tremendous shame! I am hardly surprised that RedLine ridership is much lower than projected. It too represents a transit option for my group, but will we ride it? For the joy of TWO bus rides each way, PLUS the train?

    I sincerely hope that Capital Metro can improve its service. If Capital Metro can’t even attract riders who can use its services for free, or for whose services provide virtually door-to-door transit, I fear for its future.

    Here’s to one more car on the road.

  10. Arwen Tedhams

    Bus #7010 sat at Riverside and South 1st St. this morning in the middle of rush our traffic. I was stuck behind it for 3 lights before I could finally get in the other lane to get around. This has happened so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been made late by the buses in this town so many times that I have lost count.

    The time has come for a new company to take over or push Cap. Metro out. You’ve served your purpose and you have been found wanting. Every morning I hear complaints from drivers who have to suffer through traffic backed up for miles while the driver of a bus runs to get some coffee.

    It’s time for you to go. It’s someone else’s turn. Public transportation is necessary, but in my opinion you are one of the very worst. I will not vote for anything that will keep you around. I will be for any alternative that is not you. I will say so to anyone who will listen. It’s time for you to go. We need someone new. Best of luck to you on your search for new employment. You are fired.

  11. Check out the Cellular Mass Transit web site CMT4Austin dot com
    It is the invention of a local citizen who studied best practices and came up with his idea on how to revolutionize CapMetro, using its existing fleet, to verve 100% of the community with 10 minute max wait timed, cut total transit time by at least half. This could actually make CapMetro viable and sustainable. But they are deaf and blind to his idea. So is City Council who wants more toy trains.

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