100 Days with Linda

“Raising the bar within the organization and improving trust and credibility out in the community.”  That’s been the mantra of Linda Watson since her arrival as our president/CEO about 100 days ago. And let me tell you, things are definitely different around here; good things are happening.

Check out KXAN’s story from last night:

35 thoughts on “100 Days with Linda

  1. Somebody forgot to give Todd Heminsgon the memo, I guess, based on today’s Chronicle in which he tries to rewrite history by blaming Austin for the lack of urban rail (you know, the urban rail that Capital Metro killed back in 2004; tried to pretend commuter rail would take the place of; and is killing again right now).

    1. Todd Hemingson

      M1EK is certainly free to draw his own interpretation of my comments to Lee Nichols regarding urban rail, but in no way was there any intent to “blame” the City of Austin. And upon re-reading the relevant paragraph from the article, it’s tough to see how such a conclusion could be inferred.

      1. “You know why our rail line stinks? It’s because Austin doesn’t have urban rail!”

        Left unsaid is the fact that Austin doesn’t have urban rail because of Capital Metro.

      2. That’s certainly the kind of behavior I’ve come to expect from you in private, JMVC, but rarely in public. From the same site: http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm

        “has a Jekyll and Hyde nature – is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming” and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act”

      3. should have read, that’s how you act when you think you’re talking about your critics when they’re not around; we’ve not had an interaction in private.

        Really, this is highly inappropriate behavior from a Capital Metro employee towards a member of the public – I’m surprised and disappointed the other moderators would allow that through.

      4. Adam

        When I glance through comments in the draft queue I try to let people work out their differences; I do attempt to weed out the spam, ads, profanities, obscenities, etc. But it’s not an exact science, and those of us who review comments as time permits try to keep it casual. But I agree that back-and-forth name calling doesn’t do anyone any good.

  2. N Crowther

    Bravo to Linda, Capital Metro, StarTran, Veolia, First Transit and CARTS–a team effort with a super leader! Now, we are going places! I am doing the Happy Dance!

  3. You know what would be transparent?

    – Posting rail ridership every month rather than every other month. (This news story is the first indicator that ridership hasn’t, in fact, skyrocketed recently – despite anectdotal reports to the contrary from people at your agency and others).

    – Posting the rail operating subsidy every month. This is critical public policy information and you’re not providing it.

      1. Jason, the stats are actually being published every other month now (i.e. the report comes out monthly, but the rail figure only changes every other month). There’s really no reason for this other than PR.

        The other figure I’m referring to was part of the first one (maybe two) monthly reports – and clarified in detail how high the operating subsidy was per rail trip (well north of $30); as well as proving that Capital Metro had budgeted for 1700-2000 riders/day AVERAGE for the year, not at the end of the first year.

        This information, being inconvenient, has been removed from subsequent reports.

  4. Brad

    M1EK –
    I hesitate to post this because I think this is what you want. You get off on the idea that your persecuted for your genius and foresight because it’s impossible for reasonable and intelligent people to disagree with you, but here it goes.
    Is it possible that no matter what Cap Metro does you will continue to complain about something that you think they should do? If they did the things you suggested above, wouldn’t you just find something else they’re doing or not doing that you don’t like? Are you still so upset that “they” didn’t listen to you 6, 7, 8 years ago that you’re just holding a grudge? I think it’s possible. This isn’t to say that you were wrong or right, it’s just that it appears you’ve lost your ability to be objective now.

    Also, I don’t know about everybody else, but I don’t need to be told over and over again how the Red Line sucks and that you knew it and that it’s Mike Krusse fault that an election 10 years ago didn’t go the “right” way. Anybody who follows this has heard your opinion on this. Do you ever post about constructive things we can do going forward? Like I said, this isn’t about whether you were right or wrong back then, it’s about your ability to be part of the solution now, since you know so much about this stuff, apparently more than anybody else.

    There’s more to activism than just complaining, but I think that’s what you enjoy. I’ve run into your comments in several different places on different subjects and it’s rare that you say anything remotely positive.

  5. Erik

    Did Linda state that CapMetro hadn’t raised fares in over 20 years? If you recall, the “standard fare” for busses prior to mid-2008 was 50¢ and raised to 75¢. In January of this year it went from 75¢ to $1. Just the facts, ma’am.

  6. Brad and Kelly, I firmly believe that the only way forward now is to stop Capital Metro from spending more money on the Red Line so it doesn’t smother the city’s urban rail plan in its cradle. That plan needs more money and more political capital, and the Red Line is sucking up all our reserves of both.

    So in a sense there is a way forward, but it requires fighting Capital Metro’s dis and mis information along the way and fighting what THEY want to do to Austin.

    Got it?

    1. Brad

      M1EK –

      Why are you so angry? Why do you take this so personally? Why are you so condescending? Is not possible that reasonable, intelligent people are trying to do the best they can or does it have to be some grand conspiracy against you? Why are you more worried about being right than Austin have a good transportation system? Being right doesn’t guarantee you anything, especially if you such a jerk about it. One suggestion, stop using the phrase “yours truly”, that is sounds condescending and self serving.

      I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I agree the Red Line was poorly planned and has been a disappointment. I agree that the Urban Rail plan is the best currently planned option going forward. I also agree that the disappointment of the Red Line will affect people’s enthusiasm for passing the future Urban Rail bonds (and part of me doesn’t blame them). What I don’t agree with is that the money spent operating the Red Line is sucking money away from Urban Rail; they’re 2 different income streams.

      For better or worse, the Red Line has been built and its fantasy to think that Cap Metro or the City of Austin will come out publicly and say we made a mistake and we’re shutting it down, even if they wished they could privately. Because of that, Cap Metro should do as much as they can to maximize their investment in rail without sacrificing other services. Why can’t a RATIONAL debate be centered around what Austin and Cap Metro can do to improve the Red line and the bus service and implement the Urban Rail line, rather than trying to re-litigate the past?

      Now, if I could wave my magic wand, I would send representatives over the China to speak to the company doing the “big bus” line in the Beijing suburb. I really think that could be a good, cost efficient answer that will give us the same performance as a light rail line but will better utilize the road infrastructure that’s already in place. Is it new, yes, but if they can do it so can we.

      1. Brad, I laid out my reasons without talking about a conspiracy or making it personal (about you), and you respond with this nonsense. I’ll try one more time:

        If you have a choice, you should listen to the guy who was right before. This should not be controversial. It wasn’t an accident, after all.

        This time around, I’m warning you that further investment in the Red Line is killing the urban rail plan before it has a chance to be born. It’s already pushed the election from 2010 to 2012 (at the earliest); it’s already having an impact on the amount of reserved guideway; and I think if the election was held today, it’d fail – and it’d fail primarily because of the Red Line.

        They are most definitely NOT separate streams of money (the CAMPO TWG plan envisioned Capital Metro funds); and they are most definitely NOT separate political issues – as you can see on any one of a number of other forums where the poor performance of the Red Line is being used against the urban rail proposal.

      2. Brad

        I’m just as personal with you as you have been with me and others in previous posts, my problem with you is personal. You’re condescending to anybody who slightly disagrees with you, just as you have been with me in this thread. I repeat it is possible for reasonable, intelligent people to disagree with you, including those working for Cap Metro or the City of Austin.

        What’s interesting is I’ve said very little that was supportive of the Red Line and very few people do on here, yet you’ve managed to make half of the people on here dislike you. It’s not because they think you’re idiot, it’s that they’re tired of being called an idiot by you, and tired of hearing the same re-hashed arguments and complaints over and over again.

        Also, I never said they were separate political issues, in fact, I said that the Red Line will give people pause as to whether or not to vote for the bonds. However, they absolutely are separate revenue streams, at least for this first phase. I supposed you could argue that cap metro could pick up some of the tab for future phases.

        I do appreciate that you posted what you think we should do going forward, I hadn’t seen very much of that from you. Right or wrong you have become an opinion people look to and that’s fine. I just think we would get a lot further if we tried to work together and stopped questioning everybody’s motives all the time including those in “power”.

      3. Brad, baloney. The typical comment of yours is about me, and why I’m bad for posting the way I do and the material I do; without actually addressing the material at all.

  7. ccosart

    I’d be more sympathetic to complaints about M1EK’s comments if people were actually refuting the substance of his criticisms. Fact is, this has been a disaster as a starter line. The case that it will be a “finisher” line as well is pretty good, unfortunately. The red line debacle is going to make it *harder* to pass urban rail, not easier, and prevents urban rail from being expanded to the suburbs like the 2000 LR plan would have. Are these facts in dispute?

    Of course we still have the Rapid Bus service which started in 2007. Oh wait…

    1. ScottT

      My take on it is that according to the 2011 Capital Metro budget the Red Line will cost in the neighborhood of $10 million to operate next year. (It looks like they’ve budgeted an additional $3.2 million in vehicle and other infrastructure improvements.) So let’s say $13 million of resources being sucked up next year.

      The most conservative estimates I have seen on the city’s urban rail plan are upwards of $500 million to build it.

      I can see the argument that MetroRail is taking resources away from needed Metrobus service. $13 million is a lot of bus hours. But now that commuter rail is built (and provided that Cap Metro doesn’t spend a bunch of money trying to expand or double-track the whole line) M1EK’s thinking that “stopping” the Red Line realistically gets us closer to the Urban Rail we’d all like to have built is a fallacy. At least financially.

      It is going to take contributions from Capital Metro, the City, UT, developers, and businesses if we’re ever going to get urban rail. You could set aside the Red Line’s $13 million for 30 years and with inflation you wouldn’t even be halfway to a true urban rail system.

      1. Scott,

        You are roughly correct on the magnitude – so far – but we need every penny – and Capital Metro has expressed the desire in the past to do that double-tracking and go get Federal dollars for both operating and capital cost. The Feds aren’t likely to fund two projects in the same city of our size in this short amount of time.

      2. ScottT

        LOL your statement “Capital Metro has expressed the desire in the past to do that” kind of goes against the intent of the original blog post, which was to highlight that Linda Watson has made changes and doesn’t intend to do things in the same way they’ve been done in the past. I guess M1EK didn’t get that memo.

        I haven’t seen her or anyone from Capital Metro come out and express a desire to pursue double tracking or federal funds for the Red Line since it opened. I noted in my review of the 2011 budget that there is nothing in there for either.

        Given that $13 million is less than 2.5% of what it would cost to build an urban rail I understand your concern that we look after every penny but I just don’t think it will be Capital Metro that ultimately decides whether we get such a system. Their potential contribution would simply be too small a slice of the pie.

      3. Scott, I’ve made the point that most of the transparency changes are PR only (drowning us with check register items while pulling back on actual useful public policy data like monthly rail ridership reports and monthly operating subsidy cost reports). Obviously I believe the change to be skin-deep, in other words; I know that if ridership improves even a little bit, calls for double-tracking the line will resume very shortly thereafter.

    2. Brad

      I completely understand why there’s such a credibility gap between cap metro and the public (espcially you Mike), but my question is what can they do for you to beleive that a cultural change is starting?

      I still wonder if they start doing the things you ask, if you will just move the bar further and come up with something else that “shows” that they’re misleading the public.

      1. That’s the kind of personal attack I was talking about, Brad; it’s content-free and actually completely wrong to boot – I have defended Capital Metro on more than one occasion on this very blog (as well as many times in other fora). Fairly recently, for instance, I defended their bus operations as ‘about as well as is possible to do given the pre-existing conditions in which they must operate’ (paraphrased).

        The answer is that they have to stop hiding information that makes them look bad – by the way. Have you not noticed that nobody, still, has addressed the point about the rail ridership numbers switching to bimonthly (for no good reason) and the operating subsidy numbers vanishing from their monthly report?

      2. Brad

        I’ve personally seen one post from you that defended Cap Metro in anyway and that was sort of a backhanded way of supporting your disagreement with them about removing a couple of bus stops from Congress, which I don’t think is a big deal and is worth a try (there’s some content for you). I’m sure you’ve defended them some on your blog, but I stopped reading it. I can only take so much anger and negativity.

        You and I have gone back and forth several times, but our actual opinions are not that far apart. You think the Red Line is an unmitigated disaster and should be shut down, and I think it stinks but we should make the best of it, whatever that entails. In terms of an argument, we’re not that far apart. I think its just temperament where we differ the most.

        I agree that they should release all important information good or bad. Was there a reason given for not including it? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I guess I’m fishing for a “legitimate” reason.

      3. Brad, Mike:

        There has not been a change in policy in terms of reporting the rail ridership figures each month. The November board meeting was moved up early in the month (Nov. 10) because of Thanksgiving. At the time of the board meeting we didn’t have ridership info completed for October. (Normally the board meeting is at the end of the month, and the ridership info is “hot off the press” in time for the meeting.)

        Hence, the ridership data presented in November was still for September. Those reports are published on our website, at http://www.capmetro.org/news/news_detail.asp?id=6516.

        As for the subsidy info, I don’t have a precise answer but as I recall it was one or more board members who questioned the need for staff to report every month on the subsidy info for all of our transportation modes. Those are numbers that are not going to change wildly each month, and Capital Metro has been upfront about the subsidy for all of our services. At any rate, as I have mentioned to Mike before, that monthly statistical/operational report that is given to the board has gone through a few iterations based on the desires of the board and of our new CEO as well.

      4. Erica,

        This is news to me – if I remember correctly, you had indicated previously (to me) that you had been directed by the board to switch to reporting rail ridership only every other month.

        And the board is obviously part of the problem here – their goal is to avoid the PR impact of both ridership that continuously fails to improve despite anectdotal (desperate) reports to the contrary from JMVC and others (including a board member); as well as keep the operating subsidy information not quite as visible.

        1. I don’t recall that. You can just browse the reports themselves, at the link I provided earlier in this thread, to see that your assertion about a switch to bi-monthly rail ridership statistics is in fact, false. We’re providing the most up to date information that is available at the time of the board meeting each month.

      5. I found it. Not exactly what I remembered but not exactly what you said upstream either:

        “they’re lagging the data one month to allow for greater analysis. FYI, MetroRail ridership for June is 837 per day. ^EM”

  8. Kirk

    Yes, M1EK has facts backing up his constant reminder of being right, but at this point, who cares anymore? M1EK, run for public office where perhaps you can move your agenda forward and save us all from Cap Metro. Hopefully you can save us all from City Council and their urban rail delusion as well before they sink $1.3 billion in building it, and who knows how much in operating it. So it moves UT students around nicely, what’s it going to do for south Austin? And running a line (just) south of the river then out to ABIA doesn’t count.

  9. Brad, by the way, this is a clear indicator that you aren’t paying as much attention to content as you think:

    “Why can’t a RATIONAL debate be centered around what Austin and Cap Metro can do to improve the Red line and the bus service and implement the Urban Rail line, rather than trying to re-litigate the past?”

    I’ve made it very clear that in my educated opinion, the only chance the Urban Rail line has to be implemented in anything approaching a decent fashion is for dollars currently proposed to be wasted on Red Line expansions to be redirected to Urban Rail. This is not a position I hold in isolation; the CAMPO TWG plan envisioned some Capital Metro funds being necessary for this plan to succeed.

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