Happy (fiscal) New Year!

Last week, the Capital Metro board of directors approved the fiscal year 2012 budget. Capital Metro’s new fiscal year began on October 1st with a balanced budget that maintains current transit service levels.

This is actually something to be excited about. In an economy like the one we’ve all been dealing with, Capital Metro passed a balanced budget without increasing fares, cutting overall service, or reducing our reserves. The Austin American Statesman recently published an op-ed by our President & CEO Linda Watson, in which she says:

“Through disciplined budget work, Capital Metro has reduced spending across the board by carefully scrutinizing every line item, delaying construction projects, leaving vacant positions unfilled and adjusting lower-performing bus routes…The bottom line is that Capital Metro is managing its business in a new, open, transparent and fiscally responsible manner, and we will continue to do so. That is what taxpayers, customers and employees expect, and that is exactly what we are going to deliver.”

Other transit agencies around the country have not been so fortunate to be able to pass balanced budgets without cutting service or increasing fares. Make no mistake, the next couple of years will be financially challenging for Capital Metro, too, but through hard work and internal sacrifices we have a good budget to carry the agency forward for the next year.

I would like to personally say THANK YOU to all of you who participated in this year’s budget process, including those who watched videos, submitted ideas on the icanmakeitbetter site, completed surveys, attended our public meetings, and stayed engaged in this process. Community involvement was critical in this process. You might be interested to know that our budget information was seen over 1900 times via the various online methods of involvement, in-person meetings, and targeted community outreach. This is part of our larger effort to improve business practices and transparency for which we were recently recognized by the Texas comptroller of public accounts.

Have a fabulous new fiscal year!

Plaza Saltillo Beautification

Volunteers helped landscape at Plaza Saltillo in June 2010.

Have you ever noticed the pretty landscaping out at the Plaza Saltillo Station?

Did you know that everything planted there is thanks to the hard work and dedication of VOLUNTEERS?

Do YOU want to get involved too? !? Well, you’re in luck!

Capital Metro is hosting a Plaza Saltillo beautification day as part of the KAB Clean Sweep on April 9 from 9-11am.  The work is light – just weeding and pruning – but important.

Sign up here if you are interested in volunteering, and feel free to invite your friends or folks who might be interested in helping too.

Also, I’d encourage you to check out and join our Facebook page to see photos and the history of the beautification project over the last few years.

Thanks!

Volunteers helped landscape at Plaza Saltillo in June 2010.

An Artistic Triumph!

Today was an amazing day for me!  After almost a year of behind-the-scenes work, we have a beautiful, colorful, accessible piece of art at one of our bus stops!

Local artist Kris Swift adopted the bus stop at Lamar and 5th, along with two others along Lamar, through our Adopt-a-Stop program, which encourages community ownership and stewardship of neighborhood bus stops. Capital Metro worked with him over several months to bring his art idea to fruition, and it makes the bus stop on that corner an eye-popping focal point amid the “cement jungle.”

Kris donated his time and materials to the project. Why did he do it? For one thing, like many artists, he thinks art should be freely-available for everyone. He referred to this particular installation as an “urban intervention.” He hopes to eventually install art at the other two bus stops he adopted.  Check out this little impromptu interview he gave while out there today.  And, while you’re at it, check out the photo gallery.

You can adopt a stop, too. It’s uber cheap to adopt a stop and show your civic pride of your neighborhood.  For a mere $35, we’ll hang a sign singing your praises right there at the bus stop. You agree to check in periodically at your stop, show it some TLC between cleanings, and to let us know right away if something needs our attention. Of course, you can get creative, and we will work with you to incorporate your ideas at the bus stop. A local school landscaped their adopted stop, for example. Another couple adopted a neighborhood stop and dedicated it to their beloved deceased dog, Boogers, and one neighborhood adopted six around their ‘hood.   You can show your bus stop some love, too, and Adopt-a-Stop today!

And, don’t forget to swing by 5th and Lamar to check out the art…

I’m so proud!

Let’s Hear it for Rail Safety!

For the last two years, Capital Metro has been working on getting a rail safety message out to the community. We use a program called Operation Lifesaver, as well as some cool innovative ways of spreading our message. Capital Metro has presented a rail safety message to over 33,000 (LOTS!) students over the last year. We’ve shared the message at innumerable events and fairs, and we’ve even done a couple of contests (you may have seen the earlier blog about our poster competition).

Another of those innovative rail safety strategies is our coordination with the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. They created the first-ever Rail Safety Patch Program (now becoming a national model).

Girl Scouts Troop 2059 decided to earn the patch, so last week I went up to Leander to assist them in completing the final requirements. I gave them our Operation Lifesaver presentation, we watched a rail safety video, and then they showed me the rail safety cheer they wrote. It was TOO CUTE!

Using the acronym ACORN (the message we’ve been preaching all over Central Texas), they came up with this:

A is for Always look both ways
C is for Cross only at crosswalks
O is for Obey all signals
R is for Railroad tracks are for trains only
N is for Never try to outrun a train

I was SO impressed with their creativity and energy! I know they are going to be great rail safety advocates in their neighborhoods, and am so happy that our message is filtering through the area.

Thanks Troop 2059!