Our holiday tradition

My favorite holiday tradition at Capital Metro is the annual caroling from our neighbors across the street at Brooke Elementary School. As a thank you to our employees who volunteer at Brooke and help needy families, each year the school puts on a holiday concert in our lobby. Without further ado, please enjoy the third, fourth and fifth graders’ rendition of Silent Night, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad:


COMTO salutes the best in Austin transportation

There will be many familiar faces in the crowd at the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Austin Chapter’s Inaugural Transportation Awards this Friday. Since Capital Metro’s the public transportation provider, it’s no surprise that in addition to our own winners, so many others on the list have a connection to us.

First, let’s start at the top. Capital Metro Board Member Beverly Silas’ day job (our board members serve on a volunteer basis) is running Beverly Silas and Associates, a public involvement/public affairs consulting firm. COMTO selected her firm as the Women Owned Business of the Year.

Linda S. Watson, Capital Metro’s president/CEO, is co-winner of the Executive of the Year award. Here’s an excerpt from Linda’s nomination:

Since the moment Linda S. Watson walked in the door as president/CEO of Capital Metro in 2010, her goal has been to raise the bar and transform the agency into the valuable and highly-respected public service that the community deserves.

Watson made organizational changes, developed a strong executive leadership team, improved business practices and lead the development of a new strategic plan that provides guidance, oversight and accountability for every decision Capital Metro makes.

The COMTO nomination committee must have had a hard time deciding this category. Linda will share the award with Bobby Stone who’s the executive director of UT’s Parking and Transportation Services. That still keeps the award in the Capital Metro extended family since we work closely with Bobby and his staff on UT Shuttle matters.

Continue reading “COMTO salutes the best in Austin transportation”

MetroRail motivation

It’s hard to get motivated when you start your day stuck in a bumper-to-bumper logjam on the highway. That’s why hundreds of people attending the Get Motivated seminar at the Austin Convention Center yesterday opted to ride MetroRail instead of tangling with traffic.

Customers leaving the Get Motivated senimar wait for the train at Downtown Station

Based on preliminary figures, we provided more than 2,800 trips on the train. That’s about 1,000 more than a typical weekday. In fact, we pulled in some extra buses to pick up passengers from the rail stations since there were so many people waiting to ride. 

Here’s what some of our customers said on Twitter yesterday:

Continue reading “MetroRail motivation”

Transit for Turkey Time

It’s almost turkey time, and if you hurry, you can gobble up a free bus pass for the 22nd annual Austin Feast of Sharing dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 4 – 8 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center.

Every year, Capital Metro and H-E-B team up to offer transportation for the event. Trot over to one of these stores and pick-up a free day pass (while supplies last) that’s valid only for the day of the feast:

  • H-E-B #1 – 2701 E. 7th St.
  • H-E-B #3 – 1000 E. 41st St.
  • H-E-B #8 – 2400 S. Congress Ave.
  • H-E-B #12 – 2508 E. Riverside Dr.
  • H-E-B #15 – 9414 N. Lamar

Then stuff your address into our trip planner to find the best route to get to 900 Barton Springs Road.

With the generous help of hundreds of people from H-E-B and other community volunteers, the Feast of Sharing will serve a bountiful Thanksgiving feast to more than 13,000 people from Austin, Travis County and surrounding communities.

If you aren’t quite ready for Thanksgiving, maybe this list will put you in the mood. The feast will include: Continue reading “Transit for Turkey Time”

MetroAccess: Change is good

“You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow.” 

That famous (but unattributed) quote is what I thought of when our MetroAccess staff gave a progress report to our operations and planning committee this month.

We have been systematically reinventing the service over the past two years, and the progress report showed dramatic improvements in terms of cost savings, consistency and quality of service. The biggest indicator is the improvement in our customer service metrics, which have been mostly exemplary for the past few months.

There’s one major change on the horizon, a new eligibility process, which will be implemented in November of this year. Here’s a video preview of that change:

I’ll go through all the changes and the compelling results in a moment, but first, a quick refresher on the service itself. MetroAccess is an on-demand, shared-ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities who are unable to ride the fixed-route bus system. In the industry it’s called “paratransit” because it is a parallel service to the bus system.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires paratransit within ¾ of a mile of regular local bus routes. It’s also important to note that the existence of a disability does not qualify someone for this service. It’s how a disability affects your ability to use the fixed route bus system that determines eligibility.

Here’s a look at the changes and progress: Continue reading “MetroAccess: Change is good”

Taking care of business

Op-Ed from Sunday’s Austin American-Statesman:

Watson: Capital Metro moving forward fiscally, transparently

Linda S. Watson, Local Contributor

Capital Metro is taking care of business and doing things differently these days. Some difficult but necessary budget decisions will put the organization on a stronger financial path for the future so we can continue to provide the high-quality service this community deserves.

Just like other public and private businesses and your family budget at home, we are facing tough economic times. But this is not the same Capital Metro that it was just a few years ago. We have raised the bar by strengthening our leadership, business practices and transparency. This progress is reflected in our proposed budget for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and in the recent recognition of Capital Metro by the Texas comptroller of public accounts as a leader in local government transparency.

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. Continue reading “Taking care of business”

The gold ball of transparency

Comptroller Gold Circle logo (gold ball with white stars)Guess how much Capital Metro paid last month for upholstery? Well, you don’t have to guess. The information is at your fingertips on the handy Financial and Audit Information Page on our website.

For the second straight year, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts is recognizing Capital Metro as a leader in local government transparency. The Comptroller calls it the Leadership Circle “Gold” certification.  The program recognizes local governments that strive to meet a high standard of financial transparency by opening their books to the public and providing information in a clear, consistent and user-friendly format.

Last year, Capital Metro was the first transit system in Texas and the first government agency in Austin area to receive the Gold designation.

Awards are nice, and we get to put the cool gold ball logo on our website again this year. But really what this is all about is doing what’s right. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard of openness, then you’ll have a much clearer picture of how Capital Metro does its business. And if you’re interested, you can pretty much see how every dollar is spent.

Here’s some of what you’ll be able to find online: Continue reading “The gold ball of transparency”

Show me the way

Have you seen Capital Metro’s award-winning visitor’s map?  Here’s an electronic version. But to get the full experience, you can swing by the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (ACVB) to get your very own hard copy free of charge. We just found out this week that the American Public Transportation Association awarded our map first prize in the coveted AdWheel competition.

The AdWheel Awards recognize outstanding work in transit marketing and communications. The award demonstrates that we’re doing our part to help make sure that out-of-towners have a positive experience as they travel in our city.

“The Capital Metro visitor map is a great tool to help visitors navigate the downtown area – especially for visitors traveling by foot,” said ACVB Director of Retail and Visitor Services Cheri Winterrowd. “The map features comprehensive points of interest, is easy to read – and the downtown hotels have said it’s a great tool for them as well.”

This award is also a great honor for my hip colleagues down the hall who work so hard to provide the maps, schedules and other materials that make riding Capital Metro a breeze.

Editorial board: Capital Metro on right deal track

Check out Sunday’s editorial in the Austin American-Statesman:

Capital Metro on right deal track

Editorial Board

Sunday, August 28, 2011

If Capital Metro is going to become financially solvent and provide better transit services to Central Texas communities, then labor and management are going to have to work together. That requires compromise.

We believe the proposed terms the Capital Metro board is offering in its move to hire an outside contractor to run bus services strike the right balance for all parties. Monday approval by the board is likely.

The proposal does not give the labor union everything it is demanding, but it does treat bus drivers and others who are affected fairly, by requiring private contractors to continue a good wage and benefit system. The proposal by Capital Metro goes in the right direction, and now it’s time for the labor union to show good faith by moving toward a compromise. Continue reading “Editorial board: Capital Metro on right deal track”