Foxx Brings TIGER To Austin

Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson is by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx following the announcement of Capital Metro’s TIGER Grant award.

Thursday marked a historic day for Capital Metro. Joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Capital Metro President and CEO, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, announced that Capital Metro was a recipient of an $11.3-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant.

The grant will enable Capital Metro to advance a number of rail improvements, including increasing the speed at which MetroRail trains operate, and beginning or completing several state-of-good- repair projects. Additionally, the funding will provide operational flexibility for future service enhancements.

The $11.3-million TIGER grant will support several commuter and freight rail enhancements at Capital Metro, including:

• Railway and signal timing improvements that will help reduce vehicle delays and rail traffic congestion.

• Commuter rail improvements, including additional sidings and double tracking in the most critical areas, which are projected to increase ridership capacity by 15 percent and reduce commute times by five to ten minutes.

• Freight rail enhancements, including the replacement of several bridges, and rail rehabilitation and realignments that will increase speeds and enhance safety while doubling freight capacity and improving reliability.

“These TIGER projects are the best argument you can make for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary Foxx. “Projects such as Austin’s efforts to improve its freight and passenger rail network, ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”

The reality is, MetroRail ridership is booming. Since the Red Line launched in 2010, ridership is up 225%, proving if you build it, they will come.

Rail Ridership Graph

And come they have. MetroRail is now averaging over 65,000 boardings a month, with trains at full capacity during peak hours. In 2012, we saw our one millionth passenger trip and it’s very clear to that demand is only going to increase as the region continues to grow.

It’s also clear that people have come to view MetroRail as one of their best options to connect to the places and events they want to go.

Take South by Southwest as an example. MetroRail first served the annual conference in 2011 and since then, ridership has increased by over 65%. But it’s not just SXSW — During the inaugural Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas, MetroRail had nearly 14,000 boardings, including almost 2,000 on the special Sunday service that was added to accommodate the demand. We’re expecting even more demand for MetroRail when race fans return to Austin this November. Also, nearly 22,000 people have taken MetroRail to get to the popular Pecan Street Festival since 2010.

The Red Line certainly gets people moving, and gets them to the places they want to be. It also gets them there on time. Historically, MetroRail has an on-time performance record of 99%.

But it’s not just MetroRail ridership that’s increased — economic development along the Red Line is booming.

For example, Midtown Commons is a transit-oriented development located next to Crestview station. Prior to MetroRail, this area was a brownfield—which means it was a former petrochemicals plant. Now, it’s a vibrant and modern, mixed-use development that includes a brewery, retail shops, live & work units, and apartments—with an integrated transit plaza that provides easy access to a wide variety of destinations.

In fact, Midtown Commons Manager, Heidi Piper, has said they located their development at Crestview as a commitment to providing housing in transit-rich locations.

MetroRail has been a factor in more than $95-million in new development so far around Capital Metro’s nine stations, with another $283-million in various stages of development.

Capital Metro was one of 52 recipients of TIGER grants.

More than 585 applications totaling $9 billion in requests were received for this round’s availability of $474 million grants. The money is designated as investments in high-impact port, road, rail and transit projects.

MetroRail's Downtown Station
MetroRail’s Downtown Station

Happy Trails To You…

Cap Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson (right), Austin City Councilman Chris Riley (center) & Bike Austin Executive Director Tom Wald (left)
Cap Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson (right), Austin City Councilman Chris Riley (center) & Bike Austin Executive Director Tom Wald (left)

The evolution of Capital Metro’s commitment to a walkable, bicycle-friendly, connected region continued Friday, August 02, 2013 as the urban trail connecting Crestview and Highland stations officially opened. The nearly one-mile long trail, created in conjunction with the City of Austin, connects transit hubs, businesses and the forthcoming Austin Community College (ACC) Highland Campus.

“The Crestview/Highland trail is really about connections and Capital Metro has been working hard to develop a comprehensive regional system, through efforts like Project Connect, to address the needs of a growing region,” said President/CEO Linda S. Watson. “Providing sustainable, safer transportation options like this trail extend the reach of the transit system and encourage healthy habits that will improve the quality of our communities. It also means we can offer more choices for people to get out of traffic and navigate the community in other ways.”

Joined by partners including the City of Austin, who displayed a demo of the forthcoming bike share program, Bike Austin, Bike Texas and CAMPO, the event showcased the best of what collaboration can do to create meaningful, useful solutions for everyone.

Also attending the trail opening were the Texas Rollergirls (who have their season-ending bout on August 10th. If you take Cap Metro to the Austin Convention Center for the finale, you can still receive $5 off at the door), Movability Austin, and Commute Solutions. Additionally, the Mexic-Arte Museum and Creative Action contributed with “art bikes” to help celebrate.

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Continue reading “Happy Trails To You…”

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”

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”

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:

Note from Linda S. Watson

A note from Capital Metro President and CEO Linda S. Watson:

I am very excited to be back in Texas, especially in Austin, the greatest city in the state!  In the first few weeks on the job as Capital Metro’s president and chief executive officer, I have already learned a great deal about the transit authority. I understand Capital Metro has been through a lot in the past years but I’m ready to push the bar higher, so the agency can achieve great things for our community.

I’ve developed seven key objectives for Capital Metro. They’re not secrets—they’re the same major goals the agency has been working on for months.

1) Work in partnership with the Board of Directors – When I was at LYNX in Orlando, I worked hard to rebuild trust in the community and stability within the organization. I am happy to say that we had great success and made good, constructive changes but it would have not been possible without the support and partnership I developed with the board.  I will do the same here; we have a great group of board members who are respected leaders in our community and care about transit. Continue reading “Note from Linda S. Watson”