A free $70 MetroPlus pass could be yours…

Crickets. That’s what we heard last night at our first public budget priorities meeting. No one showed. (Well, one gentleman stopped in to share his feedback about route #3, but he wasn’t there for the meeting and wasn’t interested in staying.)

Low attendance is a challenge faced by a lot of public entities when they are trying to engage the public on an issue. Recently I chatted about that very topic on the blog, and about the SNAPPatx project that is gathering community input and dialogue on transportation topics via social media.  As a community, we’re developing different models and strategies for effectively getting public participation, but there are pros and cons to each strategy, and community meetings will continue to be the foundation of the outreach for a while yet. For a topic as complex as a ~$200 million operating and capital budget, the community meeting model is necessary to really delve into the details in an understandable way.

Last night was a downer because we have been working for a few months with our board to develop a more interactive, more proactive, and more inclusive public outreach process for creating Capital Metro’s budget for next year, FY2011 (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30).

Some of the ways this approach is new for Capital Metro:

Continue reading “A free $70 MetroPlus pass could be yours…”

CapMetro CEO search narrowed to two; meet the finalists May 17

After an extensive national search for a Capital Metro president/CEO that yielded 110 applicants, the Capital Metro Board has narrowed the field to two finalists.

Deborah Wathen Finn – President, The Wathen Group, LLC (New York City)

Linda S. Watson – CEO, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Orlando)

The board invites you to meet the candidates and hear their priorities for Capital Metro at a public forum/town hall on May 17, from 3-5 p.m. at IBC Bank (2817 Cesar Chavez).

At the forum, the candidates will make opening remarks and then take questions from the audience.

We realize that hosting the forum from 3 to 5 p.m. is not the ideal time for a lot of working people; unfortunately, this was the best available option. However, if you can’t make the public forum, you can still participate by submitting a question in advance. There are three ways to submit your question:

1. E-mail
2. Tweet it with the hashtag #capmetCEO
3. Post it here as a comment

The director of HR will select a few representative questions from all those received and pose them to the finalists on May 17. We’ll let you know how the candidates responded.

Channel 6 will film the forum, and while it cannot be broadcast live, we will post the dates and times it will be aired.

Continue reading “CapMetro CEO search narrowed to two; meet the finalists May 17”

Oh, SNAPP!

I’m really intrigued by a new transportation outreach project here in Austin. It’s called SNAPPatx (Social Networking and Planning Project), and it uses social media to get people talking about transportation. It also–and this is really the fascinating part–will track the types of transportation conversation trends that emerge through twitter, blogs, facebook, etc., and use the data to inform, shape and improve Austin’s Strategic Mobility Plan.

That idea really resonates with me at the moment, because we’re knee-deep in public meetings for the fall 2010 service change. Capital Metro has a pretty thorough outreach process for service changes. We start out by publishing the information on board the buses, on our Web site, and sometimes here on the blog. We encourage riders to call or email us with their feedback. Then we hit the street to talk to specific groups, neighborhoods and stakeholders that may be impacted by the proposed changes.  The Planning Dept. and our Business & Community Development team host open house events prior to the Capital Metro board making decisions, paying attention to geographic spread and accessibility. Finally, there’s a public hearing with the board. (In this case, there’s actually two: the second public hearing is April 15, noon to 1 p.m.) It’s a good process, although, admittedly, perhaps a bit old school. It’s hard to draw people to the meetings, for example, no matter how well the agency advertises.

And that’s the beauty of SNAPPatx–the focus is on soliciting input from people who don’t, won’t or can’t show up to “meetings.”

The SNAPPatx Web site aggregates all the local tweets, blogs, status updates, etc., that have to do with mobility in Austin. You can comment or reply to other people’s ideas, or you can post your own and watch it show up in the live stream.  It’s a project of the Texas Citizen Fund, who snagged a $98,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration to innovate/harness social media to facilitate a community dialogue.

I hope SNAPPatx is really successful, not only because the city needs a rockin’ good strategic mobility plan, but also because if it works, it  might be a model that could be replicated successfully for future Capital Metro outreach efforts.

Follow SNAPPatx on twitter or become a fan on Facebook. There’s a blog, too.