Tag Archives: Capital Metro

Austin Transit Partnership gears up for key decisions on light rail design – The Austin Bulldog


Capital Metro plans to resume most services Tuesday morning.


City considers removing benches at new homeless hotspot | kvue.com Austin

Forget about the handicapped and other customers that need to use the benches while waiting for the bus. Can’t they find another solution? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! http://www.kvue.com/news/Should-city-removed-benches-at-new-homeless-hotspot–167233245.html

Capital Metro Transit – Austin, Texas


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Cap Metro board votes to outsource bus routes

Cap Metro board votes to outsource bus routes.


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Published: 9:42 p.m. Monday, June 27, 2011

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All Capital Metro bus routes will be run by a private company by August 2012 , the transit agency’s board decided unanimously Monday.

The eight-member board left unaddressed for now the parameters of that change, salary terms and the rights of existing bus drivers and mechanics. What the board decides about those issues will determine whether the legislatively mandated change saves the agency money.

That decision will affect about 810 union workers and could spark official complaints to federal regulators that could threaten $50 million in federal grants Capital Metro hopes to get this year.

About 150 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, joined by some San Antonio transit workers, rallied outside Capital Metro headquarters in East Austin before Monday’s meeting. During an almost hour-long, closed-door meeting on the subject, union members more than once broke into the labor anthem, “Solidarity Forever.”

Larry Looney, who has driven Capital Metro buses since 1997, said that moving to the private sector the estimated 70 percent of bus service now run by an agency subsidiary could hurt passengers. “It affects safety, customer service and the maintenance of the buses,” he said. “You have a for-profit company, and they’re going to cut corners.”

Before the vote, board members cast themselves as caught between a desire to protect workers and a need to repair agency finances battered by more than $300 million of spending on rail and other facilities in the past decade.

“The current path that we’re on is not sustainable. We have to make some changes,” said board Chairman Mike Martinez, also an Austin City Council member.

The agency will solicit bids from private companies to operate the routes, likely by September.

This spring, the Legislature passed a bill, later signed by the governor, requiring Capital Metro to outsource all of its bus routes — about 30 percent of service is already operated by private companies under contract with the agency — or bring all workers in-house. That second option would have needed the acquiescence of the union, because it would require members to give up their collective bargaining rights, including the option to strike.

The contractors currently operating some Capital Metro routes, including the University of Texas shuttle bus system, pay their workers several dollars per hour less. And Local 1091, with a unanimous vote of about 120 members, indicated it had no interest in giving up collective bargaining.

Given that the new law required the change to occur by Sept. 1, 2012, the board had little choice. Agency officials have said they might stipulate some sort of wage floor in a contract with a private operator.

An analysis earlier this year by the Texas Transportation Institute found that Capital Metro could save $71 million by 2020 and almost $230 million by 2032 by outsourcing all of its service, a study that assumed lower pay by private contractors.

bwear@statesman.com; 445-3698

Rail plan features 40 stations, new spur to Hancock Center

Rail plan features 40 stations, new spur to Hancock Center

via Rail plan features 40 stations, new spur to Hancock Center.

Rail plan features 40 stations, new spur to Hancock Center

Conceptual plan now goes to public for comments, and a two-year-long environmental review.

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The City of Austin’s latest version of a proposed light rail line shows more than 40 potential stations, some of them only a few blocks apart downtown, as well as a possible spur extending from the University of Texas up Red River Street to Hancock Center.

And the conceptual map, which will be presented to the public next week at a series of “scoping” meetings for a federal environmental impact study on the project, also narrows river-crossing options to two: Congress Avenue or a new bridge about a quarter mile to the east.

The project retains much of the route and concepts that have been public for some time: 16.5 miles of double-tracked line running electric-powered trains on city streets linking the Mueller neighborhood, the University of Texas, the Capitol complex, downtown and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The estimated cost, which has more than doubled since the project gained public traction in 2007, remains at $1.3 billion.

All of this is subject to change as the city embarks on the environmental study process estimated to take two years. That timetable puts federal approval some months after the November 2012 election, which Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and other city leaders have said probably will include a bond issue of $200 million or more for the rail project’s first, central phase. City officials have not decided on that first section.

“There are important decisions we will make in the environmental process, and the community input will impact those determinations,” said Karla Villalon , spokeswoman for the city Transportation Department. “And those will affect the ultimate cost.”

The city will host five meetings on the project next week, presenting the plan as it stands now and taking written comments both at the meetings and by mail. The public, aside from discussing the details, can also address the big-picture question of whether to undertake the project at all. The environmental study presents three possible scenarios for Austin’s transit future: “no-build,” essentially the current road network and transit options; “better bus,” which includes the rapid bus technology Capital Metro plans for two busy corridors; and what the city is calling “Urban Rail.”

Stations would be three to five blocks apart downtown and along the various spurs extending to West Campus, Mueller, Hancock Center and the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Along East Riverside Drive, the stations would be between a half mile and a mile apart.

As for the river crossing, city officials in the past have indicated reluctance to use Congress Avenue because the trains could disturb the bat colony underneath the bridge, construction would disrupt traffic along a key entrance to downtown, and retrofitting the bridge for rail would be costly. The alternative route would come down Trinity Street, zigzag to the east near the mouth of Waller Creek, hit the river’s south bank on or near the eastern property line of the American-Statesman, and make its way to Riverside via a two-lane road running through a Texas Department of Transportation office complex.

City officials talked to Statesman executives last week, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Eddie Burns said, and have had discussions with other nearby property owners. Those negotiations are in their infancy. “We’ve said, ‘let’s talk,’ ” Burns said.

The trains would run in lanes shared with cars downtown and in other areas with established development hugging the street. The trains would have traffic signal pre-emption equipment, which would allow the engineer to turn red lights to green and extend green lights. Otherwise, however, the train cars, and their ability to meet a schedule, would be at the mercy of traffic as is the case with Capital Metro buses now.

But other places, such as along East Riverside Drive, where the road’s footprint could be expanded at a reasonable cost, and perhaps in Mueller, the trains likely would run on separate lanes. Guadalupe and Lavaca streets downtown might have a lane reserved for trains and buses; cars could use it only for right turns.

The map released by the city shows the Red River Street spur going only as far as the MetroRail line on Hancock Center’s northeast side. It does not cross Interstate 35 and continue to the Mueller neighborhood.

Villalon said it is unlikely both the Manor Road route to Mueller and the Red River spur would be built. However, she said, if the city proceeded with the Red River spur, it would likely be extended northeast to Mueller, the nascent neighborhood on the site of Austin’s former airport.

“One way or another,” Villalon said, “we intend to get to Mueller.”

bwear@statesman.com, 445-3698

Having your say

The city will be holding public meetings next week to present its preliminary light rail plan and take written public comments. Such comments may be submitted at the meetings shown below, or mailed to Urban Rail Project, Austin Transportation Department, P.O. Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767-1088. The meetings will occur:

Monday, April 4, 2 to 5 p.m., at the Austin Convention Center (meeting room 3 on the first floor), 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.;

Wednesday, April 6, 5 to 8 p.m., at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (first floor conference room), 4700 Mueller Blvd.;

Thursday, April 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (classroom 103 on the first floor), 1900 University Ave.;

Thursday, April 7, 5 to 8 p.m., at the George Washington Carver Museum (museum foyer), 1165 Angelina St.; and

Saturday, April 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Ruiz Branch Library (meeting rooms), 1600 Grove Blvd.

Rail glossary

Light rail: electric-powered cars that might be somewhat longer than a traditional streetcar, with overhead power lines; runs on city streets with cars, or in its own exclusive right of way; can have closely spaced stops; and usually 10-20 minute intervals between cars.

Streetcar: typically electric-powered cars of modest length with overheard power lines; runs on city streets in traffic with cars; stops every few blocks; and usually 10-20 minute intervals between cars. Term can be used interchangeably with light rail, according to American Public Transportation Association.

Commuter rail: diesel-powered cars, often double-decker Amtrak-style cars; usually runs on exclusive right of way; stops widely spaced, often by many miles; 30-minute to one-hour interval between cars. Capital Metro’s MetroRail is considered commuter rail.

Urban rail: term coined by City of Austin to refer to its proposed light rail train service, with electric-powered vehicles and stops or stations at intervals that vary from a few blocks to more than a mile near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | TOP STORIES | Cap Metro fires Veolia; hires new contractors

News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | TOP STORIES | Cap Metro fires Veolia; hires new contractors.

Updated: 12/9/2009 11:23 AM
By: News 8 Austin Staff

Cap Metro officials said this change will not affect the estimated timeline.  

Capital Metro officials announced Wednesday their termination of a contract with Veolia Transportation.


Veolia Transportation is the rail and maintenance company that was responsible for the MetroRail project.

Cap Metro officials said Veolia was demanding term changes to the contract for the completion of the rail line, and it didn’t want to burden the community with additional costs and risks to meet those demands.

More Information

News 8’s Jenna Hiller explains why Cap Metro cancelled its contract with Veolia and what happens next.

Capital Metro Board of Directors voted to approve two new contracts with two different companies Wednesday afternoon.

Herzog Transit Services will take over the commuter rail contract. According to a press release, the company is ready to begin work immediately. Herzog operates passenger rail systems in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Watco Companies Inc. will take over the freight line contract. Watco has been operating Capital Metro freight lines in Austin since October 2007.

Cap Metro officials said this change will not affect the estimated timeline.

Stay with News8Austin.com for more on this developing story.

Capital Metro | Austinites with disabilities concerned about CapMetro bus stops | KXAN.com

Capital Metro | Austinites with disabilities concerned about CapMetro bus stops | KXAN.com.

Austinites with disabilities raise concerns

Updated: Thursday, 15 Oct 2009, 12:07 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 15 Oct 2009, 6:30 AM CDT

AUSTIN (KXAN) – David Wittie has waited for years for buses to start picking him up at local bus stops.

But Wittie, who uses a wheelchair, often gets left behind or told to try again somewhere else, because some CapMetro bus stops are not equipped to help Wittie get himself and his chair onto the bus from the stop.

“I’ve been passed by buses before,” said David Wittie of Adapt of Texas. “[Bus drivers have said] ‘I can’t pick you up here, please go to the next stop.'”

Wittie is among several Austinites with disabilities who are complaining about Capital Metro accessibility, and claim the agency has a slow reaction to their plight.

But Adam Shaivitz of Capital Metro said the agency is aware of the complaints and has been trying to update the stops to the most current standards set out by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The stops are technically legal, because they comply with the standards in place at the time they were built, but Shaivitz said the agency agrees they need to be updated.

“Capital Metro has been working diligently on bus stop improvements,” said Shaivitz. “The staff did a presentation [in May 2008] regarding tracking the various stops and which ones are in line for improvement.”

Here’s a list of more than 200 bus stops that were improved within the last year, according to CapMetro – some of which include simple modifications such as bench pads.

Few improvements are what Wittie and the others said are “needed improvements” for people with disabilities.

“They put in a bench,” said Wittie. “[That’s] an amenity improvement, not accessibility improvement.”

Some are in places that are impossible for people who use wheelchairs to maneuver. They are built next to curbs with no ramps, or they are in front of parking spots filled with cars, so it is impossible for buses to see them waiting.

“Not only is [one] bus stop blocking the accessible parking spot, it’s not able to deploy a ramp,” Wittie said. “That bus stop should have never been placed there. When they place bus stops, they should consider accessibility in their choice.”

In some cases, bus drivers are passing by the inaccessible stops since they know they cannot pick up disabled patrons, Wittie said. This could be due to any number of reasons, like poor placement or a dysfunctional platform.

“We don’t want to get hurt; we don’t want to get killed,” said Mary Steele, an Austinite who also uses a wheelchair. “If I have to roll down the street with no lights just to have the bus driver pass me by, that’s putting me in danger.”

Wittie has waited to file a formal complaint with the Department of Justice because he still hopes CapMetro will take action. 

“[Steele] prays for CapMetro to find the solution everyday,” mentioned Wittie. “The Department of Justice is one of the options we’ve considered. Not only is this issue irresponsible, but their board of directors has chosen to ignore the issue.”

Wittie and Shaivitz both said dialogue has been open between the two groups – even if Wittie believes it has not always been successful.

“Our staff is interested in having additional meetings with Mr. Wittie and his organization, since their input is an extremely important part of the process,” Shaivitz said.

The struggle between CapMetro and residents who said they are taking too long to fulfill their promises to them has been going on for years. Wittie and Steele both said they have lodged complaints with CapMetro and that, at first, CapMetro worked with the disabled community to see what needed to happen.

“We’ve had problems for 17 years after the [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements went into effect,” said Witties. “We worked with CapMetro many times; we trained them in 1998 on the bus-stop accessibility project.”

Still, Wittie said, CapMetro has not taken any significant action on their bus stops since that meeting.

“In 2003, we said, ‘What’s the deal? You need to get this moving,'” recalled Wittie, who said he feels like a “second-class citizen” when dealing with the agency.

“I know people have been waiting for years, and they expect us to sit around and wait more [for these improvements],” mentioned Steele.

Steele has spent the last four months actively complaining, showing up at CapMetro public meetings and voicing strong dissent with the inaction.

“People on the phone [at CapMetro] said they are going to report [her complaints], but [when I call back,] they say they have heard nothing of the complaints,” said Steele. “So, I guess Capital Metro likes to lie. If I tell you something I will do and then I don’t do it, isn’t that a lie?”

Shaivitz said that without dates on the complaints, he could not confirm they were filed. Steele said she did not remember the exact dates of those complaints.

Despite the progress CapMetro officials said the agency is making , Steele said is at her wit’s end regarding the issue.

“A lot of [people at the public meetings] were looking at me and saying, ‘She’s so upset,'” Steele said. “They have made promise after

promises after promises that it will be fixed. [Wittie] has been waiting for 10 years.”

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Rail line offers less, costs more I KXAN.com

Rail line offers less, costs more I KXAN.com.


Red Line also will offer fewer runs, fewer stops

Updated: Tuesday, 15 Sep 2009, 6:09 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 15 Sep 2009, 5:13 AM CDT

AUSTIN (KXAN) – It was supposed to begin runs in early 2008, but numerous delays have pushed the start date of the Capital Metro Red Line to well past this September.

According to Capital Metro’s proposed budget for next year, the Red Line, after numerous starts and stops, might leave the station in October. But when it’s up and running, Cap Metro said there will be fewer trains making fewer stops carrying what will be fewer passengers than what the transit agency has projected all along. The new Cap Metro budget, in fact, expects 23 percent fewer riders than the agency projected in last year’s budget.

KXAN News found those aren’t the only areas where Cap Metro’s projections are wrong. The numbers show the cost of running the rail system is at least $4 million more a year than the original estimate presented to voters five years ago. That sounds like a lot of money to long-time rail opponent Jim Skaggs.

“Their estimate was $2 million, and now they say $6.5 million. That doesn’t include all the costs. (It) doesn’t include a number of things they are going to be paying for,” Skaggs said. “You’re talking $5 or $6 million over their estimate, and you say that’s annually, spread that over 20 years, and you’re talking about pretty big dollars.”

On Election Night 2004, Austin voters approved Cap Metro’s plans to operate a 32-mile commuter rail line from Leander to downtown Austin. After a prior failed referendum on rail, local leaders were jubilant.

“It’s about vision, about our future, about dealing with population growth,” said mayor Will Wynn at the time. “Most say we’ve got to change the paradigm.”

But not everyone was celebrating, including Skaggs, who preferred road construction over a big-ticket transit system.

“As we go forward and Capital Metro falters in achieving what they promised, the public will know it’s not being accomplished,” Skaggs predicted at the time.

Fast-forward five years. At the time the 2004 election was held, Capital Metro sent a brochure to voters, detailing a modest bare bones project estimted to cot no more than $60 million. According to the literature, half of that original funding would come from local funds and half from federal matching dollars.

The election brochure also estimated an annual $5 million to operate the commuter rail line. That included leasing trains.

The $30 million in matching funds never materialized. In fact, Cap Metro admits the agency never applied for the funds. So what about that proposed $60 million start-up cost?

In a May 2007 letter to the community from Capital Metro President Fred Gilliam, Gilliam wrote, “In 2004, we projected the capital costs of our track improvements, maintenance facility, and stations to be $60 million. At the present time, we believe our final costs will be approximately $5 million lower. This lower cost includes the addition of the Union Pacific flyover bridge — a $6.9 million project — that was not included in the 2004 cost estimate…”

By 2009, however, Cap Metro has claimed a budget that has ballooned to $105 million. The agency, however, claims the $105 million tally includes other costs. The $60 million was the orginal capital costs. Add to that the cost of the rail cars, plus the flyover and maintenance facility, and the total now is up to $105 million.

But the records obtained under the public information act show even more costs. The $105 million doesn’t include more than $1 million paid to design a rail station it didn’t build. Nor does it include costs shifted to other Capital Metro programs. Neither the capital cost, nor the annual operating budget, account for the additional $7.9 million it eventually will cost to finance the rail cars.

That’s just the capital budget. What about that $5 million dollar annual operating cost originally promised? That total no longer includes the annual $4.4 million in lease-purchase payments. Now that it no longer includes the yearly $4.4 million in lease/purchase payments, the budget should drop dramatically.

But records show MetroRail’s operating cost for this year, however, is expected to be more than $6.5 million, and the proposed budget for next year is an estimated $6.6 million.

“Well, as you develop these projects, you make estimates of what things are going to cost five years in the future, and to be on a budget of more than $4 million on out of how many millions of dollars on an annual budget, I think you’re getting into levels of detail that probably aren’t accurate to be focused on,” said Doug Allen of Capital Metro.

But, still, $4 million can buy a lot of stuff. And when you multiply that by 20 years, this additional cost bump is more than the original estimated cost to start up the 32-mile commuter rail line.

“The bigger picture here that you need to hopefully look at is that what was represented to the public was a low-cost rail system using the infrastructure we had, and that the operating costs was going to be in this neighborhood,” Allen said. “What’s being delivered is

a higher quality system for essentially the cost that we said it would cost.”



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