Cap Metro 2020: Sounds Like a Plan
Board gives early nod to restructuring of routes and schedules
Almost without debate, the Capital Metro board of directors on Monday gave preliminary approval to Service Plan 2020, staff's attempt to restructure routes and schedules to provide service that is more efficient, both in terms of time and dollars, over the next decade. The plan was developed by the Seattle-area firm Perteet Inc. (see "Cap Metro Turns Toward a 2020 Vision," Feb. 19).
The biggest debate – which wasn't much – was on whether the vote could be postponed. Board chair and Austin mayor pro tem Mike Martinez asked if it was critical that the plan be adopted immediately. "It is not essential, but it is desirable that it be adopted today in terms of our planning process for the fall," replied Todd Hemingson, vice president of strategic planning and development for the agency. The agency's current schedule is to conduct public outreach in early March, hold a public hearing later that month, and seek final board approval in April, with implementation to begin in August.
Some users have expressed concern over particular routes, and others said the public input process during the plan's development hadn't been thorough enough. People from the disabled community had the strongest worry: Current plans call for one route into the Wells Branch area (route 243, at the northern end of the service area) to be truncated. Since Capital Metro has decided, as a cost-saving measure, to stick to the minimum requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act – which require paratransit service within three-fourths of a mile of any route – anyone needing such service in that neighborhood would be out of luck.
Board member and Austin City Council Member Chris Riley asked if it would be possible to grandfather paratransit users in that area. Inez Evans, director of paratransit services, replied that some grandfathering currently exists: "There are 410 consumers who live outside the three-quarters mile ADA corridor, and we are working on a process to notify those customers that they need to come into the service area."
Diane Bomar-Aleman – who, as chair of the Access Advisory Committee, has struggled with the agency on such issues – reminded board members that the three-fourths-mile corridor is a minimum requirement. "ADA does not prohibit going outside three-fourths of a mile," she said. Aleman also criticized proposals to move most bus traffic off Congress Avenue and onto the Guadalupe/Lavaca corridor. "I think you're sending a real message with this. ... It gives the impression that buses and the people that ride them are undesirable on Congress Avenue."
Board Vice Chair John Langmore asked for clarification that no route changes were set in stone until the final approval stage, after the additional public input process. "I don't want to water down this effort," replied Hemingson. "This was a major effort. We spent a lot of time and effort. I understand criticisms of our public engagement process. We're not perfect, but we did ... extensive outreach.
"Informal action to approve specific service changes will occur at each phase. But at the same time, I do hope the board will agree that by adopting the plan, you all are saying this is the framework Capital Metro intends to use over the next five to 10 years to implement bus service changes."
"I'll submit that this board retains full policy-making ability," replied Martinez. "This is a plan."
The board adopted the plan unanimously. The additional public input is yet to be scheduled.