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Citizens not jumping at chance to address Capital Metro on budget

Monday, June 7, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

Attendance has been low at a round of meetings Capital Metro has hosted to get feedback on budget planning and the Sunset Commission recommendations.

 

Two of the five attendees at Saturday’s town hall meeting at the Spicewood Springs Library were vocal advocates of MetroAccess. Another attendee complained the format did not allow her to offer broader feedback about the agency’s services. An online survey has already gathered significantly more input.

 

MetroAccess users at Saturday’s meeting, for instance, would have preferred to see MetroRail service cut altogether and the money devoted to paratransit services. The Sunset Commission report, on the other hand, recommended getting a handle on paratransit offerings and possibly limiting services or raising fares.

 

Right now MetroRail ridership is between 900 and 1,000 boardings a day, said John-Michael Cortez of Cap Metro’s community involvement team. Responding to a question about cuts, Cortez said that option was not among the recommendations being considered by Capital Metro’s board of directors.

 

The MetroAccess issue will be considered in a separate process this summer, Cortez said. Several attendees, some of whom had attended three different town hall meetings, considered the process to be nothing more than a foil for paratransit cuts. Instead, the board wanted to consider possible options for the next year.

 

Questions provided to the audience, once the basics of the budget were explained, were intended to tease out priorities. Cortez noted that some choices would be “the least objectionable of options” for some attendees. At Saturday’s meeting, which was also attended by Cap Metro’s new budget director, attendees preferred:

 

Options for increasing revenue: Increasing base fare by 25 cents and contract fares for the University of Texas and Austin Community College, with the least popular option being increasing MetroAccess fares.

 

Options for reducing costs: Reducing bus service and MetroAccess was at the bottom of the list, with a reduction in capital spending being the top choice

 

Options for potential “new” revenue: The preference was for additional local bus service, including MetroAccess options, over MetroRail service and express bus service. MetroAccess was cut for express routes in 2005, said attendees.

 

The attendees were split equally between preferring an increase in weekend service and no increase in MetroRail service.

 

Cortez encouraged the public to go to the Capital Metro Web site and take the online survey. A summary of community input will be presented to Capital Metro’s board of directors at the end of June. A budget will be adopted in September.

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