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Capital Metro to hire consultant to study fare structure

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 by Michael Kanin

Capital Metro officials are preparing to hire a firm to conduct an analysis of its rate structures. According to CapMetro President and Chief Executive Officer Linda Watson, the transit authority will adopt a new fare policy based on the recommendations in the study sometime this fall.


The news came as Watson presented Travis County Commissioners with their annual Capital Metro update. Watson told the commissioners that the study would be conducted so that the organization “can put the appropriate policies and process in place so that we can have a sustainable fare system over time.


Watson added that the study would look at “fare sensitivity and other issues.” She further noted that the new policy would “lay out a plan for our board to follow in years to come for fare increases.”


Watson took the reins at Capital Metro less than two years ago. When she did, she inherited a troubled, expensive, and delayed commuter rail line and a fair amount of negative feeling. On Tuesday, she told the court that CapMetro had “achieved a lot, but we’ve only just begun.


“I can tell you that our organization is prepared and has the tools to continue making progress in providing high quality transportation that this community deserves,” she continued.


Among other advances, Watson was able to report that her organization’s reserves – which had been significantly depleted – were back to $20 million. She added that the agency would meet its legislature-mandated reserve balance of $45 million by 2016. Watson gave the credit to interim Capital Metro Chief Financial Officer Billy Hamilton. “He has helped us put together the tools that this agency has been needing for sometime,” she said. “For the first time ever, we have a long-term financial plan. For the first time ever we have a five-year capital improvement program.”


The commissioners’ appointee to the Capital Metro board, Beverly Silas, infused a set of now-familiar ridership improvement figures with a fresh collection of South bySouthwest-fueled numbers. “(On) the last Saturday of South by Southwest…our rail ridership was in excess of 7,000,” Silas said. “Last year we had overflow buses of three, this year we had overflow buses of seven.”


“We have proven that (rail) has been very successful and that people in Austin will ride rail,” added Watson later.


The Capital Metro report was delivered as the Austin City Council makes ready to hear and decide on the inclusion of a potential Urban Rail funding package in a 2012 bond election. The managing authority of that project remains undetermined.

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