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Workman’s bill could help Lake Travis town ditch Capital Metro

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Leaders of one of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s original members are hoping a state lawmaker can help them in their quest to quit the transit agency.

Earlier this month, state Rep. Paul Workman filed House Bill 2627, which is aimed at helping Lago Vista fast track another election to leave Capital Metro.

Last November, voters approved a referendum to stick with the agency by more than a 10 percent margin. Ultimately, 1,789 Lago Vistans gave the thumbs up to the ballot question, which per state mandated language asked, “Shall the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority be continued in the City of Lago Vista?”

Two other associated questions that dealt with how the city would spend its money if voters had opted to leave also passed, both by similar margins. That led Mayor Dale Mitchell to speculate that high turnout may have short-circuited the results.

“We think with all the presidential hooplah that voters did not know essentially what they were voting on,” Mitchell told the Austin Monitor on Monday.

If Workman’s bill survives the 85th Texas Legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lago Vista voters could see a ballot that instead of asking they want to keep Capital Metro around will inquire, “Shall the City of Lago Vista withdraw from the Capital Metropolitan Organization?”

The bill would also decrease the wait time between elections from five years to just one. If all goes according to plan, Lago Vista voters could hypothetically take another shot at the referendum this November.

However, Mitchell told the Monitor that the city likely won’t be able move that quickly. “It may not be a 2017 election item, but we would then probably posture ourselves to revisit it and come up with a more fleshed out plan that we would make sure the citizens understood in the next election,” he said.

A third piece of Workman’s bill could also reduce the costs most Capital Metro members face if they decide to ditch the agency. State law ensures that cities are responsible for coughing up any outstanding financial commitments made to the agency before a vote to withdraw. Mitchell estimated that Lago Vista would have owed Capital Metro $950,000 had voters opted to leave.

Workman’s bill would exempt from that amount any money that would go towards MetroRail if that service is not available in a given community.

“Because we never anticipate them running a rail line to Lago Vista,” Mitchell explained.

Based on current service levels, that prediction is sound. Currently, Capital Metro only operates one bus in Lago Vista, the No. 214 Northwest Feeder, which connects Lago Vista to Jonestown and North Austin’s Lakeline Station.

According to Capital Metro, the No. 214 has an annual ridership of 27,030 passengers. The cost to operate the line is $573,750. Under Connections 2025, the agency’s recently approved service plan, by 2027, the route will cost the same to operate but only serve 23,460 passengers per year.

Mitchell said that his city sent approximately $420,000 in sales tax revenue to the agency last year. He suggested that his city would look for more efficient methods of getting residents who don’t drive to their destinations.

“Off the top of my head, I would say we could run a couple of shuttles from Lago Vista to Cedar Park’s medical facilities at a fairly reduced cost,” said Mitchell.

When asked for comment on HB 2627, a Capital Metro spokesperson replied, “We will monitor this legislation and work with the interested stakeholders throughout the legislative session.”

Photo by Nicolas Henderson made available through a Creative Commons license.

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