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Application deadline extended for Austin Transit Partnership board

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

Application deadlines have been extended to 5 p.m. on Dec. 2 for community members interested in serving on the five-member board of the Austin Transit Partnership, the independent organization that will oversee execution of Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Project Connect. The deadline was previously Nov. 27.

Applications will be reviewed by the Capital Metro-City Council joint nominating committee in early December. Selected nominees will be submitted for appointment at Council’s next scheduled joint meeting with the Capital Metro board on Dec. 18.

The Austin Transit Partnership board will include one member of Council, one member of the Capital Metro board and three Austin residents with expertise in finance, engineering and construction, and planning and sustainability. The board is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Jan. 20 to approve its bylaws, elect board officers, adopt an interim budget and approve interlocal agreements with the city and Capital Metro. The board will then turn its attention to hiring a third-party auditor and guiding design and construction of the transit plan’s initial investment.

“For a long time, the election felt like the finish line, but it’s the starting line,” Capital Metro chief counsel Kerri Butcher said Monday. “We started running months ago and are in full swing with Project Connect.”

As virtual National Environmental Policy Act community meetings kick off for the Orange and Blue light rail lines early next year, the city’s Equity Office will be leading the development of an equity assessment tool that accounts for Project Connect’s potential impacts on the human environment as well as the physical environment. The office intends to coordinate with the NEPA team to incorporate any relevant environmental findings into the equity tool.

“It makes sense that we would really be sort of aligned with each other and informing each other as a part of that process,” Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks said at last week’s meeting of Council’s Mobility Committee.

The office will work with an independent contractor to collaborate with the community in developing the equity assessment tool. Once the equity tool is in place, the contractor will use it to audit Project Connect’s performance.

With Project Connect moving forward, Capital Metro is now developing a new advisory committee to replace the Project Connect Ambassador Network. Jackie Nirenberg, Capital Metro’s community engagement manager, said the Austin Transit Partnership community advisory committee is “going to be key” in guiding anti-displacement strategies as part of Project Connect’s $300 million anti-displacement investment.

Oaks said the Equity Office is “really focused on the need to rebalance power and decision-making structures” as the transit system is further planned and constructed. Oaks added, “One of the ways that we feel that we can really do that is to make sure that we include and we involve people that have direct impact and who have lived experience into that decision-making process.”

The individual roles and responsibilities of the city, Capital Metro and the Austin Transit Partnership will be developed and approved in the tri-party joint powers agreement by the end of June 2021. Near the end of 2021, the three entities will meet to review independent audit reports and discuss system management.

Capital Metro is in the process of contracting with the Boston Consulting Group to create an Austin Transit Partnership road map as well as a Project Connect risk analysis.

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