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Two more Texas towns are considering leaving Capital Metro

Thursday, September 1, 2022 by Samuel Stark

Two more Austin suburbs – Lago Vista and Manor – have decided to hold an election this November to determine whether to pull out of their partnerships with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. These elections follow Leander’s vote in May, where residents ultimately decided to stay with the transit organization.

“Council, we have had several discussions on this. Personally, in my mind … it’s time to let the citizens decide,” Mayor Ed Tidwell said at a Lago Vista City Council meeting on Aug. 3. 

“We sit up here and look at the numbers, and we look at the contracts. The seven of us say, dude, this is a horrible thing,” Tidwell continued. “I think we can get much better service at a much lower price.” 

“I’ve been a lawyer for 35 years. I don’t like injustice. This feels like an injustice to me. It sucks,” Lago Vista Council Member Rob Durbin said. 

That night, the Lago Vista Council voted six to one in favor of adding the question to the ballot. 

Manor City Council also voted Aug. 3 to have a special election to decide whether to continue its Capital Metro partnership and sales tax revenue contribution. 

Both Lago Vista and Manor collect a 2 percent sales tax, or 2 cents for every dollar spent within their city limits. One cent goes to Capital Metro, and the other goes back to their cities’ general funds. Voters from both cities will also decide in the same election whether to continue collecting a 2 percent sales tax. If they vote to continue, the freed-up 1 percent, or one cent, will also go to the cities’ general funds.  

More money in a general fund could go to funding other essential city services, such as maintaining city streets and other projects. 

Currently, in Lago Vista, Capital Metro offers one fixed-route bus service, PickupRideShare and MetroAccess paratransit. There were 528 riders on the Lago Vista fixed route service in June 2022. Before the pandemic closures, the route’s ridership exceeded 1,300 trips monthly. 

In Manor, Capital Metro offers an express bus route service (Route 990) and Pickup service. In July 2022, there were 711 riders on its bus service. The ridership on Route 990 has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

The Capital Metro Board of Directors does not want to see these two cities pull out of their partnerships. Supporting growth throughout the region, including in cities outside of Austin’s city limits, is part of Capital Metro’s strategic plan.

“It’s in Cap Metro’s best interest to figure out how to make that relationship work so that we can be the regional system that we want to be,” Becki Ross, a Capital Metro board member and Leander City Council member, said. “I don’t think that these small cities have felt like they mattered.” 

So far, the board does not know what specifically Capital Metro could do to facilitate a more harmonious relationship with the towns, but they will continue trying. 

Kerri Butcher, Capital Metro chief of staff, said it was unsurprising that Lago Vista City Council voted to have this question on the ballot in November. The question was already put to the voters in 2016, and in that election, voters decided to keep ties with Capital Metro. 

“(Lago Vista has) been very transparent that they need the funding to do other things in their community,” Butcher said.

Conversely, Manor’s decision to hold the vote was more unexpected, Butcher said. 

“(Manor has) not made any asks of us,” Butcher said. “We have offered to both (cities) to work with them on anything that might make Metro more valuable.”

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