With $319M budget proposal, Capital Metro optimistic ridership will rebound

The Capital Metro board of directors discussed the fiscal year 2021-22 budget during a meeting July 19. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Capital Metro board of directors discussed the fiscal year 2021-22 budget during a meeting July 19. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Capital Metro board of directors discussed the fiscal year 2021-22 budget during a meeting July 19. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)

Capital Metro presented a $319.1 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2021-22, a $41 million increase compared to last year. The increase reflects the public transit agency’s optimism that ridership will return to prepandemic levels.

Capital Metro also plans to add 43 new employees, primarily within the information technology department and as a part of its public safety restructuring, which it expects will save money in the future.

“We have small savings for cutting back on the number of [Austin Police Department] uniform part-time shifts that we're doing with a much more substantial savings in future fiscal years,” said Kevin Conlan, deputy chief financial officer at Capital Metro.

The majority of the budget, $183.8 million, would go toward purchased transportation, which is largely driver salaries. That number represented a $15.1 million increase compared to last year.

The proposal also listed Capital Metro’s capital project funding, which detailed significant investment in electrifying the bus fleet. Over five years, the public transit agency plans to spend $115.5 million on purchasing 110 electric buses as well as $34.7 million for charging infrastructure.

The capital project also included a $12 million contribution to the Broadmoor rail station—part of a new transit-oriented development near the Domain—as well as $4 million over five years for bus station improvements. Those improvements will aim to create better shading and lighting for riders.

For revenue, Capital Metro projects an injection of funding from federal coronavirus relief programs. The budget reveals $172.3 million in revenue from operating contributions and grants, compared to $75.7 million forecasted in FY 2020-21 and $117.1 million in FY 2019-20.

Of those grants, the American Rescue Plan Act accounted for $128.2 million and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act for $66.2 million.

The budget projects $290.8 million in sales tax revenue, compared to the $277.5 million forecasted for FY 2020-21. Capital Metro does not plan to increase fares in FY 2021-22.

The board is scheduled to give its final approval Sept. 27 and will have a public hearing on the budget Sept. 15. Once approved, the budget will run from October 2021 to September 2022.
By Benton Graham

Metro Reporter, Austin

Benton joined Community Impact Newspaper as a metro reporter covering transportation in Central Texas in June 2021. Benton's writing has appeared in Vox, The Austin Chronicle, Austonia and Reporting Texas. Originally from Minneapolis, Benton graduated from William & Mary and eventually moved to Austin in 2018.


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