Community advocates give thumbs up to Project Connect power-sharing document

The joint powers agreement sets out the responsibilities of the three organizations overseeing Project Connect. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
The joint powers agreement sets out the responsibilities of the three organizations overseeing Project Connect. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

The joint powers agreement sets out the responsibilities of the three organizations overseeing Project Connect. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

The joint powers agreement has the approval of all three government bodies overseeing Project Connect after the Austin Transit Partnership board of directors voted to approve it during its Nov. 17 board meeting.

The document identifies the responsibilities of the three groups involved with carrying out Project Connect: the Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro and the city of Austin. It received approval from Capital Metro on Nov. 10 and from Austin City Council on Nov. 4.

“It's not perfect, but then again, what is perfect? I think it was negotiated in the spirit of true compromise between the three bodies, and I think it's a good document,” Board Member Tony Elkins said. “What I'd like to say to the community is, ‘We heard you.’”

The document initially faced opposition from a coalition of community groups during a joint meeting among the three groups Oct. 29. The coalition raised questions about equity language, labor oversight and who would be tasked with running the ATP.

Awais Azhar, a member of the Planning Our Communities leadership team and ATX Mobility Coalition, said he appreciates the openness of the three groups to change the agreement.


“I think at last we're in a place where this really gets us closer to what we would have wanted,” Azhar said. “I think this is closer to the intent of what we would have hoped for, and to be honest, I think what everybody hoped for.”

He added the document now addresses concerns raised by the ATX Mobility Coalition around equity, labor and ATP leadership. In particular, he said the document provides a framework for developing equity goals and gives the Community Advisory Committee, a group that advises the three parties on equity considerations, a clear role in creating those goals.

As for ATP leadership, Elkins amended the document during the Nov. 17 board meeting to give board Chair Veronica Castro de Barrera and the ATP general counsel the authority to identify a process for conducting an independent analysis on an appropriate leadership model for the organization.

The Workers Defense Fund, another group that raised concerns about the agreement’s labor oversight, told Community Impact Newspaper that it plans to release a statement later this week.
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.