Capital Metro’s board of directors has pushed back a vote on the Connections 2025 service plan changes to give members more time to analyze the financial ramifications of eliminating bus service and exploring innovative transit options.

The agency hosted a work session today to answer questions from board members ahead of a scheduled Jan. 23 vote on the plan. However, board members had additional questions regarding how much it would cost to maintain all existing bus service. The board decided to push the vote to its Feb. 27 meeting and use the Jan. 23 meeting to discuss the plan again.

1. Reviewing a menu of options

Two Austin City Council members, Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza, who also sit on Capital Metro’s board, said they wanted more information on the how much it would cost to keep bus routes proposed for elimination, such as part of Route 30 and Routes 21/22 in West Austin, Route 19 in Northwest Austin and Route 392 in North and Northeast Austin.

“I don’t think we have the information to understand the tradeoffs,” Kitchen said.

Capital Metro staffers said the Connections 2025 plan will cost between $260 million and $298 million annually to implement in the next five years. These costs include the operation of new service, administration and programs.

Planner Lawrence Deeter, who is also the Connections 2025 project manager, said not all the capital costs have been covered. The agency lacks about $260 million for bus infrastructure, including $70 million for additional Park & Ride lots and $151 million for a maintenance and repair facility, and about $680 million for rail infrastructure.

2. Lack of details on the Innovation Zones

In areas where bus service is proposed to be cut, Capital Metro will create six Innovation Zones to explore alternative transit options, such as shuttles, car sharing or ride sharing.

Garza was critical of the agency focusing attention on Innovation Zones, which are all located west of I-35.

“[Areas] east of I-35 could also benefit from innovation, but we’re not having those conversations,” she said.

Deeter said he also could not provide too many additional details on the specifics of which transit options would be appropriate in each zone because of rapidly changing technology and new guidelines from the Federal Transit Administration. He said Capital Metro did have a successful meeting with the Rocky Mountain Institute, which is partnering with the city of Austin to address the city’s mobility challenges.

3. Residents still oppose cutting service.

Most residents who addressed the board said they do not support eliminating service west of MoPac.

“We’ve been talking for decades about the need to reconnect Austin because of the barrier created by I-35,” newly elected District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said. “I am worried that by cutting off transit west of MoPac that we are creating a similar set of divisions in the city.”

Resident Zenobia Joseph also criticized the board for the proposal to eliminate Route 392, which operates along Braker Lane and east of I-35, and consolidating it with Route 383. Joseph said many people who ride that route rely on it to commute to work, and she gathered a petition of more than 570 names protesting the elimination. Joseph said many riders also were not aware of Connections 2025 or the intent to cut their bus route.

“We the minorities rarely live in the core, so you’re not marketing [the plan] to us. We live east and west and on the outskirts of town,” she said.