Expect a vote today from the Capital Metro board of directors on a change to its transit fare system to eliminate the premium fare tier.n
Increased service, new buses and longer hours are some of the highlights in Capital Metro’s fiscal year 2016-17 budget approved today.
The agency’s board of directors approved the $248.3 million operating budget as well as spending $15.9 million on interlocal agreements with other jurisdictions for transit services, including a new transit service plan with the city of Georgetown.
Most of Capital Metro’s revenue comes from city of Austin sales tax. Estimated tax collections for FY 2017 are expected to total about $231 million.
Other new services include a new Westgate Park & Ride in South Austin, a new fare collection system, additional MetroRapid bus stations and increased MetroAccess, which provides demand-response service to passengers with disabilities who cannot use the regular bus and rail service.
Capital Metro also plans to invest $158.5 million in capital projects, which include the following:
• $39.1 million: replacing aging buses and paratransit vehicles. The agency has spent the past several years upgrading its bus fleet. The board of directors also approved Monday a $4.8 million contract with Gillig LLC to add 10 buses to an original purchase of 152 buses in November 2014 that would be delivered over a five-year period.
• $18.2 million: expanding MetroRapid services, increasing frequency on local bus routes and adding and expanding Express bus service. The agency is planning to increase frequency on MetroRapid to service every 10 minutes. It also will add more buses to its frequent service network and add two new Express bus routes serving Leander and Northwest Austin and increase service hours. These services are part of the agency’s draft service improvement plan called Connections 2025 and are contingent upon board approval of the plan in November.
• $19.6 million: purchasing four new rail vehicles to increase frequency on MetroRail and make improvements to the downtown MetroRail station adjacent to the Austin Convention Center. These projects are primarily funded through a $50 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.
• $19.7 million: An $11.3 million federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recover, or TIGER, grant is helping to fund upgrades to the MetroRail line, including adding a second set of tracks near three stations.
• $14.4 million: Rail operators have until Dec. 31, 2018 to comply with a Federal Railroad Administration mandate to install Positive Train Control. PTC is a system that controls train movements and provides for more safety and precision of operations, according to FRA.
Not included in the budget is the recommendation in Connections 2025 to reduce the MetroRapid fare from $1.75 per ride to $1.25 per ride to match the local bus fare price. Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson said the loss of revenue likely would be partially offset by increased ridership and that the agency does not expect the fare reduction to make a huge impact.
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 11 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.