Six months into a one-year pilot transit pickup program in the city of Pflugerville, officials have received new data on how the project is doing.
Last November, City Council approved an interlocal agreement with Capital Metro for a 12-month program serving a 3.5-square-mile area of the city, largely along the Pecan Street corridor.
The stated goal was to address the mobility needs of residents and gauge feedback through ridership and wheelchair-accessible use, as well as user ratings.
Regional connectivity goals pertained to the pilot program's connections to Tech Ridge and the cost effectiveness of the model, determined by the cost per passenger.
During a Sept. 14 City Council meeting, officials heard a presentation from Julie Mazur, manager of regional planning coordination with Capital Metro.
Mazur said the program, which runs weekdays from 6 a.m.-7 p.m., has increased ridership from 17 passengers in May to more than 400 in August for a total of more than 1,600 passengers so far.
Of the roughly $500,000 budgeted for the yearlong program, $139,086 had been spent through July, Mazur said.
A six-month benchmark evaluation was factored into the agreement for council to review, discuss and potentially alter the trajectory of the pilot program, as needed.
Data from August shows the program mainly averaged a five-star rating—five being the highest—and has beaten its stated goal of averaging 7% or higher wheelchair accessible vehicle trips, according to Capital Metro data.
"I'm really glad to see we're providing rides to those who otherwise might not have a ride," Council Member Doug Weiss said.
However, the program has so far fallen short on other goals, including average arrival time from passenger request, average trip time and cost effectiveness per passenger trip.
Mazur said travel time to Tech Ridge often increases trip times due to the density of traffic in the area.
Later during the Sept. 14 meeting, council agreed to extend the program through March 2022 but not prior to a debate on the financial viability of the program.
Council Member David Rogers said the program does not appear to be meeting its goals and later in the meeting recommended discontinuation.
Weiss and Council Member Rudy Metayer defended the program and stated metrics have only been improving since it started.
Weiss reiterated the program has substantially helped disabled people in the area get rides to various locations in the city. He also confirmed with Capital Metro staff that the program is the cheapest option available to transport people who use wheelchairs.
"They [Capital Metro] said they needed a couple months to get it going," Metayer said. "I think we agreed to extend it to March 2022. ... Let's see what happens."
Though the motion passed 4-3 with Council Members Ceasar Ruiz, Omar Pena and Rogers voting against, council requested Capitol Metro representatives return in two weeks with an updated presentation and more specific data.