The majority of council voiced concerns over success metrics applied to the pilot program, which was included as part of the city's fiscal year 2020-21 budget. Council Member Jeff Marsh cautioned that the pilot program could end up becoming a more permanent cost expenditure in the coming years, a sentiment Council Member Doug Weiss echoed.
Weiss said the city had requested Capital Metro return with specific success metrics, and stressed the need for lower average costs per trip and higher daily average ridership.
Chad Ballentine of Capital Metro said the organization has worked with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to gauge various progress factors of the program, including cost effectiveness; customer ratings, the number of wheelchair and accessibility trips provided; and the response, wait and arrival times of trips.
Ballentine said bus ridership is down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but added the curb-to-curb public transit systems have rebounded at faster rates than regular bus services.
By the six-month benchmark, Ballentine said Capital Metro estimates an average of 36 daily passengers and, during peak time frames, up to 50 passengers daily. Approximately 3% of trips are projected to include wheelchair and Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, Ballentine said.
At the six-month mark, Capital Metro metrics anticipate $39 per trip, Ballentine added. Pflugerville would foot just over $23 of the bill under that estimation, with the remainder overseen by federal funding.
Mayor Victor Gonzales said he knows there will be a a transit program available in Pflugerville at some point in the future, particularly given the city's growth. He outlined the need for resources that can complement senior resources and accommodations for residents lacking transportation access and those with disabilities.
“Whether it happens today or tomorrow, it will happen," Gonzales said.
Council Member Jim McDonald said the city has analyzed this pilot program for years, adding it can provide a valuable resource to the city's increasing population, residents with disabilities or those with difficulty accessing reliable transportation.
McDonald said some metrics will be fluid given the pandemic, but added he anticipates improvements in metric numbers and trends over the next 12 months.
“All in all, this is a really great program for our community," McDonald said. "I’m excited to see us move forward with this.”
Due to the failed motion, the proposed transit pilot program will return for further council consideration and deliberations at a future date.