MetroRapid One of the goals in Capital Metro's 2020 service plan included the implementation of MetroRapid, the agency's bus rapid transit service. The two routes launched in 2014.[/caption]

Capital Metro’s board of directors delayed a vote until Sept. 14 to hire a consultant to develop the agency’s 2025 service plan.

The board was scheduled to vote on hiring a consultant during its Aug. 24 meeting. Board members, including Austin City Council Members Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen, asked for more time in analyzing three proposals.

“My concern comes from the fact that we have significant concerns from our community that is asking us for more time,” Kitchen said. “I am not hearing enough of a concern [from Capital Metro] about that time to counterbalance that [request for a delay].”

Eric Goff, a member of the board for AURA, a nonprofit group focused on housing and better modes of transportation, also asked Capital Metro board members to delay the vote until September to compare and contrast the three proposals and feel confident in the vote.

“[I want] to make sure on this critical decision of either adjusting or possibly reimagining our bus system in Austin, that you would give that your full consideration,” he said.

Board members approved moving the vote to Sept. 14 when the agency is already planning hosting a public hearing for its fiscal year 2015-16 budget, which the board will approve during its Sept. 28 meeting.

Long-term planning

Every five years the agency updates its 10-year plan that serves as its road map. Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development, said the 2025 plan will consider information from the agency’s other plans, including Project Connect regional transit plans, corridor studies and transit development studies. The board adopted the 2020 plan in February 2010.

The board will largely determine the goals of the 2025 plan but those goals will be shaped by the community’s priorities and needs, Hemingson said. One of those goals likely would be improving usage, he said.

“Increasing ridership is a big one,” he said. “Our ridership is not going in the right direction now, and we want to make corrections to that.”

Board member Terry Mitchell said he wants to ensure the consultant hired understands the unique set of constraints the city has and can still recommend steps to take toward increasing ridership.

“As a transit board member I would want our transit ridership to be increasing at a rate [of growth that is at a minimum equal to] our population, and anything above that, we’re making headway,” he said. “I would love to say let’s grow double our population growth. That would be great.”

The consultant hired by Capital Metro will assist with developing the plan and public involvement.

Capital Metro staff recommended Transportation Management & Design, a 25-member firm based in Carlsbad, California. The firm’s bid proposal of $466,276 includes 32 percent designated for public involvement, or about $150,000.

Hemingson said public involvement would include engaging key stakeholders, elected officials and opponents as well as low-income residents and residents with limited English proficiency to hear the needs of everyone in the community.

The other two firms that submitted proposals were San Francisco-based Nelson Nygaard and TEI. Ward Tisdale, president of the Real Estate Council of Austin, spoke in support of choosing TEI.

“It’s extremely critical we get the right visionary here in Austin for Capital Metro’s vision,” he said.

The proposed timeline for the 2025 plan is launching the development this fall with adoption by the board in fall 2016. The plan would be implemented in 2017.