Austin’s transportation agency, Capital Metro, commemorated its 30th anniversary at the organization’s July 27th board meeting with a gathering that included state and local officials recognizing key milestones.
President/CEO Linda S. Watson spoke about the many strides Capital Metro has made since its launch on July 1, 1985. “We have a lot to do to continue to evolve to meet the needs of our fast-growing community," Watson said. "That’s why this whole celebration is called ‘30 Forward’….because it’s about looking ahead to another 30 great years of service.”
Several special guests paid tribute Capital Metro’s impressive history, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler; former Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Texas House of Representatives; and several members of Austin’s City Council. These state and city officials read proclamations recognizing the agency’s important milestones, including providing more than 837 million bus and train rides to people in Central Texas over the last 30 years.
The agency has provided over 1 million rides to seniors, members of the disabled community, and low-income transit dependent riders to help them stay mobile, active and connected through its Basic Transposition Needs Fund, established in 2012.
In recent years, Capital Metro has used technological advances to enhance the rider experience. In 2014, the agency launched one of the first mobile transit apps in the country to provide a new high-tech level of convenience allowing customers to buy passes and plan trips. This year, real-time information was introduced across the entire Capital Metro fleet, bringing new predictability and reliability to riders. Recently, the agency established a high-frequency bus network that offers 15-minute departure on five popular routes, allowing people to wait less at stops and have more options.
A compelling series of videotaped interviews with Capital Metro’s long-term employees reflecting on their employment with the agency was shown. In addition, 49 employees, who’ve worked at Capital Metro for the entire 30-year duration, were thanked by Watson who said, “It’s a real pleasure to be a part of such a hardworking and dedicated team of people. Thank you for your dedication to Capital Metro and Central Texas.”
Two other significant recognitions were announced during the afternoon. Those in attendance noted the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1992, Capital Metro became the first transit agency in Texas – and one of the first in the nation – to have a 100% ADA-accessible bus fleet. The agency also currently provides over 50,000 trips a month through its MetroAccess service, connecting people unable to use our regular services with trips to medical appointments, the grocery store and other vital places.
Linda Watson’s fifth year at Capital Metro was also recognized and her outstanding contributions were commended by her peers. To date, Watson’s accomplishments include launching MetroRapid, Austin’s first BRT service, on time and under budget, with ridership already meeting or exceeding expectations. Under her leadership, a $50 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation has been secured for upcoming enhancements to MetroRail, to meet ridership which has more than quadrupled since the service launched in 2010.
Watson has also encourages the development of transit-friendly communities resulting, so far, in $153 million in private development generated around rail stations with more than $1 billion in additional planned transit oriented development. And while working with the City of Austin and surrounding communities, she has led efforts on area transportation system studies as part of Project Connect, including the development of a locally-preferred alternative plan to connect surrounding communities to Austin’s core.