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Light Rail Now writes:
The following op-ed essay by Ross Garber is an extremely important piece, since a big part of public resistance to light rail in Austin involves misconceptions about Capital Metro (the transit authority).
CapMetro is still suffering from a relentless -- and, in our view, largely unjustified -- bashing in the media and by many prominent politicians just a couple of years back. Since then, the agency has been completely reorganized, with a new general manager and administration, but the public seem unaware of that, and transit-bashers continue to flog the agency for past misdeeds, despite some impressive performance results (as Garber's article notes).
Ross Garber, in case you don't know, heads up Get Around Austin, one of the Austin groups campaigning for a vote for light rail on 7 November. Garber has rallied much of the local high-tech community behind the light rail plan -- thus provoking the anti-transit Fringe into directing much of their wrath now against Austin's high-tech industry, as well as against light rail, public transit, and pro-rail journalists!

Examine the facts before bashing Capital Metro
by Ross Garber, Austin American-Statesman, June 16, 2000
It's not surprising to see seething comments about Capital Metro similar to those made in the June 5 letter "Transportation Circus." Unfortunately, he and many others have not been offered the surprisingly positive facts about Capital Metro that might move them to reconsider their position.
One of Austin's great untold success stories is the turn around that Capital Metro has pulled off in the last few years. The facts say it all:
* Capital Metro ranks No. 2 in per capita ridership when compared with bus systems in peer cities across the nation and has the fourth lowest cost per passenger of peer bus systems.
* More than 31 million trips were completed in fiscal year 1999.
* Operating expenses are down to just 67 percent of sales tax revenue.
* More than $38 million of excess cash flow is expected to be generated this fiscal year and over $100 million will be in the bank by the end of this year. Those funds can be used for long-term mass transit investments.
Also, let's not forget that Capital Metro continues to make multimillion dollar investments in road and sidewalk improvements, in addition to improving handicapped access.
By the way, all types of Austinites are riding city buses. Ridership in 1998 was 46 percent Anglo, 22 percent Hispanic, 8 percent African American and 8 percent Asian.
Sounds to me like Austin's Capital Metro could easily be described as a well-run operation based solely on these impressive numbers.
But Capital Metro isn't perfect. For starters, its customer service isn't yet world class and its efforts at community outreach could be more sensitive, among other things.
But, Lee Walker and Karen Rae inherited a disaster and have quickly rebuilt Capital Metro into a respectable, responsible and growing operation. From this fiscal foundation, we might even consider believing that they can succeed with the A-train light rail system up for vote this November.
Maybe one day soon, we'll all stop throwing stones at Capital Metro for just a moment, allowing us to say thank you to the team that has put in endless hours to improve mass transit in Austin without receiving much appreciation.

Garber is with Get Around Austin Inc.

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