Bill would allow CapMetro to serve areas outside Austin

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Students and employees who commute to Austin from surrounding areas such as Georgetown and Kyle may have more public transit options headed their way in the future.

Currently communities that cannot afford full service transit services are unable to work with rapid transit authorities such as Capital Metro, but a bill filed in Texas Senate would allow these communities to create government entities to fund levels of service they need.

The bill would allow rapid transit authorities to create local government corporations, which are nonprofit corporations created by local communities to act on their behalf. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, authored the bill.

Transportation authorities such as Capital Metro would be able to work with surrounding cities to provide levels of service most useful to those communities, said Capital Metro spokeswoman Erica Macioge. 

“We are very supportive of this bill and have sought help getting it filed,” Macioge said. “It would allow us to potentially provide transit service to communities outside our area.”

Macioge said CapMetro’s current structure is strict in that it can only accept 1 percent sales tax from communities in order to receive transit service, rather than other sources of funds. Creating local government corporations would allow CapMetro to work with communities that cannot adequately fund full transit service but have needs for other levels of service.

“Our area is growing so rapidly and we’re thinking regionally and planning regionally, but we have a problem because we’re not actually able to provide the service,” Macioge said. “This would allow us to create a local government corporation where we could enter into agreements with those local authorities.”

Areas such as Georgetown, which lost funding from the Capital Area Rural Transportation System because of high urbanization rates in the last U.S. census, would be able to work with CapMetro through a local government corporation to determine what level of service is most beneficial to the local community.

Mechanical engineering senior Brian Roppolo commuted to campus from Georgetown until fall 2012. Roppolo said having regular bus service or train service from the Georgetown area would be useful to commuting students because of irregular class and study schedules.

“I think I would have [used it] because I would have saved on gas,” Roppolo said. “I could drive down to Cedar Park and take the train if I wanted to, [but] being that I was an engineering student and I would stay after 11 o’clock. When the train started it would come twice a day or something like that, it’s not conducive to someone who doesn’t have that flexibility.”

Policy staff from Watson’s office said though smaller communities have other options for funding public transit, such as contracting separate companies, this bill would be an additional way to coordinate public transportation with local government. 

“This just allows [Capital Metro] other tools in our toolbox and tools for other communities as they grow,” Macioge said. “We are supportive of the bill and hope that it moves forward.”