1.6: The Board should evaluate, and take action on, measures to reduce costs and increase revenues. (Management Recommendation)
The Sunset Commission identified a number of potential measures to improve Capital Metro's financial stability and build reserves. They recommended the board incorporate the following changes in the FY2011 budget as appropriate.
- Adopt a five-percent across-the-board reduction in costs
Status: Complete - Not Selected for Implementation
In preparing the FY2011 budget, each department provided a list of expense reductions that equaled five-percent of non-service related costs. The finance department incorporated a number of these reductions into the proposed budget; however, without significant changes to the labor and management agreements with StarTran, an overall five-percent reduction likely would have required reductions to transit service. In response to public input, the agency did not elect to reduce service. Additional cost reduction opportunities will be considered as the labor structure is reviewed. (See Issue 2.1 for further details.)
- Require administrative employees to contribute 4 percent of wages to their pension plan
Status: Incomplete - Will Be Addressed in FY2011
Employee contributions to the administrative employee pension plan will be evaluated and addressed during FY2011.
- Revise paratransit policies that exceed Americans with Disabilities Act requirements
MetroAccess paratransit policies have been revised. The board adopted the revised policies on September 24, 2010, and the FY2011 budget reflects the projected financial impacts.
A summary of the revised policies:
- Eligibility - To be eligible for service, all new and recertified customers must complete an individualized application, participate in an in-person interview and if appropriate, undergo a functional assessment. The certification period will be extended from two years to four years.
- Taxi Voucher Program - The voucher on demand program will be a non-ADA, cost-shared, premium service. The program will be capped with both monthly and annual limits, and is cost neutral.
- Service Area - The MetroAccess ADA service area was officially approved by the Capital Metro board of directors and is defined as the area within 3/4 mile of regular, in-service fixed-route bus service, mirroring its service area and hours. The 3/4 mile area is not defined by commuter rail service, express, flex or feeder route service.
- Service Level - Capital Metro will provide three levels of service: curb to curb, door to door, and door through door. A customer's default level of service will be determined during the eligibility process, but customers may always request a different level of service at the time they book their trips or at the time the vehicle arrives at their destinations.
- Open Returns - The change to this policy is the requirement that customers must provide an estimated pick-up time.
- Call Center and Advance Reservations - The call center will take calls from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Customers can schedule rides up to three days in advance.
- Charge a bus fare of 50 cents for groups currently riding free and charge $2.00 for paratransit rides
On September 24, 2010, the Capital Metro board of directors approved the FY2011 budget that includes projected revenues from a new 50-cent fare increase for groups currently riding free (adults over 65 and persons with disabilities) and an increase in fare for paratransit rides to $1.50.
On November 10, 2010, the board adopted the fare increase, which will go into effect January 16, 2011.
- Renegotiate the UT-Austin contract to cover 65 percent of Capital Metro's fully allocated costs
Status: Complete - Alternative Action Taken
The Capital Metro board took alternative actions to increase cost recovery on the UT Shuttle contract. The board approved a new contract with the University of Texas at the July 2010 board of directors meeting. The University will reimburse Capital Metro for 50 percent of the UT Shuttle service direct operating costs. In addition, the University will pay Capital Metro a fee for each trip taken by a student on regular fixed-route and rail services. Staff projects these contractual changes to increase revenues by approximately $600,000 during the 2010-2011 school year.
- Freeze capital spending on expansions of commuter rail that use tax revenues as a source of funding
The approved FY2011 operating and capital budget does not include expenditures for the expansion of commuter rail services. The budget, however, does include funding for "state of good repair" infrastructure projects, such as bridge replacements identified in the agency's Railroad Bridge Safety Management Program (see Issue 3.3) and bridge repairs.
- Review all capital spending projects and put on hold any not immediately needed to ensure public safety or that would not jeopardize federal funding
Status: Complete - Not Selected for Implementation
Capital Metro staff evaluated all existing and proposed capital projects to ensure alignment with the agency's strategic plan. Projects that involve safety or regulatory compliance were given priority when allocating funding. Based on public input and agency objectives, the FY2011 budget includes projects needed from a safety or federal funding standpoint as well as those needed for continued operation of service. For example, projects that improve bus stop accessibility, maintain the agency's existing infrastructure and assets in a state of good repair, and respond to ongoing customer demand are included in the FY2011 budget.