April 22, 2022|Paul Lewis, Romic Aevaz and Robert Puentes
With the passage of Proposition A in 2020, Austin voters gave their approval to an ambitious, far-reaching vision for the region’s transit future. The multi-billion dollar Project Connect will deliver a vast new network of light rail, commuter rail, and rapid bus along with the tunnels, stations, and other infrastructure to support it. By any measure, it is a highly complex and complicated program of projects.
Delivering this important program and adhering to the terms the voters approved in Proposition A demands strong institutions, collaborative partnerships, and clear decision-making responsibility. Now is the right time for leaders in Austin to decide the appropriate governance model for Project Connect, how it coordinates with existing entities, and how it can best be accountable to its citizens and businesses.
Project Connect’s rapid bus and commuter rail projects will be delivered by the existing transit provider, Capital Metro. For the new light rail lines, the City and Capital Metro created the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) to finance, design, build, and implement the program. The City and Capital Metro authorized ATP to implement Project Connect “in a manner independent of the City or Capital Metro,” and ATP is the designated custodian of the tax funds approved by the voters. Both Capital Metro and ATP currently share executive leadership. Whether Project Connect continues with shared executive leadership is a core question facing the ATP Board and the future of the program.
The Eno Center for Transportation was selected by the ATP Board to conduct a comprehensive and independent analysis evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of both joint and separate executive leadership as well as examine how those options affect other critical aspects of governance and project delivery. The ATP Board has the sole discretion on determining the future leadership structure for the organization, and this report provides the insights for the board to consider to make an informed decision.