Being chosen by my peers to chair the the Capital Metro Board has been an honor and a privilege. It has also been one of the toughest volunteer jobs I have ever had. We have dealt with accounting errors, a union strike and continuing delays in the opening of Metro Rail. However, despite problems with agency's leadership, I never lost sight of my responsibility as chair of the board: to help Capital Metro provide an efficient and affordable system of public transportation that the people of Travis County can depend on and take pride in.
As chair, I have had to make many tough votes. I stand by my vote against using one-time stimulus money to delay an inevitable fare increase. As an avid supporter of rail, I believe the money is better spent investing in long-term improvements to our rail lines.
As difficult as it is, a fare increase is needed to continue providing current level of service to the transit dependent. I am proud to say that Cap Metro's fares will remain among the most affordable in the nation.
I have expressed to leadership that I believe Capital Metro would benefit from an aggressive nationwide search for a new CEO with executive leadership experience. We need someone who can run an agency successful, rather than someone who only has experience in transportation.
Approving a fare increase is never a popular decision, but I believe it is the only way Capital Metro can survive at this time. However, I do not believe that we should balance the agency’s budget on the backs of elderly and disabled citizens, which is why I will ask the board to exempt seniors and disabled citizens from any fare increase.
Capital Metro has made mistakes, but this should not be one of them. There is no good reason not to exempt seniors and disabled citizens from a fare increase. My constituents in Precinct 4 and people from across the county understand this, too. Government should be there to help those who need it most, not increase their burden. In tough economic times, little things add up. For my constituents who receive Social Security and disability benefits, this is even more true.
There is a lot of work ahead at Capital Metro. To start, they should launch an aggressive nationwide search to insure we find the most qualified individual. Most importantly to the many people who rely on Capital Metro everyday, they can agree to exempt seniors and disabled citizens from a fare increase.