CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — Voters in two Central Texas communities will weigh out whether to continue CapMetro services or leave their partnership with the transit authority this November.
Both Manor and Lago Vista have added propositions to their November ballot on the initiative. The ballot proposition reads as follows:
Shall the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority be continued in the City of _____?CapMetro proposition language for the Cities of Manor, Lago Vista’s November 8 election ballot
If voters vote “yes,” services will continue as currently offered. If voters vote “no,” they will see service impacts within 24 hours of final election canvassing, which could wrap between three to 11 days post-election.
Costs affiliated with leaving a CapMetro partnership
If either or both cities’ voters opt to leave CapMetro, the Texas Transportation Code requires the city to pay back net financial obligations to CapMetro following the service’s termination. As of March 31, Manor would owe $9.8 million, while Lago Vista would owe $6.4 million.
Since those estimates are from March, CapMetro would have to reanalyze how much more each city would owe the transit authority due to the passage of time since those last calculations.
CapMetro Board Member Becki Ross, who serves as small cities representative for the authority, said this isn’t necessarily a reflection of CapMetro service concerns but cities’ desire to access those dollars for economic development resources.
Both Manor and Lago Vista contribute 1% of their sales tax revenue to CapMetro for transit services. As the entire region is experiencing and economic boom, conversations among some cities are centered on how this funding could be used elsewhere, she explained.
“These elections are not necessarily a ding against CapMetro,” she said, adding: “The conversations that are being had at these small cities are ‘hey, we know that we have to pay this net financial’ — unless they decide to litigate it – ‘but we’d rather pay this off in the next five years and know that we’ve got economic development money past that.’”
Ross, who serves on Leander City Council, referenced Leander’s own May 2022 election consideration on whether to stick with or leave CapMetro. Ultimately, Leander voters decided to continue services with the transit authority.
Board Member Ann Kitchen stressed it’s important for CapMetro officials to communicate these net financial obligation costs publicly with city officials and community members, so they understand the full scope of what happens should a city leave.
Forum discussions and city council visits are planned in advance of the November election between CapMetro board members and both cities’ leadership.
What happens if cities opt to stick with CapMetro?
If Manor and/or Lago Vista elects to stay with CapMetro’s service offerings, services would continue as offered.
- Route 990 Manor/Elgin Express: this service is operated by Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS)
- Manor Pickup: this is funded 75% by CapMetro and 25% by Travis County, while the service is operated by CARTS
Lago Vista services:
- Route 214 Northwest Feeder: this service is operated by CARTS and is under contract to CapMetro; 12 bus stops within Lago Vista along this route
- Lago Vista Pickup: this is funded by CapMetro
If these cities decide to remain within CapMetro’s service area, council members discussed some possible add-value options to enhance services within the two cities.
What happens if cities leave CapMetro?
Within 24 hours of final election canvassing, bus and rail services will no longer stop in Manor and Lago Vista. CARTS could continue offering its services between Elgin and Austin, but would no longer be authorized to stop in Manor.
For Lago Vista, the westernmost stop would be in Jonestown, with all 12 bus stops along Route 214 discontinued.
Pickup services within the two cities would stop operating within 24 hours of final election canvassing, if both decide to leave the transit authority.
Cities could elect to contract services with CapMetro for future use, but they would need to complete a transit development plan before being eligible. Officials said that could take several months to complete.
As for paratransit services via MetroAccess, CapMetro is required to continue providing these services to existing customers. Currently, Lago Vista has one customer receiving paratransit service three days a week. The city of Lago Vista would be required to cover the costs of the continued service, outside of fares collected.
If either or both cities leave CapMetro, Manor Park & Ride would close, with temporary signs and barricades added. All bus stop signs and amenities would be removed from Lago Vista and Manor, along with all non-essential support services.
What do I need to know about the November election?
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early voting will run from Monday, Oct. 24 through Friday, Nov. 4.
If a city’s voters were to vote not to leave CapMetro, that city would not be able to put another CapMetro exit proposition on a city ballot for five years.