AUSTIN (KXAN) — An independent analysis of Capital Metro’s service operations during last February’s winter storm noted areas of improvement needed in bus services, hazard event training and long-term employee support.

The report, issued in August but not initially released to the public, noted CapMetro bus service operations “were not realistic” based on inclement weather conditions leading into and during the winter storm.

“Decisions made to maintain normal bus operations were not realistic during the early stages of the event based on weather conditions, capabilities of vehicles, and availability of personnel,” the report read. “The delay in deciding to suspend bus service resulted in operational and safety issues for personnel.”

In response, officials said they have incorporated upgraded protocols and communication methods on bus service suspensions into its emergency response plans, in an effort to alert bus operators and other personnel on service changes due to inclement weather.

While future recommendations made through the report included earlier suspension of bus services during hazardous events, the report commended CapMetro’s early efforts to halt rail service operations. Other areas of strength associated with CapMetro’s response included its telework offerings for staff unable to report to work in-person; its community efforts to provide water, warming centers and essential services; and employee check-ins on the status and wellbeings of personnel and their families during the storm.

CapMetro is extremely proud of its team for all of their hard work during the February 2021 winter storm. As the report mentioned, the agency took many steps to help the community and staff at a time when most resources citywide were stretched incredibly thin. We are thankful for the recommendations that we were given, and we have already taken steps to implement suggestions from the report, so we can better serve the community in another crisis situation. As an agency, we are better prepared today if there were to be a similar weather event tomorrow.

Capital Metro officials

Among areas of improvement, the report noted a need for formalized response plans for all hazardous events, which would include “a rigorous training and exercise program.” Current observations found that the agency doesn’t have an industry-standard Emergency Operations or Response Plan used as part of emergency preparedness efforts.

“The current Winter Weather Operations Plan is a template for an Incident Action Plan but does not define a formal Emergency Operations Center structure, processes, or points of contact,” as written in the report.

As part of those training efforts, CapMetro hosted in November a battery electric bus exercise with police and fire departments. Two exercises for both rail and bus services are scheduled for 2022, officials said.

During the winter storm, CapMetro ran 24 bus trips to help transport 372 individuals to warming centers and collaborated with Meals on Wheels and the Central Texas Food Bank for meal delivery services.

A total of 1,167 MetroAccess customers were transported during the storm, including 164 riders in need of access to dialysis treatments.

In continuation of those efforts, officials said CapMetro will continue working with regional medical partners throughout future weather events to help transport patients, including those on dialysis, to and from treatment facilities.