Capital Metro

Transportation
12:58 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Cap Metro: Off-Duty Driver Who Committed Suicide on Bus Was on Suspension

Capital Metro

An off-duty bus driver committed suicide on a Capital Metro bus yesterday evening in front of other passengers. The man worked for Capital Metro through Star Tran, a non-profit group that employs the drivers and technicians.

Capital Metro issued the following statement this afternoon:

Capital Metro is deeply saddened to report that an employee died last evening aboard a Capital Metro bus from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The employee, Jesus Rios, 47, had been a bus operator for Star Tran, Inc for 11 years, and had been placed on suspension for disciplinary reasons earlier this month by Star Tran.

Following the incident, the bus operator acted swiftly to safely escort the six passengers off of the bus. There were no injuries to the bus operator or passengers. The incident occurred in the 3100 block of Red River Street in Austin at 8:40 p.m.

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Transportation
10:52 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Cap Metro Vice President Resigns

Cap Metro VP Doug Allen resigned yesterday.
Allen photo Capital Metro; Bus photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Effective immediately, Capital Metro vice-president and chief development officer Doug Allen has resigned.

“Doug resigned on Tuesday,” Cap Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT News. “It’s been something that he and [Cap Metro president and CEO] Linda Watson had been talking about for some time.”

Allen came aboard Cap Metro in 2008, and served as interim president a year later, before a national search installed Watson as the transit authority’s leader. In a blog from the time, the Austin Chronicle wrote that Allen was “the point man on recent efforts to get MetroRail up and running.”

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Austin
12:44 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Cap Metro Says New Highway Bill is Good for Austin Transit

Capital Metro says federal bill provides stability for the growth of public transit.
KUT News

Capital Metro is celebrating the recent passage of a federal highway bill. The bill authorizes $105 billion for spending on transportation projects nationwide over a two-year period

The new transportation law is called "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" or MAP-21.

Capital Metro says the law provides much-needed stability. Capital Metro officials say MAP-21 gives a stable source of funding that's necessary for projects like bus and facility improvements.

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AM Update
7:33 am
Tue June 12, 2012

AM Update: Cap Metro Readies Layoffs, Arts Patron Umlauf Dies, Grants for Cleaner Fleets

Local artist and philanthropist Angeline Umlauf dies at 97; Texas moves to cut diesel emissions; Cap Metro staff changes underway.
(clockwise from left) Umlauf Gallery; photo courtesy flickr.com/environmentblog; photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Cap Metro Preps Layoffs in Labor Transition; Says Most Employees Will Be Offered Jobs

Capital Metro is laying off more than 800 union employees as it prepares to outsource those jobs to two contractors.

The transit agency says the union workers will be offered jobs under the new operators, as long as they can pass driving and drug tests.

More than 50 supervisors are also being laid off. They are not part of the union so they are not guaranteed new jobs, but will be given first consideration, Cap Metro says.

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AM Update
7:26 am
Mon June 4, 2012

AM Update: Investigating Unsolved Murders, Cap Metro Route Changes, UT Men's Golf Wins NCAA

Outside experts may soon review cold cases from APD's files; Summer changes to Capital Metro schedules are now in effect; The UT Men's Golf team celebrates their NCAA win.
Photo by KUT News, Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News, Photo courtesy texassports.com

Unsolved Murders to get Another Look?

Today Austin’s Public Safety Commission will consider a change in the way the city investigates unsolved crimes like the Yogurt Shop Murders.

The commission’s vice chair says the city needs to spend money on external reviews for some unsolved crimes because Austin Police Department detectives know too much about the cases and aren’t able to be as open-minded about possible solutions

Dr. Kim Rossmo says the Yogurt Shop Murders should be the first case considered for an external review. In 1991, the bodies of four teenage girls were discovered after a fire in a yogurt shop. Convictions in the crime were overturned.

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Austin
1:57 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Video: UT Student Hit by Bus on 'Good Morning America'

The aftermath of Engmann's encounter with a Capital Metro bus.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

You may not know University of Texas freshman Nick Engmann by name – but if you follow Austin news, you’ve probably seen a video of him.

It’s a clip the electrical engineering major says he’s eager to put behind him. One month ago, Engmann was taking part in an end of semester campus tradition where finals-weary students charge at each other with foam swords to blow off steam. Engmann bolted across Guadaulpe Street to enter the fray – and was hit by a Capital Metro bus.

The video went viral, amassing 3.6 million views on YouTube.

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Austin
3:37 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Cap Metro Bus Crashes Foam Sword Brawl at UT

The scene after the accident this afternoon.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Video captured earlier today on the UT Campus shows an incident that injured one student, albeit not seriously.

The video below captures a scene from Foam Sword Friday, an end-of-semester tradition of sorts, where students relieve finals anxiety by engaging in faux battle.  As you can see, one participant received a blow from a Cap Metro bus instead.

The Daily Texan tweeted the student suffered only minor injuries.

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AM Update
8:51 am
Fri May 4, 2012

AM Update: H-E-B Recall, Crash Investigation Clears MetroRail, New Driver's License Requirements

H-E-B has recalled 19 products due to salmonella concerns.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/djwhitebread

H-E-B Recalls Meals

Central Texas-based grocery store H-E-B has announced a “voluntary and precautionary recall” for its Asian Ready-to-Eat meals. According to the grocer:  

The recall involves 19 Ready-to-Eat entrées and meals sold in 40 stores in Texas including one store in Houston. The product was available at the Grab 'N Go section in H-E-B Delis. The product(s) come in a 4 ounce, 8 ounce, 12 ounce, 24 ounce black plastic containers with a clear lid, single serve sizes and to-go containers … Any product sold prior to 5/3/12 is affected and should be returned to any H-E-B store for a full refund.

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Capital Metro
10:39 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Fatality in Cap Metro Train Collision

An image of the collision this morning.
Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE, http://yfrog.com/mnhspfwj

Update 1 p.m.: Capital Metro says complete rail service should be back on regular schedule by 1:15 p.m.

Update 10:30 a.m.: A 32 year-old man was killed in a Capital Metro rail collision this morning. Two children were also in the car with the unnamed man, and were taken to Dell Children’s Hospital. Capital Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT she’s learned the children are in stable condition.

127 passengers were aboard the train at the time of the collision, plus one train operator.

The collision occurred at a private drive crossing the Cap Metro rail line; out of 74 total crossings along the rail line, 13 are on private drives. Only two have crossing gates; the crossing at Oak Hill Drive (mapped below) did not have a gate, only a stop sign.

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Capital Metro
2:37 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Cap Metro Workers Should Keep Jobs Under Contractors

Contractors will take over employee management duties for Capital Metro in a few months.
Photo courtesy Van Sutherland via Flickr

This morning, Capital Metro bus drivers and mechanics met their soon-to-be employers. Representatives from the companies that Cap Metro is contracting out services with were at the bus garages at 4 a.m. for a quick meet and greet.

Yesterday, the Capital Metro Board of Directors voted to outsource hundreds of employees. Those include regular bus drivers and mechanics along with people who provide door-to-door services for the disabled.

A new law required Cap Metro either to outsource their workers or bring them in as state employees.

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Capital Metro
2:09 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Cap Metro Staff Makes Contractor Recommendations

Cap Metro staff has proposed separate contractors for regualr bus routes and its paratransit services, pictured above.
Photo courtesy Flickr user i-Ride Capital Metro

Today, Capital Metro staff met with the agency Board of Directors to make recommendations on new contractor bids. Monday, the board will make a final decision.

These are the last few steps towards a new labor structure for Capital Metro. The changes are required to comply with a new state law that requires transit employees to either become employees of the state or to become employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the employees chose the latter option so they could retain collective bargaining rights.

The board will need to choose one contractor for employees of fixed-route bus services and another for employees of paratransit services (door-to-door services for people with disabilities). The board could also choose to have one contractor employ workers of both services.

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AM Update
8:14 am
Fri April 20, 2012

AM Update: Willie Nelson Immortalized, Cap Metro Fatality, LCRA Reduces Staff

Willie and a friend get a sneak peek at his bronze likeness.
Photo courtesy willienelson.com

Willie Nelson Statue Unveiled

A statue of famed country musician Willie Nelson will be unveiled today.

The eight-foot tall, one-ton statue will stand on the plaza located on Willie Nelson Boulevard (aka Second Street) and Lavaca Street, at the foot of the Austin City Limits Live Theater. Capital Area Statues has worked on the project over the past several years and as board president Lawrence Wright describes it, the statue will be another fixture of Austin’s culture.

“This gift to Austin will become an instant, iconic representation of our great city and its love affair with music.” 

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Capital Metro
11:48 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Countdown to New Contractor for Cap Metro

A looming labor switchover means Capital Metro will only have about 200 direct employees.
Photo by Emily Donahue for KUT News

This summer, some 850 workers will no longer be directly employed by transit authority Capital Metro, or its non-profit contractor StarTran — instead, they’ll be contracted out to a soon-to-be named private company.

It’s a change that has to be made because of a state law passed last year, requiring transit employees to either become state employees or employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the workers chose the contractor option, as to maintain collective bargaining rights.

Tomorrow, staff will recommend to the Capital Metro Board of Directors which of the contractor bids it believes is best. They may recommend one contractor for fixed route services (regular bus lines), and another for paratransit services (door-to-door service for people with disabilities). Staff may also recommend a single contractor for both.

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Capital Metro
2:34 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Cap Metro Receives $38 Million From Feds for MetroRapid

Officials announced the investment along a bus similar to what MetroRapid will offer.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Capital Metro announced today that it has received $38 million from the Federal Transit Administration to help cover the cost of the MetroRapid program.

The funds come from the administration’s "Very Small Start" program and will cover about 80 percent of the program’s $48 million cost, said Linda Watson, the president and CEO of Capital Metro.

“That’s tax money that Texans pay coming back to Texas,” Watson said. “So it’s a great day not only for Capital Metro and our customers, but for Central Texas and taxpayers in the whole state of Texas.”

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Transportation
1:46 pm
Mon April 9, 2012

Pensions, Benefits at Stake in Cap Metro Labor Dispute

Capital Metro union members want to keep their current pension and retirement plans.
Photo by KUT News

There will soon be some changes at Capital Metro. Riders probably won’t notice but many drivers and mechanics will.

Capital Metro is required to change its labor structure after the Texas legislature passed a law, Senate Bill 650, last May that basically requires transit workers to either become state employees or become employees of a competitively-bid private contractor. 

To receive federal transit funding, Capital Metro employees initially needed to retain their right to collective bargaining, but the requirement was at odds with state law prohibiting collective bargaining and the right to strike for public employees. A third-party, StarTran, was installed to resolve the impasse – but SB 650 did away with that arrangement.

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SXSW
9:01 am
Thu March 8, 2012

AM Update: SXSW Starts Tomorrow, Voter ID Considered in DC, and Roky Erickson: Music Ambassador

SXSW festival attendees at a book signing
Photo courtesy flickr.com/drbeachvacation

SXSW Film and Interactive Start Tomorrow

Austin’s South by Southwest Film and Interactive Festivals kicks off tomorrow and downtown is preparing.

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Austin
11:21 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Evening Council Update: Rate Increase Delayed, Hostel Can Stay, City Could Ditch Banks

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

It’s been a marathon session of Austin City Council today, and it’s not over yet. Here are some highlights from this evening. (Check out earlier action here.)

Electricity Rate Hikes Delayed

Austin city council voted 6-1 against a temporary increase in electricity rates. Council members had been considering an interim rate hike while they worked on a larger overhaul of Austin Energy’s rate plan. But the public utility’s general manager, Larry Weis, told council that a temporary increase would complicate billing and take months to implement.

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Public Transit
7:47 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Green Light For Red Line Service on Friday and Saturday Nights

A commuter train parked at Crestview Station
Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Capital Metro’s Red Line will start running late into the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. Austin City Council voted 6-1 this evening on this resolution directing city staff to finalize the deal with Cap Metro. Kathie Tovo was the only council member to vote against the proposal. 

The new schedule will see commuter trains run hourly from 7 p.m. until midnight on Fridays. On Saturdays, they'll run every 35 minutes 4 p.m. until midnight. That schedule takes effect Friday, March 23.

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Austin
8:52 am
Tue February 28, 2012

AM Update: Another Redistricting Deadline, STAAR Rule Deferred, Weekend Rail on the Way?

An agreement on Texas redistricting maps must be reached this weekend to preserve a May 29 primary.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/joegratz

Redistricting Maps Must be Drawn By Saturday for May Primaries

According to the Texas Tribune, if redistricting maps are not drawn by Saturday, March 3 then primaries will move to June.

The Tribune reports that the primaries cannot be held on May 29 if the deadline is not met this weekend. Instead, the date will yet again be pushed back, this time to June 26.

“The lawyers working on House maps have been pushing back and forth, primarily on three districts, and haven't produced an accord. And congressional maps, several lawyers have said, will have to be drawn by the three federal judges in San Antonio, because the parties can't seem to find common ground."

If the primaries are held in late May or June, the primary runoffs will be delayed to July 31 or August 28 reports the Tribune.

KUT News' Andy Uhler sheds some light on the court's long battle over the redistricting maps.

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Austin
9:31 am
Thu February 9, 2012

City Council Preview: Electric Rates, Weekend Rail, Plus Bags and the Taxi Vomit Fee Returns

Another busy day at City Hall: Capital Metro, Austin Energy, the bag ban and more.
Photo by KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes again today, considering a heady, 61-item agenda. If this weekly preview is beginning to sound like a broken record, that’s because council keeps slogging through several controversial topics: Austin Energy’s embattled rate increases, contentious cab issues and the disposable bag ban. Luckily, debate over extending Capital Metro’s rail service will keep things fresh.

Electric Rate Redux: A public hearing on Austin Energy’s recently tweaked proposals raising electricity rates is scheduled for 6 p.m. The changes haven’t received much acceptance from opponents of the original proposal. Joining the ranks of council members floating changes to the rate proposals are Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo, who prior to the meeting’s 10 a.m. start will “announce a proposed alternative to Austin Energy’s recommended rate increase.”

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