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Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board of trustees voted unanimously to create the Austin Transit Partnership, a local government corporation that will oversee the implementation and governance of Project Connect, and to appoint its inaugural board.

"We've just created something that will be transformational for our community," Capital Metro Chairperson Wade Cooper said during a joint meeting on Friday. "It really is a landmark day."

Austin residents voted overwhelmingly during the Nov. 3 election to approve Proposition A, which raised the city property tax to help pay for Project Connect, a $7.1 billion overhaul of the local public transit system. It will bring two light rail lines, an underground downtown tunnel and expanded bus service to Austin over the next 10 to 13 years.

The Austin Transit Partnership will include five members. For its first two years, it will include a member of the Austin City Council who will later be replaced by a council appointee, such as a local resident or Capital Metro customer. It will also include a member of the Capital Metro board and three community experts, from backgrounds in project management, sustainability and community engagement.

A nominating committee—which included City Council Members Ann Kitchen and Alison Alter, Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion and Terry Mitchell, who serves on the Capital Metro finance, audit and administration committee—recommended three people, of 36 applicants, to serve as community experts on the ATP board.

  1. Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette is president of Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin and served as treasurer for Mobility for All, a political action committee that supported Proposition A.
  2. Veronica Castro de Barrera is the principal owner of the local firm VCdB Architecture & Art and designed Capital Metro's commuter rail stations.
  3. Tony Elkins is an infrastructure, transportation and project finance professional who works for the civil engineering firm WSP USA.

The nominating committee recommended that the ATP board appoint seven of their fellow applicants to technical committees or workgroups to take advantage of their expertise.

"We had a wealth of qualified talent," Mitchell said.

The remaining two members of the board will be Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Capital Metro board member Eric Stratton, who represents Williamson County.

Representatives from some local organizations that supported Project Connect—including Go Austin/Vamos Austin, People United for Mobility Austin and Workers Defense Project—voiced concerns about the nomination process, saying that it was rushed and not as transparent as elected officials had promised.

"The Austin Transit Partnership board process was rushed," GAVA School Health Equity Lead Organizer Cynthia Vasquez said during public comment. "It feels like that CodeNEXT kind of rushed."

Members of the nominating committee stressed that they heard these concerns and would work to do better in the coming months as this new entity takes shape.

"This is not the end of the process," Travillion said. "This is the beginning of a community process that we will build together."

Over the next six months, the city of Austin and the ATP board will determine a cost-sharing arrangement for corporate functions and enter into an agreement to implement anti-displacement strategies, such as real estate acquisition and affordable housing development.


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