City, Capital Metro appoint Austin Transit Partnership board to oversee implementation of Project Connect
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.
- 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.
- Veronica Castro de Barrera is the principal owner of the local firm VCdB Architecture & Art and designed Capital Metro's commuter rail stations.
- 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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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."