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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The 40-hour workweek has reigned since around the time of the Great Depression. But a new schedule gaining steam could lead some companies to throw out the practice of having employees clock in five days a week.
Promising results are coming out halfway into a six-month trial of four-day workweeks in the U.K. with 35 out of 41 companies responding to a recent survey saying they were “likely” or “very likely” to continue the reduced week after the pilot ends.
The trial, which began in June, is run by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University. It involves 3,300 workers across 72 companies who are trying out one paid day off per week between Monday and Friday.
During the four-day week, 34% of companies reported that productivity “improved slightly” and 15% say it “improved significantly.”
With the survey indicating that a four-day workweek could have some perks for companies and employees alike, will Austin join in on the trend?
On job searching tools like LinkedIn and Indeed, some jobs based in Central Texas are boasting a four-day work week. And Coltech Global, a recruiting firm based in London with a growing presence in Austin, began the four-day work week about a year ago.
Jessica Sutcliffe, a staffing consultant at Coltech, joined the company to help grow the U.S. market. She says due to the time difference between the U.S. team and the UK one, the company implemented a four-day week.
"I’ve found it very beneficial as it allows time to rest and complete life admin, whilst also enjoying life, travel and be able to come back to work rested/fulfilled outside of work, which ultimately helps focus inside of those core work hours," Sutcliffe said via email.
In an Instagram post, Coltech said that not only are employees feeling the benefits of being more refreshed in the mornings, having reduced illness and a less stressed atmosphere, but it’s also improving their carbon footprint since there’s less time spent traveling to the office and using energy.
Niki Jorgensen, director of service operations at human resources service provider Insperity, noted similar factors driving companies to make the change to a reduced work week.
“The most significant benefit for a company to adopt the four-day workweek is the improvement of employee morale,” Jorgensen told Austonia via email. “Over the past two years, numerous studies have shown employees think a four-day workweek reduces stress and burnout. With reduced stress and burnout comes improved employee engagement.”
And while Austin is already drawing in plenty of workers who are in their early careers, a four-day week may help companies stand out to that bracket’s top talent even more.
“Companies can leverage this to make their company more appealing, especially to younger generations who strongly consider factors outside of compensation when choosing employment,” Jorgensen said.
She went on to offer a few tips for making a smooth transition to a four-day week like setting expectations and staggering coverage so that it’s still possible to see clients five days a week. Also, employers should be flexible. She says some employees may not be able to get 40 hours of work done in a shorter week due to responsibilities like childcare, so employers should consider how they can still accomplish their duties.
Before ditching the 40-hour workweek though, it can help to take a temperature check to see if an extra day off is the right fit for the workplace.
“Do not implement a flexible schedule such as the four-day workweek if business owners and managers cannot commit to the level of trust and flexibility needed to ensure the schedule’s success,” Jorgensen said.
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