John Julitz and CapMetro owe Central Austin an apology

Yet another sloppy mistake. This past weekend, Project Connect canvassers went door-to-door in Hyde Park handing out misleading maps that advertised “Proposed First Line of Urban Rail“. These maps didn’t highlight Project Connect’s controversial Highland urban rail route, nor the East Riverside corridor route, which has gained support from grassroots Austin transit advocates.

No, it showed some Barbie Dream Transit Vision Map they’ve had up on their website for some time now. Problem is, that map predates the selection of Highland & East Riverside, so it’s only sort of represented, while urban rail is clearly shown reaching to many politically popular areas — Guadalupe-Lamar including The Drag, Mueller and Dell Childrens’ Hospital, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and even from South Congress to South Park Meadows.

Project Connect flier with misleading map

This flier with a misleading map was handed out by Project Connect representatives to Hyde park residents. Photo credit: @cdcatx


Why do John Julitz and CapMetro need to apologize?

As reported by KUT, CapMetro communications specialist John Julitz tried to spin this sloppy work into a simple misunderstanding, claiming that the actual first line does fit into the Project Connect overall system vision. Mr. Julitz then took it one step further, and lobbed a cheap shot at the community organizer who shared the maps with KUT, describing him as “one guy who’s upset that we’re not going down Guadalupe and Lamar.”

Project Connect/CapMetro made this mistake. They need to take ownership of it, correct it and move on. You can’t beg the community for input, boast about the depth & scope of your community input, and then take a shit on the people who disagree with you when they point out a mistake you made. Grow up. And apologize.

A pattern of sloppy work and petulance from Project Connect

Sadly, this is just the latest installment of someone at Project Connect or CapMetro not paying enough attention to get the basic details right. Back in November, in the middle of public workshops to gather input, Project Connect completely changed the definition of one of their metrics, the Transit Demand Index. I know because I attended one of those workshops, and it wasn’t the same as the next one.

Then there was the time Project Connect presented bus ridership data with completely wrong numbers, because they selected the wrong data set, which resulted in a map that was exactly the opposite of the correct information. And they didn’t catch the error on their own, the Austin transit activists found it for them.

Back in February, CapMetro left Colorado Street off a map that showed changes to downtown bus routes, resulting in a misleading map that shortened your walk to the new stops:

This also isn’t the first time Project Connect has been rude and disrespectful of people who don’t 100% agree with them. Even last fall, they were pooh-poohing the objectivity for Austin transit advocates who questioned the claims of transparency and openness in the whole process:

They have continued to slander Austinites for Urban Rail Action as Guadalupe-Lamar obstructionists, despite AURA Resolution 1 being publicly available and frequently referenced by the AURA Executive Committee since the day it was passed.

Keep in mind, John-Michael Cortez is the Community Involvement Manager for Cap Metro, and he also threw the old “I have more Twitter followers than you” line when faced with questions he didn’t want to answer:

Austin can’t reward Project Connect’s sloppy work with a billion dollar bond package

Property taxes are a serious issue facing many Austinites this year. Throwing a billion dollar urban rail bond on top of swiftly rising appraisals would add an extra $211 per year in property taxes on a $200,000 home. Problem is, the median home price in Austin is up to $239,900 according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

I’m even less supportive of handing a billion dollars to Project Connect, who has shown to be careless with details on their good days, and doggedly devoid of transparency on their worst. Project Connect and CapMetro have not proven to be responsible stewards of the public trust and the substantial capital investment required to build urban rail in Austin.

  • How will CapMetro handle criticism when there are inevitable cost overruns in their billion dollar project?
  • Will sloppy mistakes — or worse yet, critical errors — make our project a lower priority for federal matching funds, because we don’t have our shit together?
  • How will CapMetro handle oversight and input they don’t favor from the new 10-1 Austin City Council?
  • Will CapMetro’s lack of attention to detail cause a situation similar to the current Capitol View Corridor fiasco?
  • What if Project Connect’s ridership numbers fall way short of projected? The population growth numbers are already suspect as overly optimistic (see chart below that shows a growth rate higher than the Austin’s growth rate over the past 20 years), and Project Connect refuses to share their methodology for projecting ridership with the public.

These are all examples of very serious situations that CapMetro will have to face and be accountable for if this November bond package manages to pass. These situations all require much more expertise and decisiveness that Project Connect and CapMetro haven’t shown so far in this process. Dismissiveness and sulking won’t cut it.