Austin Transit Partnership Budget Enhances Transparency And Advances Project Connect

September 21, 2022


The Austin Transit Partnership on Wednesday passed its first budget as a fully independent corporation — setting a course that will help ATP deliver the comprehensive transit system that voters endorsed when they passed Project Connect less than two years ago.

The budget lays out a range of financial practices and standards that will strengthen the Partnership’s stewardship and help ensure that the entity implements the program responsibly and transparently.

“ATP was created to be good stewards of public funds and the public’s trust,” said Veronica Castro de Barrera, Chair of the Partnership Board of Directors. “This budget sets a strong foundation in what will be a critical year. It will strengthen our readiness, increase alignment across our departments, and further develop the organization so we can implement this critical program.”

Chair Castro de Barrera also noted this year’s budget includes critical funding for the program’s anti-displacement program, bringing the total of ATP’s investment to $100 million in twenty months.

The Austin Transit Partnership is an independent entity created by the City of Austin and CapMetro to implement Project Connect. In May, the Board elevated Greg Canally — who has more than 20 years of experience as a public administrator — to the Executive Director role.

This is the first budget created under the corporation’s independent leadership. Under Canally’s oversight and direction, the budget:

  • Reflects the commitment to not raise taxes beyond the amount voters approved in 2020;
  • Reduces personnel costs by about $2 million from the previous fiscal year;
  • Enhances the Board’s audit functions by adding two new positions;
  • New for this year, Board approval of total staffing authorization; and
  • Creates and funds a new operating reserve.

“The budget sets the stage for a critical year in the implementation of Project Connect,” Canally said. “These practices will strengthen our stewardship of critical resources, give the public even more insight into our use of funds, and help the Partnership live within its means without new taxes.”

In April, a publicly released memo showed that Project Connect’s projected light rail costs had nearly doubled — driven by the rapid changes in market conditions, inflation, and construction costs that are affecting infrastructure projects and communities worldwide, as well as rising real estate costs and technical and design changes.

As a result of these factors, ATP has begun the effort to develop an Updated Light Rail Implementation Plan by Spring 2023, which will include the first investment in Austin Light Rail. This budget reflects and supports this required work, which will involve an intentional, extensive community engagement process, as well as an intense technical and financial review designed to reduce costs.

“This effort is a routine — and essential — part of the process for any community seeking to build something as significant as Project Connect,” Canally said. “Fortunately, we live in a place that’s deeply interested in our work and vested in the program’s success. By creating this transparency and accountability while we engage with the community, we can continue moving forward, maintain the public’s goals and values, and ensure that we don’t have to take a big step back later in the process.”

The Austin Transit Partnership budget and supporting documents are available here.