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Thursday, August 25, 2005

At Least Someone's Getting It Right

Evidently, while we were having a regional transportation summit in East Texas, Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) was having a statewide meeting in Austin at which several of the COG’s presented their work on regional service planning. I was particularly impressed with Austin COG’s Plan for Regional Service Planning.

Note a few things:
  1. While the CAPCOG (Capital Area COG) serves as the financial administrator, they are, by no means, the decision-makers.... see the Steering Committee. The CAPCOG does not provide public transportation services, nor contract them.
  2. The tasks are not bundled together for any one or more consultant(s) to do, but to save money, they are "farmed" out to those existing agencies/staff with expertise so they can be done in-house with only those pieces that cannot be done with existing agencies proposed for contracting;
  3. The decision-making is in the hands of a number of interested parties, not solely vested in any single agency;
  4. The process of developing this plan has been open and public with TxDOT, providers, advocates, and others at the table from the very beginning. No less than 27 agencies, organizations and individuals helped to create the planning process.
  5. They already have a detailed 23 page document (which I would be happy to share with anyone who’d like to see how it can be done well) called "Strategy for Preparing a Regional Transportation Coordination Plan". It’s wonderfully done and a tribute to CAPCOG’s leadership and willingness to include everybody that ought to be there in the process. JTA’s own Glenn Gadbois was on the planning group as well a my good friend and sometime sparring partner, Dave Marsh of CARTS as well as folks from the whole spectrum of transportation stakeholders.

I’ve also got a copy of Jim Reed’s Powerpoint about regional service planning at TARC that had some really heartening things in it. Jim is from Central Texas COG and they’re also working along the same lines as CAPCOG and North Central Texas COG. I wish ETCOG’s regional service planning team could have been there!!

For those of you who heard the rumor following last week’s summit that I am interested in some sort of paid consulting role in ETCOG’s regional service planning process, I’d just like to assure everyone that it’s a danged lie! Neither JTA not ETJTA nor myself have any intention of accepting or seeking TxDOT or ETCOG funding for providing transportation or consulting in the planning of services. To do so would impair our ability to speak out when we believe the consumers of East Texas are not being well-served.

Also, I’d like to point out that I am not the only person or organization who is "disgruntled" by the way the regional service planning process has been handled thus far. I’ve been characterized as some sort of lone crank who can be safely marginalized because I’m mad that I’m not getting money out of this deal. It’s an old charge and has never been true. Other advocacy groups and non-transit providers have also noticed that their constituents have yet to be represented at the table, despite the fact that a scope of work for a hired consultant is already being written. Some also spoke out last Friday. Perhaps none as stridently as me, but if you look at just one aspect of the planning process it becomes very clear why I’m a little cranky. If you compare how many varied groups were represented in the CAPCOG planning process (27) with the number of members (all transit providers) in the ETCOG version (4) the issue becomes plain .

Because I have no financial interest or stake in the process (I pay for my own gas to go to meetings thank you very much), I can say what I want to without fear of reprisals. Which I did!

Yeah, I’m disgruntled. Anyone that’s gruntled just isn’t paying attention!

Tom King

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the
ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
George Washington

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