Austin's Project Connect: How a Data-Driven Culture Secured a Win on Election Day

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Austin's Project Connect: How a Data-Driven Culture Secured a Win on Election Day
By Lyndsey Scofield, Principal Consultant

Among the most exciting transit initiatives to be embraced by voters in this year's election was Austin's Proposition A to fund a $7.1 billion expansion of light rail and rapid bus routes as part of Project Connect. This massive investment received broad support from the community despite the economic challenges and uncertainties brought upon by the pandemic, demonstrating the payoff that comes from the Capital Metro team's unwavering focus on high performance, data-driven decision making, engaging the voice of the customer, and communicating community value. We believe these factors are critical ingredients in the success of ballot propositions like these. Read on for lessons on how Capital Metro integrated these strategies that you can use to build support in your own communities.

Focus on Data-Driven Performance

In 2018, we conducted interviews and collaborative work sessions with the CapMetro Leadership Team to establish strategic priorities and performance metrics aligned around their ultimate success outcome: voter approval of a ballot measure to fund Project Connect. This clarity of focus around a clear outcome helped to focus the team on what was most important, and got them thinking outside of the box in terms of demonstrating value to the broader community. In addition to creating a Performance Scorecard, CapMetro focused on bringing the plan to life through integration of performance metrics into the CEO and management team performance plans. CapMetro has continued to focus on key metrics with a transparent public-facing dashboard.

Engaging the Voice of the Customer

CapMetro recognizes that satisfied customers and consistent delivery of high-quality services are critical to their success and reputation in the community. CapMetro has a strong history of measuring customer satisfaction through annual onboard surveys and using results to improve the customer experience, but in 2018, we worked with their team to revamp the survey in light of their Project Connect and overall organizational performance goals. In addition to gauging customer support for additional funding, it also asked customers to pick and prioritize the elements of service most important to their satisfaction. By asking customers directly about their priorities, CapMetro has been able to focus attention on areas that have the biggest impact on the customer experience.

Communicating Community Value

CapMetro's Leadership Team understood the importance of building community support and reputation among the general public as well as stakeholders and organizational partners as they embarked on Project Connect. They also grasped the power of utilizing traditional and emerging channels for communications and engagement. Since 2016, CapMetro has been intentional, creative, and inclusive in their engagement efforts — reaching over 77,000 people through "Traffic Jam" events, an "engagement" bus, online surveys, a Spanish Facebook Town Hall with Univision, and many more on-site and virtual touchpoints. Their impressive engagement efforts are mapped on an interactive site that also allows the community to explore themes and even dig into specific public comments pertaining to Project Connect.

CapMetro's sustained focus on an ambitious vision for the future, without taking for granted the need to deliver fiscally responsible and high-quality service in the near term has put them on the path to a truly transformative future.