Project Connect

Client Information:

Todd Hemingson, AICP
VP Strategic Planning & Development
Capital Metro


June 2011 – October 2013


Scope of Work: 

Public Involvement Strategy, Stakeholder Outreach, Meeting Facilitation, Planning and Logistics, Reporting and Tracking Communication.


In 2011, Central Texas transportation agencies including Capital Metro, City of Austin, Lone Star Rail District, and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) launched the Project Connect initiative in order to create the first regional system plan for high-capacity transit. The goals of Project Connect included producing a conceptual vision map showing how high-capacity transit components would work as a system, determining an organizational structure for developing and operating the system, and determining how the system would be funded over the long term. The plan was submitted to CAMPO in summer 2013 for inclusion in their 2040 Plan.

Rifeline was hired to provide strategy for and execute community engagement, as well as coordinate development of and facilitate meetings of a policy advisory group called the Transit Working Group (TWG). Members included stakeholders from all areas of Central Texas, including then Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (Chair), representatives from Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, The University of Texas at Austin, State of Texas, Austin Area Research Organization, Real Estate Council of Austin, Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw, Bastrop County Commissioner William Piña, and community members.

The community engagement component of Project Connect was designed to encourage participation from the community and key stakeholders with a particular interest in regional high-capacity transit. With the input of these individuals and groups, the regional plan reflected community preferences and visions. The community was actively involved in Project Connect outreach activities. Rifeline assisted with development of a Public Involvement Plan and implementation of several outreach tools and activities, including three rounds of public Open Houses throughout the region, developing and facilitating three stakeholder forums, assisting with one on one stakeholder meetings, developing and executing an online advertising strategy to promote public meetings, and developing and facilitating the TWG. Rifeline also assisted with review and development of communication tools including the project website, webinars, newsletters, fact sheets, surveys, and media relations efforts.

Rifeline began facilitating bi-monthly meetings of the TWG in early November 2011. After more than 18 months and 27 meetings, under the oversight of the TWG and with the interagency partnership, nine corridors were identified and ranked using evaluation criteria. In addition, a conceptual map was created, connecting 25 activity centers within 13 cities located in Bastrop, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties. An Interlocal Agreement for the organizational structure of Project Connect was also created between the City of Austin, Capital Metro, and the Lone Star Rail District, with Capital Metro serving as the managing partner. A strategy was developed to fund 45% of the projects identified in the system map by 2025, including Tax Increment Financing, sales tax growth, parking fees, and federal funding. New funding will need to be identified by 2025 to complete the vision.

In June 2013, the TWG passed a resolution supporting the Project Connect Vision and recommending that the Project Connect System Plan findings be considered in CAMPO’s 2040 Plan. Rifeline also assisted in the effort to obtain resolutions of support from six community groups including the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Council of Austin, and Downtown Austin Alliance. By October 2013, the Austin City Council, Lone Star Rail District Board, and Capital Metro Board all passed resolutions supporting the system plan developed by the TWG.