“Let’s Try This Again” – a Message from CapMetro President & CEO, Dottie Watkins

Dear CapMetro customers, 

On behalf of CapMetro, we sincerely apologize to all customers who had a poor experience on our rail service Saturday night. We will do better.  

Saturday was an exciting day for all of us, including for many of you. We opened our brand new McKalla Rail Station just feet away from the Q2 Stadium on the day of the first Austin FC match of the season. I’m incredibly thrilled that so many of you used our CapMetro Rail service, we moved record numbers of people that night on rail – over 4,500 customers (even more than our original estimate). To put that in perspective – on the first Austin FC match last season, we moved 2,300 people.  

Over the past two days, I’ve heard from many of you, and I know you’re disappointed by the delays and lack of communication about those delays. I share your frustration, and I’m telling you now – we are going to get this right. So, here’s what went wrong on Saturday:   

Prior to the match, we experienced a mechanical issue on one of our trains and we had to quickly reset that train to get it into service. We also experienced a crossing malfunction at MLK Station that needed to be repaired, along with a mechanical failure of one of our switches. Things like this, unfortunately, happen with some regularity on a railroad, but all of them happening at roughly the same time is not typical. Suffice it to say, we started our pre-match peak period with a ‘hitch in our giddy-up’ (as we Texans might say). 

However, our biggest unforced error of the day had to do with communications. Our app and at-station digital signs were not able to keep up with the many dynamic changes in service our teams were implementing to recover from the delays. I suspect that many of the frustrations experienced on Saturday night could have been resolved with information about what was happening and what to expect. We can hate on the technology as much as we want (and trust me, we do), but we know now that we should have employed on-site staff to answer questions and provide customer support. We will do this for future events.   

Immediately following the Austin FC match, my team and I worked to determine how we can avoid this in the future.  

The Red Line is constructed and resourced to primarily provide commuter service to the region. This is why we are still primarily a single-track railroad and why we only own 10 trains. As we continue to make investments in rail infrastructure, like this fabulous McKalla Station and the significant drainage and track improvements that came with it, we also create opportunities to stretch the ability of our limited number of trains to do even more.  

For every home match moving forward, we will run all our trains for the entirety of the day, instead of just at match time. This will put us in a better position to respond to issues and keep service as frequent and reliable as possible.  

While our complications on Saturday were centered around getting people to the game, we think we can do a bit better in getting folks home after the game, as well. Our goal for large events is to clear the station within an hour of the event’s end. Saturday night it took us just under an hour and fifteen minutes. To tighten this up, we will utilize both platforms at McKalla Station and we will increase special bus service to run between McKalla Station to Downtown Station and to Leander. These buses help us manage the crowds and get trains back to the station for another trip even faster. 

I have also directed our team to increase communication when there are larger crowds to set expectations on timing and relay pertinent information on available bus services to transport you as quickly as possible. This increased communication will include social media and having staff at stations to relay real-time information. I am positive that these adjustments will ensure an improved experience for our customers moving forward. 

While this issue on the home opener Austin FC match may have been disappointing, I want to emphasize that it does not diminish the commitment of the McKalla Station and our promise to deliver reliable service to the North Burnet neighborhood and Q2 Stadium. This $60 million dollar investment is not a letdown to our community, and it is something that I take seriously.  The benefits of the McKalla Station will be felt by so many people as our region continues to grow.  Saturday serves as a learning opportunity for our team, and I am confident we will meet and exceed the expectations of our customers for future events and match days.  

I know this information does not change the experience a lot of you had on Saturday, but I hope that understanding the details behind our issues and how we plan to address them in the future begins to build back your trust. To our first-time customers, I know first impressions are incredibly important, but I ask that you give us another shot to prove to you that you can in fact rely on us. I come to work every day committed to ensuring our team provides the best possible transportation experience for all of you. We did not succeed in that mission on Saturday, and we are deeply sorry. I can assure you that we are dedicated to being better moving forward, and we cannot wait to welcome you all back on board on March 9. Because the opening day match service did not go the way we all had hoped, we are going to call a “do over” and we’re going to try this again.  We will be repeating free fares for the Red Line all day on March 9. Please take this as a token of our apology and commitment to improving.  

Thank you for choosing CapMetro and we cannot wait to serve you in the better days ahead. 


Dottie Watkins

President & CEO, CapMetro