Mass Transit Strategy Aims to Ease Commutes
By Era Sundar
Editor’s note: This story reflects a correction to the percentage of workers in the Austin area who can get to their jobs easily on public transportation. The original story quoted the Brookings Institution transportation study as saying a little over half of the city’s workers can do so. In fact, the study showed that while sixty percent of jobs are within reach of public transit, only 30 percent can be reached within 90 minutes.
A new report ranks Austin among the worst cities when it comes to getting to work using public transportation. The report, by the Brookings Institution, says that less than a third of the city’s workers can get to their jobs easily using public transportation.
Austinites commuting on their own lose as many as 30 hours a year to traffic. The city does have ambitious plans to improve its traffic problems by developing its mass transit infrastructure.
Urban rail, increased commuter rail service, expanded bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways are among some of the proposed solutions.
But Capital Metro’s bus service moves the most people by far. Spokeswoman Misty Whited acknowledges that the service has holes once you get outside the city’s core.
“We just don’t have any service in Pflugerville, Round Rock, Cedar Park and Georgetown, of course,” Whited said. “Those are not in our service area. We don’t collect sales tax in that area.”
To plug that gap, Cap Metro is working with other regional planning groups such as the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Lone Star Rail District and the city of Austin to find money to improve connectivity in Central Texas.
“We all want to make sure our systems feed into one another so when someone comes into Austin and they want to ride multiple systems that they work together and provide a smooth option for commuters,” she said.
But once commuters get downtown, they also have to be able to move around.
“We also have identified many of our Americans with Disabilities Act gaps in our sidewalk system,” said Sara Hartley with Austin’s Public Works Department. “Those are really important for us to work on in the coming years to try and fill those gaps and to create connectivity throughout the city.”
And Cap Metro is prepping a rapid bus service to improve commute times for riders on bus lines along two north-south routes. Those start in 2014.