Capital Metro announced today that it has received $38 million from the Federal Transit Administration to help cover the cost of the MetroRapid program.
The funds come from the administration’s "Very Small Start" program and will cover about 80 percent of the program’s $48 million cost, said Linda Watson, the president and CEO of Capital Metro.
“That’s tax money that Texans pay coming back to Texas,” Watson said. “So it’s a great day not only for Capital Metro and our customers, but for Central Texas and taxpayers in the whole state of Texas.”
MetroRapid will premiere in 2014 with two rapid bus routes. One route will go down Lamar from the Tech Ridge Park & Ride to the Southpark Meadows shopping center. The other route will run from North Austin Medical Center at Parmer Lane to Westgate Mall off South Lamar Boulevard.
Capital Metro will add 40 new buses to its fleet, including 20 buses that span 60 feet and have 58 seats. (The announcement was made alongside one similar, "articulated" bus.) Bus lanes will be installed downtown to reduce travel time.
“This is really kind of a hybrid of bus and rail service,” Watson said. “There are multiple doors that you can use to get on the bus and you pay before you get on the bus, so it will make everything faster.”
The buses will be equipped with signal priority, which allows the bus to keep lights green to reduce travel time. Bus stops will provide riders with real-time information about where their bus is and when it will arrive. Buses will arrive at stops every five to 10 minutes.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said MetroRapid will help Austin commuters as gas prices continue to rise and will hopefully offset traffic congestion as the city’s population continues to expand.
“This is really something that Austin needs as a city on the grow,” Rogoff said.
You can check out photos of the announcement from photographer Jeff Heimsath on KUT's Flickr page.