Capital Metro

From the Austin Monitor

From the Austin Monitor: Capital Metro has scaled down its ambitions for a permanent MetroRail station in downtown Austin. The transit agency showed off at a public meeting on Friday its preferred concept for the station, a much more conventional rendering compared to the swooping modernist proposals floated last year.

Some changes are coming to a few of the city’s bus routes this week. In an attempt to increase ridership, four Capital Metro bus routes will be running more often.

“We’re going to be upgrading five of the busiest routes in our whole system. And four of those will run every 15 minutes or better across the weekday,” says Todd Hemingson of Cap Metro.

Of the four routes that will run more often, the longest is Number 7, which runs from Heritage Hills to Dove Springs. Hemingson says the goal of the added frequency is to begin creating a network of buses in town that run regularly enough that you can conveniently get around town without having to wait for a bus or transfer for more than seven minutes.

Spencer Selvidge / KUT

Austin's bus system got two new lines last year, called MetroRapid. They're generally larger, run more frequently, have fewer stops (to run faster) and offer some amenities not found on the city's local buses, like WiFi. More than a million trips have been taken on the new rapid bus lines. They also have a higher price: A ride on one of Capital Metro's MetroRapid buses costs $1.75, as opposed to $1.25 for a ride on their local alternatives. 

But these rapid buses supposedly justify that higher price by getting you around faster. Capital Metro labels it a "premium" service, and one advantage they're supposed to have is they can hold green lights longer at intersections outside of downtown, extending the time before a light turns red and allowing the rapid bus to get through in time. "Special technology allows all MetroRapid vehicles to catch more green lights to stay on schedule," Capital Metro says on its website.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Starting today, there's a big change in Austin's transit system. It's not a big new train or shiny new buses, it's something much smaller, so small you can fit it in your phone. And this tiny new product could mean big improvements for Capital Metro riders.

It's called real-time info, and what it means is that riders will now know exactly where their bus is. If it's early, if it's late, or if it's on time – now you'll know.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Mass transit is a very small slice of the Austin transportation pie. On average, only about four percent of people in the greater Austin area use transit to get to work. In Portland, it’s three times that. And Austin's transit use suffered a significant drop last year. So what can Capital Metro do to turn things around?

Let's start with the bulk of Capital Metro's system: the bus.

"I think we are on the cusp of making a significant step in the right direction," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development at Capital Metro. The agency has laid out several goals for the years ahead, and one of them is adding frequency to some of the city's most popular bus routes.

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