Capital Metro

flickr.com/geolobo

This weekend, a man hijacked a Capital Metro bus – resulting in a police pursuit that lead to Bastrop before the hijacker killed himself.

Today, Capital Metro announced the man that took the bus was one of their own: Salvador Martinez, a bus operator employed by Cap Metro contractor McDonald Transit. Martinez’s tenure with Cap Metro dated back to 1998.

KUT News

Update: Capital Metro says MetroRail service is back up and running as normal this morning – all the way from Leander to downtown Austin.

Derailed freight cars have been removed from the tracks.

Original Story (April 4, 2013): CapMetro has resumed MetroRail service to the MLK station from their Kramer, Howard and Leander Stations. Trains will run as schedule for the foreseeable future while buses will shuttle passengers between MLK and downtown.

Daniel Reese

The capital area’s transportation planning authority, known as CAMPO, is made up of representatives from Austin and five counties of Central Texas. Now CAMPO is considering bringing on a seventh member, Burnet County.

The Austin City Council will vote today on whether it wants to approve Burnet County’s request to join (PDF). The equation might seem simple: As part of the region, Burnet County should have a say in the region’s transportation needs. But with a cacophony of voices speaking for CAMPO, no decision is straightforward.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Capital Metro is reporting more record high ridership numbers from this year's South by Southwest Festival.

Capital Metro says boardings were up from last year by almost 7,000 on MetroRail for the first several days of SXSW. Capital Metro even had to operate an additional train after hours to carry more than 100 passengers still waiting on the platform. The trains on Saturday are starting at 10 a.m. – a few hours earlier than usual.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Good morning. Austin's in for partly cloudy weather with a seasonal high in the 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

Lead Story: There’s a new two-year labor contract for Austin bus drivers.

McDonald Transit operates about 70 percent of Capital Metro’s fixed route bus service.  It has signed a two-year labor contract with Amalgamated Transit Union 1091, which represents the drivers and mechanics, after being ratified with a union vote of 91 percent.

Rachel Wilcox

Capital Metro proposing a new bus route to the Circle C and Western Oaks neighborhoods of Southwest Austin. The rush-hour route would run parallel to MoPac and provide service to downtown and University of Texas areas.

If adopted, the new route would be called the "111 South MoPac Flyer" and would begin service on June 9.

It’s just one of several service changes being considered by CapMetro. The public transit agency has scheduled several public meetings on the proposals. The first one is Tuesday, March 5 at noon. That meeting will also be streamed online. 

flickr.com/leelefever

Austin doesn’t have urban rail – but it’s already suffering from an identity crisis.

That was one big takeaway from a presentation by urban planning experts on how Austin can get a rail project up and running.

Austin is one of four U.S. cities chosen as part of an Urban Land Institute fellowship focusing on urban issues. The participating cities each chose a focus issue for a year-long study – and Austin chose rail.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

If you’ve ever wondered why a bus line stops at a certain place, or why some parts of town have more transportation options than others, this week Capital Metro has been having a series of open houses to answer those kinds of questions. Residents have shown a lot of interest in plans for urban rail.

Urban rail is still in the planning stages. But the first phase is expected to go from the downtown Convention Center through the UT campus and on to the Mueller neighborhood.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

A new pedestrian path has opened along a stretch of the 183A toll road, connecting Leander and Cedar Park. The five-mile, ten-foot-wide path cost $3.1 million dollars and opens in conjunction with the second phase of 183A construction.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is in charge of the project, and spokesman Steve Pustelnyk says the CTRMA hopes people will use the path for recreation and commuting to work. 

Caleb Miller for KUT News

Even though it’s Monday, it’s still a “No Refusal” weekend for Austin drivers.

From 9 p.m. through 5 a.m., the Austin Police Department will ask suspected drunk drivers to take a mandatory breath test. And if drivers don't agree, police will ask for a subpoena for DWI suspects' blood.  The Austin Police Department says 23 people were arrested for DWI on Sunday.

In an effort to keep Austin’s roads safe, Capital Metro and APD have partnered to provide free Cap Metro services from 6 p.m. until 3 a.m. Buses will run on a regular schedule tonight, but will be reduced to Sunday level service on New Year’s Day. For more information, visit capmetro.org.

Good Friday morning to you. Austin’s in for a warm and breezy weekend until a cold front blows in Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Though it’s only November, the springtime music conference that takes over Austin each year, South by Southwest, is already beginning to take shape.  Thursday, organizers released the initial lineup.”

“Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith is working to do something about the thousands of service members affected by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). …

Smith is the founder of a new program to help promote soldiers’ healing through music. Texas Music Matters’ David Brown reports from a camp outside Fort Hood, site of a recent Songwriting with Soldiers retreat.”

Nathan Bernier

1. You're More Likely to Get Caught Tonight:

The Austin Police Department is enforcing a "No Refusal policy" beginning tonight at 9 and ending Thursday at 5 a.m.

That means police will conduct blood search warrants on drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and refuse to voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer or blood test.

2. It'll Cost You:

Police say anyone found with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and could face 3 days to 6 months in jail, a one year suspension of their driver’s license and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense.

Photo courtesy the Circuit of the Americas

F1 is still three weeks away. Or only three weeks away, as the city is looking at it. Austin is making some big preparations as the big race weekend approaches.

City Cleanup

  • The Public Works Operation will be cleaning up downtown around all the construction sites.
  • City contractors will clean and restore pedestrian access areas downtown.
  • Austin Resource Recovery is planning ahead for the big weekend. They will adding up to 200 additional trash receptacles downtown.  They will also be ramping up their downtown litter control services to extended to a much larger area.
Capital Metro

Capital Metro is prepping for the traffic nightmare that’s likely to be Formula 1 weekend in Austin.

The transit company will be offering a free shuttle loop around downtown to help visitors and Austinites navigate road closures. Cap Metro will also increase trips to and from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for race fans coming into town and locals heading out to avoid the mayhem. And, for the first time ever, MetroRail will operate on a Sunday.

But what may be most interesting to those who rely regularly on Capital Metro service is that the company is debuting a mobile ticketing app for use during F1.

M² (pronounced M-squared) stands for More Mobile App. Starting Oct. 31, the free app will be available in the Apple Store and in Google Play. While the specifics of how the app will work aren’t yet clear – Cap Metro’s description only says “Operators may request you to tap the screen to confirm pass authenticity” – riders will be able to purchase and use one-day or seven-day passes on their phones.

flickr.com/jorgemichel

Capital Metro is reaching out to residents in the suburbs north of Austin for input on possible transit options for connecting them to Central Austin. Cap Metro says it’s the number one transportation priority for the region. The big reason? A lot of people may live in Williamson County, but many of them work in Travis County.

Cap Metro has already heard from people during traditional open houses. Now, the transit company is seeking input through a website – what it’s calling an “Online Open House.”

The website lets visitors control what looks like a sort of power point presentation. It highlights a few problems: congestion, rapid population growth and the restraints of the current highway system.

But what Cap Metro says it’s really interested in is feedback. One of the most interesting forms of feedback that commuters can give is on the site’s “Interactive Map.” Website visitors are invited to draw in suggested transportation alternatives for getting around in the North Corridor during rush hour.

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Austin City Council will consider Thursday whether to authorize an agreement with Capital Metro to spend $5 million for urban rail planning. The bulk of the money ($4 million) will come from a federal grant that requires a local match of 20 percent ($1 million).

So why spend such a large sum when previous money hasn’t produced any visible results? That was a question raised by council member Bill Spelman at council’s work session Tuesday. “A lot of people are concerned that we are putting the cart before of the horse,” he said. “We are spending four million dollars when we really haven’t decided what to do”.            

In May, the city released recommended routes for the first two phases of Urban Rail. Robert Spillar is the director of the city’s Transportation Department, and he sees the release of the money as the next step. At Tuesday’s work session he said getting the city’s stamp of approval would allow the Transportation Department to “restart” the alternatives analysis. 

bus photo Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News; F1 photo flickr.com/paulwoolrich

More than 120,000 people are expected to flock to the Austin area for the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix. And you can bet that many of those visitors will want to take in Austin’s downtown scene.

So while the cars on the Circuit of the Americas track will reach speeds of around 200 miles per hour, the traffic that comes with all those visitors could mean chugging along at a snail’s pace downtown. That is, on the roads that remain open—most of Congress Avenue will be closed from the capitol to the lake over race weekend. And many East-West streets will be partially shut down between Lavaca Street and Neches Street.

Capital Metro is expanding bus and rail service to help.

Visitors (or Austinites getting out of town in an effort to avoid the mayhem) can take advantage of a $1 bus service running between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and downtown.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Capital Metro Board of Directors is meeting this afternoon to adopt the transit company’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

The proposed budget won’t increase fares and doesn’t include any service additions or reductions.

Cap Metro says 2013 will be a “lean” year as the company focuses on maintenance and updating its fleet of buses.

"While our revenues from sales tax and other sources are healthy for next year, it is sort of a lean year for us in that we have a number of maintenance and state of good repair type of investments that need to be made. So we'll be buying new buses, making some technology upgrades, ultimately it means better service out on the streets of Austin and on the railroad of Austin but nothing super exciting this year," Capital Metro Spokesperson Erica Macioge says.

Capital Metro

Capital Metro is holding a ceremonial groundbreaking  for its MetroRapid service this morning. Construction on the rapid bus line’s first station started this week.

As KUT News previously reported, MetroRapid will launch in 2014 with two rapid bus routes. One will stretch 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. The lines will converge midpoint, around the UT-Austin campus area.

Cap Metro will add 40 new buses to its fleet, including 20 buses that span 60 feet and have 58 seats. Still, Cap Metro says 2013 will be a lean year for the company as it makes some repairs and upgrades.

flickr.com/evmaiden

After a weekend of rain, your Monday should be mostly dry. On Sunday, most parts of Central Texas saw an inch to two inches of rain. Here's a roundup of some of today's happenings:

Education Activists Occupy Austin

Austin education activists plan to gather at Austin City Hall this evening to rally for the Chicago teachers strike.

Occupy AISD will rally from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in an event that organizers say will connect the disputes in Chicago to issues facing Austin schools.

The education rally will be part of a day-long celebration of Occupy Austin by protesters to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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