Capital Metro is rolling ahead with plans to launch the first route of its bus-rapid transit line, MetroRapid, on Jan. 26.
President and CEO Linda Watson said MetroRapid is part of the regional transit vision, Project Connect.
“We already have MetroRail, and this is the next piece, MetroRapid, and then that will be followed by managed lanes on MoPac,” she said.
During a Nov. 12 ride-along on one of the new buses, Watson said Capital Metro will be testing the fleet of 22 60-foot buses and its technology in the next few weeks.
MetroRapid will serve two of the city’s most congested north-south corridors. The first route, 801, will start at the Tech Ridge Center Park & Ride, travel down North Lamar Boulevard, on Guadalupe Street in downtown, over to Riverside Drive, down South Congress Avenue and ending at the Southpark Meadows Shopping Center.
Capital Metro will launch the second route, 803, next summer. That route will use Burnet Road and Lamar Boulevard with ending points at The Domain and Westgate Shopping Center.
When the buses pass through downtown, they will use transit-priority lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets.
“With this service we hope to attract a lot more people,” Watson said. “We will give you your time back. We have free Wi-Fi on the buses so that you can do your homework, emails. You will have more reliable and predictable service.”
The $47.6 million MetroRapid project is funded by a $38 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
Bus features include three doors with fare validators to speed up boarding and exiting, voice automated system that reads the next stop and the ability to communicate with the city of Austin’s traffic signals to keep the light green for an additional seven seconds.
Covered stations will have a dynamic message sign that displays real-time information with the exact arrival times of the next buses. There are 43 stations on Route 801 and 34 stations on Route 803.
Two weeks before MetroRapid launches, Capital Metro will also roll out its mobile app that will work on iPhone, Android and Windows platforms. Customers will be able to download and purchase passes online and use their smartphones as their tickets and swipe the phone over the bus’s optical scanner, said Jane Schroter, IT project management officer.
“It’s a very intuitive application,” she said. “It’s very sensitive to swipe. From the home page, you can do other functions, such as trip planning, finding when the next bus will be at that stop.”