After a year of uncertainty, Capital Metro is finally starting to see some positive signs with slight upticks in ridership. While some of that growth stems from commuters returning to work, special events and weekend ridership have taken off in June.

“We have been maxing out every piece of equipment on special event days,” Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said during the Capital Metro board meeting on June 28.

Austin FC games in particular have been a boon to Capital Metro, as it offers service to the stadium through four bus routes: MetroRapid 803, Route 3, Route 383 and Route 392. The MetroRail Red Line also has a stop near the stadium at Kramer Station, with construction beginning on a new stop at McKalla Station next year.

The team’s first two games took place on weekends, meaning those using Capital Metro rode for free, an offering that will end on July 4.

For each of the first two Austin FC games, Capital Metro had over 5,000 riders. The U.S. Women’s soccer team match held on June 16, a Wednesday, also drew a large group with more than 3,000 riders.

Ridership for special events is highly important because commuters haven’t necessarily rushed back to work in-person. Some of Austin’s largest employers, such as Google and Facebook, are shifting to more flexible work schedules that won’t require workers to commute into the office.

Nonetheless, Capital Metro remains optimistic that ridership will return, even if certain types of rides, such as weekends and special events, come back faster than others.

“We are an unbelievably growing region, so we are confident that ridership holistically is going to come back,” Clarke said. “I don't think any of us would question that.”

The latest available data on the Capital Metro Dashboard shows that May saw 1.4 million riders compared to 1.2 million in May 2020. However, that number is still well below the May 2019 total of 2.6 million.

With the school year coming up, Capital Metro is also planning to resume some of its services in August. Those services, many of which had been paused or reduced due to the pandemic, include late night MetroRapids that will run until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and limited trips for Route 980.

Editor's note: This post was updated to reflect the correct routes that go to the stadium.