Starting Monday, residents in an area of West Austin slated to lose some bus service will have a new option to make their first- and last-mile trips.
Capital Metro’s massive bus system overhaul called Cap Remap takes effect Sunday and affects service on more than 50 routes. The overhaul includes increasing bus frequency on several routes, realigning routes as well as eliminating service with low ridership.
One of the areas losing service is near Exposition Boulevard where Routes 21/22 will be eliminated and replaced with service by routes 17, 18, 322 and 335. However, no bus service will run along Exposition between Enfield and Westover roads.
“Back when the board adopted Cap Remap that was the one area of the system where service was fully eliminated,” Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke said. “Part of board resolution directed staff to create an innovation zone, some kind of microtransit solution, for people who lost service.”
This microtransit solution will come in the form of a partnership with RideAustin. The Exposition innovation zone launches Sunday, and riders who live or work in the area that is losing service can request rides to or from their homes or businesses and be transported for free to one of two Capital Metro bus stops. The new pilot program will not offer door-to-door service, Clarke said.
The program will run through Dec. 7 and is similar to another service called Pickup that Capital Metro has been testing out for the past year near the Mueller development. The Pickup service will end this weekend.
Andy Tryba, founder and CEO of RideAustin, a nonprofit transportation network company that offers ridehailing, said his nonprofit is excited to be a part of testing innovative ways to transport people.
“At the end of the day the future of transportation really ends up being a merger of different container sizes: Sometimes it makes sense to have a 40-foot bus or sometimes a smaller container,” he said.
Partnerships like the one with Capital Metro are one reason Tryba said he founded RideAustin.
“These are exactly the elements in my mind that make this a great city, and you can really experiment and create solutions,” he said. “Transportation comes up in every community discussion.”
Within RideAustin’s app, riders will see a Capital Metro button to request service within the Exposition innovation zone.
The new Exposition service will also provide Capital Metro with more data on ridehailing service and knowledge about how the size of the innovation zone, software, vehicle types and the ways people use the service affects ridership, Clarke said.
Capital Metro also will explore other areas to create innovation zones, including places where traditional bus service might not make sense such as in parts of Northeast and Southeast Austin, Clarke said.
“We want to provide the greatest mobility solutions for Central Texas but doing so in a very equitable, safe and efficient point of view,” he said.
Editor’s note: This post was updated to correct the start date of the new service.