Capital Metro announces service reductions, braces for financial hit

A Capital Metro bus drives through downtown Austin. On March 18, the public transit agency will begin running reduced service on limited routes. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
A Capital Metro bus drives through downtown Austin. On March 18, the public transit agency will begin running reduced service on limited routes. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

A Capital Metro bus drives through downtown Austin. On March 18, the public transit agency will begin running reduced service on limited routes. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Public transit ridership in the Austin area dipped significantly as a result of the city and county prohibiting gatherings with more than 250 people, workplaces encouraging employees to work from home and restaurants announcing temporary closures.

Dottie Watkins, Capital Metro's chief customer officer, told the transit agency's board of directors in a March 17 meeting that on March 16, ridership was down about 40% across all the agency's services.

In an effort to respond to the safety concerns while still keeping service operating for those who need access to transit, Capital Metro announced a limited service schedule would start March 18.

  • Most MetroBus and MetroRapid routes will operate on Sunday schedules. Watkins said a few routes that normally do not operate on Sundays are going to be added. MetroAccess will align with this schedule.

  • MetroRail service will continue its weekday daytime schedule but will not offer late-night Friday or Saturday service. The service does not run on Sundays.

  • MetroFlyer and MetroExpress routes will be reduced to about half their scheduled trips.

  • On-demand pickup service will operate between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.


Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke said the agency should brace for a financial impact due to revenue losses in both ridership fares and sales tax revenue. When the agency was created in 1985, voters agreed to fund Cap Metro in part through a 1% sales tax applied throughout the agency's service area.

"Financially, there is no question ... this is going to be a significant hit for Cap Metro," Clark said. "I think we need to be thinking of this as a marathon, not a sprint. All our posture has been based on that."

Clarke said Capital Metro is set up financially as well as possible, with three months of emergency reserves available. The agency has put in place a hiring freeze to brace for the financial impact, he said.


On March 9, Capital Metro and city of Austin staff presented plans to its board and Austin City Council members with a $9.6 billion plan to expand public transit in the region to include, among other expansions, two light rail lines through the city. Clarke said Capital Metro staff have talked about how the coming financial hit will impact the expansion, called Project Connect, and those discussions are ongoing.

"I don't think there's need to speculate on that yet," he said.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


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